kruger national park

What can we learn from Retail Merchandise used within the Kruger National Park?

Over half-term week I visited South Africa and went on Safari, I stayed on a private game reserve but mid-way through the week we accepted the offer of a trip to the world famous Kruger National Park. During the day we stopped at a camp and visited a retail outlet and of course we were hit by printed merchandise which got my interest. Of course out in the Kruger they have stunning imagery to work with and sadly campaigns to promote, in particular saving the Rhino against poachers, 1.8 of these beautiful animals are poached from Kruger EVERY day. Tragic. Why? Because Chinese culture believes Rhino horn is a powerful aphrodisiac, as someone who bites their nails I can assure you as an aphrodisiac it’s absolutely useless and these buyers of Rhino horn would be far better off with Viagra but apparently that message is yet to be understood. Sadly time is running out.

I digress!

What struck me within the retail environment was two things:

  1. How good merchandise can be at supporting a campaign, be the objective raising awareness or fund raising or both &
  2. How so many marketers and business people would enjoy wandering through this shop, possibly purchase some gifts for taking home but not see the connection that they can create the same feel good factor around their own brand if they create a story and a visual storyboard that engages their audience

Everything that was available within this retail environment is available to the business, community, charity and education sectors – through product selection and decoration through colour, material and imagery desirable, useful gifts are being purchased at a premium by tourists and visitors in their thousands, but exactly the same product mix, or a different product mix that better targets the needs and desires of any audience can be created and branded by any marketer to promote their business, community group, charity or school.

How will it make the customer feel?

But where such an approach is different to so many other marketing pillars available within the marketing mix is how it makes a customer (or prospect) feel. We buy products from a tourist shop as holiday gifts for friends & family and just as we feel on our birthday and at Christmas we enjoy receiving a gift. You can make your customers’ experience that same emotion through the use of business gifts, through decorating useful, desirable items in an interesting way and offering as a thank you gift or Christmas present. Now you might not make much impact with a 25p pen but even then I guarantee the recipient will stay say “thank you!”

There is minimal emotional engagement with ads, web sites, emails, direct mail but through promotional products it is possible to engage the customer through all of their senses:

Taste – promotional chocolates, sweets and mints

Touch – all product requires a sense of touch

Sound – bang bang sticks, click-it tins, speakers, headphones, sound chips etc.

Sight – full colour printing is now available across almost all product categories, standard white product can be converted to visually stunning pieces

Smell – scratch & sniff, scented items etc.

Marketing Ninjas

Promotional products, business gifts, branded merchandise, printed mugs and pens ….whatever best describes your need – these items are the Marketing Ninjas of the promotional mix. That mug, pen, mouse mat, coaster, key ring, phone holder, phone stand, wrist rest, drinking glass, stapler, highlighter, umbrella, cap, fleece, gilet that you use TODAY, that is someone’s Marketing Ninja.

They gave you that product and you said “thank you,” it was an unexpected gift, you liked the look & feel, it was useful and you were grateful. And every time you use that item you see that logo, subconsciously your brain sees that company, that brand, that sales person, that exhibition stand, that product and just reminds you…. do you need some more? do you need another? do you need something else? Have you visited the web site? Wouldn’t you love to go there again? I must tell Andy about that….. etc etc.. Silently the Marketing Ninja just hangs around, on the desk, in the car, on the back of the chair, on the bedside table….communicating without disturbing – no phone call, no email just there, reminding.

So what next?

Like all marketing promotional products needs some time, investment and a strategy. We don’t send an email without thinking of the headline, the content, the audience and the call to action, the follow-up and the what’s next. And so it should be with merchandise. WHO are we gifting, WHY are we gifting, HOW are we gifting, WHAT are we gifting, WHEN are we gifting is a good start, and if you have some pictures of your product with a Rhino in the background with a setting sun that will be even better!

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