The best place to begin is with definitions for both personalized (personalized gifts)and promotionalized (promotional products) as these are not common words and they can have different meanings then here.


Inscribing a product with the recipient’s name or a quote or graphic personal to them.


Inscribing a product with YOUR business’ name, product name or graphic for the purpose of giving them to others to promote yourself or your business.

You may be familiar with promotional products. They can be very effective in promoting your business and gaining brand or name recognition. They are generally (but not always), inexpensive and given to any prospective customer for the sole purpose of having the potential customer know & remember who you are. I won’t get into how to select a promotional product, as I’ll save that topic for a later blog posting. However, I will say that a product that is used often, or used when your product or service is likely to be needed, they are effective in having your name in front of the customer at a time when they need you. Or they have at least seen your name often enough to think of you when they need you.

A promotional product has an intrinsic value; that is a real cost you have purchased it for. They also have a perceived value, perhaps a little more then you paid for it, but still a perception that it is “cheap” (unless it’s not). Now in the right circumstance, a “cheap” perception doesn’t mean a bad perception by the person receiving it. They are not expecting a higher valued product to be handed out to everyone passing your booth at a trade show. So this perceived value relates directly to how it is used. So used at a trade booth, they generally have a positive impact. Promotional products used the wrong way, can have the opposite impact that you intended. That is, not used properly they can have a negative result on your brand. Let me give you a few examples. I’ve seen this occur and have been the subject of this mistake.

Auctions & Prizes – The first example are events where products and services are given away to paid ticket holders or auctioned off. Typically, the tickets are purchased for a small price or perhaps one is given for attending the event. The expected value of items won in these auctions is $10 to $50. A special item would be in the $100 range and generally only one or two are given as the big prizes. Promotional items don’t belong in these auctions or as prizes; not just because of the value of the promotional product, but the auction or give-away is generally used to raise money for the non-profit, or at least to help promote the organization’s event. If you were to use a promotional product in this fashion, make sure it accompanies a non-promotional product of the appropriate perceived value. It is not considered classy to use these events for the sole purpose of promoting your business, even if it is a chamber mixer or another marketing type event where you are there to promote your business. Often the business that has donated the product or service is announced and receives recognition. Sometimes the best promotion of your business is not promoting your business, but helping to promote a non-profit or just being a good corporate citizen.

Gifts the Wrong Way – The last example is even a bigger mistake. During the holidays it is not unusual to receive a gift, especially from those that you do a fair amount of business with. I’ve received promotional products as a gift from people I have given a great deal of business to. In this instance, it has less to do with perceived value and more to do with receiving a gift with the person’s name on it that is giving it to you. So even if it is expensive, don’t give gifts with only your name or business name on it. If your name is on it, it should be after the “Thank You” and their name.

Gifts the Right Way – There is nothing better then getting a gift that is truly personal. One form of a personal gift is a personalized gift with your name on it. A favorite quote or graphic of your favorite animal, team, saying, or symbol makes it even more personal. A personalized gift doesn’t have to be an expensive gift. The fact that you took the time and made the effort to personalize it, will be appreciated by the receiver. Keeping the value of the gift appropriate with the relationship or event, makes it a perfect gift. Personalized gifts are great for employee incentive programs, years of service, and special recognition for special achievements such as patents.

Now just because your business name isn’t on the gift, doesn’t mean they won’t remember you. Every time they see or use the gift, they will think of you and in a positive way. Personalized gifts are kept a long time and have a long lasting impact. I have several personalized gifts and some for over 25 years. I can tell you who can me each gift and I still appeciate them today

Obviously, you can’t personalize products as a give away for a conference. A promotional product is perfect for that use. You may consider two other types of items to bring to a conference. A super promotional product or a non-personalized gift to give a few special people you meet at a conference. These are generally more expensive then a promotional product and something sought by most people. The 2nd item are personalized gifts for special clients or prospects that you know will be at the conference. Giving a personalized gift in person makes it even more special.

Don’t spend money to get negative results. Think about the purpose of what your giving away and how it will be perceived. Make sure the product and what it says on it fits that purpose. Remember the difference between personalized and promotionalized and you will get the results you’re seeking!