As the American government faces cutbacks, President Obama has told government agencies to reduce spending on ‘extraneous promotional items’ such as mouse pads and coffee mugs. It’s not quite as silly as it sounds: each department is required to demonstrate how it’s going to reduce wasteful spending and/or create more efficient ways of operating.

Commemorative gifts such as backpacks have been ruled out except for where such an item has a clear purpose so that the logo-emblazoned baseball caps and printed T-shirts many American agencies give away to both staff and visitors may now become rare items. However some branded clothing has been given a special status: the printed jackets FBI agents wear on raids will remain because they are classed as ‘essential work-related clothing’.

So how can the average business be sure that it’s not wasting money on inappropriate branded clothing? Customer or staff research in advance of placing an order is key to getting it right. There’s no point designing and printing hundreds of bags for your customers if they actually prefer to carry backpacks. If your staff wear baseball caps and you order beanie hats, you’re likely to find that your investment is wasted.

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