A brief History of time (well Promotional History that is!)

The History of the Promotional Products Industry




I hear you ask why would I want to know about past facts on promotional products? But it is actually a very interesting read to find out the origins of branded merchandise.


So…Where did it all start?


Who can name the first promotional product that was used, a pen? a keyring? a ruler? Well you would have all been wrong!


It all started in 1789 when George Washington became President of the United States and commemorative coins were produced to celebrate. This is how the first promotional merchandise item was born!


George Washington coin


Years later in the 1800s a newsagent from Ohio called Jasper Meeks met with a shoe store owner and had the great idea that he could offer the use of his printing machine to apply the stores details on a shoe bag to advertise the business. Of course, the shop owner jumped at the chance as who doesn’t like free advertising.


cantwell tote bag

This idea was quickly picked up on by local competitors and soon different items such as marble bags, aprons, fans, calendars, cloth caps, and even hats for horses were starting to be produced to help advertise local businesses.

Representatives of 12 promotional companies in 1904 met to form the PPAI, which is an American trace association and internationally now has more than 10,000 members globally to date.

But it wasn’t until the 1950’s that corporate marketing begun using promotional products in Britain.

An explosion in growth of the promotional merchandise industry started in 1970’s where a number of corporate companies came to realise the huge benefits of using gifts with their company’s details on to help promote and sell their brand identity.

Today within the UK and Ireland, The British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) are a professional body serving the £1 billion pound promotional products industry. This organisation governs areas in quality, accurate advertising, fair trade terms and managing customer complaints, therefore protecting the industry.


Why do we have promotional merchandise?


We are surrounded by a huge range of products on a daily basis that promote company branding; therefore, spreading the word about your company is a major factor in advertising and marketing.

Look around you right now and I bet you have items on your desk with some kind of branded logo on that you recognise. This does not stop at your desk either, you can be simply walking down the road and branding for different organisations will be jumping out at you left, right and centre. Think about the iconic Golden Arches, and what image forms in our head, yes you got it! It’s that tasty burger chain with the cheeky clown :).

So, the conclusion is that we do rely heavily every day on branded items to promote our businesses no matter how big or small and is important to keep your brand identity out there for all to see.

Food for thought, next time you are out and about, take the time to have a look around.  You may just find your brain working under the radar identifying logos and brands of every sort all around you!

Leave your comment