There is a mantra, often repeated, that the holy grail of promotional merchandise is something completely bespoke. A product so new, so original, so right, that it can be a promotional silver bullet, a panacea for all marketing woes.

There is no doubt that a truly bespoke item can be a really fantastic thing. Over the years I’ve seen some cracking examples. I like to think I can even lay claim to one myself – a blind that attached to a computer monitor, suggested to Kit Kat. The idea being that by pulling down the blind the user could signal to all and sundry they had “gone for a break”. It was a screensaver ‘gone retro’. The shaping of the blind as a Kit Kat bar was the coupe de grace.


Yet, time and time again great, innovative and on-equity ideas don’t make it beyond the presentation board. But why?

Time, the relentless enemy of so many of us so often, is a major culprit. It is inescapable fact that it’s far easier to change the existing than give birth to something new. More often than not by the time the promotional product constituent of a marketing campaign is considered the timescales for manufacture already constrain the possibility for the truly new.

The key selling point of a bespoke product can also be its downfall. If you create something no one has seen before you have to work harder to establish its value. The consumer might not be able to judge how much you’ve spent rewarding them for their purchase, but that’s a sword that cuts both ways.

Oh, and did I mention? It’s not easy. Consider the effort which goes in to launching a new product for retail. From the genus of an idea, through a raft of opinion formers, stakeholders, focus groups, designs, re-designs, panelling, profiling, trialling and tests it takes months if not years to bring something to market.

In the promotional context there’s a deadline to be met, and from day one you can be assured it’s already looming sooner than you would like. Getting it right straight out of the box is pretty much essential, and just in case that wasn’t already hard enough it all needs to be done on a budget.

So perhaps for ‘going bespoke’ read ‘going for broke’. Courage as well as vision are the qualities needed here.

But if you have the necessary steel and are prepared to embrace the challenge. If you’re willing to sow the seed, and allow it the time to grow. Or even if you’re just slightly more devil may care, spending the company’s money and think it sounds like more fun this way, then what can be achieved can be as good as promotional merchandise ever gets.

So here’s a toast to the brave, the visionaries, and, of course, those willing to risk disciplinary action in the pursuit of promotional nirvana. We salute you.

Gary O’Brien

The Printed Image