The best promotional pieces are the ones that meet several sales and marketing objectives at once--like Munton's. For more than 40 years, this British producer of malt has spent the lion's share of its marketing budget on a customized desk calendar that goes beyond the predictable scenic photos and company logo. Its leather-bound edition, containing 12 essays written by managers at Munton's, is distributed to key personnel at breweries, distilleries, confectionery companies, and to food giants such as Nestlé. "The quality of the calendar communicates that we are a quality supplier," says Andrew Shelley, group managing director of marketing.

While the essays give customers around the globe a close-up look at what's happening at the company, the writing assignment also gives managers a break from their routines--and motivates them during the year to accomplish something worth reporting in the calendar. One essay, by a food-industry marketing manager, tells about the company's pioneering effort to introduce malt as an ice-cream flavor in South America; another describes the leading-edge agricultural techniques that provide a consistent supply of high-quality product.

Each essay is accompanied by a professional photograph. "This calendar helps bring the company to life for our customers throughout the year," says Laurence Moses, senior sales director, who adds that it also distinguishes Munton's as a premium source of malt.

The company prints 1,000 calendars at a cost of $15,000. In addition, as major corporations become increasingly strict about the types of items their buyers can receive during the holiday season, its calendar is a safe gift.