are so welcome and thanks so much for all your help.
You were a pleasure to work with and offer great products and services!
I will absolutely let you know when we have a need for the next
Jean Boland, VP-Leadership Development, Focus
Brands - Moe's, Carvel, Cinnabon, Seattle's Best Coffee, Schlotzsky's
Each month, as part of our monthly e-newsletter, we provide advice to our clients to help them improve
their return on their promotional product expenditures. If you
would like to learn how to increase the effectiveness of what you give,
reduce costs and mistakes, and stay current on industry trends, rely on
our over decade of experience. Subscribe
Date to Your Imprint Could Cause You to Waste Money Unnecessarily
We produce a lot
of imprinted gifts and apparel for events - graduations,
conferences, annual dinners, grand openings, etc. Often,
clients ask about including the date of the event as part of their
imprint. We generally advise against this for three
1. The number of attendees who
show up for an event can vary, sometimes significantly, from projected
estimates. If you guessed too high and the item or clothing you've
chosen to give away has a specific date on it, you can't use
the leftovers for any other purpose.
2. If the dated
imprint forces you to order only what you need for that event,
you may be just short of a quantity price break that would allow you
to reduce your price each. For instance, 450 of the item may be $3.75
while 500 may be only $3.25.
3. The date can
limit the exposure you get from recipients wearing or using the item
in the future. People will wear a shirt or use a backpack or
tote bag for years if it has their college or a company logo on it.
Wearing something from an event that organization sponsored four years
ago, however, clearly communicates to the public how old the item
Including a date isn't
always a bad idea. But if you choose to do so, be aware of the
Salesperson Should Ask as Many Questions as Your Doctor
you visited a doctor, and he or she made a
recommendation to you without asking any questions beforehand
about your situation, would you take his or her advice
or continue to go there? Would you trust a car mechanic who
wrote up a repair ticket without first finding out more about your
these scenarios seem obvious, buyers of promotional
products do this every day by purchasing from local salespeople
who show them a catalog and ask only one question, "What do
you're looking for ideas for an upcoming program or event, there
are several questions you should be asked so that the most
appropriate recommendation can be made for your specific need:
To whom will these be given?
How and where will they be presented?
What would those recipients find practical and useful and really
What is your budget for the project?
Do you have a theme or message you'd like to communicate?
Can you share the art you'd like to use?
Are there other marketing materials with which this should be
you want to improve your results, do business with a company
that cares enough about those results to ask you
the questions necessary to determine what solution will be
the best fit for you.
Choosing the Shape of An Item Can Improve Your Impact and Results
We are currently
working with an educational client who wanted to do a
paperweight to communicate their new logo to donors and other
VIPs. Their previous paperweight was oval in shape. This
resulted in their circular logo being only an inch in
diameter and there being much unused space on the rest of the
We advised switching to a circular
shape paperweight so that their new logo, also circular in
shape, would fill the entire face of the item. As a result,
their imprint increased in size from one inch to over three - tripling
the visual impact of the piece.
What you want to imprint
on your gift should play a significant role in the decision
making process of what to give. If your logo is square shaped, a small
horizontally shaped item is not going to communicate it very well. A
long horizontal logo won't look good on a small circular item.
One of the first things we
do when beginning a project with a client is ask to see their art.
Being familiar with it allows us to caution against some ideas
that the client may already have in mind. And, as in the example
above, it gives us the ability to use our experience and product
knowledge to suggest alternatives that may offer a significantly
greater visual impact.
Reasons You Shouldn't Use Catalogs to Look for Imprinted Gift
all feature the same basic items.
Have you ever flipped through several catalogs consecutively and
noticed a pattern? Regardless of the name on the cover, each
features essentially the same most commonly used ad specialty
items. If you've been giving gifts for several years, you may
have even tried every one of them.
2. You Can't Search by Criteria Important to You.
Want to see only items that fit your budget range or come in
your organization's primary colors? Want a Made in USA item
or one that's eco-friendly? You can't do that with a
catalog. Instead, you must waste time flipping through
page after page of ideas that don't meet your needs.
