The global promotional products industry is doing well, despite an unstable international economic climate. It is said to be growing — according to Econo Times — and other industry experts are seeing this upward trend continuing until at least 2024.

"The reasons for this are varied, but most likely lie in the fact that marketing, specifically in a competitive economy, is a key business priority and branded promotional products are a simple, cost-effective way to keep brands top of mind," says Nick Sarnadas, event director at Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery.

"Through promotional products, advertising and marketing messaging life cycles can be greatly extended to long after initial exposure," adds Sarnadas. "Statistics vary per country but, on average, around 80% of recipients will remember the advertiser after receiving a promotional gift item and approximately 45% of those keeping the product for at least 12 months." 

Does this positive market growth extend to South Africa where, according to Statistics South Africa, we have just narrowly dodged a recession?

South African resellers weigh in

Rainer Schulz of Thistle Promotions says that, without supporting research on the South African promo product market, it is difficult to make a definitive statement on how the sector has fared recently.

"Over the past year, we've seen contrasting variances in the South African promotional goods sector — some companies have drastically cut spending, forgoing marketing investment in lieu of channelling funds into staff retention.

He says that others, however, have started spending on promotional goods for the very first time in an attempt to grow brand awareness and market share by channelling funds into new areas.

This sentiment is corroborated by another local promotional products reseller David Kraukamp of Promo One, who says that it has been a fairly tough year for the market, much like most other sectors in South Africa currently.

"Unfortunately, many businesses are redirecting marketing spend, as it's often the easiest place to cut budget," says Kraukamp. "However, there is clearly still value in corporate gifts and promo items — particularly as we head into the festive season — as companies, in general, do still want to provide some sort of item to their customers, even if it is at a lower price point." 

"The Promotional Products Association International released 2018 global industry research, which shows interesting results," says Sarnadas, "especially when it comes to the five 'Rs' of promotional products, namely reach, reaction, recall, resonance and repeated exposure."
  • Reach — 89% of consumers have received a promotional product in the last six months.
  • Reaction — 79% of these actually researched the brand and 83% said that they would be more likely to do business with the brand after receipt of the item.
  • Recall — 90% of respondents recall the branding, 80% recall the message and 70% recall the call to action.
  • Resonance — 82% recorded a more favourable impression of the brand after receiving a promotional product.
  • Repeated exposure — 81% said that they keep their product for more than a year.
"These figures reinforce the fact that even in a difficult environment — with budgets [that] are tighter than ever and increased pressure to prove value for marketing spend — branded merchandise can be a powerful tool," says Sarnadas.

Where does local demand lie?

Schulz says that demand in South Africa has grown for practical products with specific everyday use — such as notebooks, caps, and shopping bags (particularly with the growing awareness around eradicating the single-use plastic bag). 

Schulz also says that drinkware is currently very popular but the technology side, which saw a boom several years ago (with power banks being especially popular), is on the wane. Kraukamp agrees and says that companies are taking more of an old-school approach again, looking for products that will stay within eye-line, like desktop items and wall clocks.

"Environmentally friendly gifts are on the upward trajectory, as businesses are becoming more aware of being socially and environmentally conscious, with a focus on the likes of reusable water bottles — glass or aluminium and even BPA free plastic," Kraukamp adds.

"The benefits inherent to promotional products are obvious and they remain an important part of holistic marketing campaigns," Sarnadas says. "This is a fast-paced sector, with thousands of options available and a fairly complex value chain for the local reseller," 

"It is for these reasons that Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery has introduced The Promo Product Expo with a view to support the start-to-finish reselling experience, from sourcing right through to customer delivery," he says.

The expo will comprise each touchpoint within the promotional product reseller's supplier network, including:
  • branding experts
  • designers
  • financial providers
  • industry-specific networking organisations
  • logistics providers
  • marketing pros
  • packaging and printing specialists,
  • promotional goods and apparel manufacturers and suppliers 
  • technology vendors and distributors
  • wholesalers
"The Promo Product Expo 2020 will offer resellers direct access to a variety of suppliers that serve this industry, providing an opportunity to see, feel and touch current product offerings — as well as new solutions that are coming down the line — while encouraging and enabling the opportunity for visitors to meet the humans that make the magic happen for businesses who believe in branding in South Africa," concludes Sarnadas.

The Promo Product Expo will run from Tuesday, 21 July 2020 to Wednesday, 22 July 2020 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

For more information, visit or contact [email protected].