Everyone loves a free pen - top promotional items revealed

UK firms will spend nearly £1bn on branded promotional items this year - with pens by far the most common item given away, research by the British Promotional Merchandise Association finds.

The write stuff: Firms gave out nearly twice as free pens as there are people in the UK last year (Credit: János Balázs on flickr)
The write stuff: Firms gave out nearly twice as free pens as there are people in the UK last year (Credit: János Balázs on flickr)

Ahead of Promotional Products Week, which begins today, the association commissioned research to find out which items were most frequently given away.

Leading the list was promotional pens, with 150 million handed out across the country last year.

Total spend on promotional items is estimated by the association to total £980m this year, up from £800m last year, the association said. The top ten items being given away are:

  1. Promotional pens
  2. Branded bags
  3. Electronic items such as branded memory sticks and power banks
  4. Branded or personalised mugs
  5. Promotional clothing such as t-shirts
  6. Notepads
  7. Mints or sweets
  8. Stress balls
  9. Mouse mats
  10. Other stationery

Other less common giveaway items include ice-cream, plants and shoe polish, as well as brand mascots such as price comparison site Confused.com's robot Brian, the meerkats associated with its rival Comparethemarket.com, and insurance firm Churchill's dog.

Gordon Glenister, director-general of the British Promotional Merchandise Association, said: "Identifying a company with a robot like Brian, for example, and then giving away miniature versions to the public is a very cost-effective and proven way of advertising. Promotional gifts work.

"Many of our members are using technology now to personalise the promotional merchandise with people’s names alongside the brand. This makes the merchandise even more valuable to the recipient and increases the probability that the company name will be visible for longer. This is why everyone from hotels to technology companies like to have their names on products like pens."

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