Tag Archives: Promotional Products

Your Giveaway Pen Should Be the One They Keep At Tradeshows

When is cheaper more expensive?

All Trade Show Pens Are Not Alike

I got off the phone this morning and shook my head.  I gave a “you’re about to miss your deadline” call to a client whose booth we designed.  We’ve been providing promos for his major trade show since – not a very big order, but we treat them all the same.

Because his business brings him in contact with pen manufacturers, he told me that he’d already “taken care of” his promos, and he’d even saved money that way.  I let it go. It was a small order. And he was proud of how “smart” he was.

But, the thing is, I know something that he doesn’t know.

When Is A “Cheaper” Promo Actually More Expensive?

I can sell him pens that cost half as much as the ones we have been selling him, but the ones we recommend are worth MORE than twice as much.

How do I know?

These pens write exceptionally well. They have German writing elements and write impeccably, while being lightweight and relatively inexpensive.

There are knock-off pens that look similar and cost less.  But they don’t write the same. They’ll be thrown out, left behind, ignored. They cost a lot more in the long run.

The pens that write well, for a few cents more, would have been the pens his customers and prospects kept, after the trade show was done. They’d be around to remind prospects of the really great products they’d seen at the show.

That’s why we use these pens for our own self-promotion.

Evaluating Promos for Cost, Quality AND Effectiveness

We know that budgets rule, and ROI is important.  Our policy is to find good / better / best options for our clients whenever we can. That way, our clients are empowered  to decide which combination of price, quality and speed meets their current needs.

Apparently I made a bit of a mistake here. After years of providing the same great pens, I didn’t reinforce why they were worth the difference.  It’s a good lesson for me. And hopefully a good lesson for others who can forget ~ penny-wise can indeed be pound foolish.

Which pens?  Check them out here: Javalina Pens in many styles.


Deborah Elms is passionate about helping businesses and organizations create and retain customers through the effective use of trade shows & other face-to-face events.  You can follow her on twitter at @D_Elms or visit the Imprinted Originals Facebook page.


What’s Up? Tradeshow Giveaways – New Promo Product Ideas

I’m always on the lookout for new and different ideas for tradeshow giveaways and client gifts.  Here’s a few that caught my eye at a recent trade show geared to sellers of promotional products (also known as ad specialties).  For variety, they include tech, kitchen and pet based ideas.

Tech Promotional Gift Ideas

OK, no surprise, these get a lot of my attention because many of our clients are techy and/or sell to techies.  Plus I’m a geek myself from way back when.

  • Phone Holders

The Griptyte Stand holds up any smartphone or mp3 player, without magnets, at a great angle for reading or glancing at on your desk, and has a nice sized message area.

The idea is not new, but many existing products are cheesy, in my opinion.   This stand works great on my desk.  I predict these will be kept and used.

  • Headphones, speakers and docks.

Also not a new category.

But I like that everything is getting more compact, less pricey, and frankly easier to carry around or use.

  • Styluses

Actually I saw some styluses at the show, but our favorite is the one we just did for a longtime manufacturing client of ours. So I’m showing it.

Dual function design means you get a “capacitive” side that works with all touch screens including phones and tablets, and on the other end, a traditional stylus for PDAs or for IRL keyboards.

  • Tablet holders with built-in keyboards

This one grabbed my eye even though it would be more likely to be a raffle prize than a giveaway at a tradeshow, based on its price.

It  would also make an awesome gift for a client, important prospect or sales person.  They’re never going to throw it out.  Unless someone else already gave them one already.

Office Products

  • Really big highlighters.

Nowhere near as sexy as tech.   I thought these huge highlighters were a fun idea any way.

If you have prospects or clientele that need ’em and don’t want to lose ’em, these 8 inch-long highlighters will definitely stand out, be used, and keep your message front and center.

Kitchen Products for Promos?  (Really? Yes, really.)

In talking to one of our long-time vendors – they sell the best pizza cutter in existence – we got reminded that people have been hunkering down in their kitchens lately and do a lot more home cooking.

  • The World’s Best Pizza Cutter

Gifts for the kitchen don’t have to cost a lot, and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be kept and used where they’ll be seen often.

I’m showing the latest incarnation of the greatest pizza cutter in the world, but we also sell a lot of corkscrews, wine bottle caps and … You get the idea.

Pet Products – Another “Sticky” Category

Pet products is a fairly new category of product for the promotional market.

  • Paw-shaped Pet Food Scoop with Clip

We all know how much people spend on their pets these days. With that in mind – how likely are they to toss out a gift that could make Fido or Fifi’s life more comfortable or less time-consuming for themselves?

Pictured here:  paw shaped pet food scoop with 1 cup capacity that also tightly seals pet food bags with a clip.

Interested in more ideas?

Search for More Tradeshow Giveaway Ideas

We have two search options for you:

Example categories: Tech, Trade Show, Green and Holiday Products.


