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HOW TO: Choose promotional merchandise

Baseball caps, space pens, miniature deck chairs for mobile phones, plug-in USB ports, juggling balls, umbrellas, chocolate wrappers, Frisbees – sounds like the sort of stuff that television programmes like House Doctor and Life Laundry are made on. But in marketing's parallel universe these objects serve a purpose, aside from what they were originally intended; they become mini brand ambassadors which can be edible, decorative, entertaining and even functional.

Pens are the most popular items for businesses to brand – commanding 30 per cent of the market – but there is more to merchandise. The scope of items available to brand is vast, though amongst the myriad chocolates and mugs there are some ridiculous items. For example the branded karate belt (targeting DM marketers) and the branded ring tone (a gift to GPs from a high profile pharmaceutical company) fell into the latter category. These 'gifts' committed the ultimate promotional faux pas: they were not relevant to the target audience. Merchandise that falls at this hurdle fails: it will be discarded in minutes therefore failing to raise awareness or adding value to the brand – it may even de-value it.