Ensure Your Promo Doesn’t Get Trashed

August 30, 2016
by Mac Mischke

At this year’s SXSW music/film/interactive festival here in Austin, a company set up shop to collect unwanted promo items and then donate the items to area homeless shelters. Read the story here. While great for the shelters and a clever recycling campaign, probably not where these brands intended their promo items to end up.

With the leasing season at its peak, you’re probably in the middle of re-stocking your promo inventory. How do you ensure your promo doesn’t get trashed and your marketing dollars are well spent?

As with many student housing marketing strategies, it’s market dependent. Make sure you’re tapped into the local scene and trends. Is neon still popular on campus? Are students passionate about environmental products? Trucker hats used to be in, then were out, and now I think they’re back in.  And get your student staff feedback before you order items. Encourage them to come up with new ideas every year.

Remember that promo items are extensions of your brand. What does hand sanitizer or air freshener say about your brand? That you’re dirty and smell bad? Also make sure your items are high quality and actually work. You don’t want to be known as that-apartment-community-that-gives-out-broken-pens.

Go with items that are extension of your marketing message and lifestyle brand. Think beach towels (resort lifestyle), water bottles (fitness center) and sunglasses (style). To connect your brand to university athletics, consider rally towels, foam hands or boom sticks.

There is also a fine line between stingy (“Only take one pen!!”) and excessive (“Hey little sister and little brother, take these bags filled with $15 worth of promo”). Find the right balance that fits your budget and leasing velocity. Make sure your entire staff understands the policy.  Also know which events (housing fairs, orientations) are worth the expensive items (t-shirts, tote bags, mugs). Save the less expensive items (pens, cups) for your daily marketing efforts.

Also consider limited edition items that are only given to future residents or renewals. Actually print  “limited edition” on the item to create buzz. And because these students have already chosen your community, chances are better they will actually use the items.

Finally, make sure to re-examine your promotional product strategy every leasing season. Just because something was popular last season doesn’t mean it will be popular next. It also doesn’t hurt to check Goodwill or the campus dumpster for your items.