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A Global View of Promo Products




Rich Fairfield travels to international trade shows and client meetings so often that he’s racked up over 800,000 frequent flyer miles. Whether he’s in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, or New Delhi, he’s always on the lookout for breakout trends in promotional products.

Rich Fairfield travels to international trade shows and client meetings so often that he’s racked up over 800,000 frequent flyer miles. Whether he’s in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, or New Delhi, he’s always on the lookout for breakout trends in promotional products.

“This year, it’s wearable tech – everything from smart watches to smart diapers,” says Fairfield, publisher and chief revenue officer of the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). At April’s Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair, which attracted over 50,000 buyers from around the world, Fairfield saw it all. “There were caps you can wear jogging that allow you to change music with the tap of a finger, along with tons of selfie sticks and power banks.”

Today, with an increasing number of companies viewing borders as bridges instead of barriers, understanding the worldwide promotional-products marketplace is more critical than ever.

While Asian manufacturers continue to dominate the industry, countries like India, Vietnam, and Mexico, where wages are cheaper, are coming into their own. Further, says Fairfield, the China-to-China market – the selling of Chinese-made logoed products to Chinese people – is stronger than ever. “In the past six years, it’s gotten bigger as the Chinese middle class has grown,” he says.


Since so much business is conducted in the global economy, every year ASI interviews thousands of consumers worldwide to provide the industry with a cost analysis of promotional products versus other advertising media. For its past two studies, ASI researchers have surveyed buyers in key cities across North America, Europe, and Australia, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Tampa, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Denver, and San Diego, along with Paris, Montreal, Sydney, Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Mexico City.

Results show that whether they sip espresso in Paris cafes or eat Philly cheesesteaks at ballgames, buyers consistently remember the advertisers on their logoed items. Their recall of the companies advertising on those items is commanding, at a worldwide average of 85 percent. Further, these consumers feel good about the brands on promo products they use day in and day out, with most people owning about 10 items that they keep for an average of seven months.

The trends by country and by targeted demographics within geographic markets provide incredibly powerful information to brand marketers. Knowing that men are much more likely than women to own promotional shirts, or that 40 percent of African Americans own a promotional calendar (the highest percentage of any racial demographic), can help advertisers choose the most effective promotional product to spread the word about their company, brand, or event.

One emerging trend, especially in Europe, is eco-friendliness. When she attended the 2015 PSI trade show in Düsseldorf, which drew over 16,000 visitors, Supplier Global Resource editor Michele Bell noticed that European millennials were much more interested than Americans in products such wearable goods made from recycled bottles. And, they were more likely to quiz exhibitors about product origins.

“Millennials ask exhibitors about the product’s life cycle, from cradle to crate,” says Bell. “They want to know where the product is made, if the factory owners are socially responsible, and if the product is made of sustainable materials.” She said that buyers even ask if screen printing inks are biodegradable.

And while Asia has long been known for mass production at a fast pace, Bell says that in Europe, the emphasis is on design -– the cooler, the better. “All the great design comes from Europe,” she says. “It’s all about colors, textures, and style.”


Other key highlights from the study:

• When asked to rate up to three promotional items that they had received in the past 12 months, recipients in many international markets most often cited writing instruments. In the US, over half (56 percent) of recipients reported getting at least one in the prior year.
• Shirts were the second most commonly cited promotional product in every market with the exception of Madrid and Rome, where they came in first. In the US, 48 percent of respondents reported getting at least one in the prior year.
• Bags, which are generally mobile and therefore seen by more people, generated the most impressions in several of the markets surveyed. In Sydney, bags generated more than 5800 impressions a month, about the same number as in the US. However, outwear generated the most impressions in London and Paris, while writing instruments scored highest in Berlin, Madrid, and Rome.
• Across every market surveyed, the usefulness of the ad specialty item was the most important reason that consumers kept it. This was true for every type of product surveyed. Attractiveness was also an important consideration, especially for apparel items.
• Half of Mexican consumers own promotional drinkware, the highest percentage in North America.
• In Madrid, 34 percent of surveyed residents own a promo USB drive, the highest of any area measured.
• In the US, Midwesterners own the most products of any region, with consumers in Minneapolis owning an average 13 products – the highest of any city surveyed.
• Promotional products in Europe have long life. Calendars, USB drives, and outerwear are kept by European consumers for an average of eight months or longer.

ASI’s Global Advertising Impressions Study shows that the ROI and cost-effectiveness of promotional products – factors that drove 5.1 percent of growth in 2014 compared to just a 0.7 percent increase in overall US advertising spending – are fueling the success of ad specialties around the world.



Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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