The Art of the Viral Product

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It’s really hard to believe that it’s already 2022 – it seriously feels like just yesterday it was 2021 (and no, that’s not a New Year’s joke). We are still in the midst of a pandemic, and businesses are still trying to think of clever ways to get people back into their stores and restaurants to remind people that they are still there.

Enter the promotional product. 

As we all know, promotional products are a one-billion-dollar industry, and we know that they work. They are like a real-world version of a product placement in a tv show or movie, and they are extremely effective at getting a name or logo in front of potential customers. They’re even more powerful when they happen to go viral.

In 2020 and 2021, we saw the rise of the social media influencer like we never really have before; and brands saw this as a way to make their way onto people’s social media feeds without having to pay for targeted advertising. Brands, more specifically fast-food brands, recognized that if they sent people items or opened their own shops, fans of their brands could purchase limited edition items. 

These promotional products garnered a ton of media attention from news outlets like BuzzFeed, AdWeek, Forbes, and more. And while not all of it was good – like Chanel’s disastrous $825 advent calendar – we wanted to share our favorite unique (and sometimes a little weird) promotional products that brands introduced this year.

1. D&D Dice

I missed these and I’m beyond mad about it.

Okay, I might be a little biased with this one for the number one spot – but that’s because I may or may not unashamedly play Dungeons & Dragons. Over the last few years, Arby’s social media has embraced their geeky side with clever posts featuring characters from movies, tv shows, anime, and more made from ketchup, Arby’s sauce, wrappers, and fry cartons. Now, they have embraced the ultimate geekdom: Dungeons & Dragons. They released the now sold-out D&D dice in an unassuming Twitter post, which featured the signature Arby’s hat with the classic dice set.

2. The Huvudroll Candle

Appetizing…

No matter what IKEA you walk into, whether it’s in Sweden or here in the United States – the familiar scent of Swedish meatballs simmering in brown gravy all day, wood, and something just IKEA hits your nose. And if for whatever the reason, you wanted to have the smell of IKEA in your home, you were in luck. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of their loyalty program, they gave away IKEA smelling candles to about 2,000 lucky customers. 

3. The Doppelganger

WesTheGhost’s screaming kinda sums up the third promotional product on our list. If you could really call it a promotional product? Little Caeser’s posted a quick video on their social media asking their followers to guess the number of pepperonis in a glass slipper. WesTheGhost left a comment with his guess and forgot about it – like we all do when we leave comments on social media. A few days went by, and Little Caeser’s asked for him to follow them so they could shoot him a DM. They asked if he could send him something. A few months went by – and well, you’ll just have to see what he got for yourself.

4. Netflix and… Snuggle?

This isn’t the first time Netflix has made the news for their eCommerce shop (which was launched last summer); the first time was for their embrace of the “Netflix and chill” meme – you’re going to have to look that one up on your own. This time, it’s a little cuter. Based on the iconic default profile icons that you see when you log onto Netflix, the now sold-out Netflix’s Chilleez are adorable little monsters that have been plush-i-fied, so you can snuggle them while you sit down to binge-watch the latest true-crime documentary or baking show.

5. A SONIC State

We’ve already touched on this in a blog last summer, but we wanted to highlight these again because they’re so cool! Last spring, SONIC partnered with a Detroit-based designer to create some adorable t-shirts with designs featuring the 46 states where a SONIC location can be found! They quickly took the internet by storm and generated hundreds of social media posts.

So, what do you think about this list? Does it give you a little bit of inspiration to pitch to your clients that are looking for a unique promotional product? Did you have a favorite that we happened to miss? Let us know in the comments below!

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(Marketing Content Writer)

Betty is the Marketing Content Writer at SAGE. She is a self-proclaimed, bonafide nerd, and when she's not writing, you can find her playing video games, watching space documentaries, hunting for vintage Star Wars toys, and binge-watching the latest show on Netflix.

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