Predicting Promo Trends for 2020: How’d We Do?

Last updated: 01-02-2021

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Predicting Promo Trends for 2020: How’d We Do?

In January, we made predictions about what products would be the hottest in 2020. To recap that blog, which you can read here, this was our promo trend forecast: sustainable products, socks, tech products, and water bottles.

And then… the rest of 2020 happened.

There’s no way we could have predicted a pandemic that would shut down in-person events and stretch on for months on end – we’re promo experts, not virus experts. The massive disruption in everyone’s normal lives spurred by the pandemic changed the promotional products landscape in 2020 from late March until now. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know what products ended up being the hottest in 2020:

Love them or hate them, masks are the promotional product that defined 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic era, as hard as it is to believe now, masks were hard to find and difficult to come by. Many people sewed their own at home while manufacturers worked out how to produce them on a large scale. Now, you can walk into any Target and be greeted with an endcap full of decorated masks or buy masks as merch from your favorite bands and artists with just a click. Masks were even the second-most searched product category overall in SAGE! Practically every brand under the sun has ordered a mask with their logo on it this year, making masks truly the hottest product of 2020.

Hand sanitizer, on the other hand (no pun intended), has always been a promotional product staple. In fact, when the industry struggled to handle the insanely high demand for hand sanitizer in March, many of us probably dug a branded bottle of the stuff out of our backpacks to have on hand. Now, with the demand and supply of hand sanitizers both under control, it’s one of the most searched and most popular products in SAGE. There was even a 341% increase in searches for hand sanitizer over 2019!

Logoed masks weren’t the only new promotional product to be met with massive popularity this year. Once the lockdowns started being implemented across the country in mid/late-March, funny little gadgets called no-touch keychains started popping up on the market. Designed to allow the user to open doors and press buttons in public spaces without having to physically touch anything, these quirky keychains quickly skyrocketed in reputation.

The promotional products industry overall was rattled by the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s not to say that “regular” promotions didn’t carry on like usual. Products like water bottles, shirts, reusable bags, and pens still rank among the most popular and most purchased products for the year. Even with mask mania this year, bags were still the top searched category in SAGE.

So, in some ways, our 2020 predictions were correct. Water bottles, one of the items we predicted would be popular this year, have been a work-from-home care kit staple and rank among the top ten product categories. While we wrote that tech items would be hot because of their power to go viral, it was tech products like webcam covers and USB hubs that made virtual school and meetings possible.

Check back with us in 2021 to see what we predict for next year’s hottest products!


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