Why Designing Experiences with Promotional Items is Important

“When you move past the objects in the design process, all that is left are the experiences involved…it’s always relational. Always interpersonal. Designs affect people.”. This is a quote from a recent Ted Talk titled, “Design Experiences, Not Things” by Abraham Burickson.

In marketing, this is absolutely true in the sense that when we design a marketing strategy (in general, or around a promotional item), we can’t only think about the strategy we’re designing.  We need to think about how it will affect our audience.

Burickson also touches on gifts in his talk. He says: “[A] gift is about the experience of the gift, not the thing…[g]ifts are not things. What else functions this way? What else is primarily the facilitator of an experience, rather than an object?”.

When you ask us, promotional items are these types of facilitators. In this context, we can’t only think about what promotional item to give to our audience. We should think more about how we want your audience to feel. Or, what experience we want them to have.

In fact, a promotional item is just a promotional item until we design an experience around it.

Know Your Audience to Give a Better Experience

Before you design experiences for your audience, you need to know who you are designing the experience for. Think of it in terms of giving someone a gift. You usually know something about them, right? This is true when giving your audience a promotional item.

Before giving your audience a promotional item, you need to know about them in order to know what product will be useful to them.

Here’s where knowing as much about your audience will help you tremendously. Knowing who they are, their likes, dislikes, pain points or concerns, what makes them happy, etc. is a start. Having a complete persona for your audience is best.

You want to know as much about them and who they are because it will be easier for you to ask: how can I improve their situation or help solve a problem? Once you answer these questions you can start designing an experience for your audience. An experience that they will remember you for.

How Will Your Audience Feel?

Now that you know who you are going to give your promotional items to, you need to think about the product beyond your strategy. To do this, think thoroughly about how your audience will receive the item and how they will interact with, or experience the product. 

For example, when choosing a promotional item for your strategy think: how will my audience feel when they receive the item? Then, think about how you would expect this particular persona to feel. Will they feel that the item is “junky” and throw it away? Or, will they think the product you give them is a useful tool that makes them feel like their life will be easier when they use it?

This is important because it is a deciding factor on whether or not they will remember you.

Creating Memorable Experiences for Your Audience

When you know which product will make them feel like you’ve helped them, create a story about the experience you want them to have.

Maybe the story is: 

When my audience receives this laptop camera cover from me, they will feel safe knowing the camera on their laptop cannot record or view anything without their permission. This sense of security will help ease their worries so they can think about the things that matter most to them. 

In this example, you’re not just giving them a camera cover. You are giving them peace of mind. This simple gesture creates an experience around having a private life. A private life that you essentially gave them.

As a result, your audience will appreciate you for lessening their worries and, they will be more likely to think of you when it comes time for them to need your products and services. Not because the camera cover will make them think about doing business with you. But, because you helped them solve a problem, even if it’s a problem they didn’t know they had.  

The next time you think about using a promotional item, remember promotional items are simply items until you design experiences around them.

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