Nonprofit Branding: Cost, Impact and Use of Coffee Mugs

Using mugs supplied by VisABILITY, our public broadcasting clients raised over $200,000,000 ($200 million!) since 1985! They are great contributor incentives. They are equally powerful nonprofit branding tools.

In fact, a mug with your logo can have more impact per penny than promotion in any media – print or broadcast!

But logo-mugs also have a few drawbacks. We’ll explore both sides here – the benefits and risks. The benefits are impressive. Be sure you read about the risks.

Each year American organizations – nonprofits and for-profits alike – invest nearly $2,00,000,000 (two billion dollars) in mugs imprinted with their logos. Nonprofits – the biggest consumer of promotional products – annually spend about a fifth of that total. That’s nearly $40 million of logo-mugs used by nonprofits! Each year.


Without a logo, it’s a generic item that merely holds beverage.  But when you add your nonprofit logo the mug becomes a powerful branding too for you. AND a prized display of personal affinity for the owner.

LOGO-MUG FACTS: Ongoing research lumps together for-profit users and nonprofit users. (In the next section we’ll explain why, for a nonprofit, the impact is even higher and the cost is even lower than the research reveals.)

  •  The average mug is used 6.3 times a month for about half a year.

  • On average, each logo-mug generates 1,307 “impressions.” Those impressions are what commercial media sell and what advertisers buy.

  • It costs $00.004 (four tenths of a penny) for each impression – each pair of eyes that sees the logo on an average mug.

  • The cost per impression of an average logo-mug is about 2/3 the cost of an impression from a radio spot and 1/5 the cost of an impression on prime-time TV.

THE LOGO-MUG CONCLUSION: Impressions produced by your logo on a coffee mug are a less expensive and more productive form of brand promotion than broadcast commercials – radio & TV, syndicated, cable or prime-time.

THE NONPROFIT BONUS:  Mission and affinity create a huge bonus for nonprofits. A commercial won’t sit on your supporter’s desk or workbench or kitchen table for all to see. Your supporter cannot use your magazine advertisement or highway billboard to display his or her  personal affinity for your mission. A mug and with your logo is a personal item – used, noticed and remembered.

Remember – the research mentioned above covers all logo-mugs, about 75% of which represent commercial brands. With the exception of outfits like APPLE and Porsche, few companies are so brand-intensive that someone will prize a mug with their logo. Think about that. You may own a Buick, use a GE hair dryer and patronize Wendy’s. You may wear Reebok sneakers and prefer Target over Macy’s. But right now, as you read this, there is little chance you can see anyone using a mug with a Reebok or Buick or GE or Wendy’s or Macy’s logo.

By contrast – there is a very good chance that people who support Koman Race For the Cure or the SPCA or PBS  or Girl Scouts or World Wildlife Foundation would happily have a mug with the logo of their preferred nonprofit on their desk or workbench or next to the coffeemaker at home.

Affinity makes logo mugs an even better branding investment for nonprofits because those mugs are kept, used, displayed and prized as functional statements of personal affinity. Mission drives affinity and affinity drives the use of products that display a supporter’s commitment to the mission.

That’s the nonprofit bonus!


THE DOWNSIDE: Respect the branding power of mugs. Consider using them in marketing and fundraising programs. But keep these points in mind.

  • Mugs are expensive to mail; most weigh over a pound and require special packaging to protect them in transit.

  • All factories produce substandard mugs. All factories apply imperfect imprints. At the high-quality factories, flawed mugs and substandard imprints are culled out during the quality control process at the end of a production run. At the lower quality factories the quality control is less rigorous, or entirely absent.

    Products from lower quality factories are less expensive. They are sold at lower prices to budget-conscious organizations. Be careful – the most expensive way to save money is to give your constituents a substandard branding product with your logo.  This risk has been covered in several posts on this blog. Check this one:

  • The number of colors that can be imprinted on standard mugs is limited; it is difficult to produce bright colors on standard, kiln-fired ceramics; butt-registration of multi-color art is tricky; the design cannot reach all the way to the top because of FDA rules. (The solution is to buy the slightly more expensive EyeMax Mug or the new, trendy Color-Contrast Matte Finish Mug.)

CONCLUSION: A good mug with a good imprint is an enduring and useful possession for your supporter, demonstrating and enhancing the affinity he or she has for your mission – and costing less money per impression than nearly any other media.

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