Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Birth Of Promotional Custom Products

George Washington's birthday is in a couple of days so let me ask you this......what else, besides being our first president, did he do before anyone else?

The father of our country was also the father of promotional imprinted products. In 1789, George Washington used three different presidential buttons commemorating his inauguration. Those buttons are the first known promotional items used in the United States. Today they are worth $3000 - $10,000 each. Much like promotional products today, the intent of these inauguration buttons were to raise awareness.

In the early 1800's, advertising calendars & rulers were circulated, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that custom promotional products really began to catch on.  Credit for this is given to Jasper Freemont Meek. He owned a failing newspaper in Coshocton, Ohio. Having the equipment to do so, he looked to supplement his income by taking on additional jobs.

Jasper Freemont Meek
After seeing a child drop his books in the dirt on his way to school, Mr Meek approached his friend, Mr. Cantwell, owner of Cantwell Shoes, with an idea to increase traffic & sales. Meek's idea was to create a simple, burlap book bag with the message "Buy Cantwell Shoes" imprinted on it. Cantwell would give every child who came into his store a free bag. The bag would then be seen all over town as the children went to & from the schoolhouse. Mr. Meek manufactured & printed the bag on his press & both men reaped the rewards of the partnership.

The  success of the book bag lead to the launch of his second promotional product: imprinted horse covers seen on horses throughout town. These were moving billboards. Meek eventually formed the Tuscarora Advertising Co., established a sales force & enjoyed a successful customized promotional company with little to no competition until 1889.

As with all successful businesses, competitors eventually formed. The next one to jump on the wagon was Henry D. Beach, another newspaper owner. Both men began printing advertising on anything that could be run through a printing press: caps, aprons, marble bags, card cases, calendars & fans.

original package of Juicy Fruit gum
Then in 1891, the Wrigley Company took advertising specialties to new heights. At that time they sold soap & baking powder. To get an edge on their competition, Wrigley included a promotional imprinted product in each package. Can you guess what that give-away was? That's right......chewing gum with their logo on it. The gum that was included in every package of baking soda seemed to be more popular than the product is was designed to promote. A year later, William Wrigley Jr., introduced a new gum called Juicy Fruit. And so began the world's most popular & successful chewing gum business. Now that's a $5 billion dollar history lesson on marketing.

There's no way you can give out the first promotional item nor will you reach the level of success that the Wrigley Company did; but you can still be successful in distributing promotional imprinted products with your logo on them. If you do nothing, you will be missing out an efficient & economical way to gain company recognition.

Today promotional products play a role in businesses everywhere. Countless companies rely on these products to promote their brand, attract new customers & express appreciation to loyal customers.

How do you or your business use promotional products today?
Ronni Sherman

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