Marketing Planet

Promotional products: ambassadors in your customers’ environment

In this interview, Stéphane Jousset from Pamina, explains to Marketing Planet readers how to make best use of promotional products: turn them into ambassadors of your company. Between Asian products, luxury, delays, budget and the services of an agency, it will all be unveiled to you.

Marketing Planet: As an introduction to this market, can you explain since when companies use promotional items and what evolutions have taken place?

Stéphane Jousset: Like promotion and publicity has always been part of the stock of marketing possibilities, promotional itmes have also been part of the ways companies use to differentiate from competition. Remember in France the “Bonux Cadeau†or the “Pif gadget†.

Regarding its evolution, we can notice two directions. The market reduces as a result of the restrictions of budget from the advertising companies due to crises and cost limitation and also because of the whole sellers that want to sell directly to the advertisers. This reduction of budget and intermediaries can be risky for the market in total. On the other hand the market gets more dynamic with important events: the year 2000, the introduction of the Euro (who doesn’t have a Euro converter), the Olympic Games, and World Foot Cup etc. These different cycles of events are important for the market and keep everyone active.

MP: What is the difference between a promotional item and a business present?

SJ: Generally speaking, the promotional item is of little value, almost systematically marked with the company brand (company logo, slogan, website etc.) On the contrary, the business present, more expensive, is moreover offered like a general present and not to spoil its value with the company branding or any publicity message. This is notably the case with real value branded objects: who would like to have a nice Waterman pen inlaid with the brand “La Vache qui rit†[1]?

MP: What are the trends in promotional items and what products are the “best salesâ€

SJ: There are the items that seem not sensible to trends and still highfliers like the T-shirts and pens. Nevertheless we do notice a clear trend in all types of Hi-Tech products. Advertisers are more and more interested in these types of products such like accessories to mobile phones, USB sticks etc. The products that are mostly used for promotional items are the pens, textile and key hangers. But all depends on the market activity and the segment of population that is aimed as well as the available budget.

MP: Where are most of the products being produced?

SJ: Most of the products are nowadays produced in Asia, and moreover in China. This is especially valid for all the electronical products (calculator, radios, watches, etc). For these products the European manufacturers have stopped production since some time already. Nowadays European production is mostly limited to certain areas like pens, leather-tanning products, art de table and luxury products.

MP: Are there reasons to be afraid of products from Asia, in terms of quality, or are some precautions to be taken?

SJ: Normally there is no reason to avoid Asian products and there is no real alternative. Avoiding Asian products reduces thus the choice as we have just seen. Besides, the times where all Chinese producers offered bad quality is now far behind. Precautions that can be taken are to work with professionals of this market who know what they are doing. It is their role to guide and advice you but also to validate the quality for you. This is a real job that cannot be done just like that; it has its rules, procedures and also its risks. The part of the intermediary is precisely to manage this risk on behalf of the advertiser.

MP: How can you know if you pay a price too expensive and if you buy a product of quality?

SJ: There is no mystery, regarding the quality of any promotional items it’s just like everything else, there is a market price. If on 5 sales propositions (for an identical or similar product) one of the prices is clearly lower it will most probably be due to a lack of quality. The reseller puts pressure on the manufacturer as to obtain a competitive price ahead of all competition. But, since the manufacturer will have to be profitable he has to obtain his margin from somewhere and probably cuts down on labour or material. For example, the USB sticks reflect a price difference that is often linked to difference in quality regarding the chip that has been used: certain use quality branded chips whereas other don’t, the price is the result. In the same way we can still see the difference from a pen “made in China†and a pen “made in Europe†.

MP: How much time should one schedule –in the best case- in order to have the promotional item in time?

SJ: For an importation to Europe from Asia one should count with 10 to 12 weeks, out of which there are 3 to 4 weeks for the boat. When the product comes directly from Europe, and there is a stock, count between 3 and 4 weeks. If there is no requirement for the branding, than it takes far less, only about 1 week, if the product is available of course and if the product can be delivered without any other operation (like printing etc).

MP: When is it better to prefer working with an intermediary (an agency) and when not?

SJ: Working with an agency enables often to be more creative: the agency is used to work with short delays in the various part of the value chain and business activities. The agency can also propose you suggestions and original ideas and has a better view of what is currently “in fashion†or the latest trend and where to find it. On the other hand, if you need to order T-shirts or pens, there is no reason to use an agency and you can as well contact directly the distributor. Working with an agency is justified when there is a need for a added value, a reflection more profound on the brief.

MP: How can the advertiser facilitate the relation with the agency and benefit a maximum of the services?

SJ: The most important in the relation with the agency is the quality of the brief from the advertiser: target, message to be communicated, budget, delay, imperatives of the marking (communication guidelines). The better the agency will be informed, the better they can carry out the work. The agency for promotional items is not a substitute for the advertiser to define its message, target and budget.

MP: How can one detect the quality and make the right choice for the budget?

SJ: Before passing your order it is of importance to see a sample of the proposed product. Before launching the production it is imperative to validate the «Go / No Go decision».

MP: What advice can you give us for the «End of the year» presents?

SJ: It all depends once more of the segment, the target. If the target is large, best would be to choice a more general item, that will be largely accepted and appreciated by as many as possible (wine accessories, an fine branded pen, etc.). If on the contrary you aim a smaller target, and a more homogeneous target, you can find a more suitable and precise present (ex. An indoor golf set, some fine cigars etc).

About Pamina

Pamina was created in 1991 and is part of the international group Eurimage – number 1 in Europe promotional products. It is the unique French member of this network and benefits of the advantages of Eurimage’s network and services. Since their existence, Pamina has managed to develop into a full added-value agency for promotional products, managing all elements of this market with high reactivity and the capacity to reply to on-demand creations. Their catalogue, printed in 20.000ex., is edited twice a year. To contact Pamina, Stéphane Jousset: (+33) 1 47 03 64 46.

Footnotes:

[1Note of translation: this is French brand of little cubes of cheese used often during the aperitif