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Upgrading the Promotional Products Industry

Printfection Blog

Kevin Materi

September 21, 2010

Although the Internet has created whole new industries like social networking, what it’s best known for is revolutionizing current business models. Amazon completely changed how we shop for books. Google completely changed how we find information. Like these two companies, most other Internet companies simply upgrade a current industry.

An Industry Ripe for Change

The promotional products industry is stuck in a rut. Sure, it’s moved from local screen-printing shops to online websites. But everything is still done the same, inefficient way. Here’s the typical 10-step process for ordering promotional products:

  1. Shop around for a few reputable companies to compare
  2. Select a product
  3. Select a quantity greater than the minimum (12, 24, 72, 144, or more!)
  4. Figure out how many colors to use in your design (it affects the price)
  5. Submit your artwork
  6. Get your artwork manually approved
  7. Choose sizes and colors
  8. Get a quote by calling or requesting a quote online
  9. Pay upfront for all the products
  10. And finally receive the bulk shipment weeks later.

If this isn’t enough of a headache, you still have to figure out how to give away the promotional products you worked so hard to acquire! And no promotional company is going to deal with complaints, returns, and exchanges from the recipients of the merchandise—your customers! Although this process is fairly clunky and time consuming, it can work okay if all your customers are in a single location, such as a trade show. But what happens if your customers are all across the country, or more likely, across the world? The old model falls apart. You’re stuck with two options: either go through this clunky process and do the distribution yourself (have fun at the post office!) or don’t do it at all.

Just like other industries revolutionized by the Internet, the promotional products industry needs an upgrade. Companies shouldn’t have to deal with minimum order sizes, how many colors are in their design, and the management of inventory. They should be given a simple web interface to design their products, choose recipients of the giveaway, and get back to their real business. Inventory management, distribution, customer questions, and exchanges should be handled by the promotional products company.

As the world moves towards specialization, companies should be very hesitant to take on projects outside their core area of focus. The traditional promotional products industry forces companies to take on a much bigger role than necessary. The industry needs to realize this and wake up. It’s time to start taking complete control of the promotional products process so businesses can focus on what they do best, not the logistics of a promotion.

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Kevin Materi


  1. Cindy Auligny on October 26, 2010 at 3:05 am

    What a thoughtful article. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve read couple times, and stop, think of what you mean and then read again and again. It’s motivated!
    Keep working. Thanks so much.

  2. promotional products on November 20, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Just like other industries revolutionized by the Internet, the promotional products industry needs an upgrade.
    I agree 100% with this!

  3. Promotional Product Steve on January 25, 2011 at 6:53 am

    A promotional product is a representation of your company. It is very important that these steps are taken so the purchaser is very happy with their purchase. It is essentially marketing and marketing takes work. In a world of instant gratification, yes promotional products are somewhat time consuming, but their return on investment is excellent. Compared to TV, radio, and internet advertising, promotional products are still the most cost effective way to advertise.

  4. advertising pro pam on January 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    This is an interesting view concerning promotional products. While there might be several decisions to be made, people love to receive free, useful imprinted products. So, these imprinted items just might be worth the time and effort.

  5. Kevin Materi on January 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for the great comments guys!
    As we’ve started to grow our Giveaway service we’ve seen more and more companies not only jump on board, but absolutely love the idea of letting someone else handle the entire process. So the demand is definitely there, now the industry just needs to catch up.

  6. John on January 28, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Agreed, but who and when will we see changes? I’ve been searching all over for better solutions for shopping and customized stores, more than just these cookie cutter, logo mall, and creativemerch garbage. Anyone know of any? I’m all ears.
    Great post Kevin!

  7. Jems Martine on December 13, 2011 at 3:12 am

    A nice share indeed.Thanks for sharing these useful tips.

  8. Gareth Parkin on February 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    A very interesting article – and in totally honesty, even nearly three years after your insightful thoughts, the industry has not really moved on that much. The amount of doubling up on paperwork, sign offs etc. is crazy it is still no where near as slick as it ought to be and there is much to do in the industry. What I do find interesting is that the USA seems to be so much slicker than the here in the UK, maybe that is simply down to the fact that operations are so much bigger than the UK – but there is a big difference in professionalism and service levels.