Whether it’s a branded hat, calendar or mug, most consumers own at least one promotional product. But promotional products are more than just “feel good” gifts. Truth be told, branded promotional products are proven vehicles for increasing brand awareness among consumers and motivating purchase decisions.

Promotional products are so popular, in fact, that the Advertising Specialties Institute (ASI) publishes an annual Ad Impressions Study on their effectiveness. As always, the results are informative and often eyebrow-raising. From how many impressions a branded product receives to which products are kept the longest, the study is always a must-read.

Let’s take a look at some recent ASI edition highlights, including a closer look at some of the most popular branded items today.

  • Pens – These are the most commonly owned promotional item. Not only do 89% of consumers own one, but consumers keep branded pens an average of nine months. Branded pens also generate 3,000 impressions throughout their lifetimes That’s a lot of impressions. With the very low cost of these products, the cost per impression (CPI) comes out to 1/10th cent. Even better, 51% of consumers say that they would be more likely to do business with a company that gave them a branded pen.
  • T-shirts – These are also highly popular items, and 80% of consumers own one. Branded t-shirts are great for connecting with Millennials, in particular, who report owning five branded t-shirts, on average. Each t-shirt generates 3,400 impressions throughout its lifetime. Since t-shirts are kept for an average of 14 months, this results in a CPI of 2/10th cent.
  • Bags – Perhaps more than any other promotional product, bags are walking billboards, and 73% of consumers own one.  (Among Baby Boomers, this rises to 84%.) Bags are kept an average of 11 months and generate 3,300 impressions. At a cost of $5 per bag, this is a CPI of less than 2/10th cent. Plus, 50% of consumers are more likely to do business with an advertiser that gave them a promotional bag.
  • Hats – These are also highly popular promotional items, with 69% of consumers owning one. They are great for connecting with male consumers, in particular. One-third of men report wearing a branded hat at least once per week. Hats are kept an average of 10 months and generate 3,400 impressions. At a cost of $10 per hat, this gives hats a CPI of 3/10th cent.
  • Calendars – Whether for desks or walls, calendars are another great product for connecting with Millennials. Sixty-two percent of consumers own a branded calendar, and 31% of Millennials and GenXers use one on a daily basis. Calendars are great for longevity, too, with 52% being kept one year or more – generating 850 impressions. At $3 per calendar, that’s a CPI of only 3/10th cent.

Millennials and Gen Z say sustainability is one of their top concerns, and cheap, disposable swag products are anything but eco-friendly. Regardless, there are some companies that are very resistant to giving up promotional product marketing, believing it actually makes an impact on brand awareness and customer engagement. Brands that decide to leverage promotional products should be more strategic about whom they target – easing some concerns about rapid disposability. With recipients judging brands based on the products they hand out, it therefore makes sense to invest in memorable products that are of high quality and good design. Cheap swag doesn’t make an impact, but really nice things do.

With the power to motivate purchase behaviors, promotional products give us a lot to love. How could you use them in your next campaign?