Unexplored turf

Interesting tidbit: Only a little bit more than six percent of the promotional products produced in the United States are aimed at attracting new customers, according to the Promotional Products Association. What are the rest used for? Business gifts, employee relations, branding, public relations, and dealer and distributor programs – all to retain existing customers and employees.

When you’ve been working with promotional products for as long as I have, you instantly know this is both sad and exciting. It’s sad because so many businesses are missing out on the sales advantage inherent to promo products (and that can’t be good news), but it’s also exciting because this means that we can grow even more as an industry.

This means that we can – and should – refocus some of our energy to educating our clients about how promo items can widen their customer base instead of just retain it; how promo items can attract potential employees instead of just increase the morale of those already there.

So that goes down on my to-do list (which, lately, has been filled with contact numbers of all the clients needing rush promo items). Looks like I would be busy in the next couple of weeks. I have to admit – this business still surprises me.

- Jen

Lanyards to promote movies

Yesterday before going home from work, I decided to stop by Starbucks for some alone time with a cappuccino. So I sit there, open my laptop, log on to the Internet using their WiFi, and I see interesting news: Starbucks is ‘wearing’ promotional items for the movie ‘Akeelah and the Bee’ by Lions Gate Films.


How does it work? Starbucks baristas will get a sneak peek of the film before its release. Then they will wear conspicuous lanyards imprinted with “Akeelah” buzzwords in hopes of getting Starbucks patrons to talk about the movie, and, with any luck, watch it.

This is a low-key marketing strategy – and I think it just might work. Promotional lanyards have been used by many businesses to promote either new products or establish brand names. So many things can be printed on it – a logo, a tagline, a website address, a hotline number, etc. In Rushimprint, lanyards are triple-purpose. They promote the company or product, hold IDs and keys and USBs, and even help reduce stress.

 Globe Stress Reliever Badge Holder
The ‘Globe Stress Reliever Badge Holder’

I hear that some avid Starbucks customers who are after the ‘calm’ atmosphere are getting ticked at the coffee shop’s ‘commercial’ endeavors. Starbucks, after all, already distributes ancillary products such as CDs and DVDs. Ironically, some 30 million customers still flock to Starbucks outlets weekly, and the numbers are rising.

Hey, maybe discreet promotional tactics are not so bad. A lanyard never hurt anyone.


Promo items for a dry cleaning business?

A study shows that new customers of dry cleaning shops who received promotional products spent 27 percent more than customers who just received coupons, and a whopping 139 percent more than those who just received plain vanilla ‘welcome letters.’
I guess the tides are changing even for the ‘repression-proof’ dry cleaning industry. It has become very competitive, and even though most of these business already have a captive customer base (because dry cleaning is a staple), this base is becoming pickier and less loyal.

So I wasn’t surprised when a new client – a dry cleaning business operator – called us yesterday to ask for help on what promo items to use. I recommended this lint removal brush. It’s a clever little contraption that dry cleaning customers can keep in their coat pockets and use to remove linty from suits, jackets and virtually any clothing material.

 Lint Removal Brush

I don’t know about you, but I can very easily switch from one dry cleaner to the next (especially if the next one gives me free stuff). Somehow, free deliveries and a friendly staff just isn’t enough anymore – I would like to receive useful free items too, if only to feel like a valued client.

Cowbells and other nifty ideas

When a company gave out cowbells as promo products for a cycling event in Europe last year, some people laughed and found the idea ridiculous. But weeks later when the same company increased its client base exponentially, nobody found it funny. It turns out that the company’s decision to give away cowbells was well-researched –cowbells are popular as ‘noisemakers’ along bike and ski routes in Europe.

This just proves that crazy ideas still work, especially in the promotional products industry. That’s why we advise our clients to dare go where no one has gone before. Why stick to an ordinary mouse pad when you can give away something quirkier, for example? It doesn’t even have to be expensive – just out of the ordinary. Like this cute little fella:

Computer Brush Buddy

For just a little more than a dollar, a company’s corporate logo can ‘sit’ atop its clients’ computer monitors. This functional computer cleaner brush is not only charming – it’s very functional as well.

We also innovate our own fresh line regularly to give our clients some ideas. Our rule is simple: we don’t let our clients’ promo items get lost in a sea of common giveaways. We know that while most successful promos are usually built on time-tested formulas, the best of the best usually run on sheer creativity.


‘Squeezing’ my way to better health

February was declared the ‘National Heart Month’ not just because Valentine’s Day falls within the month, but more importantly, to remind us about the importance of a healthy heart. You see, heart disease is the number one cause of death among both men and women in the United States. More than 2,000 Americans die of heart disease everyday. That’s about two people every minute.

Heart attacks are caused by high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and many other factors. But experts also point to mental stress as a big contributor to ‘unmasking’ an otherwise latent heart disease. Negative emotions like frustration, anger, and even intense boredom can actually trigger heart attacks in someone who is at risk.

Luckily, there are many things we can do to significantly lower our risk of getting heart disease. We can swear off smoking, start eating right, and actually find time to exercise, but I prefer to start with the simplest technique – using an anti-stress ball. I have several of them in all shapes and colors lined up on my desk, all perky and just instantly comforting. I slip one in my pocket so that I could easily squeeze it every time I feel stress kicking in.

