What You Can Learn From DMA 2010′s Exhibit Hall Give-Aways

5 Categories of Company Premiums

Like many marketers, I’ve spent hours pondering what give-away will be optimal to cost effectively promote my company and entice prospective customers to purchase. To put tchotchkes, as they’re affectionately known, in perspective, these promotional items must lure potential buyers in at exhibit halls and serve other event-related functions such as be included in party bags. Despite their seeming disposability, they’re an element whose importance shouldn’t be overlooked. So I’m always interested to see what exhibitors use.

To help you when planning for your next trade show or event, here’s my assessment of premiums from the DMA 2010 exhibit hall broken into five major categories.

  1. Useful but mundane. These products are useful and have staying power but are a bit ho-hum. Among the most popular options are:
    • Thumb drives are useful and can include your firm’s content and branding.
    • Pens. Everyone needs them, but please ensure that they work! Also, select writing implements that reflect your organization in terms of color and quality. My personal favs are the gel filled ones.
    • Post-its. My favorite was the road warrior collection with a variety of sizes that fit in any briefcase or computer bag, which is likely to get used and stay top of mind. Make sure that you brand either the case or the post-its. Papa John’s pizza shaped post-its were fun and had non-intrusive graphics so they were usable. Remember, if your messaging makes it difficult for me to use your note pad, forget about it!
    • Calculators. Can be useful but are redundant when people are all toting around their smart phones and computers.
    • Rulers. There were a variety of options offered. My one complaint was that there weren’t any tape measures that we find very useful our house.
    • Handwash. Due to increased germ consciousness, this option can be useful since many traveling trade shows attendees. A better option, in my opinion, was the dental list broker who offered a small amount of dental floss combined with a tooth shaped key chain; it was both useful and brand relevant.
    • Bags. Every trade show and conference gives attendees a bag. You can increase its lifetime by making it of high enough quality to encourage future use. Reusable shopping bags tend to be popular these days. My all time favorite bag give-away was a back pack from a show in 2003 with a special sleeve for my laptop, which I’m still using.
    • Mugs. While not in evidence at DMA 2010, one of my favorite category premiums is mugs. Granted they’re bulky and breakable for long distance travelers, but they’ve got staying power. Of course, it’s critical to get good imprinting or it wears off quickly.
  2. Play time. This category encompasses a broad offering from kid stuff to things I can play with at work.
    • NASCAR collectible beanie bear complete with ray ban like shades and a number on his stomach was high on my list.
    • Green stuffed alien was great and non-choking for small children and pets.
    • Deck of Reagan cards from Newsmax.com were in line with the brand.
    • Work toys are always good options because people keep them on their desk. This includes bendy things and puzzles.
  3. Books. Books are always popular, especially if written by a member of your firm or your presenter. Despite the weight, old-fashioned books have a built-in sense of value so you know they’re definite keepers. At this show, I received Michael Fertik and David Thompson’s Wild West 2.0 about reputation management and Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s Trust Agents (at a sponsor party).
  4. Feed me. Includes a broad range of consumable and drinkable options. Depending on the choice, the edible offering means that prospects need to wait to be served providing for one-on-one face time. Since attendees always need a pick-me-up at these events, they have a built in attraction. Please avoid the boring and sad-looking hard candies. Here are some of the more attractive offerings:
    • Popcorn served fresh from a circus popping machine stand.
    • Blue cotton candy that didn’t represent the firm’s brand colors was a bit of a head scratcher.
    • Hagen Daz ice cream bars (my personal favorite and worth the calorie indulgence!)
    • Individually wrapped cookies were enticing, but remember to stick with mainstream favorites like chocolate chip and sugar cookies.
    • Drinks, especially alcoholic ones make for longer engagement. While not at this show, I’ve seen cappuccino machines that get my vote every time!
    • Bottled water. At conferences, everyone’s always thirsty and there’s often nothing to drink around. Water, not an empty refillable bottle, can bear your advertising on the wrapper.
  5. Off topic. While it’s difficult to believe that marketers would spend time and money on some of these options, based on my recent experience, they do.
    • Mouse pads. This one baffles me. With many people using notebooks, netbooks and iPads, how many people still need mousepads?
    • Ski hats. One Canadian company gave away black ski toques since they were from Vancouver. While the give-away did have a Canadian theme, I’m still not sure what the business did.
    • Hockey pucks. Another Canadian firm hung hockey jerseys (which they weren’t giving away) in their booth and gave away hockey pucks. Without kids or an ice skating rink, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the puck.

In today’s “travel light” world, you need a give-away that’s worth a prospect’s time, draws on your brand’s strength and is useful during the attendee’s stay and/or is light enough or worthy enough to be dragged through airport security. Remember that one of the great parts of attending marketing events is the toys you bring home!

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credits: (c) 2010  Heidi Cohen -All rights reserved via Creative Commons

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