Tech Line

Promo Products: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

One of my first editorial jobs was at a business publication covering office products. Back in the day, office products were a big deal. While Staples might still be around today, at one time there was an office-supply store on the corner of just about every town. Office supplies was a formidable business.

And, as with all industries pre-Covid (way pre-), this one held an annual event. It was usually in high summer, in some city where the midday parking lot blacktop stuck to your shoes or was so hot and humid your tie curled. (We wore ties to events in those days.)

Covering my first event as a cub reporter was exciting—for a couple of hours, anyway. How many paper clips, rubber bands, spiral notebooks, Index dividers, calendars, staples, fasteners, tape. . .can one look at—much less write about.  

But there was one diamond in this stationary rough: Pens. I couldn’t get my hands on enough pens. I was so enthralled with the myriad of writing implements that I actually wrote an editorial (that’s what a blog was called in days of yore) about the number and kind of pens I had on my desk. (I'd link to it, but it exists, if at all, in some dusty, bound volume of ancient magazines.)

To me, pens were the ultimate swag.

And there’s that word: swag—the slang for “promotional items.”

Today, pens—nor any other small, cheap, unbranded, and un-personalized tchotchke—won’t suffice as a legitimate business promotional product or gift. No, things have changed—and for the better.

Trends for the Times

A perfect example of the depth and scope of that change can be seen in the recently published “2023 Spring & Summer Lookbook: Fully Branded Direct Mail Solutions by PFL.”  Our Amber Sikkink, Experience Product Director, and her team curated this collection of promotional items that marketers can use to create one-to-one, personalized and branded experiences for customers and prospects.

Sikkink explained that there are some unique trends that mark today’s promotional-product landscape: “The first change we see is ‘Renewal.’ People are rediscovering the beauty in simplicity—a natural complement to the shift toward sustainable, long-lasting products. ‘Evolution’ is another trend. Technology continues to evolve with increased focus on sustainable, innovative solutions, lively color palettes, and bolder lines bringing style and personality to functional tech.”

Sikkink went on to say that “Balance” is yet another trend, one in which the drive for improved work-life balance has driven individuals to demand versatility. Products that were once tailored to either work or home are now required to adapt to fit both professional needs and recreational preferences.

The last two trends are “Care” and “Discover.” Said Sikkink: “As mental and physical health has become increasingly valued, a shift towards products that promote wellness is on the rise. That’s the nature of ‘Care.’  Finally, with ‘Discover,’ individuals have made the conscious shift, in the post-pandemic era, to seek out shared experiences and self-discovery. From camping with the family to hosting a cooking social or trying an unfamiliar sport, products that encourage new experiences and togetherness are in demand.”

Below is a sampling of some of the items that can be found in the 2023 Lookbook. To download the fully curated catalog containing dozens of products such as this, click here.

Beyond the Bare Necessities

Employ everyday necessities to keep your brand top-of-mind when on the go. Featured here: RuMe Classic Recycled Medium Tote; Frank Green Original Reusable Bottle, 25 oz; Satsuma Bento Lunch Box.

Festival Goer

Summer is the season for music festivals! Equip your prospects with everything they need to enjoy an outing with your brand. Featured here: TimBuk2 Slacker Pack; Noshinku Refillable Pocket Hand Sanitizer; Pop Wallet+.

Grill to Perfection

No matter how you slice it, command top billing for your brand at every summer get-together. Featured here: Collins Waxed Canvas Grill-n-Mix Master Apron; Cuisinart® Grilluminate Adjustable Handle-Mount Grill Light; Gourmet BBQ Spice Tin.

Wet & Wild

On the beach or at the pool, showcase fun and functionality that are both on-trend and on-brand. Featured here: Slowtide Pocket Beach Towel; Clip Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker; Vitamin E Lip Balm with SPF.

Park It

Epic days out at the park start with bombastic branded gear. Featured here: Slowtide Quick Dry Park Blanket; Ceramic Reusable Bottle 34 oz; Out of the Ocean® Pocket Tote.