They only feature a limited number of items. If you're
in a shopping mall looking for a gift for a special occasion,
would you prefer your choices be limited to one kiosk or
to have the variety available in a department store? It's
the same with catalogs. If you limit your search for ideas
to what's available there, you're missing out on the much wider
and more creative selection available to you.
contrast to the typical 100+ items a catalog features, the
industry database we use to do research for our clients has over
4000 manufacturers and 800,000 products. If you want
the most creative ideas that will best reinforce your
organization's brand or mission and hold the most appeal to
the specific interests of your target group, catalogs are not the
place to look.
You're Planning to Give in Touch with Changing Trends?
When deciding what to
give, it's natural to show preference for products you are familiar
with and have used for years. Depending on your target recipient
group, however, this may not be the wisest criteria to rely on.
The examples below are not absolutes, but general examples of
differences based on age.
Over 40 - likely to make
coffee at home or office and drink from a mug
Under 40 - likely to buy
coffee at Starbucks or a coffee shop and drink coffee in a disposable
Over 40 - likely to pay
many bills using a checkbook
Under 40 - rarely use a
checkbook and pay everything possible online
Over 40 - likely to use a
watch, wall or desk clock to tell time
Under 40 - uses cell/smart
phone to tell time and may not even own a watch
Some of this is common
sense and can be deduced simply by looking around. But it's also where
relying on an experienced company for advice can confirm or challenge
Continuing education through
attending industry shows and reading industry magazines combined with
our service to customers in every state keeps us aware of changes
in purchasing preferences. We are then able to share those with our
clients to insure their gifts are well received and their results
Knowing Where Your Order is Produced Could Cost You Dearly
when people choose to shop for imprinted items or apparel on their own
rather than asking a salesperson for creative suggestions, "per price
each" is the only factor they compare. $.99 for a mug on one
site is better than $1.04 for the same mug on a different site, right?
What most sites and catalogs don't show you is where their items are
manufactured. If you're on the east coast and the $.99 mug ships out
of Arizona whereas the $1.04 mugs ship out of Pennsylvania, you're going
to save much more money total with the more expensive mug.
you work with a knowledgeable, experienced sales consultant who cares
about your bottom line - not just taking your order - he or she will
advise you of this. With many promotional products items being
available from more than one manufacturing facility, a salesperson with
access to an industry database can determine the most cost effective
option for you.
gasoline prices and freight costs at record highs, this line item on your
invoice can severely impact your budget. Don't get sucked in by low prices
upfront only to be surprised on the back end by shockingly high shipping
fees. With large, heavy or breakable items, the potential savings can be
in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Happens if You Receive Your Order and Can't Use it the Way You
Recently, I heard
the story of a church that ordered name tags from an
internet site for their greeters and ushers. They chose the
option of a magnetic back so that those wearing them would not put holes
in their clothing.
Unfortunately, it was not until they received their order that they
discovered a sticker on the back warning that the nametag should not
be worn by anyone with a pacemaker. Many of the greeters were
elderly, and it was unknown how many had a pacemaker.
Not every situation will
be a matter of life and death, but there are others that could leave
you with boxes of unusable and non-returnable product. For instance,
some license plate frame styles cannot be affixed in certain
states. Essential information on the plate itself is unlawfully
covered. Some states have strict environmental laws that prevent
the distribution of drinkware and other product categories that
don't meet those rules.
With almost a million
products available to be customized with an imprint, no person or
company can know or anticipate all the possible risks with every item. However,
relying on a company with as much industry experience as possible can
reduce the chances of you accidentally ordering something that may not
be appropriate or allowable for your intended use.
You Want Your Gift to Stand Out, Don't Settle for the Basic Style of an
through any promotional products catalog you receive in the mail, and
you'll essentially see the same 50 to 100 items in every one. It's very
convenient to pick out one of the basic pen, mug, highlighter or
mint tin styles they all feature.
Your competition is doing the same thing, however. If they're giving out
the same items during their client or donor visits or at the same fairs and tradeshows you
attend, how will recipients remember yours or favor using it?
you like the idea of giving a particular item, ask your salesperson
what similarly priced options in the same product category are available
that might make your gift unique. For instance, instead of a basic pen,
you might consider a combo writing instrument with a highlighter on
one end and a pen on the other.
