After a lot of time spent in large-market radio promotions, I've seen a wide variety of promotional items, from the traditional to the extravagant to the bizarre. And you’d be surprised what the most effective promotional or “giveaway” items are. Sometimes, more money spent does not equal greater brand impact.

Here are a few tips to help you achieve the maximum bang for your promotions buck.

  1. Think outside the pen. The more unique an item, the better chance you have of standing out in a crowd of other brand logos. If you’re planning on handing these items out at a trade show or festival, remember that your potential customers are busy being pelted with dozens of other items. The more unique a promotional item, the better.
  2. Location, location. Consider the venues you are likely to be handing these out at. Cold weather? Think hand warmers or inexpensive knit caps. A hot summer fair or festival? Cardboard fans are a popular choice, but sunglasses have to be one of the most effective. And lip balm, sunblock and hand sanitizer are always good choices for outdoor events.
  3. Size matters. The bigger you can get your logo, the better. T-shirts and hats are the go-to items, but never count out the bumper sticker. Body paint is also a great choice at summer festivals, with lots of exposed skin as free ad space — for the day. The size tactic works especially well at large events, where your logo and name are circulating around the area on the bodies of attendees, spreading your brand so you don’t have to.
  4. Tickets, here! Tickets to your upcoming event are a huge promotional item. They cost you nothing up front, people will jump through hoops to get them, and they have the maximum amount of information on them. But a word of caution: Think of the distribution method. The biggest pet peeve with event tickets is odd numbers. Handing out three or five free tickets sounds like a great thing, but you can’t give out odd numbers of tickets. People expect tickets in pairs and are excited about four-packs, but won’t really use just one ticket.
  5. More sponsors = more purchase power. Really want to give away promotional T-shirts, but the price tag is out of reach? Reach out to other corporations about sharing ad space on the item, in exchange for splitting the cost. It's easier to come up with a great promotional item if you don’t have to worry about the price tag as much.

Using these guidelines, you should have a better idea of what works and what doesn't. With all of these tips, quantity can be essential. It's almost always better to run out of an item than have too many left over. Take it from a guy with hundreds of leftover T-Shirts, drink koozies and flying discs: They'll just go to waste.