Spring is just around the corner, bringing warmer weather, blooming trees, bright flowers and – marketers, take note! – a flood of tradeshows. Yes, it’s time to unpack those banners, refresh booth designs and determine event marketing strategies. As planning gets underway and companies prepare to draw visitors to their booths, promotional giveaways form an important part of marketing strategies.

From durable bags and vibrant buttons to catchy pens and must-have notepads, promotional items – which highlight your company’s logo – play a key role in generating buzz for your brand that lasts long after an event has ended. Need proof? According to the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), 89 percent of consumers who received a promotional giveaway in the last two years could recall that product’s advertiser. What’s more, 52 percent of recipients report doing business with a company after receiving its promotional item.

What’s the secret for selecting memorable giveaways that will provide maximum impact and brand recognition? Here are 10 tips for making your promotional items stand out in the sea of booths at your next tradeshow:

  1. Generate buzz with pre-show mailings. Make promotional items a part of your pre-show marketing strategy. Consider using items, such as magnets, in personalized mailings to create excitement prior to a show. These pre-show mailers can also alert attendees of your presence at the show – including where your booth will be, what you’ll be offering and what they will gain by meeting with you.
  2. Align promotional items with your brand. Be sure to select promotional items that reflect your brand image and company culture. In addition, because promotional products improve brand recall, it’s important to leave a positive impression with your target audience. One general rule of thumb: Avoid cheap gimmicks – you don’t want recipients to associate a low-cost or broken item with your brand.
  3. Prioritize staying power. Selecting items that can be used for several months or throughout the year will give you the most bang for your buck. For example, calendars give your brand 12 months of visibility; magnets and magnetic picture frames are other popular products with staying power.
  4. Keep utility top-of-mind. Utility is another important factor to consider when selecting tradeshow giveaways. Items that are useful will have greater longevity. Branded sports bottles, pens and totes are gifts that can be used often, keeping your brand highly visible every day.
  5.  Connect with your audience. It doesn’t matter how creative, expensive or useful your promotional items are if they aren’t directed at the right audience. To cater your purchases to the show’s demographic, consider the conference theme and venue, as well as the attendee profile – including age, profession, industry and interests. For example, a tech crowd may appreciate items like branded flash drives, mouse pads and ear buds.
  6. Promote wellness. Tradeshows often involve lots of hand shaking and interacting in close quarters. Help make sure attendees take home just your giveaways – and not a cold – by providing health-oriented promotional items, such as branded hand sanitizer, aspirin and lip balm. These items are typically crowd-pleasers.
  7. Go green. If sustainability initiatives and other “green” goals are important to your business, consider eco-conscious promotional products, such as tote bags made from recyclable materials. Environmentally preferable giveaways are a great way to increase brand recognition, while supporting and showcasing your commitment to environmental awareness.
  8. Make sure items are airline-friendly. Don’t forget that many conferences draw out-of-state attendees. To accommodate travelers who have flown in for the show, avoid oversized/bulky items, as well as glass, ceramic or other delicate gifts that are likely to break in transit.
  9. Consider the quantity. Once you’ve selected your creative, useful and memorable tradeshow giveaway(s), consider ordering in bulk to get a better deal. Leftover items can be used at future shows or – when applicable – as part of your company’s internal incentive program.
  10. Express appreciation for top business audiences. Consider ordering a smaller quantity of higher-end items for your top clients and partners. Personalizing products, such as high-end pens, portfolios and flash drives, adds an extra touch of thoughtfulness and showcases your appreciation.

Bonus tip: For additional brand presence, consider outfitting your tradeshow team in logoed polo shirts – or other preferred shirt styles. Not only will this keep your team looking sharp, but it will extend your brand beyond the booth and keep your logo front and center throughout the show. 


Tradeshow giveaways can be a critical ingredient for event marketing success.  Following these simple best practices can help you select exciting and memorable promotional items that boost brand recall and awareness – getting your gift in recipients’ hands and keeping it there.

Author: Barbara Wells is the senior vice president of marketing, channel sales and creative sourcing for Staples Promotional Products, the largest promotional products distributor in North America. Staples Promotional Products is part of Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.