Promotional products have been around for quite some time. Whether it be a free T-shirt at an event, a branded pen at an office, or a company water bottle, you probably haven’t paid much thought as to why that item ended up in your hands. For years and years, branded merchandise has been a key component for marketing strategists. Promotional merchandise is defined as products branded with a logo or slogan that is distributed. These items can promote a brand, corporate identity, or an event. It is a powerful marketing tool that utilizes consumers physical senses. The very use of branded products goes hand-in-hand with branding. As humans, we are surrounded by different types of advertisements. To understand the power of promo, you have to understand its history. Below we will be highlighting some of our favorite throwback brands, and why they still stand the test of time.
The history of promotional products goes all the way back to the 1700’s. The first promotional item in the US was a commemorative button made for the George Washington in the election of 1789.
Roughly a century later, Jasper Meek became the father of the promotional products industry.
As the owner of a local newspaper, he wanted to keep his presses running in slow times. He developed the idea of printing advertising on burlap bags with “Buy Cantwell’s Shoes”. He partnered with Cantwell’s Shoe Store and gave the bags to school children to promote his printing business and the store’s shoes. The school children would then reuse the bags as book bags or totes with the company’s advertising. The shoe store’s business exploded with many new customers.
Promotional thermometers first began appearing in the 1900s and were mainstream in the United States by the 1920s. These were intended to be hung outside, and the earliest were made of metals like tin, and some wood.
Panam Airlines was always on brand. Just take a look at the stewardesses. The iconic blue, world logo paired nicely with anything it was placed on. We love the backpack style bag and think its style holds true today.
JOY DIVISION TEE
Miriam Douglas is the genius designer behind the album art on Joy Division’s 1979 debut, Unknown Pleasures. The instantly recognizable design has graced posters, magazine covers, and of course, this iconic tee.
The 80’s ushered in a fitness craze. This also resulted in the idolizing of sports stars. Pair that with the colors of the 1980’s and you have these awesome bright sports jackets.
Like previously mentioned, fitness was huge in the 80’s. Tube socks and leg warmers were the perfect pairing to any outfit.
Companies like Hard Rock Cafe and Harley Davidson popularized the tee shirt collection. Each time you traveled, you felt compelled to stop by and purchase a new tee.
PEPSI "GOTTA HAVE IT" TEE
We love the bold type and color choices in the early 90’s promo tee.
NIKE WATER BOTTLE
Just Do It became a common phrase throughout the 90’s, so why not immortalize the catchphrase on the perfect 90’s-esque bottle?
This flat brim hat is simple but sure packs a punch. The embroidered logo and red cord are still stylish today.
Don’t ever forget your keys again! Lanyards also became a collectible item, but was also a very useful, everyday item.
SUPREME PHONE CASE
With the rise of the smartphone and social media, the 2010’s erupted with new items to brand. We love this Supreme cellphone case.
The first year of the 2020’s has created an entirely different set of new promo items. Who knew we would be branding face masks? You have to wear them, so why not make them cool?