Tailor Made

How traditions keep European promotions on the cutting edge.

As a premier supplier of promotional products, Germany’s Elasto Form KG is known for its innovative design solutions. The company has a cool concept in the works for beverage customers such as Coca-Cola and Jägermeister: a beverage tray with an anti-slip coating.

“If you transport a cold drink on the tray, it sticks and doesn’t slide around,” explains Marcus Sperber, Elasto Form’s managing director. “The customers love it because it’s a good means of communication for them to present themselves to the public. These coated trays will find use in a number of restaurants and bars, drawing a lot of positive attention.”

A far cry from the traditional trade show giveaway notepad branded with a company’s logo, Elasto Form’s new tray demonstrates the next level of innovation and underscores what European buyers expect from promotional items: a useful product customized to their preferences and needs. This commitment to creativity is nothing new to European brand marketers, who have long been on the cutting edge of cool.

 

Top of Their Game

Sperber points to two factors that contribute to the long-term success of European promotions: competition and regional preferences. Think of it like a soccer team, he says. If you have 11 players, everybody gets to play. But if you have 20 players, he says, everybody has to work a little harder. He equates that to Europe’s competitive promotions market.

“Here, you have many countries competing with each other, each with different languages and cultures,” Sperber says.

Sperber explains that European promotions companies must work to develop new production techniques and must consistently hone their processes and efficiencies. With low margins, he says, “You always must be striving to be better than before.”

Europe’s cultural preferences help marketers narrow their focus.

“In France, people love to have very good food, and they love to spend their money on beautiful things,” Sperber says. “But nobody really cares as much about their house or their apartment.” In Germany, on the other hand, most buyers prize their homes and cars over good food, he notes.

European marketers keep these regional priorities in mind as they design promotional items for their audiences. For example, Germany sees a lot of car-related promotional items. In Italy, Sperber explains, they’re more food- and design-focused.

“Knowing where to focus helps you have a successful, competitive marketing campaign,” he says.

Karolína Čermáková, company director of the Czech Republic-based BF Promotions, says that in her region, people favor the practical.

“Here, something is cool if you’ve never seen it before and if it’s useful,” she says.

She gives an example of a promotional best-seller that fits the bill: a small Bluetooth tracking device called the Chipolo. The tiny circle, about an inch in diameter, attaches to cell phones, key chains and purses — anything frequently misplaced. As long as it’s within 60 meters, the
Chipolo can help you find whatever you’ve lost, she says.

According to Čermáková, retro items also make the cool cut, and they’re inspired by regional preferences and traditions.

“People really like the things they remember having as a child, or even the things their grandmothers used,” she laughs. Woven-net bags, she says, are a perfect example. “They’re eco-friendly, they come in every color, and we can remember our grandmothers taking them to the market and having them in their homes.”

 

Just for You

The idea of customized promotional items may start with regional preferences, but customization narrows the focus to a personalized level. For a recent campaign for a soccer club, Elasto Form gave consumers the option of customizing a smartphone cover, a storage box or a bottle opener with their own photos or words.

“They can upload their picture or use a photo of their favorite player or even a slogan they like,” Sperber says. “You just press a button and get a unique, custom-made item.”

When Čermáková’s clients ask about personalization, they’re often planning to give deluxe gifts to executives. Once again, BF Promotion considers regional preferences.

“If you say the Czech Republic,” she says, “the first thing people think of is, ‘beer country.’”

Especially around the holidays, Čermáková says Czech buyers shop for gifts connected to beer and the country’s wine region.

“If you give beer or wine, you will never make a mistake,” she laughs.

The challenge is making sure the customer continues to love the gift — and think of the company — long after they drink the wine or beer.

“We suggest a bottle opener or a wine cooler,” she says, “and we recommend incorporating a tasteful logo that is not so visible.”

Whenever companies give an expensive, high-quality gift, Čermáková says, they should consider displaying their logo in an inconspicuous location — or not at all. Any loud branding is considered gauche. They could make the gift, such as a leather wallet or bag, even more
memorable by engraving or embossing the recipient’s initials on it.

“When someone gets this gift,” Čermáková says, “they feel like it is special — like it is just for them.”

In a diverse, competitive market, European marketers know that making it personal can make it count.