The History of Promotional Products

Many businesses believe that the use of promotional products is a new invention, as businesses are still gradually being persuaded to invest in promotional items. 

Very few people realise that products were first used for promotional purposes a long while ago, during the presidential election of George Washington in 1789. Whilst promotional products may have been used prior to this, this was the first recorded usage. Even so, it was a number of centuries until the promotional product industry really started to take off, especially in the UK and Ireland. 

During the late 1950s, promotional merchandise started to be used more and more in corporate marketing. Before this period, companies may have used it to give one-off gifts to customers, but nothing was even given in bulk and it was certainly not used as part of a larger marketing campaign. There was also no recognised promotional merchandise industry. After this period, organisations started to use promotional products more and more and the industry really started to take off in the 1970s. 

It was during the 1970s that companies really started to understand the benefits promotional products gave to a brand. Companies were encouraged to promote their brand identity and did so through the use of promotional products. Originally promotional items were limited, businesses were often given the option of using promotional pens or a promotional mug, there was never any really in between items. 

The use of promotional products was slow and steady leading up to the 1990s, with only bigger businesses really using them as a means of advertising. However, the 1990s was when the industry really started to take off. This was when the 'peak' season really started. The season featured around Christmas and the giving of gifts. 

Corporate companies started to become more inventive with their marketing strategies, using the products to support the promotion of events or products. Promotional merchandise companies started to distribute catalogues and many businesses would purchase their products from these catalogues. However, as times have changed and technology has developed, companies have started to purchase their products from the Internet rather than from catalogues, making it easier and faster for companies to make orders.

As the industry develops even further, companies are now starting to use promotional merchandise as a form of business card. This is under the impression that people are more likely to keep a promotional product than a business card.

If you are looking for promotional products, you're in the right place. Browse our full range of products

Written by

Total Merchandise | Editoral Team

Our editorial team is drawn from a pool of experienced promotional merchandise product team members, account managers, marketers and other contributors. With such a wide range of skills and experience, they write about many aspects of promotional merchandise, wider marketing and business matters, as well as company news updates.

Connect with Total Merchandise on LinkedIn Connect with Total Merchandise on LinkedIn

Total Merchandise
The TM Edit: Top 10 Novelty Gifts That Your Customers Will Love

The TM Edit: Top 10 Novelty Gifts That Your Customers Will Love

Are you looking for something unique to add some fun to your promotional activity? Well, we're here to help - look no further than our range of novelty giveaways for th...

The Best Promotional Merchandise for Schools

The Best Promotional Merchandise for Schools

Branded items for schools come in many shapes and sizes, and are never more useful than at school events. From summer fêtes to end-of-term concerts, charity raffles to Chr...

The TM Edit: Our Most Popular Products Of 2020

The TM Edit: Our Most Popular Products Of 2020

With the end of the year edging ever closer, we've decided to shine a light on our most popular promotional products of 2020. These aren't just any old merchan...

5 Must-Consider Promotional Bottles For Your Summer Marketing

5 Must-Consider Promotional Bottles For Your Summer Marketing

This week is officially Nutrition & Hydration Week - and here at Total Merchandise HQ, we thought it could be the perfect opportunity to introduce you to a few of our most e...

TM Edit: 5 Branded Beach Items That Will Make A Splash This Summer

TM Edit: 5 Branded Beach Items That Will Make A Splash This Summer

With summertime fast approaching, we're willing to bet that thousands - if not millions! - of Brits are currently planning a trip or two to the seaside over the coming weeks...

TM Edit: Your 2021 Guide To The Best Summer Promotional Products

TM Edit: Your 2021 Guide To The Best Summer Promotional Products

This just in, people: summer is almost upon us! With the season officially starting on 21 June 2021 and with months of sunshine (well, hopeful...