Bank and credit union promotional products (aka “swag”) have always been popular — who hasn’t scored a pen or calendar from their local branch? But despite the proven benefits of branded goods, many financial institutions are still giving away the same pens, mugs, and T-shirts they’ve stocked for years.
Too often, these products are not a strong or true representation of the institution, and inevitably become “stuff” in people’s junk drawers. Banks and credit unions end up stuck in this loop of disposability, having barely scratched the surface of promotional possibilities.
In 2023, banks and credit unions can leverage the full marketing power of brand extension collateral. Custom staff uniforms, usable gear rewards, welcome gifts, executive goodie bags, and giveaway prizes are just some of the opportunities that call for memorable products.
For a taste of what’s out there — and some of the Element Group’s favorite trends — here’s an overview of the 2023 promotional industry and the innovative ways institutions can grow and extend their brand with bank marketing products.
Benefits of Promotional Items for Your Branch
When banks and credit unions expand their promotional marketing items beyond those that directly relate to banking, their brand impression reaches past the customer’s latest financial transaction. High-quality, branded goods from financial institutions (FIs) have the potential to:
- Make new and existing customers or members feel welcome, and that their FI cares for their wellbeing
- Expand brand awareness beyond existing customers or members
- Build client relationships (especially with high-end gifts)
- Improve brand association and affinity
- Establish a cohesive, professional, and trustworthy brand
- Increase employee engagement with customers and members, with each other, and with their work
A branded product that’s used every day — think a jacket, water bottle, or tote bag — keeps a company top-of-mind. By extension, the company becomes a part of the user’s daily routine, whether or not the product directly relates to the company’s services. High-quality products or giveaway items with a personal touch push that brand’s impression even further and can even convey that the company has its customers’ or members’ best interests at heart. This sense of connection helps to build strong relationships and maintain brand loyalty.
According to the Advertising Speciality Institute, impressions can be measured by “multiplying how long a recipient has the product to how many people [the recipient] comes into contact with each month while using it.” For example, if you own a branded sweatshirt for 6 months and come into contact with roughly 300 new people per month (not to mention the people you see regularly), that’s over 1,800 unique brand impressions impressions and a cost per impression (CPI) as low as 1/10 of a cent! Talk about a cost-effective advertising strategy.
Speaking of dollars and cents, consider these stats from ASI Central on the impact of promotional products:
- 57% of people who own promotional items keep some for more than 5 years.
- The average household owns about 30 different promotional products at a time.
- 55% of people pass promotional products on to others, thereby extending the brand past its initial point of contact.
- 53% of recipients feel favorably towards a business that gives out promotional products.
- 83% of people who receive promotional products are more likely to do business with the company that gave them the items.
And remember — the higher the product quality, the longer your promotional items are guaranteed to stay in someone’s life and reinforce your brand.
Trends In Promotional Marketing for Banks and Credit Unions
There’s even more proof of the importance of embracing bank and credit union promotional marketing heading into 2023. After a bit of a dip in promo industry sales revenue at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, promotional product sales have gone from $20.7 billion in 2020 (down 19.8% from the previous year) to $23.2 billion in 2021 (an increase of 12%). Industry experts expect that revenue to reach or surpass pre-pandemic levels within the next two years.
Banks and credit unions are rebranding en masse to appeal to a younger, more discerning, tech-savvy audience. However, the industry can be hesitant to update promotional marketing efforts in favor of sticking to the traditional script. FIs are also being more careful with their promotional dollars, which means that the promo marketing pendulum typically swings between inexpensive, disposable items like pens and one-time happenings like a branded drone delivering phone chargers to unsuspecting shoppers.
While pens and checkbook covers will always be useful giveaway items, it’s time the retail banking industry expands its promotional horizons. Here are the bank and credit union promotional product trends we’re seeing in 2023:
Banks and credit unions that leverage the power of high-quality outerwear are seeing a major return on investment in their brand from their customers and members. In fact, outerwear is the most influential promotional item in the United States for 2022, closely followed by performance wear. One thing we want to caution institutions against, however, is using the same clothing brands as everyone else — the goal is to avoid homogeneity.
Cohesive lifestyle collections
Rather than creating one-off pieces, FIs are realizing the impact of a full branded collection of goods. For example, a branded tote bag with compartments designed to fit their custom phone charger, notebook, water bottle, and umbrella becomes an all-in-one, must-have accessory with a cohesive theme. We’d suggest taking it even further and tailoring these promotional giveaways to the occasion — for example, gift a member who’s been approved for their first home loan with a branded tape measure, level, screwdriver set, and screw organizer.
In our projects for banks and credit unions nationwide, local design elements are always a hit. Employees, customers, and members alike love to see an aesthetic representation of their community in their FI, as it reinforces that the business is an intrinsic part of the local fabric. Whether it’s incorporating maritime elements into a seaside bank branch or partnering with local artists to contribute product designs, using your community for inspiration will never go out of style.
Focus on U.S. suppliers
As more Americans become aware of global supply chains and their challenges, more retailers are looking to stock American-made goods. Consumers perceive American products as being more reliable, accessible, and of a higher quality. 57% of consumers say they would look more favorably towards companies that gave them a promotional item made in the USA, and the retail banking industry is taking notice.
