When it comes to promotional bags or branded carriers, the first thought is often some sort of tote or rucksack with a printed logo to instantly spread word about your organisation, company or team.
We've always highlighted the benefits of bags as marketing tools, and why they among the most effective one available to marketers.
A logo on a bag can is not just branding, it's customisation in its purest form; turning it from a standard stock item, into something unique. But what's important is that to customise something you do not necessarily have to add a brand identity.
We're going to look at the versatility of bags, and how they can be customised to create giveaways that are retained, reused and perceived to have high value. We will also show other ways to add brand identity beyond sticking a big logo on the side.
And we'll demonstrate how customised bags with great designs can be used as retail items, offering a revenue generator for independent business, charities, schools and universities.
Don't Focus on the Logo
From the title of this blog you probably think that a customised bag must clearly display a logo as its primary focus. Well, it can, but spare some thought for consumer behaviour. Some recipients might actively take the view that they don't want to become an advertising tool for a company that maybe they do not perhaps work for, or even patronise. You should also consider how people react to what they see, – how much does a simple logo on a bag register with a potential customer?
To encourage as much re-use as possible, creating more consumer-friendly designs that subtly include the logo may spread your message more effectively
Let's look at two examples, the first being a bag with a large company logo and the second bearing a more subtle design or image.
In the first instance, the viewer will no doubt read the company name, but is unlikely to go further than that. Certainly, the logo made an impression, but will it stick?
Now take a bag with and attractive and an engaging design or image, something that draws the attention. It might even be text – something profound and meaningful that makes you stop and think. The whole thing is then complimented with a small logo or motif.
In this simple thought experiment, it's clear which bag would get the most attention, and have the greatest impact.
In the second example, the brand is easier to remember, and might even encourage a conversation, thus rendering the campaign instantly more effective.
Keep the Logo inside
Going a stage further, simply having an attractive design or message might be all that's needed to raise brand awareness.
You may be a university or a charity, and currently you sell bags through a shop, but your aim is to generate a higher margin on their sale. Many consumers are willing to pay for a product bearing a logo that is not a fashion brand, because it helps others – to a point. There is a limit as to the price people will pay to essentially advertise your message.
To be able to charge more for a customised bag, small logos, or even hidden motifs could be the way to go. The outside should promote an on-trend image, message or design, and the organisation's logo should be subtle or, in some cases, hidden depending on the price tag.
Where is your hash-tag?
In the run up to Christmas, people will not only be shopping a lot, they'll be buying much more than normal. For this reason, you need to choose a bag style that's suitable for the "Big Shop".
But why go down the customisation route in the first place? Aside from the straight brand promotion already outlined, there are alternatives to engage potential customers.
Obviously, profound messages or striking art will always hold the attention of the masses. If someone on the bus opposite you is carrying a cotton shopper sporting a famous quotation or iconic image – complete with a corporate logo – you're much more likely to recall that brand.
Now social media drives the world we live in, and you can engage people without necessarily having to enlighten them.
Welcome the # and the QR code.
If your company, organisation or society uses social media, it is likely there is a # – known as a hash-tag – which is used when posting across the different platforms. Adding this to a standard printed cotton tote bag with your logo can turn a mundane promotional tool into something that generates much more visibility, and will ensure you're not so easily forgotten.
QR codes – a sort of square barcode – can do something similar. With most smart phones having a built-in QR code reader, using them to advertise leads to instant access to consumers. QR codes help to peak people's curiosity and lead potential customers to your website or social media pages, purely because they want to discover something new. Putting a QR code on your customised bag could be a winning idea.
As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story. There are also two sides to every bag – in most cases, sometimes even more.
Obviously, budget restraints can lead to promotional branding tending towards minimum requirements – one-colour print on one-side. Though such a strategy can never be overlooked (because in many circumstances it is more than adequate) sometimes you need to go further.
While making your logo the centre of attention may not be ideal in general (as discussed above), if you're thinking about two sides it may be a different story.
Having one clear "in your face" motif on one side and another more attractive, fashion conscious design on the other can lead the recipient to see the bag as having more value, so naturally it gets more use.
And studies show that even if the user initially only wanted to project the more design focused imagery as they stroll the streets, chances are that the bag becomes a rotating "showcase" displaying a combined message.
Printing on the sides
Building on this, if there are two sides to every story, sometimes there can be four. Though the trusty cotton shopper is a great seller, it isn't necessarily always re-used. The most popular totes that are repeatedly thrown over the shoulder are those with a bit more oomph; stronger handles and a bigger capacity with a gusset.
It is the two narrow ends that are often neglected when it comes to promotional branding. Why?
Print on just one of side of a bag risks your brand not always being visible. If a bag has a gusset, there are two areas constantly on view. Whether walking, or stationary, they are visible to everyone around. They should be used. Whether this is where you place your logo, the hash-tag or a QR code, it is an opportunity to engage.
The reality is that simple promotional branding works – people remember what they see, even if just subconsciously. But if you do more than brand your bags, if you customise, and create a product that engages from all angles your campaign will perform at a new level.