Heidi Thorne is a promotional products expert and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business.
Promotional stress balls have been a popular advertising tool for years. It is simply a dense foam rubber or filled (usually filled with beads or gel) shape that quickly returns to its original form after being squeezed in the hand. The theory is that squeezing the ball helps reduce tension and stress, particularly for office workers who experience muscle stiffness and soreness in the fingers and hands from repetitive computer work. For some, this squeezing activity can also reduce emotional stress.
Early stress balls were literally ball shaped. Over the years, though, the shapes morphed into just about anything imaginable, making them an ideal way to interpret a company's brand into a 3D object. While this expanded marketing, advertising, and branding possibilities, it also expanded the liabilities from using them as well.
Analyze Your Audience
The first step in choosing promotional stress balls is determining who will be receiving it. Some ideal audiences for these would be:
- Office workers who might be prone to suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive motion injuries. Stress balls can provide a much needed exercise break for the hands.
- Stress reduction programs.
- Fitness or healthcare providers who may be working with people who are battling stiffness or who wish to build strength and flexibility in the hands and wrists.
To add even more marketing impact, instead of just handing them out to everyone, use the stress balls as part of an event or activity. An example would be to use them as part of a health workshop or discussion on stress reduction. Any time you can increase the number of senses involved (in this case, touch), you can increase the likelihood that they'll remember the concepts, the promotion, and your business.
Choose a shape that relates to your brand or the theme of your event to support your overall marketing message.
Promotional Stress Ball Concerns for Pets
Never Give Stress Balls to These Groups
Notice that there are two groups not included on the above list of ideal recipients: children and pets.
There are several reasons why it is dangerous to do so:
- Not CPSIA Compliant. Since promotional stress balls are not manufactured as toys, they do not have to meet U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) guidelines. However, because many of these shapes are small enough to be handled by children, and are often made with bright colors and into characters that would appeal to children, they could be classified as toys if given to children. This is a massive legal gray area for the promotional industry. Is the item a toy or a promotional item? Even if a marketer distributes them to adults, often they are given to children or pets to play with as toys.
- Choking Hazards. Even though stress balls are built to take quite a bit of handling and squeezing, if exposed to sharp objects or are bitten, they can shred or burst (for bead or gel filled styles) and present a choking hazard to both children and pets.
- Ingestion Hazards. On top of choking hazards, the stress ball materials and imprinting inks may not be non-toxic, possibly causing illness if ingested. As well, if enough of a shredded ball is ingested, it could become lodged in a child's or pet's digestive tract.
Scared yet? As a marketer, you should be. Imagine if a customer has a claim against your company for harm done to a child or pet because of a stress ball. You'll lose more than your brand. You could lose your business, too. Marketers who want to use stress balls should carry adequate liability insurance to cover this eventuality.
Promotional Product Issues for Children
Stress Ball Safety Tips for Businesses
So how can you use promotional stress balls to build your brand, but still protect yourself and your customers?
- No Kids, No Pets, No Kidding. NEVER give any type of stress ball to children or pets.
- Include a Warning. While it will do little to protect you legally from a potential lawsuit, include a "This is not a toy. Do not give to children or pets." notice along with your regular imprint. Sure, it takes up imprint space, but at least it puts recipients on alert.
- Cover Yourself. Discuss your stress ball use and concerns with your commercial liability insurance provider and add appropriate coverage, especially if you are planning on extensive distribution.
- Make Sure It Is Relevant to Your Marketing Message and Purpose. If it will be used specifically for stress reduction or hand exercise use for adults, and you make it obvious that it is for this purpose, then a stress ball is a reasonable choice. (Include the warning text no matter what.) If not, choose something else.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 29, 2015:
Hello Kristen! Glad you found the tips helpful. Stress balls can be a tricky promo buy. Thanks so much for your support. Have a wonderful week ahead!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 29, 2015:
Great hub, Heidi. Nice tips on what those stress balls are used for and what they're not used for. Voted up!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2013:
@Careermommy, thanks for the comment! And there are literally hundreds of shapes of these available to fit into just about any branding scheme. As long as they're given to and used by adults (not kids or pets), they're a cool and useful promotional tool. Cheers!
Tirralan Watkins from Los Angeles, CA on March 15, 2013:
Heidi, this is a great little item to give to customers. My customers would love this, and in today's economy there are a lot of people looking to relieve stress.