Mint tins are available in the shapes of cell phones, computer mice, and
cars. Stress relievers come in hundreds of stock shapes -
any of which are more likely to reinforce the mission and other marketing
of your business or event.
for the plain and ordinary when there are thousands of unique items
available you'll never see in catalogs or on most websites? The
usual goal in giving an item is to build awareness of and name recognition
for your organization. Your effectiveness in doing so - and the
return on your investment - should be improved by making your item more
memorable in some way.
Argument for and Against Consumable Gifts
Imprinted giveaways such
as Post-it notes, hand sanitizer, and candy are among the most popular
in the industry, and for good reason. They are something that nearly
any recipient can use. When evaluated from a different perspective,
however, they have a potential downside.
The most frequent reason for customizing a gift with a logo is to keep
the name of the organization top of mind with the recipient. The above
gifts do so, but for only a short time until they are consumed.
If the goal for what
you give is to remind your target group for as long as possible who
gave them the gift, avoid choosing any type of item that will be
used quickly and then discarded. Instead, select items that
the recipient will use continuously and keep in a visible
A golf ball will eventually be hit in a pond or woods and lost. A
golf towel could stay attached to a bag for years. A car air
freshener will be hung or clipped and visible for a few weeks.
A visor clip that holds a pair of sunglasses will be hung or clipped and
visible for years.
You'll Give a Gift Should Help Determine Which You Choose
you've developed a list of gift ideas you think might work for a
particular purpose or event, it's wise to reconsider them in the context
of how and where you'll give them.
Those logo shaped chocolates might look cute in a catalog. But they
might not look so cute on the opening day of your July conference in Las
Vegas after they've been transported and stored without
luggage tags are a great idea to give out at an event to which recipients
must travel and return home. However, the inexpensive ones are often
shipped unattached in separate bulk bags. If your salesperson
doesn't warn you of this and you envision distributing them as a complete
set, you'll spend all night before the event assembling hundreds or
thousands of them.
Large items like a rolling cooler or stadium chair may be universally
popular. But, if they are to be given by someone who must travel in a car
to visit recipients, you must consider how many will they be able to take
on the road at one time.
of the first questions we ask when discussing a new project is
"For what purpose are these being purchased?" Knowing this
allows us to suggest ideas that will be just as good of an idea once
received as they looked in a PDF presentation.
Color Can Cost the Same as One Color
In the past, a
multiple-color imprint would cost much more than a one color imprint,
especially with the additional set-up charges. Now, new digital printing
technology offers the ability to get complex designs with many colors
for the same or only slightly more than one color.
Don't settle for a boring
bland design on your gift. Making it eye-catching with a more colorful
imprint no longer has to break your budget.
I Place My Order to Avoid Rush Charges and
Improved production at plants have made it possible to get many
items in as little as 24 hours. The majority of gifts, however,
still take 5-10 days production + shipping after art proof approval.
When possible, order at
least one month before your event date. You'll get the widest
selection of ideas possible at the lowest price with allowance for any
issues that may arise due to stock, delivery, etc.
Are You Using
Year-end As An Opportunity to Stay Connected?
Out of sight is out of mind. This cliche has become more true than ever
as people are continuously bombarded with attempts to gain their
attention from old media combined with the new media of text messaging,
If you don't make a deliberate effort to stay in contact with your
clients, donors, alumni, staff, etc., their affiliation with you will
diminish amongst all the clutter. There is perhaps no better time
to say hello, thank you, and "we're thinking of you" than during
While a card communicates that inexpensively, it disappears as soon as
the occasion is over. A strategically chosen gift with your name
and logo on it, however, could be kept by recipients for years.
And you don't have to spend a lot of money to show you remember and
care. Many manufacturers offer 4th quarter specials making it possible
to get a nicer item for less money. December is also the last
opportunity to take advantage of current year prices before they
typically rise with the release of new year catalogs.
