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Elevating Your Brand with

Intentional Messaging

Basia Skudrzyk

· branding,marketing,private label,business,communication

What happens if your company is using swag or products that really don't create excitement for the end user?  If promotional products or gifts are being tossed in the trash, it's certainly not a good look for your industry or mission.   It's bad optics for brand managers and the amount of time and money you are pouring into perfecting the brand, agonizing over fonts, colors and messaging are not doing anyone a favor.  Unintentional bad promotional products can really kill your brand story and disconnect your intended message.

If promotional products or gifts - cheaply made or not - are being tossed away consistenly, it's certainly not the direction you are wanting to go.  Companies pour time and money into pefecting their brand, agonizing over voice, fonts and colors.  But a bad promotional product can derail that brand story and instead suggest a disconnect in messaging.  For starters, a tossable giveaway can highlight a disconnect between claims of corporate responsbility and company actions.

"There are so many companies right now trying to be good corporate citizens and they're finally discovering that events are where their members or their guests,  are where their stake holders see them," says Nancy Zavada, president of MeetGreen, a sustainable conference management company.

There's a saying that suggests events are windows to a company's soul because you get an opportunity to peer in and see how a company might actually be doing.  The end consumer gets a taste of the company culture.  If you say that you're going to save oil as an organization and then you have plastic bottles sitting up on the speaker's podium, that's definitely a disconnect from your message and brand.

Telling a corporate responsbility story through items must be authentic.  There's no shortage of available promotional products that call eco-consiousness to mind: pens that resemble a bamboo stick or stress balls shaped like the Earth.  They are often categorized as a green or "eco" product on websites and sold alongside truly recycled items, but they're often eco-friendly in appearance only. This is where you can ruin your reputation because the promotional products industry has a lot of greenwashing.  

The solution is to do your homework and spend a little extra on items that align with the quality your brand stands for.  You can reach out to a company like Seoul Mamas, who can get nearly any promotional beauty or wellness product for clients from an ethical supplier.  The company is at the forefront of the ethically sourced promotional products movement, often pushing the importance of wellness and self-care to their company culture which transfers to their clients and which then in turns transfers to their end-user.  But just because something is ethically made and promotes value, doesn't mean it will resonate with the user.  This can potentially lead to a second disconnect:  Just because it's sustainable, doesn't mean it relates to the brand.  A company may get 500 stress balls made with recycled plastic and manufactured with union labor in your hometown... BUT how does that toy relate to YOUR company and what you want to deliver in your message to your audience?

Do you want your brand represented with a stress ball?  Is that who you are?  Maybe you're super playful and fun, and maybe that is the right thing.  But if it's not, then are you a fad-based company?  Are you a company that is okay with having your brand based on something that will probably be obsolete within the season and be potentially used by your dog when you get back from that conference and the overabundance of stress balls fall out of your bag?

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Work with your marketing team to provide a remarkable and rejuvenating experience with a tangible branded product; not something that is so off-brand that it's going to do severe damage to the image of your company.  The standard look is sponsors fighting for the chance to be the constant visual in conference photos, the logo on the bag that everyone is carrying.  Just think, making a poor promotional product choice with your logo can only compete with discarded coffee cups.

Visibility is a huge factor and the last thing you want is for people to see your brand in the garbage.  That's a horrible connotation, especially if there's a lot of them there.  You'd be better off not to have sponsored anything than for that to happen.  Why not select a product that promotes a connection, beauty, relaxation and wellness?  We're all feeling it these days so why not share a spa experience on the go?

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People seem to enjoy getting free stuff.  As an example, being at the Cardinals game and wanting to catch one of those free T-Shirts shot by Fred Bird from the cannon.  Everyone is screaming for attention to have the opportunity to have that T-Shirt come their way.  If people are inclined to grab whatever swag you lay out - or shoot from a cannon - the promotional product suppliers and the companies ordering from them are charged with thinking ethically.

The Cardinals do an incredible job of doing this.  Remember consumers don't make emotions with junk.

Todd Weaver, Professor of Business and Chair at Point University, studies sustainability and anti-consumption.  He says people who purchase repurposed goods find the items to be more interesting because they have a story.  Those consumers are more likely to keep the repurposed items and value them more highly.  Weaver points out that if the goal of swag is to give something away to promote your brand, and the consumer is expected to have an ongoing engagement or connection with the item, "It would certainly make sense to give them something that's not just like everything else that they get."

A generic, cheap gift can signal that the potential lead or client isn't special.  Just like all consumption, so much of it is connected to people's identity and self-concept.  What we consume, oftentimes we're consuming them for symbolic or identity's expressive reasons - especially if the goods are going to be consumed in a public or social setting.

