How to Approach Product Marketing in 2020

Contributed content / By Daniel Hill / 15 November 2019

Whereas most marketing methods go in and out of style and evolve with technology and shifting consumer behaviors, product-based marketing has stuck around for decades. Zagwear is one of the world’s leading product marketing agencies. In this blog post, they shine a little light on how to leverage the age-old method of product marketing for brand recognition in 2020. 

Many people assume that today’s most high-impact and cost-effective marketing methods are 100% digital. But statistics from the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) show that product marketing is still as relevant as it was back in the day. 

In a recent survey, 66% of respondents were able to remember the brand behind a promotional product that they’d received in the previous year — and a massive 79% said they would consider doing business with that company in the future. 

Of course, product marketing is only as effective as the strategy behind it. So how do you create promotional items that have a high impact on your target audience? 

Top 5 Product Marketing Tips

  1. Consider your customer
  2. Think outside the box
  3. Be modern
  4. Convert customers to brand advocates
  5. Integrate marketing strategies

1. Consider Your Customer

Marketing channels may change, but one thing remains the same: the secret to a great marketing strategy is building it around your target audience’s needs. 

For product marketing, this means creating an item your target audience will actually use — preferably alongside your core offering. 

There’s a reason, for instance, that stationary and crockery are by far the world’s most popular promotional products, with 66% of people owning a branded pen, 43% owning a branded notebook, and 20% owning a branded mug: everyone needs pens, mugs, and notepads. 

Ask yourself what accessory would be the perfect complement to your existing product range or services. For example, biscuit brand belVita created these branded mugs:​

belvita branded mugs
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By creating these mugs, belVita acknowledged that most people enjoy their breakfast biscuits with a cup of coffee.

2. Think Outside the Box

Today’s customers are more astute and discerning than ever, painfully aware of when they’re being marketed to. They’re quick to see through a brand’s agenda. 

Customers are also exposed to all of your competitors’ promotional items, so your brand is far more likely to be directly compared to that of a rival. 

“Be creative” is classic advice, and the need for innovative thinking and slightly left-field ideas is more urgent than ever in product marketing. However, there’s a fine line to walk here. Daring to be different is important, but the risk of it not paying off is ever-present. 

There’s no shortage of examples of big marketing swings that flopped because the target consumer base simply didn’t exist. Our favorite example, although not a promotional item, is McDonald’s ‘Arch Deluxe’ burger. 

arch deluxe mcdonalds promotion
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The fast-food company spent more than $300 million marketing “the burger with the grown-up taste,” only to pull it when they realized that no one was coming to McDonald’s for luxury food. 

The lesson here? Step outside the box, but not so far that you create a promotional product that no one needs or wants.

3. Be Modern 

Catering to your target audience isn’t just about age, gender, and income; it’s also about zeroing in on the things they care about. 

Today, brands are dealing with an increasingly issues-oriented global consumer base. Consumers want evidence that the brands they’re buying from care about the same things that they do.

According to Euromonitor’s Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2019 report, sustainability, minimalism, animal welfare, and responsible manufacturing are all hot topics that consumers care about.

What does this mean for promotional items? After all, they’re excess products by their very definition. 

The key isn’t to necessarily focus on the manufacturing of the product, but on how it can help consumers live their values. Starbucks’ branded reusable coffee cup is a great example of this. The cup looks just like their disposable ones, but it explicitly promotes sustainability. The company also offers a discount to anyone using a reusable cup! 

4. Convert Customers to Brand Advocates

Your most powerful marketers aren’t those working in your office; they’re the ones buying your products. Building brand loyalty is important not just for repeat business, but for ensuring your existing customers are telling their friends about you. 

Promotional products are a great way to continually re-engage customers while giving them a brand loyalty token-of-sorts that puts your logo in front of new prospects. This is something lots of established and luxury brands do well — check out BMW’s extensive range of branded merchandise:

bmw branded merchandise
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Promotional products can be equally effective for smaller brands and online businesses as consumers shift to buying local and buying online.

Over time, limited edition promotional items become collectibles for your most loyal customers.

5. Integrate Your Marketing Strategies

Product marketing doesn’t have to stop once your items have been shipped. We’re seeing brands squeeze the highest possible value out of their promotional products by incorporating them into wide-reach marketing campaigns.

These campaigns span TV, print, and social media.

There are two undeniably famous examples of this. First is “Compare the Meerkat,” a British advertising campaign for the price comparison website comparethemarket.com. The second is GEICO’s Gecko, a lizard that sells insurance.

compare the meerkat campaign

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You might not think a meerkat or a gecko could sell much, but these large-scale, pervasive marketing campaigns prove that assumption wrong.

In both cases, products were built on existing characters from the advertisements: “Compare the Meerkat” evolved into a full toy collection featured Sergei and Aleksandr plush meerkat dolls, while GEICO’s Gecko has an entire e-commerce site built around it

Corporate merchandise generates huge amounts of revenue for these companies. The “Compare The Meerkat” campaign, in particular, has been credited with doubling the company owner’s fortune to a whopping £220 million.  

Product Marketing Is Alive and Well

Product marketing is a broad field with no one-size-fits-all approach. You must tailor your product marketing strategy around your target audience. 

So, what’s the holy grail? We think that an amazing promotional item should:

  • Be something your existing customer base is interested in
  • Be something they’ll actually use
  • Be high-quality and long-lasting
  • Turn customers into legitimate brand advocates
  • Fit into your wider marketing strategy

Trying to come up with an idea that fits all of these criteria is an uphill battle. The strongest examples come from working with an expert product marketing agency. If you want real results, it’s best to find a marketing agency with a proven track record of delivering quality products.  

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