So don't miss this opportunity to reach out to your constituents. Build
goodwill, show appreciation, and insure you'll be top of mind with them
in the coming year by remembering them this time of year.
Get Recipients to Advertise Your Organization for Free
Ever see someone wearing a
Harley Davidson jacket or Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and think how lucky
those businesses are that customers actually advertise for them?
Would you like to get hundreds or thousands of people
promoting your organization for free?
You can by carefully
choosing the gift you give. Many items, by their vary nature,
will provide thousands of impressions, potentially over many years, at
no cost to you beyond their initial purchase.
Your logo on a luggage tag or strap, for instance, gets viewed
everywhere the recipient travels. A car window sticker or shade
is seen everywhere they drive. Your logo on apparel is almost at
eye level to every person they greet.
So if such free advertising could benefit you, when deciding what to
give your clients, graduates, volunteers, students, etc., first ask,
"What would they find practical that when used, would be in full view to others
Can you trust your
salesperson to care enough about you, your budget and your results to
warn you when you may be making a bad decision?
Suppose you have an upcoming donor or
client dinner and you've picked out a unique piece of glassware made by
a plant in New Jersey. You're in California. The shipment of wine
glasses across country will be astronomical with some breakage
likely. Will the customer service person at that cool website
you've found online warn you and offer to provide similar glass
styles produced by plants in California?
What if you're planning an upcoming
marketing or college campus event aimed at students aged 18-22 and your
committee members aged 40+ want to give out a CD holder or
checkbook cover? Does your local salesperson care more about
an easy sale than a long term relationship and won't advise you
that teenagers listen to music on iPods not CD's and pay
bills online or with plastic - not checks?
Or, is someone in your office thinking that little multi-purpose tool
with the knife, fingernail file and bottle opener would make a
great idea for your conference attendees? They used to but
not anymore! TSA officials will take every one of them at the
airport security checkpoint.
Although the internet has made it easy to
research ideas, even the flashiest sites don't categorize items by
"good" and "bad" based on the specifics of
your individual audience or event. Relying on experienced professionals who
have managed thousands of projects over a decade will not only
save you enormous amounts of research time, but also protect you from
costly and potentially embarrassing mistakes.
How to Ruin Your Event with
Cheap Gifts Found on the Internet
It's 5:00 and the
banquet hall is being beautifully decorated for tonight's dinner. Two
hundred guests including your top donors or customers will arrive soon
for this annual event. But instead of being at home getting
dressed for the evening, you are still at the office desperately
trying to reach a "live" person at the internet site where you
ordered the gifts and awards for tonight's gala.
Why? Because the gifts still haven't
been delivered. Sure, there were some early warning signs of
potential trouble - exceptionally low prices that seemed too good to be
true, not getting regular updates on the status of your order and the day
or two it took to get a response to email or phone messages. But
their product looked about the same as others you had seen, they had a
really nice website, and you were saving so much money!
Unfortunately, this experience is all too common. It takes little
more than a business license, some business cards and a good web
designer to start an ad specialty business. Many people enter
this industry with no knowledge of the thousands of products
available, experience in art design/brand management, understanding
of the production processes, etc. They will tell you they can get
you anything you want by when you need it and that they'll undercut any
price you can find.
This creates a tough decision for you of
whether to entrust your next event to someone with possibly
little experience in the business, who cares more about getting your
order than getting you results, isn't available when you need to reach
them, or doesn't share your sense of urgency when it comes to your
customers or constituents.
If you would feel less stressed knowing you paid
a competitive price from a company with over a decade of experience,
with whom it is easy to communicate and on whom you can rely to get
your gifts to you on time and done right, I encourage you to give us an
opportunity and see the difference.
Is Searching the Internet for Gift Ideas
the Best Use of Your Time or Your Staff's?
While the proliferation of websites
offering promotional products has made a wider variety of
gifts more accessible than ever, that ease of availability may have
actually increased the time consumed in the research and decision making
knowledge that a multitude of resources is just a click away, you
or your staff may get sucked into spending one or more hours
surfing site after site for the perfect idea. With most office
staffs reduced to the absolute minimum during the recession, however, is
it wise for you to be investing more than a few minutes in a task you
can so easily delegate to outside experts?
