Creating Lasting Impressions

Problems with promotional products – Number 6. No Call to Action

Advertising 101 –

Step 1: define a problem – “my floor is dirty!”;

Step 2: present a solution – “Jiffy Swipe will clean your floors!”;

Step 3: call to action – “buy it today!”

Look at any effective ad and there is a call to action.

There is no lack of evidence to support the value of the “call to action” step in advertising, marketing and sales.

Yet there is a lot of advertising and marketing that does not involve an identifiable call to action. This leaves a feel good impression but not a good result for the advertiser.

A television commercial showing children happily playing soccer on a cobblestone street in some old world village, followed by the advertisers logo, does not ask you to get up off the couch and go out to buy new gear.  This type of advertising is called institutional advertising and it’s meant to engender an emotional response that makes you want to be part of the scene by owning the product.

Advertising with specific calls to action, such as a time limited offer or rebate, is called direct response advertising.  It may not be as pretty as institutional advertising, but it gets your audience to act quicker.

Should you have a call to action component in your promotional campaign?   As we have seen, knowing as much as you can about your customer is key to establishing the parameters of your campaign, but it can also be your campaign’s objective – market research.  As outlined in section four, promotional gifts can be used to get information from your target market – but only if there is a call to action.  Effective calls to action can be an invitation to a “hidden” part of a web site or to call a telephone prize line.  Many retailers use a “gift with purchase” program to reward shoppers who achieve certain spending plateaus – and the customer will gladly provide important information to receive the gift.

The nature of your promotional product campaign may not lend itself to a direct response call to action.  Telling a customer to call a number to be eligible for a free gift is probably not the best way to show your appreciation for their business.  Luckily, a call to action can be more subtle.  An “800” number or web address imprinted on an item can be used by a recipient to contact your company.  Simply using the company logo and/or slogan on a product will be far more productive than a bare item.

Many products can be enhanced by incorporating a call to action.  If your customers are “The Best” then saying so on an item will make it more appealing to them than similar unmarked items.  Objects such as clothing adorned with corporate logos are often preferred to unmarked items.  Even more straightforward calls to action can help a product; a notepad, lined and with a logo/website/telephone number on each sheet, will probably be more used than a blank pad of paper – and, when a note is passed to a colleague, the message gets more exposure.

A promotional product can itself be the call to action.  A non-profit asthma advocacy group wanted to encourage home gardeners to use low allergen plants.  Instead of using a product that was simply imprinted with their message, they distributed biodegradable “seed-sticks”, containing seeds of low allergen plants, to attendees at a gardening show.  The product was the message – and an effective call to action.  While there are many instances, such as gifts to executives, where the campaign’s objectives might be better served with no call to action, in most cases, the lack of a call to action will diminish returns.  This doesn’t mean that an institutional promotional product campaign won’t deliver results like increased sales or improved corporate image, but the call to action, even a subtle one, will heighten those results.

An often underestimated advantage of a call to action is it improves the ability to measure the success of your campaign.


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