The Art of Freebies: Tips for Designing Creative Promotional Items

The Art of Freebies: Tips for Designing Creative Promotional Items

People love free things! Just think of the bags of knick-knacks you take home every year from the Minnesota State Fair. Coupon books, mesh totes, rulers, and more. While most of this stuff is garbage, we somehow hang on to that free pencil from a University because, well it’s actually useful. And maybe that ruler is too. The problem with freebies though is when we start to actually accumulate junk like logo keychains, those awkward triangular highlighters, and fridge magnets. These types of free items make it to the trash quickly. Useful items like pens and pencils tend to stick around. Actually making a marketing plan that involves well-thought-out and purposeful freebies can be a marketing advantage. 

The art of freebies can be applied to your art career. Think of what you pass out for free already. Business cards probably come first to mind. As a professional artist, I have learned that quality free items are worth the dollar, including quality business cards. In addition to business cards, I pass out social networking cards, stickers, pens, exhibition catalogs, water bottles, balloons, and buttons. The more free materials you can get in someone’s hands that have your name and contact info on it, the more likely it that your stuff will linger in their hands and less likely to head to the trash.

The point of the freebie is advertising. Here are some basic guidelines to help you navigate freebies:

  1. You want your name on the item, obviously. The purpose of this item is to sell you. It can be simple and designed nicely without being tricked out in fancy fonts or logos. Make it ledge-able. If you market yourself with a specific font style, use that for consistency.
  2. The item should be something of quality material. Don’t pass out cheap materials useless you want your freebie to get tossed. This item you are physically spending money on, shows that value in the quality of the item. Don’t order free t-shirts that unravel or shrink after wear and wash. There are numerous options for freebies. For example, begin with the idea of a pen. You can get the cheapest option. In about a month or so it will probably end up leaking or the spring will shoot out after you click it to write. If you spend about a few cents more you can get a choice of ink option or a cool colored pen. You can also get it retractable and higher quality instead of the cheap caps that fall off. You can also get it ergonomic and shaped to the writer’s hand. Decide your budget but consider what you can provide as far as quality with your budget. Maybe ordering more of a cheaper item to get more for your dollar is not worth spending the same budget as ordering less of a higher quality item.
  3. If you want to keep it out of the trash it should have some purpose, be utilitarian. An easy place to start is with office or kitchen supplies.
  4. It should be as gender-neutral as possible if your audience is both men and women. Consider changing this if your audience is just men, women, or even children. However, consider how you can make your freebie accessible to as many people so you can get more advertising.
  5. It should be recognizable. Think about how your freebie’s design makes it memorable or even desirable. People love my Kate Renee pens and have even asked for a replacement pen because they like them so much.
  6. Kids love knick-knacks and like to keep them around because they are special. Consider this as you decide how you can market an item for children to take. I give stickers to children!
  7. Start with one free item. See how it goes, do people take them? If you have a great item, people will comment on them and tell you. You can always add more freebies to your marketing strategy but start small.

When you’re finally ready to create your freebie there are two options. One, you can make it yourself. I designed and printed my own catalogs and stickers. I also make my own water bottles. Your second option is to have another company create it. 4Imprint is a company that specializes in creating products that are considered freebies. The items that this company creates are limitless. If you are stuck thinking of new marketing ideas, just browse their catalog to get inspired. Don’t get carried away; think strategy!

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