From Promotional Giveaway to Valuable Collectibles

Back in 1983, NatWest bank started a promotional giveaway to encourage young savers to open a bank account. Their promo giveaway became valuable collectibles.

The giveaway started with a deposit of £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 is worth 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. 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 Collectibles 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.

For an animal rescue charity we created a series of tote bags where the imagery that was printed was a hand drawing by a celebrity including Fearne Cotton, Ricky Gervais. The Collectibles are obviously not a cotton tote but the short run artwork on a novel canvas.

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.


Bespoke Plush Toys Make Great Promotional Giveaways

From the British & Irish Lions Rugby Union cuddly Lion mascot to 2012’s Wenlock and Mandeville, bespoke plush toys make great bespoke promotional giveaways, in 1966 we had World Cup Willie and in 2016 the BPMA used Ellie the Elephant who joined me on my Lands End to John O’Groats charity cycle ride.

Promotional plush toys

Mascots make great Bespoke Plush Toys

In one form or another mascots have been around for longer than you’d think. In fact the word mascot – from the French mascotte or lucky charm – was first used in English in the 1880s and quickly came to mean a good luck animal associated with a sporting club.

At first these would be live animals who would parade on the pitch, but increasingly they were replaced by the costumed characters we all know and love. These date from the 1960s, when World Cup Willie showed England the way to victory in the Football World Cup.

From Smokey the Scottish terrier with his mascot coat to the unforgettable Mischa the Bear, mascots have been endearing, unique and sometimes downright weird, but their ability to act as a beloved ambassador for a team or an event make them an invaluable promotional product for your company or charity event.

If you’re a follower of rugby you’ll know that BIL is the bespoke plush lion mascot for the British & Irish Lions rugby union on tour in New Zealand this year, and poor old Maro Itoje as the youngest player on tour has the responsibility of looking after him, while his team mates do their best to hide him from him!

Maro Itoje with Lions Mascot BIL

The Emotional Connection

Mascots are now big business for manufacturers of collectibles and memorabilia, and several – like the yellow lion bespoke plush toy given to winners at the Tour de France – are highly sought after. It was also announced this week that the Women’s Tour, the British cycling race that attracts the best riders in the world, would hand out their very own cuddly toy mascot. These instantly recognisable giveaways make for ‘must have’ marketing, even though you’d have to win a stage in one of the sport’s toughest men’s or women’s events to qualify!

But why do mascots work? Through familiarity. If you’re a football fan you grow up with your team’s mascot who can make you laugh and cry as your team faces triumph or defeat. In some way, mascots stand for something bigger than the sport – the Tour de France lion embodies all the qualities of courage, determination and discipline that a Grand champion cyclist needs. It’s a stretch to say that your plush toys will carry that kind of weight, but they definitely add value when used in a marketing context, conveying a sense of worth beyond their cost.

So why are plush toys such an endearing giveaway at sporting events? After all, they’re hardly macho and they don’t obey one of the prime rules of promotional products, that they be useful. But what plush toys do beautifully, and what makes them so covetable, is that they provoke an instant emotional response in the recipient which can help to create a positive impression of your brand.

Make it Your Own

The Credit Lyonnais Lion has been going strong since 1987, and even though the lion is no longer the bank’s symbol and they threatened to replace the cuddly lion with a trophy last year, good sense has prevailed.

There’s something completely exclusive about this particular giveaway that you can emulate if you spend some time getting your plush toy mascot right and customising their look.

Whether you design your mascot from scratch or simply add a scarf with a logo, the scope for creating a plush giveaway that reflects your business is huge. Create even greater ownership by encouraging your staff, or children at a local school, to get involved in designing your new business or charity mascot.

Better yet, your plush promotional item is unlikely to get left in the hotel room like your printed pen might. Even if the recipient isn’t a fan of plush toys, the chances are they know someone who is and who will be delighted to receive your plush mascot, thus giving your promotional product lasting power and your brand impression greater reach.

You’re not just exposing your brand to the original recipient but to everyone they come into contact with. So whether you’re plush promotional mascot sits on a desk or becomes a child’s favourite plaything, it’s creating impressions wherever it goes.

The Plush Fundraiser

If you’re promoting a good cause and using a charity sports event to raise money, then a plush toy can make an excellent fundraiser. It’s something that people are happy to take away in return for a donation yet will act as a lasting reminder of the good cause they contributed to. Obviously, a mascot makes sense for a sporting fundraiser and can then be reflected on a smaller scale in a plush toy, however strange they look – remember 2012 and how popular Wenlock and Mandeville were?

Low Cost, High Impact

Plush promotional items are a unique add on for any marketing campaign, helping you stand out from the crowd and gain a useful competitive edge.

Never underestimate the power of collectibles, with Beanie Babies and even Happy Meal toys selling for small fortunes. Promotional giveaways help you generate the kind of ‘must have’ buzz of more expensive campaigns and often outstrips them in terms of reach and retention.

One of the attractions of promotional products is their success as a low cost advertising medium with a big RoI that showcases your brand at an affordable price. A well chosen product, whether it’s a printed pen, branded powerbank or collectible plush, is the gift that really does keep on giving.

So Why do Bespoke Plush Toys work?

58% of all promotional products are kept for anywhere up to 4 years, according to a PPAI survey. If your bespoke plush toys were only to get looked at once a week that’s over 200 impressions, and you can multiply those out according to number of mascots and the fact that you’re likely to keep a cute plush item on display.

The PPAI also found that a good promotional product not only creates a positive impression of your business, but impacts positively on recommendations and customer loyalty, and what better product to create that emotional connection than a cute plush that has value and appeal across the generations.

If you want to create a promotional campaign that generates buzz far beyond its target market, then you need to consider promotional products and plush mascots as part of your marketing strategy.

To find out more about developing bespoke plush toys or mascots to help you communicate your message & build relationships with your target audience call Sussex Promotions, The Promotional Product Experts on 01273 651072 or visit the web site.