Nonprofit Branding: Promotional Media – Measuring Cost & Impact

You can measure the value your nonprofit receives from imprinted branding products. Start with cost and impact data for a product. Stack them up against the same metrics from promotion in standard commercial media.

That data, combined with our own observation, indicates that mugs, totes and shirts are the most productive products for nonprofits.  (Remember, VisABILITY has supplied branding products to over 16,000 fundraising and marketing campaigns.)

Let’s shift our focus from specific items. Now we’ll look at the broad, undifferentiated category of ALL imprinted promotional products. That’s the entire smorgasbord of nearly 750,000 products that you can purchase from promotional products vendors and from VisABILITY.  We’ll compare average cost and impact of the promotional products category to the average cost and impact of the commercial media category, including billboards, newspaper ads, radio and TV commercials, etc.

THE GOOD NEWS: Every media can spotlight your brand. Some do it more effectively and less expensively than others. We’re writing about “impressions” here. Below is the definition, taken from this blog’s Glossary. (You can access the Glossary by the tab at the top.)

Impressionsthe number of times your brand elements (logo, positioning statement, etc.) are exposed to individual observers through print, broadcast or other media such as a promotional product. The number of impressions is one of three critical factors in measuring impact. The other two are Frequency and Reach.

First the examples of cost/impression data – then comes the translation. (At the bottom of this post I will insert info about all media and the source of the data.)

  • The lowest average Cost Per Impression is $00.002 (two hundredths of a penny) for a billboard advertisement and $00.003 for an ad on a webpage.
  • Syndicated daily TV programs, prime time cable TV programs and promotional products each have an average cost of $00.005 per impression (five hundredths of a penny).
  • At the top of the scale you can pay an average of $00.058 (over half a penny) for one impression delivered by a radio spot.

Translation – Here is how we can turn the data into the kind of management information that will help you make comparative judgments about media options for promoting your nonprofit. We’ll spend an imaginary dime. We’ll do some math. And then we’ll know how many impressions that ten cent expenditure will buy for your brand. (Again – remember the research is based on averages.)

  • Billboard Ad – 10¢ will buy an average of 5,000 impressions.
  • Webpage Ad – 10¢ will buy an average of 3,333 impressions.
  • Daytime syndicated TV Spot – 10¢ will buy an average of 2,000 impressions.
  • Prime time cable TV Spot – 10¢ will buy an average of 2,000 impressions.
  • Promotional Product – 10¢ will buy an average of 2,000 impressions.
  • Prime Time network TV Spot – 10¢ will buy an average of 555 impressions.
  • Newspaper Ad – 10¢ will buy an average of 345 impressions.
  • Magazine Ad – 10¢ will buy an average of 222 impressions.
  • Radio Spot – 10¢ will buy an average of 172 impressions.

According to the research, an average branding product imprinted with your logo is as cost-effective as a commercial on prime time cable TV or on syndicated daytime TV. Looking at it from the other end, a dime spent on a promotional product with your logo is 12 times as productive as a dime spent on a radio spot.

THE GREAT NEWS: The above info is The Good News. It comes from credible sources. Affirmative as it is, the Good News understates the role imprinted branding products play for nonprofits.  So, let’s look at roots of THE GREAT NEWS:

  1. PRODUCT COST – The market research is based on “average” items like a $10 tote bag and a $3.00 pen. Our experience indicates these costs are high for most nonprofit branding and fundraising campaigns. With the guidance of your vendor, and remembering this blog’s injunctions about the impact of product quality, you can find a perfectly fine product at a price lower than the benchmarks used in the research. That lower price will drive the cost per impression down into even more impressive territory than the data shows.
  2. PUBLIC IMPACT – Print and broadcast media generate transitory impressions. A broadcast or print ad is noticed for mere seconds. To gain traction in the market, advertisers must absorb the cost of  multiple media buys. An imprinted branding product does not have this limitation. Providing it is useful and attractive, it will last for months rather than seconds, constantly spotlighting your brand to the public long after a commercial or advertisement is forgotten. (Check out “frequency” in our Glossary. It is another important marketing concept.)
  3. PERSONAL IMPACT – Moreover, owning and displaying an affinity-product with your logo is a personal statement. It is a form of self-branding – a way to say “this is an organization I care about.” Repeated exposure to your brand actually strengthens affinity. So, while the owner of a product with your logo is generating impressions within the general public, he or she is also enhancing the personal bond with your mission.

USEFUL & ATTRACTIVE – THE KEYS  TO SUCCESS: If your constituents are like the national average, the primary reason 75% of them will retain a product with your logo is that they think it is useful. The second most important reason is because it is attractive.

Right there you have the two key principles for selecting products to carry your brand – attractive and useful. They are also the two key reasons for rejecting many or most of the promotional products available to you.

Imprinted branding products have enormous bang for the buck. Compared with commercial media, they can be the most cost-effective way to spotlight a nonprofit brand in a persuasive and lasting manner. Our own experience indicates that for most nonprofits and for most nonprofit uses, shirts, mugs and tote bags are even more powerful than the average imprinted branding product.


SOURCES AND RAW DATA: The 2010 information cited in this blog post came was assembled by the Advertising Specialty Institute. The market survey data was produced by the Nielsen broadcast ratings service, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, the Advertising Specialty Institute and AdAge Online. Following are the cost per impression for various media based on the assumptions of average cost per product and average cost for the media buy.

  • Average Billboard Ad – $00.002
  • Average Webpage Ad – $00.003
  • Average Syndicated daytime TV Spot – $00.005
  • Average Cable prime time TV Spot –$00.005
  • Average Promotional Product – $00.005
  • Average Prime Time TV Spot -$00.018
  • Average Newspaper Ad – $00.029
  • Average Magazine Ad – $00.045
  • Average Radio Spot – $00.058


One thought on “Nonprofit Branding: Promotional Media – Measuring Cost & Impact

  1. Pingback: Nonprofit Branding: Scary, Exciting Times As New Service Nears Introduction | Nonprofit Branding Blog

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