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Is Packaging a Promotional Product?

Why yes, it is!

4/18/2023 | Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, Cliff's Notes

It was twenty-plus years ago, according to my friend Natalie Pyatt-Townes, that I did the first seminar on the benefits and opportunities of packaging in promo. Fast forward, ASI’s Counselor Magazine named packaging the 2022 Product of the Year – for me, that was both validating and rewarding. 

Promotional products, what exactly do they do? If you think about promotional products and what they are designed to do, they are there to connect people to brands, messages, they engage, motivate, attract, compel, move recipients into action; and by all counts, are extremely effective. It is fitting then, that this category emerged, and has become the latest in effective marketing tools within our industry.

My Background in Packaging

As mentioned, I was drawn to packaging and the positive impact it could have on our industry long before I was immersed in promo. I worked at a corrugated box converter as a machine operator and soon became intrigued with the intricacies of packaging design.  Once in promo, I dabbled with a few projects, but a few years later in the early nineties, I started increasing my use of packaging in my self- promotions. As I look back, the initial projects were hideous by today’s standards – but it was the start.

Packaging in Promo

There are many great companies within our industry who offer packaging, why wouldn’t there be? It is a natural extension of what they do. Like graphic designers, digitizers, printers and embroiders – not all packaging companies are created equal, some specialize in basics and that’s all they do, and there are others who are more forward thinking and are constantly stretch the limits, trying new techniques, incorporating seemingly unrelated technology which brings packaging to life! Your job is to seek out those suppliers and determine which ones work best for you!

COVID Taught Us Lessons

It does not surprise me that our industry and the practitioners within, are so resilient. When COVID struck it stung for sure, but we pivoted in a big way. How did we continue to help our clients stay connected to clients and employees? We started sending creative, well-decorated, theme driven packaging to engage these audiences and many of the campaigns were very impressive.

I had the pleasure of helping a few of my customers engage or reengage with their clients. One client, KMK Promotions, hired us to create a marketing piece targeting HR directors in the healthcare industry. The program was launched during the beginning of the 2021 baseball season.


“The primary objective was to create an innovative, eye-catching marketing campaign that would initiate a prospect to make an appointment to discuss further opportunities. We felt if we were to achieve a 25% appointment rate (25 appointments), the program would be successful, either in-person or virtually. Our team has a successful close ratio of 65%, all we need is the opportunity. This program did just what we had hoped.  With this program we were able to garner a great return, 79 prospect conversations, a 67.4% new client acquisition of fifty-two (52) new clients, with a $86.54 client acquisition cost. In our mind, a remarkably successful campaign, and a big thanks to Cliff Quicksell for this stellar program.

- Barry Jacobson, President KMK Promotions

Technology is Driving this Market Segment

Like all products and services, technology is driving this market segment in a major way.

“Sound, video, and digital assets can increase engagement in packaging by providing more immersive and interactive experiences for consumers.”, says John Watson, senior partner at Premium Color Group. 

Here are some potential ways in which these assets can be used:

  • Sound can be incorporated to create a more memorable and immersive experience.. For example, the package created for KMK Promotions, mentioned in this article, had a light sensitive sound chip which when opened had a umpire yelling “PLAY BALL” then you hear a bat striking a ball, a crowd cheering with the umpire coming back yelling again, “NOW THAT’S A HOME RUN!”  This created a  stronger emotional connection with the product, the message, which  increase the chances the consumer will remember it.

  • Video, I love video. This enhancement can be used to demonstrate the features and benefits of a product in a more engaging and dynamic way than static images or text. For example, a package might include a QR code or an NFC chip that links to a product demo video that shows how the product works and what it can do. Or it can simply be a message from a CEO welcoming a new member to the staff via an employee welcome kit, building excitement and anticipation for a new employee or a product.

  • Other digital assets such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can be used to provide even more immersive and interactive experiences for consumers. For example, a package might include an AR app that allows consumers to see a 3D model of the product and interact with it in various ways. Or as mentioned above, using an NFC chip with multiple experiences to teach someone more about a product or move them to register and get directions to and event. The possibilities are unlimited! This can help to create a more memorable and engaging experience driving prospects to landing pages where data can be collected, analyzed, and used for the clients benefit.

“There is evidence to suggest that incorporating multimedia elements into marketing and advertising can increase engagement and lead to higher conversion rates. For example, according to a report by Wyzowl, 84% of people say that they have been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand's video. Additionally, a study by HubSpot found that emails with video content can increase click-through rates by up to 300%”, states Watson.

Increasing Visual Impact

According to Andy Griffin, Managing Partner with  Keepsake Products USA, “Printing embellishments are an excellent way to enhance the visual appeal of your packaging and make your product stand out. Each technique has its own unique benefits and can be used to achieve different effects. By combining different techniques, you can create a truly custom and eye-catching design that will help your product succeed in the market.”  Here are a few examples of added visual impact:

  • Foil stamping is a printing process that uses a metallic or matte foil to create a design or text on the packaging material. The foil is pressed onto the surface using heat and pressure, which results in a shiny, eye-catching effect. Foil stamping can be used to create a variety of finishes, including glossy, matte, holographic, and more.

  • Embossing is a technique that creates a raised design on the surface of the packaging material. This effect is achieved by pressing the material with a die that has a raised design on it. Embossing can be used to create a variety of textures and designs, from simple lines to intricate patterns.

  • Debossing is similar to embossing, but instead of creating a raised design, it creates a depressed or indented design on the surface of the material. This technique is achieved by pressing the material with a die that has a recessed design on it. Debossing can be used to create subtle textures or add depth to a design.

  • Spot UV is a technique that involves applying a high-gloss coating to specific areas of the packaging material. This creates a contrast between the glossy and matte areas of the design, making certain elements stand out more. Spot UV can be used to highlight logos, text, or other important elements of the design.

  • Lamination is a process that involves applying a thin layer of plastic to the surface of the packaging material. This protects the material from moisture and wear, as well as adding a glossy or matte finish. Lamination can be used to create a smooth, durable surface that enhances the visual appeal of the packaging.

  • Die-cutting is a technique that involves cutting the packaging material into a specific shape using a die. This allows for intricate designs and shapes to be created, such as windows, rounded corners, and custom shapes. Die-cutting can be used to create unique packaging designs that stand out from the competition.

Other Ways to Enhance the Packaging Experience.

Print collateral, such as inserts, hang-tags, overlays, brochures, spec sheets and other types of collateral materials, can enhance the visual impact and engagement of packaging in several ways:

Branding: Print collateral can be used to reinforce branding by incorporating the brand’s colors, typography, and logo. This helps to create a consistent brand identity and increases brand recognition.

Information: Print collateral can provide important information about the product, such as ingredients, instructions, call to action, and nutritional facts. This not only informs the consumer but also creates a perception of transparency and trust.

Storytelling: Print collateral can be used to tell the story behind the product or brand. This can create an emotional connection with the consumer and increase the perceived value of the product.  For example, a brochure might tell the story of how the product was made or highlight the brand's commitment to sustainability, creating a sense of connection and trust with the consumer. By engaging customers on an emotional level, print collateral can help to build brand loyalty and increase repeat purchases.

Differentiation: Print collateral can be used to differentiate the product from competitors. For example, unique die cuts, textures, or finishes can be added to the collateral.

Overall, print collateral increases the visual impact and engagement of packaging by providing additional information, enhancing branding, and creating a unique and memorable experience for the consumer.

Kitting & Fulfillment

To round out the packaging realm, offering kitting, fulfillment, and where warranted, warehousing.  Having the ability to create a one stop solution for your clients and prospects.  When it comes to this aspect of packaging, consistency is imperative, every kit must be exact, perfectly curated to have maximum appeal and impact.  If you do not have the facility or capacity to successfully do kitting and fulfillment, I would highly encourage you to partner with a vendor who provides this service. Many packaging companies in the industry have this as a value-added service.

What’s next?

As I see it, and thankfully so, packaging IS a promotional product, and it is not leaving. In fact, packaging will only become more robust, more exciting, as technological advancements continue – the sky is indeed the limit, and it is here to stay.

If I can leave you with one final thought, as you are engaging with clients.  Make sure to introduce them to this amazing, viable, profitable promotional product. Don’t assume, “My clients don’t buy packaging”, don’t make the client's decision, show it, share the benefits and you’ll be astounded at the business you will generate.


Until Next Month – Continued Good Selling CQ

For nearly 40 years, Cliff Quicksell, CSP, MAS+, MASI, with his company, Cliff Quicksell Associates, has been speaking, coaching, training, and consulting both nationally and internationally, to association members and small business groups, on more effective ways to market themselves, their products, and services; as well as motivating their personnel. In 2021, Cliff was inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame.

Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid Award over 30 times, the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity 5 times, and Regional Association CPPA’s Peak Award 6 consecutive years with a total of 8 awards. Cliff has coached countless others with the same level of results. Cliff received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years; and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100", as having a significant influence in education in their industry. He was recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. 

Cliff’s BLOG 30 Seconds to Greatness won the 8LMedia Award for Most Passed Around Content. Cliff’s most recent book, 30 Seconds to Greatness, is available on his website www.QuicksellSpeaks.com  Connect with him on LinkedIn or via email at cliff@QuicksellSpeaks.com 

Cliff will be launching a new company in the next couple of months geared specifically for small business owners and entrepreneurship. Connect with Cliff to get connected to his podcast and upcoming events.

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