Trends in decline:
Sustainability is a primary concern for today’s consumers, as more people than ever are aware of their impact on the environment. Three-quarters of consumers say that sustainability is somewhat or very important. As a result, retailers are moving away from cheap, disposable giveaway items. FIs are choosing more purposeful products over items that, because of poor quality, are practically destined for the junk drawer or landfill. To best resonate with consumers, bank and credit union promotional products should meet the growing demand for sustainable items.
Best Ways to Leverage & Use Promotional Items
Now that we know what trends to watch in 2023, it’s time to brainstorm! But before you place your order for 1,000 customized fleece jackets, let’s consider exactly how promotional marketing products can maximize your brand’s impact.
Brand extension: Banks and credit unions are synonymous with financial management — but what if your branch was a trusted source for high-quality travel mugs or workout wear? Expanding your brand into other areas of your customers’ or members lives helps keep your name top-of-mind and strengthens loyalty.
Showcase technological advancements: An FI that leverages the latest technology gains its members’ respect and gratitude. Promotional items that make lives easier, through cutting-edge technology, serve multiple purposes.
Promote customization: Giveaways are excellent opportunities for customization. Instead of having the same mug as everyone else who uses a particular bank or credit union, customers, members, and employees can enjoy one-of-a-kind products that remind them their FI cares. Personalize your FI’s giveaways with names, pet pictures, anniversary dates, etc.
Transform employees into brand ambassadors: Boxy polo shirts are out — stylish, branded, comfortable workwear is in. FIs can standardize their employees’ dress code without mandating stuffy uniforms. If your employees can transition from the teller counter to happy hour without a wardrobe change, you can maximize your logo’s impressions while making employees proud to represent your brand.
Reinforce the “retail” nature of banking: Consumers have come to expect an experience from their favorite stores, as opposed to a passive shopping errand. Banks and credit unions can capitalize on this expectation by offering 360-degree retail experiences — this can look like incorporating a coffee lounge into your branch, offering pop-up financial education events and demonstrations, or installing interactive video walls that entertain and inform.
Introduce customers or members to your team: Promotional marketing sparks conversations, which is an excellent way to build relationships. Collateral that features real employees’ images and testimonials — think informative brochures starring your chief loan officer or video reels narrated by your actual tellers — help to humanize your branch and build trust.
Become a staple of customers’ and members’ daily life: As mentioned above, lifestyle collections are a growing trend in the retail banking space. Rather than giving away items that hold little meaning outside your branch, prioritize items or collections that serve a daily purpose.
Utilize non-verbal communication: Humans are visual creatures, and we can understand a lot without reading, hearing, or saying a word. When a customer, member, or employee carries your branch’s stylish, branded umbrella down the street, they are saying, “Yes, I use this bank, and their quality giveaway items tell me they care about my wellbeing — plus, they have great taste in umbrellas.”
Use your logo as a design element: You worked hard on your logo, and it deserves a spot beyond your business cards! Signature interior design elements or graphics that incorporate your logo can lend cohesion and three-dimensionality to your brand. Consider integrating your logo into all bank promotional gifts and credit union giveaways.
Extend a warm welcome: Assemble a welcome package for new customers or members personalized with branded items that fit their specific lifestyle. This extra step to include bank or credit union promotional products upfront will help them feel less like just another account and more like an important part of your branch family.
Our Top 21 Banking Giveaway Ideas
Some unique, some new, some tried and true — here are our top picks for branded promotional items and bank giveaway ideas to consider heading into 2023.
1. Pens and mechanical pencils
2. Checkbook covers
3. Personalized deposit bags for local businesses
4. Office supplies: Folders, sticky notes, desktop organizers, page-a-day calendars.
5. Customized tote bags with local design elements
6. Notebooks and planners
7. Premium drinkware for every occasion: Ceramic mugs, insulated travel mugs, champagne flutes, martini glasses, titanium water bottles
8. Financial education materials for kids: Piggy bank, calculator, free workshops, activity books
9. Outerwear: Fleece jackets, sweatshirts, sweatpants, vests, sunglasses
10. Money management: Wallets, card holders, calculators, money clips.
11. Keychain tools: Carabiners, bottle openers, multitools
12. Power sources: USB and plug-in phone chargers, power banks, solar chargers
13. Fashion accessories: Scarves, earrings, socks
Branded Lifestyle Collections
14. The home cook: Measuring spoons and cups, steak knives, cutting board, set of mixing bowls, meat thermometer, silicone baking mold
15. Happy hour: Ice ball mold, martini glasses, cocktail shaker, bottle stoppers, wine keys, koozies
16. Coffee klatch: Stovetop espresso maker, pour-over coffee filter, sugar dish, ceramic creamer
17. Gym rat: dumbbells, resistance bands, running shoes, gym or fitness class passes
18. Into the wild: Compass, headlamp, micro towel, solar charger, steripen
19. Stormy weather: Rain jacket, umbrella, thermometer, hand warmers
20. Home improvement: Tape measure, level, painter’s tape, screw organizer, screwdriver set
21. Diversions: Deck of cards, handheld travel puzzles, magic tricks, clip-on book lamp
Feeling inspired? We’ve got a lot more ideas up our sleeves. Reach out to the Element team today, and let’s start expanding your promotional horizons.
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Written and Researched by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group. Updated by Reece Kneissler.