Going, Going Green: How Marketers Can Use Eco-Conscious Promotional Products Within Campaigns
By Barbara Wells, Senior Vice President, Staples Promotional Products
Marketers today continue the quest to “go green,” but how do they get there and what is the commitment? As sustainability becomes ingrained in corporate culture, green practices often permeate every aspect of communications – from mail to promotional items.
By selecting eco-conscious promotional products – from branded, organic T-shirts to corn-based kitchenware – marketers can boost brand recognition while supporting sustainability goals. Below are tips for driving awareness of your company’s commitment to sustainability via promotional products.
It’s “Easy To Be Green” – Four Best Practices
Whether used as tradeshow giveaways, gifts or incentives, promotional products have staying power. According to the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), 55 percent of recipients keep them for at least a year. Due to their longevity, it’s important to select items that not only underscore your commitment to sustainability, but also create a positive association with your brand. Here are four tips to keep in mind when selecting eco-conscious promotional items:
Don’t Lose Sight of Sustainability Goals
As companies look for “green” promotional items, they must determine which products best support and reflect their sustainability initiatives. For example, if eliminating waste is your company’s main focus, consider reusable items, such as water bottles or grocery totes. One of our customers, who puts recycling at the foundation of its corporate sustainability program, uses T-shirts, jackets and hats as giveaways made from recycled bottles.
Decode “Green” Terminology
Green jargon and terminology can make it difficult to gauge the extent to which a product is environmentally preferable. To help avoid confusion, it’s important to look at the product’s make-up. Talk with your supplier – if they’ve labeled a shirt as eco-conscious, make sure they have verified the percentage of recycled polyester or organic cotton in that product.
To help you select promotional items that truly align with your company’s green initiatives, familiarize yourself with the nuances of green terminology. Know what it means to be “biodegradable” vs. “eco-friendly” vs. “organic” etc., and why that category of products makes sense for your company.
Make Promotional Items an Extension of your Brand
Because promotional products are frequently seen and used every day, it’s important to select environmentally preferable items that reflect your brand and your company’s mission and goals.
One of our customers that mastered this strategy is a charity that provides food to people in developing nations. The organization recently distributed recycled, non-woven shopping totes at a charity dinner, mailed the totes to prospective donors, and used them to carry and deliver food to people in need. Not only do the products support the charity’s commitment to the environment, but they also serve as a visible reminder of the organization’s mission and values.
Consider the Entire Campaign and Product Lifecycle
When planning green promotions, it’s important to think beyond the products themselves – and consider manufacturing, printing, packaging and delivery methods as well. For example, for an end-to-end green campaign, select promotional items that won’t be wrapped and shipped in plastic, and ensure products are manufactured with minimal waste. If a direct mail piece will accompany your promotional product, look to have it printed on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper and use soy-based ink.
Taking the complete lifecycle of a product into consideration will prove to target audiences that your company is serious about its sustainability goals.
Something for Everyone: Popular Eco-Conscious Promotional Products
If your company is looking to increase brand recognition, while supporting and showcasing its commitment to environmental awareness, here are some creative promotional products to consider:
- Writing instruments: Environmentally preferable writing utensils, such as biodegradable pens or recycled paper pencils, help recipients leave their mark without leaving one on the environment.
- Health and wellness products: Exercise items, such as solar-powered pedometers, recycled walking enthusiast kits or biodegradable sport bottles, promote healthy living and a healthy environment.
- Kitchenware: You can cook up a great promotion with eco-conscious items including mugs made from 100 percent U.S. corn, bamboo cutting boards and recycled cotton aprons.
- Apparel: Going green looks good on everyone. Consider items such as natural caps made from 100 percent organic cotton, organic T-shirts produced with certified organic yarns and dyes, or recycled polyester windshirts.
- Desk accessories: Recipients have a positive brand association when they use environmentally preferable items including bamboo business card holders and eco journals with recycling guides.
- Totes: Totes come in a variety of eco-conscious options. For example, degradable plastic tote bags are made with a special ingredient that causes methane-free degradation after a year – breaking them down to water, carbon dioxide and a small amount of inert residue. Recipients often get a lot of use out of them – bringing added visibility to your brand.
Promotional products are a strategic marketing tool – enabling companies to boost brand recognition among target audiences at one of the lowest costs per impression of any advertising medium. Harnessing the power of promotional items to support and showcase your commitment to sustainability can help create a positive association with your brand and increase awareness of good corporate citizenship. It’s a win-win for your company and the environment.
Barbara Wells is Senior Vice President of Marketing, Staples Channel Sales and Creative Sourcing for Staples Promotional Products (www.staplespromo.com), the largest promotional products distributor in North America. Staples Promotional Products is part of Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.
Published: July 18, 2011 By: