Using Promotional Products: Materials and Lifespan

The environment is this generation’s growing, if not top, concern. For businesses and organisations, this may mean reconsidering their own impact on the environment – and what steps they can personally take to minimise that impact. In fact, one study shows that 46% of consumers have a more favourable opinion of a business or advertiser if the promotional product they received was eco-friendly! Choosing promotional products that are eco-friendly and sustainable is one way to show to consumers that you share the same values and is a small step towards establishing your authenticity as a brand.

Consider the Lifespan

When you think about promotional products that you have received from other businesses or organisations, what made those products memorable?

It takes plastic products approximately 450 years to decompose. Chances are, the company-sponsored plastic water bottle does not stick out in your mind because it has a particularly long lifespan. Instead, you probably value some of its other attributes: perhaps it has a uniquely easy-to-use design and fits perfectly in your cupholder. Maybe it is particularly durable, having been used frequently from your morning commute to running 5ks.

A long lifespan is not necessarily an indicator of quality. Some cheap, plastic promotional products will spend several generations in a landfill before they break down. Consider this: a product with a shorter lifespan that creates a more impactful impression on the consumer is more valuable than a promotional product that could ‘last a lifetime.’ Consumers will only hold onto a product for as long as it is serving a functional purpose for them.

Think of it this way: a pen encased in plastic is only useful so long as there is an ink cartridge inside the pen and the pen itself can be used to write (or draw) with. Once the ink is gone, if the cartridge is not replaceable, the consumer will throw the pen out – even though there is nothing otherwise wrong with the pen. One way to lengthen the useful lifespan of a promotional product and encourage environmentally friendly practices is to consider whether a pen is necessary when a pencil may work just as well. Alternatively, a pen that offers refillable ink cartridges may encourage consumers to engage in habits that are more environmentally friendly.  

What is it made of? How is it being presented?

When considering the lifespan of the product, consider what it took for a single unit to be manufactured. Where were the ingredients or components sourced? How were they sourced? Is the manufacturer B-Corp certified? Are there components that are toxic to the environment – either at the point of manufacture or disposal? Is the product made of recycled materials?

While consumers of previous generations may have been satisfied not knowing where ingredients were sourced from or the environmental impact of manufacturing a product, the growing market of younger (and predominantly Gen Z) consumers value transparency. Promotional products for a business are no exception: expressing concern for the environment on social media and then utilising an unsustainable, environmentally harmful product for promotional purposes can foster distrust and doubt.

How will it be used?

Another factor to take into consideration with promotional products is how the product will be used. Is this a single-use product that will be immediately thrown away, destined for a lifetime in the landfill?

Instead of opting for cheap, single-use items, consider an investment into your promotional product as just one facet of your marketing strategy. Your product, with the right care, may even last for years – constantly reminding the user of your business.

For reusable products, you should first evaluate whether it is functional and practical. One of many reasons why pens and tumblers (or to-go mugs) are such popular promotional items is that they are both functional and practical. A very high proportion of people will, at some point, need a pen or a vessel to hold their water or coffee. Reusable products, and especially ones that are washable, can be valuable marketing tools for your business.  

In contrast, impractical products – like a cheap plastic tchotchke – will be immediately tossed in the bin. Your investment into that product resulted in 2-5 seconds of attention from the consumer before they directed their focus elsewhere. Not only is this unsustainable for the environment, but it may be unsustainable for your business.

The second consideration to make for your product is how this product can be reasonably expected to be used. Take, for example, a wheat straw or bamboo mug. One would reasonably expect that a consumer would use their travel mug to contain hot or cold beverages. It would also be reasonable to expect that the mug is reusable, and therefore should be relatively easy to clean. Making thoughtful, intentionally consumer-focused decisions about products ultimately results in a user-experience that is positive, thereby creating positive associations with your business. 

How will it be disposed? 

Inevitably, every product will either be consumed or disposed. Single-use or impractical items might immediately be thrown into the garbage, which is a waste of your marketing budget. Other practical products, such as a pen, will reasonably last until the ink runs out – at which point, they will also be thrown away.

Consider whether your product may need a recyclable warning. If there are multiple components to a promotional product, you may need to determine whether all or only some parts of the product are recyclable. For example, for a reusable glass bottle, the glass itself may be recyclable, but the plastic cap may need to be disposed of differently.

Finally, consider if or how the product will break down. Some promotional products feature biodegradable seed capsules, allowing the consumer to turn your promotional product into a plant they can keep on their windowsill for years. Finding ways that naturally encourage your consumer to dispose of a product in an environmentally-friendly manner can be another way to make a meaningful impact with your product and cement your business’s name or logo in their mind.

Contact QW Direct Today

QW Direct has the necessary knowledge, experience, capacity, and resources to deliver quality products within demanding budgets and schedules. We utilise a personalised approach to work alongside our clients at every step of the production process, from imagining the concept to manufacture and delivery. We look forward to turning your sustainable ideas into reality~!