You’re always welcome to give us a call and we’ll help you develop or track down a great idea.  Tell us your target audience, your industry and your theme or message, plus a budget and a quantity.


Related topics:





What’s the News about Tradeshow Exhibiting? Notes from TS2

I made my way to Boston a few weeks ago for The TS2 Show, also known as “The Tradeshow for Tradeshows”, one of two primary annual shows within the industry itself.

Since we are expanding our reconfigurable, island booth and rental offerings, it made sense to take advantage of what makes trade shows irreplaceable — being able to investigate new vendors and get an up close view of potential new exhibit products, to make sure they meet our standards for quality, impact and usability.

That effort was very successful — we have many exciting new product offerings.  We are still in the process of adding them to our website and in our “Introducing … ” new products blog category, but they are available now.

Exhibitors at this show include both manufacturers reaching out to companies to resell their products and companies like ours, looking for new and updating existing clients.  In addition, the show offers a great opportunity to check out what’s new, what’s working, and what should probably be avoided.

I will highlight some of my impressions from the show, as a way to share some current trends.

Illuminated Fabric Displays

There were wonderful examples of some of my favorite new products in use– illuminated fabric displays.  Created with beautifully “living” dye-sublimated fabric graphics, backlit and side-lit within handsome aluminum supports, these products provide a true high-end look at an almost unbelievably affordable price.

Sized in portable dimensions, tower and custom sizes — they can add emphasis to an existing booth or can be put to work in a central role within newly designed structures.

One example of this type of product — at a size perfect for highlighting a key message, introducing a new product or service, or simply reinforcing the brand visibility — can be seen here:  Double-sided Backlit Fabric Lightbox Display.

Note: there are also Tower and custom-sized versions available, not yet on the site.

Creative Uses of 10′ x 20′ Booth Spaces

An in-line booth which consisted of an approximately double-height backdrop was quite dramatic in a relatively small space. I thought its hodgepodge design, meant to show an array of effects, may not have made the best use of it, however.

Even more interesting, to me, were Island Booths created in 10′ x 20′ spaces.

One used its wood-colored flooring very much like an island, positioning at its center what would normally be a cabinet style display for the back of a booth. Props of lobster traps were positioned around the booth to support the theme which was nautical, also well represented within the display design.  Staff correctly positioned themselves facing in the different directions to engage with passersby.

Another 10′ x 20′ island booth was used to show off features of the exhibitors’ offerings using three distinct elements in a way that suggested a larger booth but left open spaces for visitors to walk in from any direction and engage in conversation with booth staff. This setup reduced costs involved in shipping, drayage and set up, while still projecting a much larger and very finished look.

Even the larger footprint island booths seemed to accentuate their open space at this show, rather than walling in their “turf”.  Chances are some exhibitors were given upgrades to larger island spaces, which could account for less “display” per square foot of booth, but the net effect was quite positive. It felt good not to be hemmed in, and allowed for more natural interactions.

Social Media on Tradeshow Floor

Professionals in the tradeshow, meetings and events industries are paying a lot of attention to social media tools, and the benefit they bring both to show organizers and exhibitors.  So of course there was a Twitter hashtag promoted by the show organizers, and used widely by electronic “participants” from afar and on-site.  If you do a search at search.twitter.com using #TS2show as your query, chances are you may still find comments being made weeks later.

I was also impressed to discover that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center’s twitter handle @bcecnav was actively engaged in providing information throughout, alerting us to lunch hour, where there was free coffee, and when shuttle buses were available, etc.

The InZone

Then there was the InZone — a 40′ x 40′  space dedicated to gathering, entertaining and educating an interactive “hybrid” audience, made up partly of tradeshow attendees and partly those who watched via video feed and participated via Twitter and other online communities.

A professional tradeshow presenter (Emilie Barta, interviewed elsewhere on this blog) led conversations between experts and end-users about tradeshow and social media topics, especially but not exclusively focusing on the technologies and techniques which were making this experiment possible.  In addition, many of the participants who had previously “met” through networking using Twitter groups such as #eventprofs or #engage365 were able to have a well-appreciated face-to-face conversation.

This was basically a pilot for a concept that associations can use at their conferences, or an exhibitor seeking to create special “buzz” at an important show could implement.  There is great potential in this idea.

To see videos from the InZone, and learn more visit: http://ts2.3d-mediagroup.com/index.php .  And yes it  had/has its own Twitter hashtag #inzone.

I have yet to write a blog entry about my experiences participating in and helping create these kinds of hybrid events – but it’s coming!

Electronics and Event Technology

There were a range of electronic products for lead capturing, as well as interactive and 3-D displays for when it is impractical to bring actual products for demonstrations.  Many of these either used or mimicked iPad or Smart Phone technology.

