Promotional Products in History
It may not be surprising that promotional products got their start on the political front. Not only were they used to demonstrate affiliation and support of the winning candidate, but also they may have had a subtler, political motive.
In 1789, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut colonial button makers made George Washington Inaugural Buttons; the commemorative buttons were sold to Citizens who were eager to commemorate the ceremony of George Washington as the President of the United States. It is believed that those attending the ceremony on April 20th 1789 wore many of the buttons, and some theories have been put forth that the buttons were also a demonstration that American manufacturing could easily replace manufactures in Birmingham England.
The idea caught on and in the 19th century, there was some early promotional item marketing with advertising on calendars, wooden specialties and rulers, but it wasn’t until the later part of the 19th century and early 20th century that an industry really started to form around it and distribution of promotional products became a little more common place.
Jasper Meeks, a printer in Ohio, is widely considered by many to be the real pioneer of the promo products industry, when he convinced the owner of a local shoe store to give book bags with his store name imprinted on the side to local schools for their students. Grabbing on to the idea, Meek’s competitor Henry Beach began customizing items and soon the two were branding everything from buggy whips to aprons, horse visors, fans and calendars for local businesses.
It would not be until the 1970s, however, that the promotional product industry really took off when large companies started to recognize the benefits of promoting their brand identity; however, the gifts were usually limited to seasonal corporate gift giving.
As companies became more inventive in their marketing and branding efforts, promotional item gift giving became commonplace and took place year around as corporations and small businesses began using the tactic to marketing their brand, services and products at events, through the mail and in their offices and stores.
Today, there is such a wide variety of useful, interesting and even industry specific promotional items that can be utilized, that the sky is the limit; and, as studies have shown time and again, the use of promotional products is one of the most valuable and highly effective marketing strategies available.