Roger, that’s an “Oops!”

By Rob Weinberg

If you’ve ever screwed up something marketing-related at your business, remember TIME Magazine’s goof.

I just renewed my paid subscription and they sent me a desk clock as a thank you. It tells time in 16 cities and contains a calendar, stopwatch, and calculator. Plus it was absolutely free.

Only it doesn’t say TIME Magazine on it anyplace — just “Made in China.”

Now, call me foolish, but I figure if someone is using an inexpensive plastic gift to thank me for an order, they’d want their name imprinted on it to provide me with a constant reminder of their generosity. But these guys blew it.

This means the opportunity to promote their company all year long has been lost forever. And the promotional dollars they spent on that clock? Also gone forever.

I recount this sad story because you may have planned to use advertising specialty items to promote your own business this year. Before moving forward, take these few preliminary steps:

1. Plan. Determine how many new sales you’re looking to make.

2. Research. Find promotional items that could logically be connected to what you’re selling. (TIME gave away a clock. Get it?)

3. Budget. Decide how much money you’re comfortable spending to buy promotional items. Only give stuff to people who actually buy from you.

4. Invest. Buy the promotional item that suits your budget and company image. Be sure to buy enough to make your sales goal.

No matter what, remember the main purpose of that ad specialty is sales promotion.

Whether it’s a pen, coffee mug, or cloth bag, remind people who you are weeks after the sale has been concluded.

Giving away a pen without your name on it costs you money. But that warm feeling your customer had when you handed him your generic pen will last exactly two steps beyond your door, then be forgotten.

Hardly useful for building the business, is it?

OK, I admit it. There is a button on the device that says TIME (it’s between ALARM and CALCULATOR). And maybe that was a subtle way to remind me who it’s from.

But knowing my memory, I’ll probably get confused and think the clock was a gift from calculator magazine.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.


Mr. Marketing has spent 30 years developing successful branding campaigns. Contact him at

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Posted by tonycagala on May 19 2011. Filed under Ask Mr. Marketing, Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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