You Get What You Pay For (In Promo)

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I first got in the promotional industry is simple.  “The cost of a promotional item is not determined at the point of purchase.  It is determined at the point of usage.”  To translate into simple terms, it means “you get what you pay for.”

The cost of any item matters.  Regardless of what you are going to purchase, whether it’s a car, a refrigerator, or a branded t-shirt, you have a budget.   It’s important to stay smart about your money.  And this blog is not about trying you to spend more.  I cannot tell you how many times I have told a client, “You can do that.  But if it was my money I would not!”

That being said, I would like to make the case that there are times when spending a little more makes a huge difference for your brand.  It’s the difference between the item being in your client’s kitchen or the landfill.  It might determine whether your logo is in the closet or at Goodwill.

ButterSoft T-shirts

One of the places I think it makes the most sense to upgrade is on t-shirts.  Yes, we can all still get you the “promotional t-shirt.”  These are the cheap, scratchy, ill-fitting shirts that our industry was known for for years.  And there is (probably) still a place for them.  But would YOU wear them?  The answer is simple…not if you don’t have to!  So why would your clients?  If you want your clients to want to rep your brand, give them a shirt they get excited about.  Yes, it costs more.   Yes, it’s worth it.  When we did our first “soft” shirt, we never looked back.  Now people tell us that our shirts are their favorite shirts to wear.  THAT is what you want your customers to say to you.

Premium Beach Towels

Studies tell you that the average lifespan of a beach towel is 7 years.  At my house, I think that is low.  A nice beach towel is not a cheap branded item…but it’s worth it.  Not only do your customers, employees, and prospects keep them for years, but they tend to use them on a fun occasions.  That means your brand is being tied (with a quality feel) to some good times in the person’s life.  That, my friends, is a good place for your brand to be.

Vacuum Sealed Tumblers

If you want to reach just about everyone with a branded item, drinkware is a great space to live in.  You don’t have to worry about gender, sizes, or many other factors.  Everyone drinks something.  But don’t go cheap…not if you want someone to use your drinkware!  This does NOT mean you need to buy a branded Yeti product.  You shouldn’t and here’s why.  But there are some great Vacuum Sealed Tumblers in the promo world that are amazing.  These are the branded drinkware items you targets will use over and over again.

Custom Calendars

Calendars continue to be a very cost-effective way to reach customers every day of the year.  But the trend is that stock calendars slip.  But if you want to buck that trend and get in front of clients all year around, think custom.  When you create a cool custom calendar, you get your “who, what where” message on the wall of the client…and it goes even deeper.  Essentially you hand your brochure on walls all over.  Yes, custom is a bit more expensive…but in most cases it’s very worth it.


If you want to make sure someone keeps one of your branded premium promotional items, put their name on it.  It’s as simple as that.  There is nothing we humans like to hear or see as much as our own name.  It’s music to our ears.  When you have the chance, add personalization to your branded merchandise and you will expand your impact.  Yep…it costs more.  And yes, it’s worth it.

Here’s the thing, there is still a space for less expensive promotional items.  We get it.  But if you want to have more impact for your brand (you do right?), and create less crap in a landfill, think about doing better SWAG.

It’s true in every area of life.  You get what you pay for.

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Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.