With April almost upon us it’s a good time to reflect on the 1st quarter of 2011 and look at what early trends are emerging in the promotional USB flash drive market.

Overall the market remains buoyant with sales of branded USB flash drives running at higher levels than during the same period of 2010. Given the recent challenges in the market following the disaster in Japan its perhaps surprising that volumes have not only held up but have exceeded those of a year ago. All indications are that this early momentum will continue throughout 2011 resulting in another record-breaking year for the humble, but ever so popular USB flash drive.

The fundamental drivers behind this continued growth are falling prices, larger memory sizes (at a better price), continued innovation in the design of flash drives (shapes, styles, materials) and an un-quenched appetite from consumers for flash drives.

As prices fall and larger memory sizes of USB flash drives become more affordable we’re also seeing some cannibalisation of the CD and DVD market. Increasingly promotional USB memory sticks are loaded with sales brochures, PDFs, movie clips, web links and so on before they are distributed. The savings made by not printing and transporting large sales brochures and technical data sheets can often more than offset the cost of buying the branded USB sticks and this, when it’s realised, again fuels the demand.

The most popular models of USB flash drives so far in 2011 are:

  1. Twister USB Flash Drive – This is an old favourite and continues to be in high demand. It’s a simple, small and portable product that takes print well, can be supplied with a pantone matched body shell and is also available with a range of different colours clips (the bits that rotate or “twist” around the shell to form the cap)

    Twister USB Flash Drives

    Twister USB Flash Drives

  2. Credit Card USB Flash Drives – These have been around for a couple of years but it’s the introduction of the new thin series (only 2mm thick) that has pushed sales forward. With plenty of space to print onto its possible to achieve some stunning effects with these USB cards.

    Credit Card Flash Drives

    Credit Card Flash Drives

  3. Bamboo and Wooden USB flash Drives – For any company that is pushing an “eco-friendly” message then these wooden and bamboo USB sticks are ideal. There’s no compromise on the overall aesthetic or performance and they can be supplied in recycled packaging as well just to reinforce the “eco” message.

    Wooden USB Twister

    Bamboo USB Twister

In the future expect USB 3.0 USB flash drives (these are drives that use the new Superspeed protocol) to start to gain a foothold in the market. At the moment the price premium for these versions mean very few are being used by the promotional sector but it’s a fast moving market and by the end of 2011 things could look very different.