Promotional marketing can miss the mark when engaging consumers in an authentic way when placed in the wrong hands. Branded keyrings, customer feedback surveys and social media competitions – these more traditional tactics just  don’t cut it in an age of uber-personalisation.

Promotional marketing has gained a reputation for missing the mark in recent years, as at its worst it is nothing more than a gimmick.  Yet, at its best it can encourage consumers to engage and interact with a brand, and be the start of a long-lasting relationship.

Brands develop promotional marketing campaigns to show relevance to everyday life, inciting consumers to engage in a deeper way. However, many consumers have become wise to tried and tested promotional marketing methods, making them more reluctant to engage and give their personal details away.  Something needs to change.

So how can promotional marketers lead the way?

Technology-led tactics

Brands must use the technology that is now at their fingertips. Blending the physical and digital world is key to innovation. Marketers need to consider how they can cover new ground using the old rules of promotional marketing.

Virtual reality (VR), for example, is the perfect device for a promotion. It’s fully immersive which allows customers to connect with the brand on a deeper level. Coca-Cola’s Oculus Rift VR sleigh ride harnessed these benefits to promote the drink over the Christmas period. The experience took viewers on a tour of the world via a tiny headset. The BBC took it one step further, by making its VR promotion for Children in Need accessible from anywhere with cardboard headsets. Children could purchase the headsets for £4 from the promotion website and in ASDA stores, allowing them to go behind the scenes from their sofas. Both experiences allowed customers to feel closer to the brand, while being mindful of promoting the product.

Connecting with loyal consumers

The issue with traditional promotional marketing is a lack of trackability. Giving away a branded USB or a pen to a customer could be the last time you see them. A multi-channel promotional marketing campaign, facilitates the tracking of customer behaviour, in turn informing improvements to product marketing. Coca-Cola does this well, able to keep tabs on engagement, aggregate the data and use it to tailor the service.

Google’s Cupcake Ambush takes a step further. It was a masterclass in the art of customer engagement as Google took to the streets of Austin, Texas in the US, with a truck full of cupcakes. Instead of asking people to pay for the cakes with cash, they were asked to take a photo with Google’s image app. The promotion was strategically “ambushed” by online clothing and shoe shop, Zappos, who sent a cardboard box that would dispense freebies in exchange for a Google cupcake. The two campaigns created a long line of digital interactions, even if shared among two brands. This deepened the connection with old and new customers.

Making improvements to the customer experience

A good promotional marketing campaign needs to pique the interest of consumers inciting subsequent interactions with the brand. Charity donation heavily relies on promotional campaigning to raise funds. We recently developed prototypes for smart charity donation boxes to be used in local London retailers. The addition of the screen adds an extra layer of localisation and interactivity for a worthy cause – they allow people to choose their charity of choice and even having the option to learn more about the cause in question. Traditional collection boxes are passive and are suffering in a cashless society. A small tweak to the design of the charity boxes could drive the number of donations in a big way.

The opportunity for creativity is huge, and will only grow as promotional marketing matures. Marketers need to  utilise all the tools available to become savvier with how they engage customers. This includes capturing data and using it to improve customer experience. Doing this in a sensitive, imaginative way will lead to customers showing their gratitude with their loyalty.