Anti-stress balls are designed to soften your hand wrist muscles, increase blood circulation and therefore help the heart. But aside from that they’re just cute, like this one from our ‘stress relievers’ section:

 Computer Stress Reliever
Computer-shaped squeezable foam rubber

Sometimes, the simplest solutions really work best.
- Josh

Imprint hits the catwalk

Well, it looks like the promotional apparel business is ready to glamour up – and I’m not surprised why. Promotional apparel sales accounts for a huge part almost every promotional product manufacturer’s yearly revenues, so it’s only right that this industry be perked up.

Gone are the days when promotional shirts were made of low-count cotton and itchy fabrics. Clients have become much choosier, preferring brands such as the Perry Ellis, Devon and Jones, and Van Heusen, among others.

So big has the promotional apparel business become, in fact, that a fashion show featuring promotional apparel will be held on February 26 to 28.

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The fashion show is part of a nationwide promotional products congress that aims to discuss, among many other things, the different fabric, style, and color trends by promotional clothing suppliers for the year ahead.

Who knew that oxfords could be so fashionable?


Cupid’s stress reliever

February 14 is fast approaching and we expect more orders for Valentine’s Day-related items, such as our best-seller, the Valentine Heart Stress Reliever.

 Valentine Heart Stress Reliever

It’s a nifty little gift item that I personally like because it looks great and is very functional. You squeeze it to relieve stress and therefore promote your heart’s health. And if that’s not cute enough, there is also this:

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These adorable teddy bears wear shirts customizable with your message or logo. Customers of every age will surely love them.

But why limit your giveaways to just the usual Valentine’s day items? There are a lot of other ‘less common’ choices out there, if you know where to look. I recommend candy bags, chocolate pouches, mints, and even fancy cheese.

And if you really want something quirkier (but just as Valentine-y), try our ‘Chocolate Computer Floppy Disk’ that comes in an attractive gift box – perfect for the sweet tooth techie. Your company’s message can be imprinted on the floppy disk-shaped chocolate itself!


Intelligent branding

Sometimes, it’s hard talking to new entrepreneurs. They are so eager to apply all the theories they learned in business school, and tend to be quite ‘hard line’ when promoting their business. This aggressiveness often does more harm than good. They tend to rush into promotional decisions without understanding their target market and what promo products they’ll appreciate getting.

I am working with new client – a young business owner who wants to increase brand recall for his mountaineering equipment store. Luckily he was more open to ideas than other entrepreneurs his age. He listened intently and respected most of our ideas, mostly because they really did make sense.

You see, strategizing for promotional brand success requires more than just gut feel – it requires research and experience. And because we’ve been working with promotional products for years now, we have these two requirements – we already know what works and what doesn’t, and it’s our job to advice our clients accordingly.

So I recommended to the new client several items which we feel his outdoorsy clients will love, such as sun kits, waterproof first aid supplies, and good old water bottles, to name a few. Everything was less than $4 each – exponentially less than the cost of a regular print ad that goes for at least $900 or so.

That is intelligent promoting at work. Here in Rushimprint, we don’t just manufacture promotional products – we help build brand names. We know the promo industry. We know that at the end of the day, it is NEVER as simple as putting your logo on a mug.


Collectible promo items

I’m a geek, and when we geeks get our hands on the internet, we go to eBay to surf for the most, well, geeky things. So it’s no accident that I spotted this set of collectible Star Wars drinking glasses – the same ones Burger King gave out when the first Star Wars movie came out.

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Picture from eBay

See, this is what’s great about promotional products – they last a lifetime and more. Any promotional item remains valuable for as long as it can still be used, or in this case, collected.

And this is why promotional items are considered to be one of the cheapest forms of advertising. By the time your recipients throws it away or stashes it in the attic, it would have already long justified its original manufacturing cost. If you’re lucky, your promo item may even become a collectible – and sell for more than its production price. This is NOT the case with more expensive TV or radio ads, which expire the moment it finishes. That’s money down the drain, instantly. Your intended audience may never even hear or see your ad, much less remember your name and product.

Now back to the Burger King drinkware. I have to be aggressive. There’s only a few days left before someone buys this from right under my nose. This means only one thing: I will have to do what only what a true Star Wars – and promotional products fan – will do in a situation like this. I will bid. May the force be with me.

- Josh

The shirt that launched a thousand ships

So I just read that Coca-Cola is finding inventive ways to beat Red Bull in the energy drink market. Maybe they should do what they did in 1996 – give t-shirts away.

That’s right. In 1996, Coca-Cola managed to make POWERaDE the top energy drink by giving away POWERaDE t-shirts to all the athletes in the Olympic Games – athletes who wore them so often they practically became walking billboards. Because of this marketing move, POWERaDE climbed from ‘new brand’ to ‘the brand’ overnight. Coca-Cola also gave away POWERaDE caps and backpacks, drinking bottles, and other sports-related promotional items to these athletes, who were more than happy to use them. Kaching!

Paper freak

I like free stuff. Even after years of working with promotional products, I still never get tired of getting useful things free of charge, like the folio my neighbor gave me this morning. I know it is 25 days too late (folios are usually given out during New Year), but I looove it still. The smell of new paper, the feel new leatherette – it makes me inexplicably happy.

I have friends who prefer electronic organizers, but to me, there’s nothing like jotting down groceries, upcoming bills, to-do’s, and phone numbers on real, honest-to-goodness paper. This way I always find what I need when I need it, and never have to deal with corrupted electronic data or incompatible synchronizations (talk about technostress!).

Now excuse me while I write things down.

- Jen