In just one short email or phone call, you can share with us the details
of your project, and then move on to the next item on your to do list.
While you're busy working on something else, we'll research what ideas
are most appropriate for your purpose, message, brand or recipients. We
assemble ten to fifteen choices into an easy to scroll PDF
It only costs you another five minutes to review those ideas and ask for additional
information on those that appeal to you most. So with
your next project, try outsourcing to our staff so that you and yours
can get on to the more critical tasks that only you can do.
One Nice Gift Will Cost You Less
& Impress More Than Giving A Few Less Expensive Items
Clients often share with us their budget for
an upcoming program or event and request quotes on several items. While
it can be appealing to some recipients to receive a bag full of
"stuff", for most, the perceived value of the gesture is
Instead, we advise clients to put all of their budget into one nicer
item rather than dividing it among several small. Not only will this make
a higher quality impression on the recipient, it will allow you to have
more of your budget go towards product and less towards fees. How?
When you order three items rather than one, you pay for three
set ups, three art proofs and three shipments. When you order
one item, you can get a more expensive item or larger quantity for
the same total budget expenditure.
Unless your event lends itself to more of a "goodie bag" full
of trinkets for all participants, opt for one gift of value. Our
search engine makes it easy to plug in the quantity you need and
the price you to want to identify the nicest gift possible for your
|Wrong Product at a Cheaper Price Will Cost You More
The proliferation of Internet sites
selling promotional products has made it easier than ever to go online
and find items on sale. Inventory closeouts, in
particular, offer a significant opportunity to save.
While a budget range is likely to guide most purchases for a
program or event, whatever can be found for the cheapest price
shouldn't. As discussed in our What's Hot,
What's Not section below, a round wooden pencil may only cost $.17
each, but will the people who receive it use it?
A vinyl or plastic
key chain may
not cost very much, but what are the odds that the recipient will replace
their current nice engraved metal or LED light key ring
with yours? In either example, pennies saved caused hundreds
or thousands of dollars to be wasted.
Rely on expert advice to select the
right giveaway, not necessarily the cheapest. We can make
recommendations based on your budget range that will increase the
chances of your gift achieving your objective not adding to a landfill.
|Will What You
Give Away Match Your Brand and Image?
Before considering what gifts or apparel to
imprint with your logo, first look at the other media you use for
communicating your brand and image - your website, printed materials,
billboards, business cards, etc. Which main colors are used in
all? What style defines what your organization represents?
The answers to those two questions should guide your evaluation of what
products are most appropriate to use. Example: if your organization's
colors are orange, black and white, choose an umbrella with alternating
panels of at least two of those colors with the imprint in the third.
Or, if you're choosing a polo shirt for your staff, some combination of
those same colors should be all that you consider - with preference
given to the orange because of its distinctiveness.
If your image is "cutting edge", you'll want to convey that
with the style of promotional items you purchase. Example:
choose products with a silver or translucent finish rather than
those of leather or wood. The ultimate test is to spread out on a
table as many representations of your communications as possible
and ask yourself, "Do these all match in color and in style?"
If the answer is "no", you should reconsider your plans.
Request a free consultation with us and share as much of your
media as possible. After a review, we will provide you experienced
advice on ideas that will complement and reinforce your image
Giveaways that Reinforce Your Core Message
When trying to determine the best gift for
your next planned program or event, look first to what message
you're communicating in other media targeted at the same group.
Whenever possible, your giveaways should tie in with and reinforce that
If entering related key words into our search
page returns insufficient results, share your
details with us. We can use our database of over 4400
additional manufacturers to assist you in finding the right idea.
|Rely On a Program or Event's Theme to Make Your Gifts More
Unique and Memorable
Although you're unlikely to see much
beyond the most commonly used items and styles featured in most ad
specialty catalogs, tens of thousands of more unique products -
including themed variations of those popular items - are also available. If
your program or event has a theme, you have an opportunity to make
your gift truly memorable.
