Who can forget the Andrex

puppy, which brought the brand to life and gave millions of consumers a cuddly soft toy?

What about the free pashmina that came with the Comfort fabric softener? And the DVD with your Sunday newspaper?

With this in mind, I was surprised to hear a senior member of the

grocery industry asking: "Aren't consumers fed up with on-pack promotions?" Nothing could be further from the truth.

On-pack merchandise promotions offer a focused marketing tool that is highly effective in influencing purchasing decisions.

Marketers are facing huge competition for consumer attention and these promotions are a major force in creating sales.

Just look at all the activity that has just taken place for the Christmas period. But I could not help feeling that much of the activity could have been more effective if it had included a greater presence for on-pack promotions featuring appealing and memorable collectable items.

Consumers are exposed to sales incentives more than ever before. Supermarkets and brands are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves on variables other than price.

Consumers aren't fed up with promotions at all - they love

anything free, at a discount or offering added value, even if it is just a wallchart.

Promotions are also more relevant to brands than ever before. Own label is more prevalent, so grocery brands need to differentiate themselves.

The British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA)

promotes adding value to the brand rather than destroying its profitability through discounting.

Brands should be investing in promotional on-pack merchandise to give sales promotions added value.

Unilever recently ran an effective on-pack promotion featuring penguin characters from the Warner Brothers movie Happy Feet, with penguin toys on-pack and in-pack with the product.

It was an example of above-the-line media working with a below-the-line medium through on-pack.

Few remember when they receive a slight price discount on their washing powder but they do remember and appreciate a promotional toy. Proven sales promotion mechanics will work well time and again if the premium and the context is right.

The BPMA message being driven home to member companies is that improved quality and relevance of promotional products is important. On-pack merchandise-based promotions have had to improve as consumers have become more discerning.

Brands and their marketers are investing more in promotional products to ensure longevity and retention while trying to make them relevant to the brand they're accompanying.

Promotional on-pack merchandise is a growth area and new ideas will knock old ones off the shelf as they continue to vie for consumer attention.

Merchandise-based on-pack promotions are important in selling consumer goods. They offer value, competitive marketing and consumer satisfaction.

The concept has smartened up and broadened its offering, which should not be underestimated. So get your happy feet moving!