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Specialty Advertising: Promotional Items

Another communication technique consists of conveying a message or a brand name by means of a utilitarian item. A French publication breaks down industry advertising spending in the early 20th century as follows: 40% for newspaper ads, 20% for catalogues and fliers, 25% for posters and 15% for other supports, including utilitarian items. The first use of pens for promotion dates to 1918, when matchbooks were also among the most popular giveaway items. Since then, the practice known as specialty advertising has spread to a wide and diverse range of products.

Dawes Black Horse Brewery used numerous branded utilitarian items to advertise its flagship beer. These items fall into in three categories: beer service items (mugs, glasses, coasters, trays, bottle openers), personal promotional accessories (ashtrays, matches, pocketknives, key rings) and promotional items (calendars, clocks, playing cards, postcards). They promoted the brand and increased consumer awareness. The main advantage of utilitarian items was their durability. Generally designed for frequent use, they made the brand a long-lasting presence in a household’s daily life. In this way, the brand became familiar and the chance that it would be chosen on a grocery store shelf or a restaurant menu increased considerably.

The promotional items followed the visual identity rules that applied to all Black Horse advertising. The black Percheron profile was reproduced on most items whose shape and size permitted. Green, the colour associated with the Black Horse brand, was widely used. Occasionally, items were stamped only with the Black Horse brand name. 

Brewers’ Choice

Specialty advertising has not changed much since the days of Black Horse beer. Giveaway pens, calendars, playing cards, coasters and mugs are still common, but a few more modern items have been added, such as refrigerator magnets, T-shirts and beach chairs. Conversely, some items have lost favour over the years, notably the ashtray. Apparel and accessories bearing a brewery or brand name are among the most popular utilitarian products.

The catalogues of companies that distribute promotional items tout their benefits: “Make a lasting impression with this travel mug,” “Your logo shines on this can cooler,” “Make an energetic statement with this promotional pen,” “Double the impact of your message with this pencil/highlighter combo.”