A History of Promotional Products

25th April 2016 in Printing Processes

A History of Promotional Products

A History of Promotional Products

The business of promotional products has boomed in recent times but where did the roots of this growing industry begin to grow?

It is widely accepted that the first recorded use of promotional items was during the first ever American presidential race in 1789. George Washington used memorial badges and buttons to great effect on his way to becoming the first President of the United States.

A century later, the person we really have to thank for the promotional goods industry is an American newspaper printed called Jasper Meek.

In the late 1800s, the Ohioan Meek had a bright idea. Instead of letting his printing machinery rest between editions of the newspaper, Meek suggested to a local shoe shop owner that he could print advertising on the bags which go with every purchase.

The bags were given to all schoolchildren who entered the store. That way when the children used the bags, the shoe shop would be advertised across the area at the same time.

branded calendar

calendars were a popular early printed product

The success of Meek’s idea did not go unnoticed. A fellow Ohioan, Henry Beach, picked up on the idea and soon the two men were selling printed calendars, marble bags and aprons. Sound familiar?

At the turn of the 20th Century, 12 manufactures of promotional merchandise founded the first trade association for the industry. That associate is known as the Promotional Products Association International (or PPAI) which is still going strong today.

The real progress in the UK happened in the late 1950s. Before this companies tended to give one-off promotional gifts to customers but nothing was ever in large quantities. Branded products just were not seen as a part of a marketing campaign.

Moving to the 70s in our quick glance at the history of promotional products, companies started to understand the positives of branded items. This is where the popularity of the printed pens and mugs we know and love today started.

Into the 90s and this is where the popularity of promotional products really started to take off. Buoyed by plenty of business around Christmas times, as well as corporate companies becoming more inventive with their marketing, the promotional products industry really found its feet.

With the continuing development of the internet, companies no longer need to flick through a catalogue to see how their printed items would look. By 2008 almost every distributor had a website either as well as or instead of a catalogue.

These days if you look around on your desk it’s more than likely there are a number of branded products. In a British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) survey about what’s on our desks, pens, mugs, post-its, notebooks and calendars round out the top five promotional products.

BPMA logo

BPMA logo

73% of people surveyed said they would go on to purchase from the company that gave them a promotional gift. 83% of people said they can name the brand of the promotional item without having to refer to it and 96% of people believe branded merchandise increases company brand awareness.

If the industry history of promotional products industry and the BMPA survey has convinced you to take advantage of our services, please check out our website or give us a call on 0116 3660052.