A consumer doesn't want to believe their busines is worth a 49-cent promotional notepad, and a company shouldn't want to be represented by a forgettable trinket.  Promotional and end-user products should match the company's strategy and mission.  

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The reality is that marketers working on a shoestring budget hear the siren song of ROI claims around promotional products.  They are drawn to buying 1000 pens for 59-cents each.  The other reality is that the fierce competition within the promotional products industry means often having to focus on price over quality.  But, I have another reality for you - it's important to think outside of the box.  You can still provide an amazing product within budget that is high quality and supports your brand and messaging you want to connect with your target consumer.  

Rather than make a last-minute decision before a conference, work with your team to better intertwine your brand story or strategy with a product that shows the person you want to connect with them and value high quality relationships.  For example:  As a promotion or client/employee gift, provide a beauty face mask aligned with your brand messaging.  The Ritz Carlton came up with the following message of "Escape."

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You have to think strategically about merchandise.  Less is more.

Functionality is a high priority for consumers as is the space in their luggage these days.

Smaller logos can create a more appealing aesthetic for those hoping to use the functional products in their lives without feeling like a billboard.  The simplicity movement creates a message of wanting less stuff, less text, less everything in favor of a simple and clean design.  

Whatever the aesthetic, the products that stay out of junk drawers and landfills connect the dots: They can show the consumer that the company values them enough not to offload cheap, repetitious junk on them, but these products can also tell the story of the brand's ethics or campaign strategy.  Do you want to be the logo on the selfie photo, or do you want to be the experience that warrants the selfie?

So, let's swag differently.  You want to be trackable, Instagrammable and even usable.

The compund effect is tremendous when photos go beyond than just sharing the key message and story.  Your end users start to express themselves through the connection you were able to generate through a thoughtful and proven product that is effective and represents you.  It's pretty effective for marketing because you don't have to bring this artifact home with you; it doesn't sit in a closet or get left in a drawer.  It doesn't become a problem.  The opportunity results in more views than a water bottle or something you're used to seeing.

I have attended many conferences and many people get a particular notebook, tote bag and pen.  You may even get a USB and that stress ball that I mentioned earlier in this article.  It's stuff we already have.  We don't see new things as frequently.  How about implementing a beauty product with your brand that makes the end user remember the conference or event, talk about it by feeling good and ultimately becoming a trusted client of yours?

In addition to being highly Instagrammable, use of a branded product creates an entire experience for event participants.  For example, offering a morning or evening break prior to a conference with a beauty facial mask with your brand can provide a little glow to the person's face and recharge. Experential marketing platforms maintain a dotted line between attendees and sponsors long after the physical trinkets are forgotten.  It can all be highly personalized to the attendee.  The benefit to the company is that they've captured the appreciation and differentiation.

Having a connection with the brand - that's what events are about.  It's not just about handing out swag.  Ask yourself, "how do I really engage? " 

This is your chance to authentically engage with a human for an extended period of time with an authentic and proven product that transfers into long-lasting relationships.  

The demographics of conferences and events are definitely changing.  Now that we all have survived a year of Covid, sendinga little care packet to someone who may be experiencing a virtual meeting, special event or conference can also help differentiate who you are as a company.

Let's swag on, but with intention and experiencs your customers will value and share with their network.  Clients, employees and or consumers will remember the extra attention to detail in your messaging that ultimately shows that you care about them.  Seoul Mamas believes, "When people feel beautiful, they do beautiful things."

The business is all about the customers.  No matter what you are offering and how well you are doing your job, if your customer is not happy your messaging is broken.

More than 85% of the population is using social media and the numbers will increase.  Not just the people, but the companies, brands, and all kinds of resourceful people are active social media consumers.

All these people look for something, and when they finally trust the brand they start to follow them via accounts, pages, or groups.  Using your social media as an engagement tool means to use it for connecting, sharing as well as identifying with your clients.  It's your job to create a product that can connect with your audience physically and virtually.

Work with Seoul Mamas who provides the best authentic Korean beauty face masks, beauty and wellness products; helping elevate your brand on the outside package while creating a beautiful internal consumer experience.  The goal is for both parties to connect and sustain a meaningful relationship.  

Let's face it, after a challenging year, offering a dynamic experience through an incredible, high-quality and proven product to bridge knowledge and inspire solutions that capture daily global change sounds pretty amazing to me.  Help solve the world's most pressing challenges and create through innovation and creation by telling your story through your brand.  Partner with  Seoul Mamas, a trusted and globally recognized company that can help you achieve these goals by bringing the necessary tools, marketing and branding expertise to the table.

Sometimes you don't have to say anything with your voice, but just with a caring touch.

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