For such a small and simple object, the promotional bag has a potential to have a many layered effect on its environment. It can advertise, it can endorse (which is a higher form of advertising) and it can, of course, simply carry.
To understand the effect promotional bags may have on their environment, t can be useful to do some lateral thinking. Let’s start by imagining a typical physical shopping environment. This is the place where promotional bags are most likely to be found. When you shop online, you might get a branded packet but you don’t get a bag – because you are not likely to be carrying your parcel anywhere.
The typical shopping environment does one of two things – it either contains multiple stores, or just one. The single store environment is commonly a supermarket – most other large stores cluster together in industrial estates and retail parks. So we can except the supermarket from our general example, as a unique shop type.
Supermarkets fulfil a specific and unalterable human need – the need for food. Their bags are often seen only by other shoppers at the same supermarket, unless the shopper then walks through the street with them (unlikely when a weekly shop has just been done) or gets on a form of public transport. Where most people are driving to and from a supermarket, the advertising value of its promotional bags becomes almost zero, Instead, they serve as a reminder to the shopper to use the same supermarket again next week – particularly if they then kick about the house for seven days, being reused as bin bags.
Outside of this atypical shopping environment, though, we have the norm of a cluster of shops. It is reasonable to assume that a large percentage of the people passing through the mule-shop environment (whether it is a high street or a retail park) are there for the purpose of shopping.
Where these people see large concentrations of promotional bags from a single shop in their immediate environment, the existence of that shop begins to extend beyond its own boundaries. It is no longer true that shoppers have to be looking for it, or to walk past it before they think about it. If every other person they pass is carrying a bag emblazoned with its logo, they’ll be thinking about it way before they see it.
Now let us assume that a person who has come out with the express purpose of shopping is already in a spending frame of mind. Therefore, any “endorsements” he or she sees from other shoppers (who are, however temporarily, effectively part of a clan or tribe whose purpose is to shop) for specific stores may make a subliminal difference between the shops he or she chooses to go in and the ones he or she does not.
All of this is predicated in the idea that the shops whose promotional bags our hypothetical shopper is now seeing, have already raised their brand profile through other advertising avenues. The combination of these two events may prompt a shopper to choose one over another.