There was also a product which provides Internet access for a reasonable rental fee — look out convention centers and exhibition organizers in the habit of overcharging!

I look forward to addressing some of these new products in a later blog entry.

Also Worth Noting

Let me mention a few other things that I believe are worth noting from the show, even though not brand-new ideas.

Not surprisingly, based on the work we’ve done for our own clients the last several years, the show was dominated by fabric booths and display components, including portable booths such as: Xpressions Snap, Entasi, and HopUp, as well as reconfigurable and rentable extrusion frames with silicon edged graphics (SEG).  There is good reason for that — lowered shipping and set up costs, ease of use, dramatic results and versatility appeal to essentially all exhibitors these days!

Though sometimes experts warn that using colored carpeting which contrasts with the show’s can create a barrier to attendees entering one’s booth, what I saw reconfirmed my experience that a well chosen color scheme which coordinates flooring with a booth’s graphical theme or coloring can have a quite positive result.

It is so easy to install one’s own wood-style flooring tiles now that there were several booths where exhibitors used it successfully to highlight their space.  It’s also worth noting that we now can offer standard carpeting and carpet tiles that are “green”.

What’s A Tradeshow Without Giveaways?

One odd thing I observed was a booth which made a very big deal about having barrels of beach sandals of different sizes to give away — but made no connection between them and any theme, message, or action item that I saw.  And I can think of so many ways to tie a message to those particular gifts!   It seemed to be a lost opportunity to create a deeper impression.

On the other hand, I will admit that a small part of my choosing to attend the show on the first day that the exhibit hall was open was an offer made by one of the exhibitors, “free flexible keypad for the first X visitors to our booth”. Despite the fact that I can get a sample of almost any promotional item for free or at a reduced cost, it set this exhibitor apart and motivated me even that slight bit more to get to their booth early enough to snag one.

The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

This was my first visit to the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and from what I saw I was impressed.  They seem to be dedicated to providing a 21st century electronically-enabled experience — complete with Twitter handle and messaging mentioned above.

It’s also extremely handy to get to the BCEC from Logan Airport on the T via the Silver Bus Line SL1, and it only takes a few minutes.

Even though TS2 was smaller in size than previous trips, I found it very worth my while.  Participating in industry shows doesn’t just help us, it enhances our ability to support our clients exhibiting successfully at tradeshows.  I could only capture the tip of the iceberg here but I’ll be sharing more with clients throughout the fall season I’m sure.

Because someone will ask – the other major industry tradeshow is Exhibitor, held in March in Las Vegas and much larger.  I was disappointed this year to see that social media was not used particulary effectively by organizers or exhibitors in 2010, but I predict that will change in 2011.  If you are looking for implementation ideas, or help – feel free to reach out to us!


Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping new and growing businesses, non-profit organizations and associations create and retain customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events.

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/D_Elms
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/deborahelms
Exhibiting Success: http://www.imprintedoriginals.com/blog



Inspired by a trip to the largest promotional products tradeshow on the East Coast – ideas for more impact for YOUR brand at YOUR trade shows (besides the booth):

#1 – Electroluminescent Illuminated Branded Apparel

Definitely an “eye-catching” idea: a T-shirt or Cap branded with your logo in lights which flashes to the beat of your selected song!

“The next big thing in branded outerwear” – shirts and caps with integrated light technology to flash designs or text in a predetermined pattern.  Custom or standard designs.  Minimum quantities required.

Available for certain thin illuminated display applications in booth design as well.

#2 – The WOW! Customized, personal “concierge” service branded just for you!

Turn your booth visitors (or other prospects and clients) into VIPs with the WOW! Card, which provides customized “concierge” service, branded not just with your visual logo, but also your name and 2 messages within each of their calls for assistance!

Recipients call a toll-free number to access live personal assistants 24 hours a day, with the response branded with your company name and book-ended with your customizable greeting and closing messages on every call.  Your recipients will keep these cards close at hand and then use them to call for on-the-spot answers.

For traveling tradeshow visitors, think how appreciative they will be when they can get nearby restaurant recommendations and reservations, hunt down tickets for sporting events, and get gate or flight updates.  Not to mention, settle bar bets or get directions to the rental car lot when they’re running late!

Still not sure what it’s about?  Go check it out for yourself here – WOW! Branded Personal Assistance.

Be sure to sign up for a complimentary demonstration … and if you need help thinking about what to ask – here are examples of popular requests.

#3 – Ideas which are not brand new but are still cool, and definitely bring folks into your booth:

* All kinds of things to help your traveling prospects cope with life on the road … including folding maps with location-specific information on one side, and custom information about your company, products or services on the other.

* Puzzle pieces sent in pre-show mailings, to be checked against a “prize board” in your booth.  Choose how many “grand”, “second place” and “consolation” prize pieces are sent out.  (And select prizes your target customers will want to collect!)

