What Promos are Trending in 2018? A Snapshot of the PPAI Expo.

When it comes to promotional products, trends are important. Trends can make or break a campaign. Of course many promos are timeless. Tried and true. Old reliable. And that’s great! But, if you want something that will grab the devil by the horns, then step outside of that timeless comfort zone, and go for what’s trending right now.

About the Expo

The Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo was held January 14-18, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 12,000 distributors from nearly 4,000 companies gathered to experience new products and network within the industry.

Top 10 Trends

The underlying theme of the PPAI Expo this year was definitely retail-inspired products. Hot promos are easily recognized. These products look as if they were fresh off the shelf. Their popularity is what makes them irresistible as giveaways.

Here are the top 10 trends of those retail-inspired categories that stood out from the new 2018 products:

1) Light-Up Advertising

You may be thinking, “wait a minute… light-up promos are nothing new.” But, this is light-up advertising… your logo is illuminated! Many of these products are technology-based such as speakers, chargers, power banks, stylus pens and power cords, all featuring your glowing logo. This is definitely a game changer in the world of promotional products as it literally gives light to your brand.

2) Fidget Toys & Tools

There is no denying the fidget fever that has swept the nation. Fidget toys and tools are not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, there are many new twists on these little stress relievers. With products like fidget flip sticks, pen toppers and keychains, the standard fidget spinner gets a makeover. And promos have gone a step further in bringing technology into the mix. The latest in fidget spinners offers useful features like a USB hub or a three-in-one cell phone charger. Pretty nifty.

3) Sleek & Thin

Thin is in! With the advances in technology allowing us to do more with less, it was only a matter of time before the promotional product industry caught up. Thinner power banks, sleeker USB hubs and smaller charging stations are not only desirable, but necessary with today’s slim laptops and tight spaces.

4) Wireless & Wearable Technology

Speaking of technology… wireless and wearable tech is all the rage right now. From speakers, chargers and power banks to the selfie ring light, wireless is where it’s at. And now we’re finding that promos are taking this concept to the next level with not just wireless, but also wearable technology items like backpacks and briefcases with charging capabilities as well as Bluetooth beanies and water bottles, both with built-in speakers. The beanies even have headphone/microphone capabilities for hands-free phone calls… from your hat…Talk about unique!

5) Safety & Security

With great technology comes great safety concerns. Cyber security is a huge issue that can affect anyone, not just celebrities and politicians. Promotional products that speak to these concerns are on trend because of it. Products like webcam covers, mic blockers and RFID wallets help protect against identity theft and cyber spying. Having that piece of mind is priceless.

6) Kitchen & Houseware

We are finding items that bring people together are very popular right now. Whether for the holidays, special occasions or simple dinner parties, entertaining pieces and cooking utensils are all welcomed commodities. The Sweda® brand has received tons of positive feedback as the cost-effective choice of kitchenware while Logomark products boast a high-end feel of Crate-and-Barrel-inspired housewares. Let your budget and target audience guide you.

7) Apparel

Apparel is one of those things that never goes out of style. Promotional apparel is trending year after year… and for good reason… everyone loves a free t-shirt, hat or hoodie. Of course there is so much more to wearables, and that’s why you can never go wrong with this category.

8) Bold Colors & Retro Patterns

From plaid and heathered to speckled and camo, bold, retro patterns and colors are so in right now. Not only are patterns hot, but textures are as well. Fabric-wrapped technology and mixed-material products are taking off this year. The Pantone Color Institute has declared the 2018 color of the year to be Ultra Violet – and the promo industry is following suit with this bold selection. Purples, pinks, yellows – all good choices. Metallic and chrome are also trending.

9) Wellness

When we think of wellness, we often think of physical health, but there is a lot more to wellness than being fit. And 2018 is standing up and taking notice. The PPAI Expo showed a theme of holistic wellness… wellness of the whole person… mind, body and spirit. The promos to reflect this trend include things like essential oils, yoga products and vegan leather items. Minimalistic products featuring organic or natural materials also show strong promise as well as anything that promotes getting back to nature, fresh air and reducing stress.

10) Cause Marketing

Many suppliers are taking a page out of the retail space’s book when it comes to doing good. Cause marketing is more than just a trend. It’s a step in the right direction. And it’s the new norm. So PPAI suppliers are getting on board. Basically what cause marketing means is that marketing for a for-profit product or business somehow benefits a nonprofit charity or supports a social cause in some way. There are several different ways you can go about cause marketing – any of which would speak volumes for your brand!

If you want to light it up, step it up and demand attention, choose a product that is trending in 2018. Now is the time to do it. To think outside the box and go beyond your comfort zone. The year is young… and you’re just getting started. So go for it! Trends matter… Make your brand matter too.


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