Call Them What You Will, Promotional Products Work

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According to multiple reports including a recent Technorati piece, California Governor Jerry Brown referred to promotional products as “doodads and plastic gewgaws” and has forbidden state agencies from buying them, expecting to save his cash-strapped state somewhere between $7-$8 million over the next three years. He wants no more state money spent on items that make people feel good but in the end are probably unnecessary and likely to end up in landfills anyway.
Never mind that these items have successfully built awareness of public initiatives and environmental issues as well as to promote health and wellness. Forget too that promo products are far less likely to end up in a landfill than the brochures, posters and other printed pieces used as advertising by the state.
At least the Governor first invoked a hiring freeze on state jobs, cut back on cell phones for bureaucrats and halted the purchase of new vehicles for the state, so promo products fans can’t feel totally slighted.
Shame though, that it’s always the same old song… when the economy gets tough or money must be found, all eyes turn to marketing — following the mistaken belief that companies can afford to cut advertising in tough times. You can’t. There’s a wonderfully informative study out of Penn State’s Smeal College of Business (Research: Proactive Marketing During Recession) that offers hard and fast data on companies who didn’t cut marketing dollars, weathered economic downturns and came out strong. Companies like Proctor and Gamble, Intel and WalMart.
But in the quest for savings the most obvious things go first, leaving other forms of advertising untouched. Trouble is, once those tangible promotional items disappear, so do the many benefits they bring.
With all due respect to Governor Brown, we know that promotional products are an investment rather than an expense. These items are…

  • cost effective, with a startlingly low cost per ad impression
  • available in an incredible variety of colors and styles
  • a unique way to distribute simple messages to large audiences
  • a surefire way to connect with customers and prospective ones
  • under your control – you decide who gets them, who doesn’t
  • great team players with other advertising campaigns, complementing and reinforcing them

Hard to argue with all that, which is why promotional products are getting more popular all the time. Businesses of all sizes are finding out how many choices they have, and just what these powerful (but so often underrated) products can do for them.
In a curious twist, blogger Traye Foqua points out (and has pictures) of the many “Elect Brown for Governor” items out there. Strange that the Governor didn’t find promotional products so troublesome when it was time to get his own message out.
Some industry experts believe the ban won’t take effect, or if it does, it won’t last. There are many who are trying to get the message across to the Governor that promotional products have impact, are well received by the public and are a fantastic way to promote and communicate.
Let’s hope they succeed.

To share your feelings or experiences concerning promotional products with the California Governor, go to or call (916) 445-2841. You can also send concerns to the Governor’s Facebook page at
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