A Fast Company article published last week derided promotional products, criticizing their environmental footprint and mischaracterizing the industry as one that sells its products solely in a race to the bottom with pricing. In a letter to the magazine and in a post on his blog, PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, pushed back against the article’s message and its excess of misconceptions and criticism about the industry.

“The influence of promotional products cannot be underestimated,” Bellantone wrote. “They are a strategic and influential medium that resonates with our audiences. Promotional products are welcome in places and spaces no other advertising medium can touch and deliver pass-along rates that are the envy of the advertising industry.”

Bellantone’s letter highlights PPAI’s research showing that more than 65 percent of advertisers cite promotional products as highly effective in reaching consumers and contributing to brand recall, and 88 percent of marketers recommend them. Unlike what the article suggests, promotional products are not toss-away items—in fact, more than 80 percent of promotional products are used for more than a year because they are useful. Also, 83 percent of consumers have a more favorable impression of the advertiser when promotional products are used, and that increases to 88 percent for Millennials. Additionally, eight out of 10 consumers pass along promotional products versus throwing them away.

“Our industry has evolved and grown over time, and consumer preferences and behaviors have also changed,” Bellantone’s letter said. “We have pioneered many studies as an industry, and at PPAI, to ensure we keep up with our end-users and to understand the role promotional products can play within their current lifestyles. Most modern promotional products are designed to be useful, practical and enjoyable—their shelf life is far more extensive than meets the eye. For example, the ‘flimsy totes’ we receive at conferences have become more and more useful with the adoption of plastic bag bans that are rolling out in states across the U.S. Many consumers have made them an essential part of their everyday lives. Our industry has also connected to consumers’ tech-savvy side by integrating technologies such as AR and Near Field Communication, which will only continue to advance in the future.”

Bellantone’s blog post also addresses the reporter’s main points: the environmental footprint of promotional products. He wrote, “As the leading voice for the promotional products industry, PPAI is committed to making a positive impact on the global environmental crisis. We have identified environmental responsibility as a core pillar, with mandatory product responsibility education and the ongoing development and sharing of best practices with our members and industry partners so they can recognize and address the impacts of their operations and supply chain on the environment. This is not restricted to emissions reduction or lowering the impact of manufacturing, but also encompasses a larger set of affirmative protocols that promote human rights, and worker health and safety.

“With the right resources and tools, promotional products organizations have been adopting policies to offer more environmentally-conscious assurances for their customers and employees. From green and compostable products to sustainable textiles, the promotional products industry has taken a proactive stance—including a ‘green’ pavilion at our annual exposition—in bringing to market products that make the consumers’ experience more enjoyable and better for the environment.”

Bellantone added, “As we always say, promotional products are truly the only advertising medium that reaches all five senses, plus a sixth—the sense of ownership for consumers. We do not want to deprive the majority of consumers—83 percent—who enjoy and are inspired to take action upon receiving a promotional product. Rather, we want to grow and evolve along with them so both brands and their audiences can continue to see this as a positive advertising medium in all aspects of their lives.”