The History of Promotional Products

The History of Promotional Products

Nowadays you’ll find a business without promotional products up its sleeves hard to come by. Promotional products, set with company logos, from pens to chocolates or gadgets, are such an instrumental piece of an all-rounded marketing strategy, allowing businesses to get across their core messages and values in an impactful, inspired way.

Promotional products are now inseparable from branding and the customer experience, however it’s only fairly recently that they’ve been used to such an extent in corporate advertising in the UK. Let’s take a look back at where the popularity of promotional items began, and how the industry has been influenced through history:

The birth of promotional products

The first known use of a promotional product was in fact in the USA, and not even for business purposes. In 1789, something as simple as a button was printed on to commemorate George Washington’s presidency, giving people the chance to share in the celebrations on a wider scale.

It wasn’t until the 1880s that this idea sparked interest for the likes of businesses, where an Ohio newsagent, Jasper Meek, went about using his printing press to print an advertising message onto free shoe bags to promote the local shoe store.

From this point, calendars, rulers and wooden items would also be printed on to advertise businesses’ messages. That these messages could be seen by customers and act as a persuasive sales tool, brought about the start of a thriving new advertising sector, a whole new industry for promotional merchandise.

A brief history of the promotional products industry

In the later part of the 19th century an organised industry formed in the US, with printed advertisements becoming popular on promotional products such as cloth caps, aprons and card cases.

In 1904, representatives from 12 promotional product manufacturers came together to create the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI). The newfound trade association addressed issues such as pricing, business losses, managing salesmen and ideas to move the industry forward, becoming one of the largest international associations today.

In the UK the first trade association was formed much later, in 1965, with the sudden flood of promotional merchandise for the corporate market.

The popularity of promotional products in the UK

Only in the 1950s did promotional products become recognised as an effective marketing tool for businesses in the UK. The British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) was then founded to represent the industry for manufacturers and distributors.

From the 70s, promotional products became widely used by businesses and product catalogues were produced to display companies’ brand identities. Gift items were introduced featuring company logos, strengthening customer relationships and developing the strong presence of branding in the marketing industry that we now see worldwide.

From anything from small office items to clothing, promotional merchandise is an exciting and innovative part of the marketing industry, giving businesses the chance to be seen, heard and create new opportunities for growth.

To see the vast range of promotional products that can be used to enhance your brand and advertising success, please visit our online merchandise catalogue or call THEMPC Ltd on 01256 352415.

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