As many as 90% of exhibitors give something away at some point during events & exhibitions. The fact that the value of the UK’s promotional gift industry has doubled in the past six years to an annual pounds 1bn is proof that the practice, if anything, is enjoying an upward spiral.
‘It is something that the customer expects and something that we will keep looking at because the business is always evolving,’ says BT communications manager Sue Hunt. ‘We do not offer giveaways as standard. There has to be a particular reason to make that investment and much depends on what we are trying to achieve.’
“People watch TV for the programmes, not the advertising. But at an exhibition you have people voluntarily and physically coming to the venue because they are interested in your area of business. You don’t just have a captive audience, but a willing one and if there is nothing you can say, show or demonstrate that is relevant to the product you should ask yourself what you are doing there in the first place.’ A gimmick, he argues, is little more than borrowed interest.
An exhibition is an event and people crave souvenirs of that experience.
A gift can act as a tangible reminder. Nearly all are therefore branded in some way. At exhibitions, clients have to consider relatively low-cost items and ones that are portable, making pens an obvious choice. Sweets, chocolates, mouse mats and carrier bags that double as billboards, are equally popular and manufacturers will come up with new takes on old themes to deliver an original package. Bizz Badge, creators of enamel badges for exhibitions, for example, has launched a PVC item this year. These are PVC coasters, costing 30p to 40p each. Bizz claims they have a practical use and longevity.
Although it is a difficult market to quantify, Gary Cable, business development director of Dowlis, one of the largest UK distributors, says that most clients opt for inexpensive items with a value of up to pounds 1. People like novelties, he states, adding that stress balls are still going well because there are now so many different shapes available. Power balls, he adds, which light up when you bounce them, are in vogue, as are executive puzzles.