Using Corporate Gifts at Exhibitions to Develop your Brand Awareness

Activate - the agency

Corporate gifts constitute a simple and effective marketing tool which is not always understood by the companies using it. Yet with a little thought and planning, promotional items can become a powerful vehicle and can sometimes even be the only thing which gives a company an edge over its rivals.

The first thing that needs to be established when designing a corporate gift is its purpose: to build customer loyalty, to increase brand visibility, to attract targeted traffic to a website, etc. Indeed, it is only by defining one's aims in this way that it becomes possible to choose the promotional item which will be used and the message it will carry.

One of the natural homes of promotional items is the exhibition; in fact, if your business is taking part in a business fair or similar event, it is almost essential that you use the power of promotional items to give more visibility to your brand. Corporate gifts handed out to visitors will help you to gain visibility and bring traffic to your website, all for a budget of a few hundred dollars.


Depending on your industry, you may also find it useful to hand out stickers; these work very well at music events, but tend to be under-utilized in other industries. The trick with stickers is to come up with a design which is striking or funny, so that visitors are happy to stick them on their clothes, tablets, bags or other possessions.


Another under-utilized promotional device is the bag; this provides companies with an incredibly effective way of transforming customers and potential buyers into moving billboards. Choosing a bag which is bigger than the average will encourage exhibition visitors to put all the promotional items they collect into your bag. If the bag is also sturdy and attractively designed, people will continue to use it in their day to day lives, providing you with free advertising wherever they go.

Use bags with handles (a cord is often best) or with handles large enough to enable visitors to carry them as shoulder bags. This last technique is particularly useful because people quickly become fed up of carrying around several kilos of documentation wherever they go. Having your bag on their shoulder is convenient for them and great for you, since they unwittingly provide you with free publicity as they walk around the exhibition.

If your potential client spend makes it a viable option, you can even hand out promotional briefcases at a business fair. An item like this is of practical benefit to its recipient and could therefore be kept and used by them for many years.

Errors to avoid

  • In order to derive maximum benefit from the "moving billboard" effect, you must ensure that your logo and brand slogan are clearly visible from a reasonable distance; so avoid making them too small.
  • If you are handing out bags preloaded with goodies, avoid including heavy items, like a catalogue; instead, just include a leaflet with details of how to get more information.
  • Use your budget wisely: on the one hand, take care not to make the bags too flimsy, since this will portray your brand in a negative light; but, on the other, do not opt for an expensive luxury design which limits the number you can afford to distribute to potential clients.

Promotional goodies

Small promotional goodies (pens, gadgets, door keys, USB sticks, etc.) are designed to attract prospects to your booth through word of mouth; or to be used by customers when they get home (allowing you to make them remember you). Naturally, it is essential to brand these items; at the very least, they should be stamped with your logo. Indeed, visitors should be able to say who gave them the gift and where they got it, thus directing more visitors to your booth.

It is also important to choose goodies which are not simply desirable but also relevant to the theme of your booth; for example, if you are in the wine trade you might give out a corkscrew. Also, be sure that you order sufficient quantities of the items you plan to distribute; better to have plenty left over after the exhibition, since you can continue to hand them out to potential clients, than to frustrate visitors by denying them goodies which they have seen other people carrying.

Free samples

If the nature of your product allows it, giving away a free sample (a taster of what you can offer) is a great way to start a relationship with a potential client. Apart from the obvious examples, this gift might be an autographed book, a magazine, a white paper, a demo CD, etc. The idea is to provide a mini-product which has some intrinsic value, without the visitor having to make an instant commitment to your brand.

To make free sample effective, it is important to provide the buyer with some method of buying the actual product to which it relates. A useful technique is to offer them a discount off their first purchase, using a special promo code; since this will both stimulate sales and provide you with an additional mechanism for measuring the ROI of the operation.

By Activate the agency