Thumb Drives, Flash Drives, Memory Sticks

We’ve been asked what is the difference between a thumb drive, a flash drive and a memory stick.

For promotional products, the terms are used interchangeably, referring to a promotional item that stores information and plugs into the USB port of a computer. The flash drive / thumb drive/ memory stick has a logo or other imprinted graphic and is used for both practical data storage needs and promotional marketing needs. However, if we want to get technical, the differences are:

Memory Sticks

The “true” Memory Stick was a simple memory card introduced by Sony in 1998. It morphed over the years and become a type of SD card. The real “Memory Stick” is now an SD card used primarily for cameras and digital video recording devises. A Sony Memory Stick requires and adapter to plug into a standard USB port on computers to transfer data.

USB Flash Drive - Retract

USB Flash Drives

USB Flash Drive technically refers to the technology that combines flash memory storage and an integrated USB connector. When we think of promotional flash drives, this is the actual product that is being described. With the imagination and creativity in the technology sector, many versions of the USB Flash Drive have been created.


ThumbDrive is a brand name created by Trek Technologies for the first commercial USB Flash Drive. As the first to come to market with the technology in 2000, they have the honor of becoming the “kleenex” of flash drives. The brand name and the category are nearly synonymous today.

The latest development in Flash Drives is the 1TB capacity flash drive released in 2013. Rumor has it that a 2TB capacity flash drive is not far off.

To be sure we are discussing the right item, we preface Flash Drive, Thumb Drive or memory stick with terms such as ‘promotional’, ‘imprinted’, ‘custom’, ‘logo’, or ‘branded’.

Neat Twist to the Custom USB Flash Drive

When we work with clients to a design Custom USB flash drive, we normally look at imprinting or etching the design on the material. This works well. But, with Baby Face Portraits, we had a neat opportunity to use printed label stickers.

The process of applying stickers works a best when the flash drive shape has a flat surface, in this case somewhat recessed. This particular design was full color process and included nuances of shape, lines and colors.



As the surface is twisted, the USB Flash Drive extends from the side of the unit. This protects the flash drive when not in use and makes it very convenient to carry.

Baby Face Portraits uses the custom USB flash drive to share the image files with their customers. It is a great way to ensure the images are continually associated with the company, and adds some extra value to their customers who can use the flash drive for purposes in addition to storing the image files.

See why USB Credit Card Flash Drives are a best seller

Credit card usb flash drives are among our best sellers. The attraction is the versatility of the credit card shape. With the large flat surface, nearly anything can be imprinted.

The three styles are the  metallic usb flash drive,  the click card usb and the flipper credit card usb. With the click card flash drive, the usb slides out of the card, and then ‘clicks’ back into it for safe keeping. With the flipper, the usb drive remains connected to the card, and simply ‘flips’ the usb out and then flips it back in. The metallic is… well, metallic.

Our customers have used these flash drives in some really creative ways. While it has nearly always involved sharing information, you can see how the medium becomes the message with the credit card flash drive’s large imprint area.

Examples of USB Credit Card Flash Drives

Citizen, ever the classic watch really says fashion with the way the artwork applied. This is a full color print on a white body.


citizen usb credit card flash drive

IBIS really made their credit card usb stand out with deep contrast of blue on white. This really took advantage of full color printing on the white body to make the creative pop.

IBIS credit card flash drive

IBIS credit card flash drive

The x-lite creative tells you what the product is. If your product is not well understood or know, using the creative to communicate what you do is key. X-lite does this phenomenally well with their flash drive creative.


xlite usb credit card flash drive

There is something about a metal surface the implies strength. Shake The Nation used this to its fullest with the credit card usb flash drive.

Shake the Nation credit card flash drive

Shake the Nation credit card flash drive

Photography reproduces very well on on the body of the flash drive. On this example the Littleton/englewood credit card usb applies four photos and all look really sharp. On the opposite side, they provide a wealth of contact information in addition to the files saved onto the drive itself.

city of littleton-englewood-full color print-usb credit card

city of littleton-englewood-full color print-usb credit card

The Terri Lynne foundation makes a striking impression for their charity event. This credit card flash drive used deep red to stand out.


Terri lLynne child foundation-credit card-flash drive

Terri Lynne Child Care foundation-credit card-flash drive

Finally, simple can also be impactful. This World Bank associated charity is clear on the association and the purpose with simple artwork and copy.


The World Bank- Poverty Lab - credit card usb

The World Bank- Poverty Lab – credit card usb

For creativity, the credit card usb flash drive  really can’t be beat. If you are interested in a project with the credit card usb flash drive Contact us,  we’d love to work with you.

Custom Shaped Flash Drives: Under Armour Fast

Under Armour’s SpeedForm Apollo “THIS IS WHAT FAST FEELS LIKE” Campaign  is one of the most innovative, creative projects for which we developed one of our custom shaped flash drives.  Art and Design by Chichi Bello, with the creative direction of Sean Flannagan, this packaging was phenomenal.

The design team for the packaging was brilliantly creative in the unconventional shoebox shape, product presentation and “extras”, include a custom shaped flash drives created by iPromo at their direction. The images below take you through the components of the packaging as well as the video for the campaign. The flash drive is right in line with the overall design of the program.

The custom shaped usb flash drive design was intricate and required multiple iterations to match the look and feel the design team created. When it was done, the custom flash drives fit beautifully with the packaging concept.

Under Armour  Custom Flash Drive 1 Under Armour  Custom Flash Drive 2

Under Armour Shoe box Concept Under Armour Shoe box elenents

You will see the likeness to the Jet at the end of this Under Armour SpeedForm Apollo video:

When you consider the different applications for custom usb flash drives, this shows how integrating multiple features into a single package concept is very powerful. The custom shape flash drive is cool, but the real impact comes from the totality of the elements in this unique shoe box.