* Non-slip grips for cell phones and other electronics will be kept for the life of the object.  Now available with “recovery-for-reward” tags with over 85% of lost items recovered, at no added cost, and no annual fees or charges for end users.

* Completely custom ideas – which we can source reliably for you.

Of course, you can always call or visit our website for additional ideas!

And if you still haven’t taken a look … go on, check it out – WOW! Concierge Cards



Do you give away promotional items to visitors to your trade show booth?  If you do, what should you give?

It has become such a commonplace that “something” should be given out at a show that all too often just “anything” is.  In that case, it probably won’t do any good.

Let’s take a closer look.

First, why use promotional giveaways?

  • The obvious answer, first – they attract people to your booth
  • They reinforce your brand, products, or services in customers’ minds
  • They promote what you offer as an alternative to their current supplier
  • They promote goodwill
  • They can educate or inform about new products and services
  • They return with prospect to home or office to keep your message and your contact information in sight

Essential Rules of Giveaways

There are a few key points to remember when you select promotional items for your business or organization, whether for holiday thank you’s or as trade show giveaways.

The most successful giveaways should:

  • Be easily linked in your prospect’s mind to your product or service
  • Provide something that will be of value or interest to them
  • Do something clever or fun that will catch their eye or create goodwill

Next, let’s look at how to link your goals for a show with the items you select.

#1 Are you trying to get as many people as possible into your booth?

If your business is consumer oriented, uses a “mass marketing” business model, or is new and trying to introduce its products or services as widely as possible – you want high booth volume.

In this case, you need a giveaway that is generally well-received but not too expensive because of the quantities required.

Candy provides a strong draw, as do fun or interactive items. But remember, though these will get people in your booth – they won’t do anything in themselves to make them remember you. If your goal is simply to attract lots of people – to fill out a questionnaire or to hand a coupon, for instance, then you do not need an imprinted giveaway.

If your goal is to draw lots of people you plan to qualify further, though, you probably will want a second item, imprinted with your company’s brand or product information, to be given only to those who have qualified.

#2 Are you looking for a particular kind of prospect?

If your services or products are geared only to specific industries or individuals, then your goal is to find viable prospects without giving out a lot of costly gifts or spending too much time with inappropriate visitors.

An excellent way to have your prospects pre-qualify themselves is by offering something that matches their needs or interests, but has little appeal to others.

Provide a gift that your prospect will take and keep on hand long past the end of the show – but make sure it is clearly branded to keep your company name in your prospect’s mind or it is a waste of your money.

For example, once upon a time, I received a “Dogbert” stress toy at a show. I kept it for years because it was well targeted to my professional profile, in the software industry – but since it did not have a company name or logo, all those years of potential positive branding were lost to whoever decided to “save” on the expense of imprinting.

#3 Are you looking to reinforce relationships and promote your brand through increased product/service knowledge?

In this case, your promotional goal is to get specific information to current customers to motivate them to expand your relationship, say through an upgrade or add-on purchase. In addition, this is a situation in which you could clearly benefit from the planning and execution of a pre-show promotion.

A pre-show promotion works by advertising your involvement with the show in advance, to current customers and known prospects. This usually involves an enticement to bring them to your booth. If they bring the coupon you have sent or emailed them, or mention a particular offer number, for instance, they will receive a special gift.

A twist on this theme is to send part of a gift to them, with the remainder available at the show. An amazing percentage of people will arrive with half of their imprinted gift or puzzle piece, ready to receive the rest of the item. This may be the chance you have been waiting for to talk with specific high-profile prospects.

#4 Are you looking for increased name recognition?

An established vendor in a niche market might take a giveaway and add a spin to it to grab buzz at a show.

For instance, one manufacturer at a clothing industry show gave away hundreds of bright red shirts, along with raffle tickets. They offered a cash prize once an hour to someone spotted wearing the shirt in the convention hall.  Near the end of the show, they drew a raffle ticket for a new highend laptop.  To win, you had to be wearing your red shirt, of course!

This whole process was expensive – but by the end of the show there was close to 100% recognition of what had been a lesser player in that industry because by the final day of the show, there were literally hundreds of people wearing identical red shirts.

Who Will They Call?

If you consider your show goals and your target audience carefully, your giveaways can not only help get the right people into your booth, but also be kept long past the day of the show.

Promotional products that make it back to the office or to the home for use and/or viewing by your prospect have been shown to be associated not just with more “eyeballs” on your brand, but with increased likelihood of giving you a call, when the time is right, and your product or service is needed.

Should you use promotional products at trade shows?

Only you can decide if they make sense in your overall plan.  If budgets are tight, it’s far better to spend money on your booth and getting professional graphic design than to purchase “stuff” blindly.

If you use your giveaways as part of your strategy, they can help you reach and communicate with your prospects for a more successful trade show!