Enough with the Tchotchkes

two businesswomen shaking hands at an exhibitionLook around your office. Look at your pens, pads, folders and folios. How many company names do you see? I recently did a similar activity in my own office and came to the conclusion that pens must be the universal tchotchke. I’ve got them from doctors, printers, marketers, spas, salons, clothiers and many others. And, to be blunt, I pay little if any attention to the name on the pen. I am, however, the type to note the pen’s make and model and see if I can order it, nameless, from an office supplier.

By no means am I discounting the value of promotional products. I am, however, saying that a pen isn’t for everyone. My boss recently brought me, what I currently consider to be, a brilliant tchotchke – a rain gauge branded with the name of a garden center. Now that makes sense. People can purchase their planting materials and acquire a relevant, branded add-on with their purchase. One, nonetheless, that they are very likely to use.

As we approach our trade show season, I’m already experiencing visions of an overwhelming volume of tchotchkes. I also have a hunch that I will be hard-pressed to find these ultra-relevant connections between the brand and its branded giveaways. To that end, I offer companies the following points to consider before ordering the beloved company pen:

Who is your audience: Certainly, 20-somethings may find use in a different giveaway than a more mature audience. Think about who you serve and what makes them tick.

What is relevant to your business: If you service computers, maybe it’s a PC repair toolkit. If you are a spa, maybe it’s an emery board or lotion. Think about not only what your audience will use but what will make them think of you. It’s not just about seeing your company’s name on the product, it’s about a relevant connection.

What’s the competition doing: If you sell seashells and your are going to an industry trade show, it’s likely you won’t be the only one peddling a branded pail and shovel. Think outside of the box. Be relevant but make your brand stand out.

Pause. Repeat: If you are going to be exhibiting in front of a new audience, you may be able to rely on a previous hit rather than reinventing the wheel. If business executives are your target and they typically love a laptop bag, and this audience hasn’t seen you before, then bring back the bags.

Attributes & Attribution: What do you know about your audience? Are they eco-friendly? Are they commuters? Think about their attributes and then decide how your attribution fits with the tchotchke that’s right for them.

Pens may have universal functionality but consider this. When people leave a tradeshow with hundreds of exhibitors, they aren’t going to leave with only one pen.

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