Since opening our doors in 2000, we’ve had the good fortune of working with thousands of clients who have engaged us to plan their promotional campaigns. We’ve also witnessed the odd promotional train wreck. After 12 years in business, we sat down and analyzed the tens of thousands of orders we have produced and identified three common mistakes that marketers  make when organizing their promotional marketing.


Problem #1/You’re Hitting the Snooze Button

You’ve spent months creating and planning a project then a week before it goes live someone asks what your giveaway is. You call “your promo guy” and tell him you need something that your customers will love and keep forever.

Oh, and you need it in three days. And, your budget is gone.

What do you get? Something small, rushed, and cheap. And it falls flat.

The Fix

Don’t let your promo be an afterthought. Sure, we’re great at coming up with stuff on the fly and getting it to you when you’re crunched for time, but that’s not how the best campaigns are run. You plan your ad spend ahead of time. You plan your events ahead of time. Why wait until the last minute to plan your promo? Bring us in early to get better ideas, a wider variety of products, and maybe even a better price.

We know it’s tempting to keep hitting snooze, but try getting up early a few times to see how much better your campaign is.

Problem #2/You’re Firing a Shotgun

You know the principle:

Marketing strategy whereby (in contrast to rifle approach) the aim is to cover as wide an area or population as possible.

This tells us that you don’t:

  • know your target audience,
  • have product ideas that speak to them or
  • have the time to figure it out

So you go high quantity & low price and hope that your message sticks because SO many people will get it. It’s like throwing a promo hail mary. To go really wide you’re going to have to go low cost which will limit your chance to get a product that speaks to your ideal customer. You’re left handing out XL men’s shirts to an audience half-filled with women. Even if those women love your brand, those shirts will go straight into the PJ drawer.

The Fix

Understand your target audience by

  • looking at the demographics
  • engaging them on social media
  • finding out what they like

In short, do your homework.

Be picky about who you’re giving your brand away to and focus on your core. Move your event sign-up online and ask registrants to indicate their shirt size during sign-up. Use these numbers to get a feel for your audience then order accordingly.

Problem #3/You’re missing the medium

Your boss gives you an assignment: Remind our employees that our company is a fun place to work.

You call “your promo guy” and he throws your logo on a pen or padfolio and you hand them out at meetings.


The Fix

Promotional marketing isn’t about putting your message on an item, it’s about making the item part of your message.

I’m actually turning into a high school english teacher as I write this, but SHOW your audience, don’t tell them.

Then add your message to it and the medium becomes your message.

If you wan to be fun, put your brand on poppers If you want to capitalize on a current trend go for capsacs If you want to appeal to the youth market check out tuber’z

You might not commit these promo mistakes, but you probably know someone who does, so keep these tips handy in the event of a promo intervention.

Did we miss something? Or miss the mark completely? Let us know in the comments!

And, remember, Friends don’t let friends buy bad promo.