Promotional Products: Why Do People Respond to Brands and Logos?
Human beings are a funny bunch. We have our routines, our preferences, and our emotional attachments to objects that were artificially made. We communicate through visual symbols and associate them with emotion, a state of being, or a fixed point in our perceptions of time. And it is, for the most part understood by everyone in a culture.
Which brings me to the concept of logos and branding, a more recent phenomenon that has been created and mass produced by the world of buying and selling goods and services.
We see people wearing clothing of their favorite characters from tv shows, we see people memorize jingles for commercials and sing them to themselves as they walk down the street, and we see kids mimicking victory dances from their favorite video games. And it is all done as a byproduct of promotion.
So, why is this so huge? Why do people identify with brands and promotional products? This is going to need an observation of human nature.
The Psychology of Preference
When I, the blogger, was a child, I was just not a fan of sports. I played outside with other children and I was fascinated with all kinds of subject matter, but for whatever reason sports had no appeal. In the part of Alabama when I grew up, practically everybody adored football. Boys and girls alike wanted to watch and play football, because it was most likely what their parents were enthusiastic about.
Also, while I was growing up, I dealt with bullies from late elementary school all the way through my senior year of high school. They all, like most Alabamians loved football. I stayed away from them to avoid pain, and by association, I stayed away from football to avoid any social interactions from the people who hurt me.
Thus, to this day, I would not be thrilled at the prospect of getting a ticket to the Alabama/Auburn football game. I would rather read a book instead.
I bring up this subject matter, because I wanted to draw a comparison about how our preferences are shaped by both our association with something, and our social tendencies surrounding that association.
Preference is a very human way of categorizing and processing our surroundings. We determine what is familiar, what is unfamiliar, what is a threat or what is a necessity.
When I associated football with the threat of people who didn’t like me, I gained a dislike for the sport, even if it has done nothing wrong. I most likely consciously or subconsciously associated football as a threat, so I stayed away from it.
Tom Vanderbilt, a journalist, published a book explaining a sociological perspective of this phenomenon, stated in an interview,
“Taste is just a way of filtering the world, of ordering information…We all face this new kind of dilemma of how to figure out what we like when the entirety of recorded music, more or less, is available on your phone within seconds. What do I decide to even look for now that I have everything available to me?”
So, we all have a choice and we develop our taste based on our personal associations with the stimuli in question.
How do brands, merchandising and promotional products fit in all this?
First Impressions through Marketing
When the decision is made to create a promotional product for a brand, this is most likely to satisfy a demand for that product. After all, if no one likes a product or service, why would they want a piece of it in their home?
Therefore, people need to take great care before they sink money into merchandise over something that is completely brand new or unheard of.
So, before any promotional product is launched, you need to be 100% certain of the impression that your company makes to your audience.
One example: If you are designing and promoting a notebook as a piece of merchandise for the Space and Rocket Center gift shop, you are going to want to put planets, maybe galaxies, and a rocket on the cover, along with the logo “Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL” It is the perfect thing to sell at the gift shop because people specifically went there for a tour. Of course, they would be drawn to buying it.
I would certainly not put it in the Creationist museum because it is both irrelevant and it would fly in the face of the values Not only would it not sell, it would probably cause serious controversy.
Another example: if you wanted to make a t-shirt for Lisa Frank, the last thing you would do is design a shirt with an ugly depressing character, with a very limited color pallet.
The target audience for that demographic are little girls, who most likely fell in love with the brand because it meant cute ponies, puppies, and every other symbol that they associate with pure happiness. They are probably personally attached to the brand because it might have cheered them up while they were feeling down one day, or maybe it was what their best friend liked before they moved away.
Either way, the brand is known for its cacophony of rainbows and glitter on their products and if you deviate from that familiarity, you are essentially betraying the very reason that these girls loved it so much.
People want a piece of what they identify with, so unless they can feel a kinship with what you are trying to promote, you are not going to get through to the people you are trying to reach with your promotional product.
That is why so important that you know what you are trying to promote, why these people identify with what you promote, and what promotional It is also why we see far too many plastic cups with the logo of a title loan company sitting around a thrift store. Not even the allure of something free is enough to get people to care about a promotional product. It all comes from human connection.