BPMA Research


The British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) has recently conducted two studies which look into the buying habits of senior marketing personnel in the UK and compares the benefits of promotional products against other advertising avenues within the marketing mix.

These studies have revealed positive results and show that promotional merchandise is an important choice when actively marketing to your existing and potential customers.

Why Use Promotional Products?

When asked about the main reasons why merchandise is used in sales and marketing campaigns as opposed to other incentives, 69 per cent stated that it is because it ‘targets customers effectively’, 52 per cent because the ‘brand message lasts longer’ and 46 per cent said because of its ‘ability to create loyalty’. Among the comments from respondents were “It’s an excellent way of getting the clients attention. We can demonstrate the brand attributes we want to get across,” and “for a cascade promotion; if we send items to X they pass them out to their customers who might also sign up. It builds relationships and goodwill.”

The survey also asked about the purpose for which promotional merchandise is bought. Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) stated that it is for use at conferences and events, while 63 per cent for ‘brand awareness and rebranding’. Merchandise is also used for ‘cause awareness’ and ‘product launches and roll-outs’ because ‘promotional merchandise is often highly effective for getting attention and driving sales’.

The ways in which promotional merchandise is used is also highlighted by the fact that 69 per cent of respondents stated that items are usually used in product giveaways, while 13 per cent use it as a call to action with nearly one-fifth (19 per cent) always using a strapline on the product.

When asked about the top three items which they purchased, over a third (35 per cent) said a pen, 13 per cent pads, notebooks and post-its and 10 per cent listed canvas shopping bags or eco bags.

Change In Marketing Spending

One of the most significant findings of the most recent survey is that spend on promotional merchandise in 2012 is increasing or remaining stable in comparison to 2011 with 49 per cent of respondents stating that their spend on promotional products has increased since the last financial year while, in addition, 30 per cent have maintained their budget. This positive intent is set to continue next year with 33 per cent planning to increase spend from this year to next while a further 50 per cent expect it to stay the same next year. The percentage spent on promotional items within the marketing budget is also increasing overall or remaining stable, with 43 per cent of respondents stating that it has increased and 36 per cent that it has stayed the same.

The survey also showed that promotional merchandise is a frequent and regular purchase, with 33 per cent stating that they made a purchase every month, plus 33 per cent buying every three months and 13 per cent purchase it twice a year.

Influences on Purchasing Promotional Products

Asked about influences when deciding what type of item to buy, over four-fifths (79 per cent) said price and 59 per cent said usefulness of product to the target audience, with other factors mentioned including relevance to brand (23 per cent), attractiveness to target audience (23 per cent) and ability to meet deadlines (16 per cent). One buyer stated that “Campaign concept is central,” and another that “We listen to what our supporters want.”

When asked specifically about promotional clothing, approximately half of buyers (53 per cent) said that they used it, with t-shirts and polo shirts often being bought for staff to wear at events. Looking ahead to Christmas, just under half of the respondents said they sent promotional items at Christmas with most products being food or drink related such as chocolates, hampers and port and Stilton. And among some of the more unusual products purchased throughout the year were rubber ducks, spinning tops and inflatable ice cubes!

ROI on Promotional Products

One of the most significant findings of the 2011 survey is that promotional merchandise can deliver a higher ROI than radio and outdoor advertising, and a ROI that is equal to TV and print advertising. The cost per impression for a mug and a mid-range pen is £0.001, a calendar is £0.004, a USB stick is £0.005 and an umbrella £0.003. With an average cost per impression of £0.003, these figures compare extremely favourably with the cost per impression of other media with TV coming in at £0.008, radio at £0.003 and newspapers at £0.005.

How Do People Respond To Promotional Products?

The 2011 survey also examined how much the respondents' opinion changed after receiving a promotional item, giving a measure of how such products can affect feelings, perceptions and buying activity. Over half (56 per cent) of respondents said they felt more favourable towards the brand/company. When asked how much more or less likely they were to do business with the company in the future after receiving the promotional item over three-quarters (79 per cent) said they were more likely.

Promotional products also have a much longer lifespan than other advertising means, with the survey respondents reporting that they keep promotional items for nearly 3 years on average. When you consider the length of TV or radio adverts and how long potential customers will remember your message, promotional items represent a great way to keep your brand in someone's hands for as long as possible.


BPMA Industry Research 2011
BPMA Industry Research 2012
BPMA Industry Research 2013