Back in 1983, NatWest bank started a promotional giveaway to encourage young savers to open an account. Deposit £5 and you’d walk away with a cute little pig shaped piggy bank known as Baby Woody. If you’d saved £25 after six months then you’d receive sister Annabelle. £50 after a year and you’d be the proud owner of big brother Maxwell. If you’d saved £75 after 18 months then you received Lady Hillary, and if you managed to grow your savings to £100 in two years then the biggest of the lot, Sir Nathaniel Westminster, was your reward. Today remaining piggy banks have become a valuable collectible, the ultimate merchandise goal.
This Little Piggy Cost a Fortune
The offer ended in 1988, and during that five year span English ceramics manufacturer Wade produced over five million of these piggy money banks. Because relatively few children were able to complete the full set, Sir Nathaniel Westminster now commands a price of £60-130 a piece, and a full set sells for well over £100. Other banks followed suit, but no savings promotion ever replicated the popularity of NatWest’s piggy banks. If you’re really lucky you might stumble on a golden Woody, clothed in gold leaf – only 25 were ever made and they now sell for around the £1,000 mark.
So what makes the NatWest piggies so popular? Partially it’s nostalgia and, of course, the scarcity of some figures like Sir Nathaniel and a late addition, Cousin Wesley, of whom only 5,000 figures were made. Ceramics are easily broken, giving more rarity value to complete sets in good condition. And never underestimate the power of a brand to give value to collectible items.
The $900 Happy Meal Toy
That’s not a typo. If you managed to collect every single one of the 80 Furby figures that McDonald’s gave away in the 1990s then the set is now worth $900 to an avid collector. If you remember the Beanie Babies craze then you won’t be surprised to know that a set of 10 Beanie Babies in original wrappers and mint condition are currently worth nearly $400 to avid collectors.
In fact, there are whole communities that exist solely to trade Happy Meal collectibles, with a set of figures from the recent Minions film currently selling for as high as $500. The market for these branded giveaways is huge and the success of the Minions set proves that it’s not age that determines how collectible a promotional product is, but desirability.
It’s impossible to know quite why people give so much value to items that appear to have no tangible value. As a brand, you might look at a series of metrics including impressions, brand recognition and goodwill generated by your promotional products to measure the effectiveness of your promotional products. But the recipient will use different parameters like functionality, usefulness and stylishness to assess whether they want to take your product or leave it. If you can create the same kind of buzz around your promotional giveaways as the big brands manage with their collectibles, then you’ll have a powerful marketing strategy to call upon.
The King of Collectibles: Coca-Cola
Brand loyalty is one of the central constructs of successful marketing, and creating collectible branded products helps to drive ever stronger brand recognition and loyalty. Coca Cola has been harnessing the power of the promotional item since the 19th century, and an 1891 or 1892 Coca Cola calendar that would have been used as a promotional giveaway is now worth around $10,000. Original metal signs can fetch in excess of $12,000.
Naturally part of the charm of these items for the collector is that their original use was quite utilitarian – to promote a particular brand of soft drink. Because these items were intended to be ephemeral, they’ve become of enormous interest to the collector and the range of items is huge – everything from fans and chewing gum to pocket knives and cufflinks. So massive is the interest in Coca Cola collectibles that the company now creates items like snow globes and polar bears to satisfy the demand.
Of course, many other brands have recognised the power of promotional collectibles and are keen to brand any item with their logo. And collectors fall in love with consistently high quality promotional giveaways and associate them directly with a company, creating a deep and emotional connection. It’s a lesson that applies to any promotional items – if they lack quality, style and functionality then your recipients won’t want to collect them, they’ll want to get rid of them as soon as possible.
Defining Collectible Swag
So what qualities do collectible promotional items share? First with older brands there’s a sense of nostalgia, with products deliberately designed and styled to create a direct connection with the past and to create warm and fuzzy feelings in the recipient. For newer companies or franchises, value is delivered as an expression of a strong identity – think Super Mario or Star Wars – with a well defined identity that recipients and consumers identify with.
Creating promotional items that become coveted as collectible pieces is also an important marketing strategy for a brand like Coca Cola, who keep strict control over the products that they licence to be branded in their name. Having created an insatiable market, they need to feed it. Likewise, NatWest are revisiting their piggy banks as a promotional product, hoping that their new Pigby and Friends collectibles will prove as attractive to young savers as their predecessors in the 80s, and drive savings account to their bank.
If you can create covetable promotional characters that extends your brand into a collectible, then you can create a marketing environment where there are multiple points of contact between brand and consumer, where a trademark becomes a trustmark, differentiating your company in the marketplace and turning a branded item from a giveaway into a prized possession.
The team at Sussex Promotions has experience with manufacturing bespoke beanies, soft plush toys, bespoke money boxes, stress shapes, pvc key rings & USB bodies. If you have a character or idea you would like to bring to life then we have the past experience and factories to help you make them a reality.