Brand Identity: Alternatives to traditional promotion

Posted by Katie Steelman on Fri, Jun 14, 2013

Thinking Outside the Box

In April, we talked about some outdated marketing materials and practices that might be holding your business back. Now we’ll discuss a few ideas that are ahead of the curve. While business cards and company brochures are still staples at tradeshows and similar events, many forward-thinking businesses are getting more creative with their promotional materials.

Odds and Ends

Branded freebies are not a new concept; companies have been putting their names on pens, coffee mugs, and beer cozies for as long as anyone can remember. Lately, though, we’ve discovered that some new twists could be put on old favorites.


Alright, company T-shirts aren’t exactly new, but several of our clients have been requesting them recently. This oldie-but-goodie serves many purposes: Not only does it create visual as well as word-of-mouth advertising outside of your organization, but it also promotes good-old-fashioned camaraderie and community among your team.
tshirts for tradeshow marketing

We brought the printed-T look to business casual with a flame-embellished button-down for ASE Optics. The shirts sparked a lot of good conversation at a recent event ASE attended. 

When Lake Shore Cryotronics was preparing to announce its newest materials characterization system, we created a shirt that combined the name of the technology with an invitation for people to ask about it. The shirts were popular giveaways at a forum Lake Shore hosted at the 2013 APS March Meeting.tshirts for trade show marketing

Toys and Trinkets

As our clients have continued to innovate in their fields, we have helped them apply the same innovative spirit to their business promotions. When Novatek, a Rochester-based technical writing company, wanted to convey its message of helping customers “be launch ready,” we gave them rockets. They were a big hit at tradeshows and other events – people played with them, and it got people talking and interacting in a less formal way. Another approach is to offer something functional rather than fun. Logo-printed USB drive key chains have become a popular giveaway because they are something people will actually use.

tradeshow marketing freebiestradeshow marketing freebies

A Pinterest search for “alternative business cards” or “creative business cards” uncovers plenty of cool ideas to spark your creativity. Take a look at some of our favorites:



Digital Business Cards

If you’re not into bric-a-brac, another option is to go digital. Various apps and services have emerged in the past few years that let you store and share all of your contact information electronically.

  • Event-focused networking apps such as Feathr and Bizzabo help users stay up-to-date on conferences and other shindigs, and integration with other social apps such as Twitter makes it easier to connect with and follow-up with fellow attendees.
  • Icon is like an extra-social LinkedIn that lets users create an online persona in the cloud. It aggregates professional content from your other social media profiles, and it also provides insights as to who is sharing your content and contact info.
  • The Bump app lets users literally bump their phones together to share contact info as well as photos and other small files. It works with tablets and now even computers, too.
  • SnapDat forgoes the social integration in favor of a more familiar approach. This app lets users create realistic-looking business cards using templates and graphics; you can even include your own company’s logo. You can share your card by typing in another SnapDatter’s username, and you can swipe through cards that you have collected from others.

Better Brochures

Your business card likely isn’t the only handout that could use an upgrade. Brochures tend to end up in desk drawers, junk piles and trash cans much quicker than their creators would like. Jonathan Kranz offers several tips for creating collateral people will hang on to rather than toss. He suggests formatting your collateral as something with more interest or educational value to the reader, such as a magazine, report or how-to guide. He also notes how one medical manufacturer left a pad of easily filled-out order forms in doctor’s offices: “In a crowded field of competitors, this manufacturer got the most orders -- not because it had the nicest mug or the most beautiful brochure, but because they left something behind that made their product the easiest to get.”

Whatever physical or digital items you decide to use to promote your business, just make sure it:

  • reflects the tone of your brand – We’re 99 percent sure you won’t see the American Lung Association handing out logo-printed lighters, or bottle openers stamped with “MADD.” Your promotional materials need to give the right impression; even a “fun” freebie might be doing you a disservice if it is off-message.
  • is appropriate for your demographic – Creativity is great, but so is being realistic. If the majority of your customers are older and not likely to have a computer, focusing exclusively on digital marketing might not be a sound strategy.
  • is suitable for the venue or channel through which you’ll distribute it – As cool as hand-painted rocks might seem as a business card alternative for your landscaping company, you’re probably not going to want to drag 100 of them to tradeshows or send them in the mail. Make sure you have back-up collateral that is easily transportable, and save the rocks for your local customers.

To identify your target audience and what matters most to them, try building customer personas. We have a downloadable worksheet that can help you get started. 

Download Persona Worksheet

Want to talk through your ideas for the next big thing? Give us a call!


Topics: Business Insights, Marketing Mix, Marketing Strategy, Change and Innovation, Trade Show Strategy, Branding and Identity