When Toyota promoted its 2006 Lexus RX 350 sports utility vehicle in a U.S. mass mailing, it didn’t print up glossy brochures and cram them into bulky envelopes. Instead, it sent out 21,000 promotional USB flash drives, which go by such names as thumb drive, pen drive, jump drives and USB flash drive, devices smaller than cigarette lighters.
While some recipients may have been confused at first, they surely caught on when they pulled off a plastic cap and found a familiar USB plug. Sticking the plug into a computer USB port, they gained access to the device and its contents: RX 350 pictures, video clips, interactive demos and more. Lexus isn’t the only company that is handing out such gizmos like candy.
The Promotional USB Flash Drive, which keeps digital data in non-mechanical “flash” memory, has displaced the venerable CD-Rom as a convenient means for transporting and distributing computer files. As a result, promotional USB flash drives have become popular among companies that distribute promotional materials by mail, trade shows or in meetings to clinch deals. Promotional USB flash drives are becoming the new darlings of conventions and trade shows, largely because of their increasing ubiquity and affordability. About 30 million were sold worldwide last year, including about 5 million in the United States.