5 Methods to Protect Your Brand Reputation During Promotional Campaigns
How do you protect your brand reputation? One way is to do your due diligence, even when purchasing promotional products to market your brand. Here are the five pillars of brand safety when marketing with promotional products.
Promotional products are ranked No. 1, as the most effective forms of advertising to prompt action across all generations, according to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI). (opens as a PDF)
The associaton’s consumer study finds that nine in 10 people who receive branded merchandise recall the branding; eight in 10 remember the messaging; and seven in 10 take note of the call to action. With this kind of influence, it’s no wonder you’ll find promotional products being used in all kinds of ways — everything from brand awareness, employee relations, and PR to business gifts, trade show giveaways, and charitable donation thank-you gifts.
But while these promotional powerhouses are effective, not all branded merchandise is created equal. If you’re like most people, you assume that the products you buy are manufactured responsibly, of high quality, and don’t contain substances that could cause harm. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case — and any mishap could negatively impact your hard-earned brand reputation (just ask the Spice Girls about the charity T-shirts they created — for a campaign to empower women and demand equality — that were made in a sweatshop).
While it’s not unreasonable to expect the merchandise used to support your brand to do so without posing risks to recipients or the brand itself, you must do the due diligence to ensure this is actually the case.
Here’s how to protect your brand reputation during promotional marketing campaigns.
The Five Pillars of Brand Safety
How do you mitigate potential danger and protect your brand? Understand the problems and be prepared. The issues around brand safety can be divided into five pillars:
With the vast majority of promotional products — as a whole, or their component parts — being manufactured overseas, there is a potential for serious issues with workers’ fundamental rights being violated. If this is true for the products you use in your campaign, this could damage your brand reputation. So here’s where due diligence comes in. As light is being shed on many atrocities (such as these internment camps in China and these abusive labor practices in Pakistan), it is becoming increasingly important for companies to make sure they are working with vendors whose factories have documented worker safety and protection programs, fair pay, and proper physical working and living conditions.
Product safety is just that: Ensuring products, as well as any decorating materials, are manufactured or designed so they’re not dangerous to your customers or their property, when used. It’s a seemingly simple concept, but there are complexities. Safety also encompasses being able to meet any applicable regulatory standards for safety, labeling, environmental protection, and other legally required standards and limits.
For example, promo products are classified as consumer products and, as such, they are required to comply with all the same federal requirements outlined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Additionally, some states have their own laws (most notably, California’s Prop 65), and these regulations can be even trickier to handle.
When designing and manufacturing a product, there are many attributes that must be replicated during manufacture — everything from the material, color, and size to logo placement — all within established product safety standards. Moreover, the key to quality is working with vendors who are able to consistently achieve these requirements for every lot or batch made. (Part of a brand’s reputation is remaining consistent, across channels. Will your customers recognize you?)
We only have one Earth, and the production of promotional products shouldn’t do damage to the health of the environment itself or the people within that environment. Recycling may be the most recognizable kind of environmental stewardship program, but this also encompasses restriction and monitoring for banned substances, as well as resource management.
Supply Chain Security
An often overlooked category, supply chain security is more important than many realize. Having a secure supply chain minimizes any delivery disruptions, while working in tandem with law enforcement authorities to combat terrorism, illegal drugs and arms trade, human trafficking, and other criminal activities.
Protecting Your Brand
While there are many considerations when it comes to brand safety, the breadth and depth of the issues can seem overwhelming. How can you tap into the power of promotional products and keep the verification of product safety and responsible sourcing from becoming your full-time job?
Start by having an in-depth conversation with your current vendors. Ask the tough questions about their policies and procedures; request third-party audit documentation; inquire about recall processes. Are you comfortable with the information provided? If not, it may be time to weigh your options.
If your current vendors can’t answer your questions or provide the kind of documentation you need, there are resources for finding vendors who are well-versed in product safety and responsible sourcing within the promotional products industry. One such resource is Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the only coalition dedicated to ensuring accountability and independent validation of corporate responsibility throughout the promotional product industry’s supply chain.
By working with vendors who have established policies and procedures in place to ensure brand safety, you’ll not only get the assurance that the branded merchandise you use is safe and compliant, but you’ll also save time in managing the process.
Don’t let any uncertainty about the safety of branded merchandise keep you from tapping into the power of promotional products. Find vendors who can meet your demands by responsibly sourcing the items you want and delivering the brand safety you expect to protect your brand reputation.
Since 1998, Lisa Horn, CAS, (a.k.a. The Publicity Gal) has been reporting on the issues that matter most to the promotional products industry. Currently, she writes about brand safety and responsible sourcing on behalf of Quality Certification Alliance (QCA). Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.