Of Tchotchkes and Turtles

When I was a kid, my Dad attended one conference every year.   We went as a family and on one day of his conference, he would take me into the exhibit hall – and allow me to collect all the giveaways I could carry.  So armed with a bag (a give-away unto itself) I gathered up the rulers, notebooks, buttons and stickers and more items than I can remember that vendors at this educational meeting were offering – including turtles.

I honestly can’t tell you most of what I dropped in my bag, but I distinctly remember – some 40+ years later – that someone gave me turtles.  Two turtles.   Little ones. 

We brought them home, bought a bowl and turtle food and other decorations to make them feel ‘at home.’  I think they died a week or two later. 

I don’t think they made any impression on my Dad, at least not in a positive sense.

Years later, I am the owner of a marketing company that is often asked to create promotional items for our clients – for trade shows, events, or as sales call leave-behinds.   Over the years, I’ve come to understand 3 basic and simple rules:

1)      The item has to be memorable. 

When you hand it to someone, they say ‘Wow.”

 This doesn’t mean it has to be expensive.  But it does have to be different.  Whether you are passing it out in an exhibit hall, or handing it to a prospective buyer, it has to garner a reaction.  A positive reaction.  You want that customer to genuinely say ‘Thank you.”

 2)      It becomes part of their business or personal life. 

 Will it sit on their desk, reminding them (however subtly) of your company?  Will they use it – like a portfolio or a pen (more about pens another time) where they will see your logo in their daily business lives?  

 Or will they take it home?  A magnet he puts on the refrigerator, a notepad she puts by the phone, or even a silly thing to give to their kids. 

 Does it make an impact, deliver and re-deliver a message long after you place it in their hands? 

 3)      It says something about your company or product.

 Does this item remind the customer about what you do?  If you are a builder, a tape measure?  A computer company, how about a flash drive?  Got a catalogue of health products?  Give ‘em a loofa.   You get the idea.  Match the tchotchke to your business.  Let it help you deliver your message.

 Of course, these rules (like all rules) are made to be broken.  Your giveaway may be disposable – (candy, a bottle of water).  It may be a coupon.  Or a bowl of chips and dip in your exhibit area.  (We once gave away $1 table chip to a casino next to an exhibit hall.  It was a great promo.  But the casino took objection.  So, we converted the promo to a raffle where people could win a $1 token.  The casino was satisfied.  Oh, yeah, everybody won.)  

 Or maybe your promo item does no more or no less than to make them laugh.

 If It makes an impression – it works!

 Let’s face it, a pen, or t-shirt or $1 or a loofa doesn’t close a sale.  But, done right it adds that glimmer of a positive feeling about your company and products.   Hey, your customer may not even understand why they like you – but they do.

 If you are going to spend the money to put your logo, your message, your phone number and website and whatever other info you want your customers to see, on a little piece of something that really doesn’t close a sale, take your time.  Spend your money wisely (and it doesn’t have to be a lot).

 But, you have to work at it. 

 I’ve driven suppliers and clients crazy trying to find that ideal item.  My best vendors learned that I didn’t want to see catalogues – and the best one I’ve ever worked with walks into my office with a gleam in his eyes that says ‘wait until you see this!’ 

 And clients, the good ones (and they know who they are), have that same twinkle in their eyes as I reach into my bag to reveal my latest suggestion.

 (Yes, the tchotchkes I recommend to them are also sales tools for me!)

 But I wander off topic.  The topic is what works and why.  And there really is no magic bullet.  (And, to be honest, not all of my ideas have been home runs, and some potential big scorers I believed in weren’t to my clients’ taste.  But I think we won more than we lost.)

 That’s really all you can ask of a tchotchke.  To win one.  It is there to ask your customers and your prospective customers to remember you.

  In a positive way.

 Not like turtles.

 John Rice

 John Rice is an award-winning writer, author and video producer.  His company, Komedia Group  (www.komediagroup.com) has worked with companies including Sony Electronics, BMW, Mack Trucks and a lot of other clients that you may not have heard about – but you will. 

 [Next time: Let’s talk about the good and bad of pens.  And the best T-shirt I ever (accidentally) created for a client.]

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