We were recovering some data from an old PC hard drive this morning and came across a load of old photographic proofs of promotional USB flash drives we produced almost a decade ago. It’s amazing how quickly the last 10 years have gone and interesting to see how the market for printed and promotional USB flash drives has developed during this time.
In the early years we were selling a range of USB products (including USB flash drives) under the brand name of DirectUSBStore. In those days flash drives were still relatively new, most of them were USB 1.0 (and then USB 1.1) rather than the faster USB 2.0 standard that is commonly used today. What’s perhaps more interesting is that the typical USB flash drive memory sizes ranged from 16MB to 128MB. Contrast this to today where 4GB is pretty much the de facto standard!
Customers that were buying USB flash drives were typically “early adopters” and although it’s not very PC to say it they were purchased mainly by men, and men who liked to be the first to get their hands on new “tech” – so nothing much has changed there then!
USB Flash drives were pretty slow to take off partly because they were still relatively expensive (the price for a 128MB was around £30 – £50 depending on the model and functionality). In contrast Zip Drives, Floppy Drives and CD’s were much cheaper, they held more data and most PC’s that were shipping around the time still had floppy diskette drives.
The dull design and styling of early flash drives did not help with customer adoption. Most of them were pretty basic and compared to today’s flash drives they were large, “chunky” and not particularly great to print or engrave a logo onto. What they did have going for them was ease of use, portability and as the memory sizes increased, the ability to carry significantly more data than you could fit onto multiple floppy disk drives. The roll-out of USB ports onto all PC’s also ensured that flash drives could be used on pretty much any PC; be that at home, work or school.
The high cost of the drives meant that only a handful of companies bought them for promotional use, some would get them printed with their logo on for internal distribution. Occasionally we’d get request from companies that planned to use them to target “early adopter” consumers or clients. Most of these companies were themselves high tech companies that wanted to use a promotional product that illustrated their “high-tech” credentials.
Roll the clock forward 10 years and most people under the age of 20 won’t know what a floppy disk drive or zip drive is! It’s amazing that in just a few short years these once ubiquitous storage products have been consigned to the bin. Today sales ofCD’s and DVD’s (for data storage) are in steep decline having been usurped by the king of storage – the USB Flash drive.
Today, USB Flash drives are a common business tool and are on the “kit list” for most schools and universities. They have also become one of the most given and most sought after promotional products with millions given away every year.
Their popularity has been underpinned by falling prices, larger memory sizes and the development of a phenomenal range of styles and designs. USB flash drives are now within financial reach of pretty much everyone and the type of flash drive used by someone can say as much about their style and fashion habits as their clothing.
Around 2006, DirectUSBStore spun off a two separate businesses; USBNow to focus on the supply of USB products and peripherals and USB2U to handle the massive growth in demand for branded and promotional USB sticks. Today USB2U is widely regarded as the number one supplier in the UK and as a business we are looking forward to seeing what storage technology we’ll all be using in 10 years’ time.