Making Lasting Impressions

Having spent the past 23 years in the advertising specialty industry, I have seen numerous instances where promotional products have been used effectively for brand enhancement, and as a leadership tool as well.

Effective marketing and promotions grab people’s attention and get them to respond. Human nature encourages people to identify with a cause or a person, be attracted to participate, and belong to a certain group. Promotional products have proven very effective in this regard. This effectiveness is directly related to the age old cultural norms around the rule of reciprocity. When you are given something, your likely response is to give something back. Marketing professionals, as well as good leaders, are keenly aware of this concept and utilize it daily.

One example is the tactic used by the Hare Krishna Society. You’ve probably noticed members in airports, passing out paper flowers to anyone who will accept them. They know well that once a traveler accepts the flower they are more likely to respond with a donation. The veteran’s nonprofit, the Disabled American Veterans also utilizes the concept. When they send out a mailing for contributions, the response rate doubles when the mailing includes personalized address labels. As you can see, the rule of reciprocity is commonly used as most people feel obligated to respond, or give back in some way when prompted with a gift.

In our business, clients tell us all the time that their budgets are not constrained, and they just need results. But, as is evidenced by the paper flowers and address labels, promotional products don’t always have to be expensive to be effective. More important is to latch on to products that demand a call to action, have high perceived value, or simply just leave a lasting impression. Good speakers and effective leaders are able to convey their message with items that often cost a penny or less. The railroad nail pictured is a perfect example.


I received the nail when I attended a motivational leadership seminar over 20 years ago and that nail has been on the corkboard above my desk ever since. The premise of the story was that we all follow different tracks in life, and just as the train follows the direction of the track, good leaders provide a clear direction to follow in life. However, without the railroad nails, there would be nothing to hold down the track, thus the importance of that nail. That simple story is a constant reminder of the lesson learned, and of course of the speaker who left a lasting impression.

In today’s challenging economic times it is more important than ever to get people’s attention, illicit a response, and create followers who are on board with your cause and follow your direction. You then must enhance your brand at every touch point, as your brand is far more than a logo or a look, it is the sum of all words, images, and emotions that come to mind. Effective promotional products can do just that, inspiring lasting memories, serving as reminders, consciously and subconsciously, day in and day out. They are the only advertising tool that appeals to all five senses, creating real brand awareness, goodwill, and proven results in recruiting and retaining customers and followers. Good leaders will use promotional products to reinforce good behavior, recognize staff and clients, providing something tangible, something more than just words in conjunction with actions.



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