Select Page


In 2008 the ASI launched its Global Advertising Impressions Study to give its members powerful data that proves that advertising specialties are a high-impact and cost-effective advertising medium. Through thousands of live and online interviews with businesspeople in key cities in the US, Canada, France and the UK, the study gauges consumer perceptions of promotional products and how they influence buying decisions. It also highlights the popularity of key promo product categories by demographic group (such as age, race and gender); reveals the cost per impression of top advertising specialty product categories; and shows the cost per impression of promotional products compared to other forms of advertising media, like radio, TV and Internet advertising. The study is conducted by ASI every two years. For the 2012 study, conducted between July and September last year, the ASI research team interviewed consumers in 12 cities: New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia, London, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver and

Montreal. Respondents were asked questions about the promotional products they had received, including how many they had, how they used them, why they kept them, and their impressions of the advertisers that gave them the items. Further, an online panel survey was conducted among recipients of advertising specialties in those same geographic areas to augment the sample from the manon- the-street interviews. All respondents were at least 18 years old. Combined with the in-person interviews, there were 4,468 completed surveys for this study. The resulting report contains three sections:
• Product Popularity highlights the most popular promotional products by category, and includes detailed demographic breakdowns by geography, gender, race, age and income. For example, on the “Product Spotlight: Writing Instruments” section you’ll note that women are significantly more likely than men to own a branded pen or pencil. This section will be a helpful tool for you to use in guiding your clients toward products that will be the most impactful in their marketing efforts.

• Recipients’ Views on Advertisers reveals important information showcasing how long businesspeople hold onto branded items; what they do with items they don’t wish to keep; and how many total promotional items they own, broken out by a variety of demographic groups. This section provides hard data to combat objections from buyers who may think that promotional items are “throwaways” or “afterthoughts” in a marketing campaign, and may not understand their true value.
• The Cost-Effectiveness of Ad Specialties highlights the industry products that deliver the best cost per impression and compares the cost per impression of advertising specialties to other forms of media, like Internet and radio advertising. This is a great tool you can use to convince clients to allocate more of their marketing dollars to promotional products. Note: All demographic breakdowns (age, race, gender, etc.) reflect US consumers only. Respondents from other countries are represented as a whole.

Product Popularity

For this section, respondents were asked to provide up to three promotional items they had received in the last 12 months. Promotional items were defined as items that include pens, T-shirts, mugs, calendars, or any items that have a logo or message from an advertiser on them; they are usually given away for free to consumers in hopes of positively influencing their purchasing preferences or their attitudes toward the advertiser. As the chart below reveals, writing instruments were the items most commonly cited, as nearly one-half (49%) of promotional product recipients reported getting at least one in the last 12 months. There are also significant differences by country, as revealed on the chart. The product categories are further broken down to show their popularity by a variety of demographics. You can use these highlighted differences to recommend the best products and ideas to your clients, keeping in mind the targeted audience. In addition to identifying the branded items they had kept, respondents were asked how long they had kept the item that they received within the last 12 months.



On average, advertising specialty items are kept for nearly six months in the US, slightly less time than in other countries. Awards are typically held the longest, for about eight months. Writing instruments are held the shortest amount of time, at just over five months. The length of time items have been kept has stayed about the same since the survey started. One of the advantages promotional products have is that just one item can deliver a message for a far longer time period than other forms of advertising. Advertisers can reinforce their brand or a call to action for an average of nearly six months, and even longer on some products such as outerwear or mugs. Are promotional products that recipients decide not to keep destined for the trash? Not likely. In this year’s study, 66% of the respondents in the US said that when they receive a branded item they don’t wish to keep, they give it to someone else.


This is up 15 percentage points from 2008, while those indicating they throw the item away dropped to half, to 16%. About 17% say they file the item away and never notice it again. The key takeaway from this information is that promotional products are not simply thrown away. Items are kept because they’re useful, or given to someone who can use them. Advertisers’ messages often go beyond the initial target. As awareness of recycling

has become more prevalent, so has the desire to pass along unwanted promotional products. Usefulness is also a key indicator. Consumers will be much more likely to keep a promotional product that is useful, according to the survey. About eight in 10 (81%) of product recipients indicated that an item’s usefulness is the primary reason to keep it. In addition, 23% of recipients said they kept an item because it’s attractive, and 26% say they keep a promotional product simply because it’s “enjoyable to have.”

