What is the ROI of Branded Pens?

“What is the ROI?”

If I had a penny for every time I hear that question a day, my ROI would be quite good. (Okay, that makes little sense unless you consider my time to be the investment…).

But seriously, the Web is its own worst enemy when it comes to marketing. Because you CAN measure so many metrics, people do. But then they make (sometimes) foolish conclusions based on those numbers. It’s sort of like in baseball when people overly value stats at the expense of what impact someone like Big Papi has on a team–his value is more than just his substantial RBI count.

Because you cannot measure the ROI of branded pens (strictly speaking) people make decisions about whether to buy pens with logos based on hunches, intuition and perceptions of their previous experience, not hard numbers.

Indeed, the customized apparel and accessories industry abounds. I checked out the industry trade group’s site this morning (http://www.ppai.org) and in 2006, businesses spent nearly $1.8 billion on branded writing instruments. So, clearly someone sees value in pens with logos. But I don’t see numbers showing how many conversions a business can expect from buying 1,000 pens.

So is there a lesson here for Web marketers?

I think one takeaway may be that ROI should be measured by more than strict analysis of CTR or conversions. How is an ad campaign helping a company’s overall branding endeavors? Are phone inquiries growing due to your online marketing campaign? (Yes, some people still prefer to buy things over the phone instead of online…).

I for one think the term ROI is badly overused (no offense to you, gentle reader) by people who want to sound a bit smarter and savvier than they really are. (Umm, not sure what I am saying about myself since I was subtle enough to put ROI in the title of the blog post, but you get my point).

So maybe we can all agree on another term to butcher and turn into a cliche and instead of seeing how many times we can get ROI into a sentence ask a more sane question like, “Does this advertising campaign help my business?” Because in the world today where marketing is ubiquitous and unrelenting, trying to tell whether the pen is mightier than the PPC is a lot more complex equation than it may first appear.

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Will Bernholz — Will Bernholz, Vice President, Marketing, Dropsource

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