Everyone has seen promotional products before. They come in many forms. From tee-shirts, pens, and calendars, to coffee mugs, book bags and bumper stickers. And companies give them away left and right for free. But why exactly do they do it? For one because it is a great way to get the name of your business out into the market and for another it helps your customers to remember who you are.
So how did such promotional products get started anyway? Well the earliest known use of such promotional products actually dates back to the election of George Washington as President of the United States in 1789. During the election commemorative buttons were used as giveaways. Throughout the 1800’s other items such as calendars, rulers and products made from wood were also used as promotional giveaways. But for most of the century there really was no organization that dealt with such products.
Eventually though an enterprising owner of a small printing company named Jasper Meeks struck upon the idea of imprinting the name of a business on some school bags. He then went out to a local shoe store and convinced them to let him print the name of the shoe store on the bags and the shoe store then gave the bags to the school. Soon after another rival printer within the same town of Coshocton, Ohio named Henry Beach saw what Jasper Meeks was doing and the race was on.
Together these two men would start up what would become a whole new form of business within the advertising industry. By 1912 the first trade association would be formed by twelve such businesses from across the country. The industry which today is known as the Advertising Specialty Institute has some 7,500 members.
The industry itself is actually fairly fragmented. There are over 18,000 such distributors across the country that buy their products from roughly 2,000 suppliers. The distributors buy their products from the suppliers and then customize them to meet the end users needs. They print the names of customers business, addresses, phone numbers and logos on any number of products and in just about any quantities that are needed.
Around 95% of the businesses in the industry average annual sales of less than 2.5 million dollars but the industry as a whole accounts for over 18 billion dollars in sales annually. Which is an extremely large chunk of the advertising industry’s overall sales each year. For someone that aspires to become an entrepreneur this might be a good opportunity for you. The barriers to entry are fairly low but beware there is a lot of competition which can make it difficult to make your mark.