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foreword: Putting The Pieces Together

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Did you know that the first jigsaw puzzle of record was created in 1766?

A map engraver, John Spilsbury, mounted one of his maps onto wood and proceeded to cut around the countries. His creation was used as an educational tool to help school children learn geography. source

Before this year’s marketingedge magazine Top Products contest I was not one to know much (really, anything) about the history of puzzles. It wasn’t until I received the scoring criteria responses that I started to recognize the perfection of jigsaw puzzles in promotion marketing, and respect their award as 2023 Top Promotional Product.

But this foreword isn’t about the wonders of promotional product jigsaw puzzles. That will follow later. This opening note is about a nostalgic visit to the pillars of marketing, and helping you build your business in 2023.

Consider if Mr. Spilsbury didn’t give the school children a heads up on what the funny-shaped pieces of wood represented? Would they still be as valuable as a teaching device?

Like the earliest jigsaw puzzle, your promotional products are only going to be as effective as the context and communication you empower them with.

Giving your audience a clear understanding of your goals and intentions will provide you with measurable results. (For tips on improving your brand fluency check out Alex Morin’s feature, Branding is Language).

Sometimes it’s a simple change that makes the difference.

  • Adding a phone number or email to your imprint provides a direct line of contact.

  • Co-branding with a recognized product to leverage established credibility, value and identity.

And sometimes it’s more about how you give than what you give.

Brand presentation has become paramount in the design of promotional products, and redefined the role of packaging in the consumer experience.

If the jigsaw puzzle pieces represent the features and benefits of the product you’re branding, the packaging is the box they come in that showcases the magnificent complete product experience. Packaging provides you the opportunity to give context to your branded merchandise and tell your story.

This past fall marketingedge magazine announced that Packaging would be added to the annual Top Products contest as a standalone category. It was a milestone decision and the first change to the contest format in more than ten years,

In late December, ASI Media announced that Packaging had been name the 2022 Product of the Year and shared a story about the rise of packaging in promotion marketing. As an industry we have all come to recognize the important role that packaging plays in any promotion.

Supplier partners deserve much of the credit, leading the education with creative samples and investing resources to make custom packaging more easily accessible to the everyday order.

Not all packaging requires gift boxes, tissue paper and personalized labels to make an impact.

A pen in a printed sleeve that is handed to a customer is more appreciated and more impactful than if the same pen sits in a cup on a counter with a dozen others and a sign that says “take one”.

Determining what pivot will make the most impact in spreading knowledge about your product/brand/service is the challenge faced each time you review your promotion strategy. Our goal at marketingedge magazine is to provide you with inspiration and direction by sharing successes and experiences you can relate to and adapt for your brand/business.

Packaging provides you the opportunity to give context to your branded merchandise and your story.


Like the picture on the box that shows your goal, this foreword column will aim to provide a framework for your 2023 promotion marketing strategy. We want to help you increase your brand awareness and generate more sales opportunities.

Do you recall talking about the 4Ps of marketing when developing a sales strategy for your product/ brand/ service?

You can apply the same tools to help guide your promotional product choices.

Through 2023 we are going to look at how Place, Product, Price and Promotion, can be applied in the review and design of promotional product choices.

Buying promotional products isn’t the same as buying office supplies. You’re not buying a product, you’re investing in a marketing campaign.

As you move through this or any issue of marketingedge magazine, exploring top products, case stories and advertiser features, consider these questions inspired by the 4Ps.

  • PLACE: Where is your target audience? How are you going to deliver your promotion? Are there multiple steps? What challenges are in your path?

  • PRODUCT: How do the features and benefits of this product connect with the features and benefits of your product/ brand/ service? Is this an appropriate ambassador for your brand values? Is this product of value to your audience?

  • PRICE: Is this an appropriate perceived value for your target audience? Would investment enhance the result? Would cost-cutting hurt the result?

  • PROMOTION: How does this product communicate with your audience? Is it an appropriate presentation of your product/ brand/ service? Is it accessible and inclusive?

As we puzzle through your marketing challenges, big or small, questions like these provide the critical thinking framework to help you solve the big picture. Each answer is a piece of your final solution, and a step towards reaching your goals.

- as featured in marketingedge magazine, February 2023


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