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Revealed: the hottest trend in B2B marketing

Yes… it’s the branded Moleskine (or fake equivalent) notebook. You literally can’t move at a B2B event these days without finding one of these things waiting on your seat, with the brand of the organiser subtly (or not so subtly) embossed on the cover.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. I love them. I literally can’t get enough. I’ve got a stack at home waiting to be used. They are such an improvement on the battered spiral bound notepads that I used to use when my job was to churn out news and features. And they go nicely in my executive soft briefcase thingy that I carry around in order to look important, sitting snuggly against my iPad.

And I guess that explains their phenomenal success as marketing tool. Simple, useful and classic; so what’s not to like? They sit at the summit of my personal top 10 of branded business gifts I’ve received in my almost 20 years as a journalist – just above the universal charger I got from Omniture (remember them?) back in the early noughties, and the water filter bottle that I got from Adobe just last week.

More to the point, in an increasingly digital world, they are reassuring analogue, and old school. I’ve actually had to take my pen selection up a gear to do justice to these fancy accessories, and provide a suitably classy writing experience. Thanks to BLP for allowing me to take some of their corporate pens, test driven by flashy lawyers (to be fair, I don’t think they actually allowed me… I think I may have just stolen them).

The point I’m trying to get to in a roundabout, Friday afternoon kind of way, is that promotional gifts have been long derided, but they do actually work in B2B – they can make your brand memorable and increase customer affinity. After all, I still remember Omniture after all these years.

The trick, of course, is for the tail not to wag the dog – the gift is only as good as the context in which it is provided. In other words, if your event is rubbish, it doesn’t matter how prestigious or useful the gift, the recipient still won’t think better of you.

The branded posh notebook is definitely the business gift de jour, for the reasons outlined above, but they are far from the only option for B2B marketers. Proof, if it were ever needed, that whatever goes around, comes around: and that tangible business gifts are back in fashion in the digital age.