In particular, items like writing instruments, USB drives and calendars are more frequently kept because they’re useful. Items like awards are kept by 61% of recipients because they’re “enjoyable to have.” The practical applications of promotional products should be stressed. If the product isn’t useful then a consumer is much less likely to keep it, with the exception of awards and items like calendars and magnets, which are often also kept because they’re attractive and/or contain useful information,

such as phone numbers or website addresses. In the study, respondents were asked how many branded items they currently had in their homes and/or offices. People in the US own an average of 10 promotional products. But the number varies according to city, country, gender, race, income and age. Knowing the target audience can help any marketing initiative be more successful. While promotional products are widely valued, some groups have more than others, either by interest or opportunity.


Recipients’ Views on Advertisers

For this section, we asked respondents whether they could identify the advertisers on the promotional items they currently owned. The result: Nearly nine in 10 (87%) recipients of promotional merchandise can identify the advertiser on the item. This has been consistent since 2008. Of all major product categories, outerwear has the highest recognition of all promotional items: 97% of respondents who have logoed outerwear can name the advertiser on the items. Wearables as a whole maintain a very high advertiser awareness

The key takeaways here are that there is a compelling reason to suggest advertising specialties as a marketing solution: Promotional product recipients clearly remember the advertisers on the items they receive. Part of the reason why outerwear has a commanding advertiser recall is that consumers receive fewer jackets and other outerwear items than they do other popular promotional items. And in interviews with our on-the-street researchers, it was obvious that businesspeople consider jackets to be expensive, which helps ensure that they’ll keep them and wear them repeatedly. Suppliers looking to present clients with

an item of high perceived value that has high advertiser recognition might consider outerwear as an option. In this section, we also asked consumers their opinions of advertisers who gave them a branded item. Over half of the time (52%), advertising specialties leave a more favorable impression of the advertiser. This trend was seen across all countries. Outerwear leaves the most positive impression of the advertiser, as nearly three-quarters (73%) of branded outerwear recipients had a more favourable impression of the advertiser. Drinkware and writing instruments deliver the lowest percentage of positive impressions (47% and 42%, respectively).

All categories of promotional products generate favourable impressions of the advertisers
as a whole, combating some buyers’ objections that promotional products do not sway consumers’ minds. However, some of the most popular items in the industry, such as writing instruments, generate the lowest percentage of positive impressions. This is likely because of the commodity nature of the items. Products that stand out even in the most common categories (such as a multifunctional pen or a mug that changes colour when liquid is poured into it) are the ones most likely to generate goodwill toward the advertiser.


The cost-effectiveness of advertising specialities

According to the study, advertising specialties are less expensive per impression than most other forms of media. The investment in advertising specialties is modest, more targeted and more achievable for smaller businesses than other forms of advertising. Promotional products have a lower cost per impression in the US than prime-time television advertising, national magazine advertising and newspaper ads, and a similar

CPI to spot radio and Internet advertising. The key takeaway here is that promotional products deliver the same or a better return on investment (ROI) than other forms of media. But when one considers the prohibitive cost of producing radio or television commercials or the cash outlay to buy sufficient Internet advertising, promotional products offer the best value. Promotional products can also be used to more closely target the intended message recipient than mass media.

Further, even smaller companies can achieve as high an ROI as major corporations by using advertising specialties because even a modest investment delivers superior results. In conclusion, advertising specialties occupy a unique space in the advertising and marketing world. Unlike other forms of media, where the advertiser’s message is seen as an interruption in what the consumer is trying to do (ie: watch a TV programme or surf the Internet), ad specialties are used by consumers to

achieve a goal, like drink coffee, write or wear a shirt. And because the products are kept and used repeatedly, the advertisers are remembered, as is illustrated by the extremely high advertiser recall on most types of items. In addition, the cost per impression is comparable or better than the cost of other forms of media, and even the smallest marketing budgets can achieve big-budget results using advertising specialties. Reprinted with permission of ASI®