Visit the Choose A Theme drop down menu on our search
page to see over 150 themes upon which to base your search. If
our featured products return insufficient results or you don't see your
theme listed, share
the details with us. We can use our database of over 4400
additional manufacturers to find the perfect way to celebrate and
recognize your theme.
|Let How and Where You'll Give a Gift Guide Which You Choose
If at an event like a tradeshow or sales
meeting, you were to give out the classic and ever popular
multi-function pocket knife key chain, what do you think will be the
perception of your organization when recipients have your gift
confiscated from their pockets and purses as they pass through airline
If you've given a ceramic mug to participants at a school
Homecoming or a business conference, how will they feel when they
unpack their luggage at home and find it smashed to pieces?
In both cases, not only have you wasted your money in purchasing the
gift, but you've also potentially made a negative impression by not
thinking about the possible consequences of a gift.
When planning your next project, share with us how and where you plan
to distribute your gifts. We'll use our decade of expertise to
advise you of any potential pitfalls with certain items and can
suggest alternative gifts that might better fit your giving
from Your Recipient's Perspective, Not Your Own
When browsing for ideas for your target
audience, it's important to exclude your own interests and personal or
geographic biases from the decision making process. Instead,
focus on what your recipients - based on their interests and
demographics - would appreciate.
For instance, although you might prefer a thin writing pen, if you
were planning gifts for older adults such as grandparents, a larger
grip instrument would be more suitable. Although you might not
like to read, their generation does - both books and newspapers.
Gifts such as a bookmark into which they can insert a
grandchild's picture or a lighted magnifying glass would likely be
When planning your next project, share with us who you're trying to
reach. We'll use our expertise to advise you on what gifts would
be most appropriate for your target audience.
|When to Place Your Order - Save by Ordering Ahead
We're often asked how far ahead of an event
an order should be placed. With many plants now offering 24 hour
production, it may be possible - if you have perfect camera ready art
and don't need to see a proof - to place an order on Monday, have it
ship Tuesday and arrive on Wednesday. This service may only be available
on certain products, however, and some plants charge differently for 1,
5 or 10 day service.
So if you want the greatest selection of items, need help with your art
and would like the peace of mind that comes with seeing a proof, we
advise clients to back out one month from their event date to place the
order. When you're able to do so, this can help lower your costs and
permit any challenges that arise with an order to be handled and
resolved with time to spare.
Shipping Costs - What
NOT to order when you're in a rush
If you have a in hands date
within three weeks, it's generally advisable not to order anything
of glass. The combined additional air freight costs for the weight
and double packing could actually exceed the costs of your
order. Other non-breakable items to beware of in a rush may
include magnets, sticky notes, sports bottles and Frisbees.
Their combined weight or limited quantity per box can make express
shipping very expensive. We are always happy to provide a shipping
estimate with your quote so you have a good idea of total costs.
|Save Additional Art Costs by Providing Vector
Vector-based art is created in a graphic
design program such as Adobe Illustrator. It permits the size of your
imprint to be adjusted up or down - without loss of proportions or image
quality - to fit the imprint area of the item you have ordered.
|Is Your Goal to
Give Away "Stuff" or Get Results?
I often hear promotional items referred
to negatively as "trinkets and trash" or "chatzkes". Frequently,
a budget has been set aside for giveaways and the
responsibility for selecting them delegated down without any discussion
of what they should achieve.
At large corporations, that is not the case.
In this economic environment, executives are demanding from their ad
agencies and marketing staff measurable results for every dollar
spent. If you want to see a return on your
investment, not simply expend an annual budget, what you give should be
chosen based on two criteria:
1. Will this be appreciated by - and
practical and useful to - my recipients, generating goodwill
2. Does it effectively communicate our
message, who we are and what we do as an office or organization?
If you view gifts or apparel with your logo
as unimportant meaningless "stuff", then ask
yourself, why do Coca-Cola and Nike spend billions of
dollars every year putting their logo everywhere? With your
budget being much more limited than theirs, isn't it even more
important that you get the highest return possible on the dollars you
View the branding of merchandise the way
they do - as an effective marketing tool to build
awareness and strengthen relationships with a target audience. Changing
your perception will improve your results.
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