The Problem With Bad Promo (Hint: It Hurts Your Brand & Kills The Environment)

For decades, the promotional item industry has been intrinsically wasteful. Almost every pen, stress ball, keychain, random knick-knack, and tchotchke your company orders ends up in the trash within months. Consumers can only keep track of so many cheap, plastic, easily-broken, moderately-useful, branded products at a time. So, your physical marketing budget heads straight to a garbage dump and your logo is quickly buried under the pens and notepads of hundreds of other companies’ failed physical marketing campaigns.

Now, this creates two problems: 1) your promotional marketing budget is being wasted and 2) your company is contributing thousands of pounds of waste into landfills… that will last for thousands of years. 

The Waste Problem

Sustainability is now a major focus among industry leaders. As of 2018, 78% of S&P 500 companies now issue annual sustainability reports.

And yet while for decades companies have touted their efforts in sustainability throughout their marketing campaign… few companies and organizations have acknowledged the environmental impact of their physical marketing.

A single cotton t-shirt can take up to 700 gallons of water to produce.

Plastics can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade in a landfill.

Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign alone sold 200,000 cotton shirts. To produce those shirts cost around 140 million gallons of water. For context, the average American family consumes roughly 300 gallons of water per day, or 109,500 gallons per year. So all of those shirts would provide usable water for 1,278 families for an entire year (or 319 families for 4 years).

The United States throws away 1.6 billion pens each year, most of which are made of plastic (which includes petroleum as a primary ingredient). Promotional pens account for up to 6% of the 23 billion dollar promotional item industry – that’s $1.38 BILLION dollars of pens… very few of which are currently produced sustainably.

And if you want to tap into the Millennial market: Good Luck reaching them with cheap plastic throwaways. 

– Jack Abbruzzese

There are thousands of promotional products made from organic, renewable, recycled, and recyclable materials. Your company can speak about its sustainability agenda and eco-friendly initiatives for years… or, it can be a market leader and hand a customer a sustainably sourced, organic cotton t-shirt – and let your actions speak for themselves.

The outdated attitude of quantity over quality and lowest price wins has driven the industry to a state of reliance on cheap materials, fad goods, and wastefulness; and consumers are now demanding to hold companies accountable to it.

The Marketing Problem

Too often, companies view promotional products as an afterthought. Arbitrary budgets and rushed buying cycles lead to ill-advised purchases of cheap products that do not align with a company’s values or brand equity. These misaligned purchases can confuse consumers and undermine the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, especially when it pertains to environmentalism.

An innovative silicon valley tech startup should not have their logo anywhere near a frisbee. An environmental nonprofit would be wise to avoid plastic bottle opener keychains. Neither organization should want their logo sticking out of the trash can in a conference center. And if you want to tap into the Millennial market: Good Luck reaching them with cheap plastic throwaways. 

Even brands that are not necessarily environmentally focused are taking initiative to reduce their impacts. Gucci just announced their plans to go carbon neutral. They’re one of the first large luxury fashion brands to do so, awarding them headlines and positive news coverage. Your company too could become an early adopter and reap the rewards. 

As the promotional product industry grows and consumers are inundated with branded goods, the traditional approach to physical marketing becomes less effective and more wasteful. 

The Solution

Modern day promotional marketing campaigns identify a target demographic, align with brand equity and values, and provide quality, environmentally conscious, useful products. 

Today’s consumers are smarter than they were ten years ago. Brands have forced advertisements into their daily lives for decades now, and marketers have to find a way to stand out. Sure, pens and notepads have their time and place. But if you want to reach an audience and stand out from the rest: do not clutter your display table with landfill fodder. And if you don’t have time to plan your promo project, let our tradeshow strategists do it for you.

Providing your customers with quality, eco-friendly promotional products may be the simplest, most inexpensive way to reach your customers in 2019. It will also prove to your existing audience that your company is an industry leader, dedicated to true innovation and conservation. That’s what we call Promo Done Greener.

Learn more at imprintgenius.com/sustainability.

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