Don’t worry, it happens to everyone at one point or another.
You don’t need to be ashamed.
Your swag just got a little boring. Really, it happens.
Fortunately, we know ways to fix it.
Don’t worry, it happens to everyone at one point or another.
You don’t need to be ashamed.
Your swag just got a little boring. Really, it happens.
Fortunately, we know ways to fix it.
Steve Jobs famously said, “Design is not how things look, but rather how things work.”
This is relevant for me every day as the in-house graphic designer for RIGHTSLEEVE & CampRIGHTSLEEVE, because we work in such a huge variety of media, from apparel to hard goods to printed material and web graphics. I rely daily on my knowledge of design theory, software, aesthetics and my eye for detail, but more importantly, I need a technical knowledge of manufacturing processes before design even begins. Great design is useless if it doesn’t work.
Screen-printing, embroidery, flocking and knitting are all methods of decorating apparel, but they all require purpose-built artwork because the manufacturing process is vastly different for each. A design that works on the computer will not always work on a t-shirt.
For example, gradient fades look fantastic on the monitor, but they are difficult and expensive to screen print. Screen-printing involves placing single areas of colour on an item in a paint-by-numbers style. Each colour requires a separate screen, so fading seamlessly from one colour to another is difficult to achieve.
Embroidery, flocking and knitting are entirely different beasts again, each requiring its own artwork designed specifically for its method. Knowing the medium will help you create better artwork. Luckily our reps all have an understanding of these methods, so if you’re not sure, just ask.
If you look at the same colour in shadow vs. artificial light vs. sunlight, it will look like three different colours. Colours on a computer monitor look very different from colours on printed goods, and even on printed goods, colours can look different.
Pictures of the exact same T-shirt in various degrees of light and shade, aligned next to each other below, show how different a single colour can be depending on the light it’s seen in.
The Pantone Matching System (PMS) identifies colours by a universally recognised alpha-numerical code, ensuring that designers, printers and clients all reference the exact same color. When you want to match a specific colour, picking from a PMS library is the best way. Pantone libraries are identified by their suffixes. If you’re interested in learning more, this is a great resource otherwise, just ask a RIGHTSLEEVE rep.
Resolution is another key to designing art for promotional products. Your Dots Per Inch (DPI) or Points Per Inch (PPI) are the number of dots, or pixels, of colour per inch in your artwork, and it’s the difference between artwork that looks fuzzy, blurry or mushy vs. crisp, clean high quality art.
Computer monitors use only 72 dots per inch, while vector art can be upwards of 800 PPI. The difference in the resolution is why artwork that looks great on your computer won’t always look good printed, or why images from the internet don’t print well.
Generally speaking, 300 DPI and above is considered high res artwork, while anything below that is considered low res and is only used for web graphics or television. When your rep asks you for “vector” artwork, it’s because vector art can be scaled up or down infinitely without losing resolution, making it the easiest to work with across all decorating methods.
Hopefully with this brief summary of some design basics, you begin to see why good design isn’t just about how things look. Good design is a careful equation of form, function, aesthetics and manufacturing. When all of these things are in symmetry, what you get is a beautiful image that works invisibly.
And you can trust that RIGHTSLEEVE and CampRIGHTSLEEVE will always create artwork that works!
When I worked in the cable TV industry, there was one really big lesson I learned: Everyone hates the cable company.
I’ve been in the promo industry for five years now, still a newbie by some measures, but I’ve also learned a valuable lesson about this industry. This recent post by Hubspot on the good, bad and ugly of swag got me thinking about whether there is such a thing as bad promo when you consider all of the different audiences. While we agree with many of their points, we also know that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Or to quote one of my colleagues from the industry:
There is no bad swag, only badly chosen – Heidi Thorne, @heidithorne
Rather than looking at the items themselves, we try to look at how giveaways will resonate with recipients. We think it’s great that the attendees of HubSpot’s conferences are all digitally connected, but my first-gen Motorola Xoom (<—-street cred implied there) is wi-fi only, so when I went to Cloudforce earlier this year and all of the wi-fi was password protected I was totally bummed. But then I could take notes with the kickin’ RIGHTSLEEVE branded red flair pen stashed in my bag…and yes, it was next to my Moleskin (<—–hipster implied there).
Oh, and we think the folks at ScribbleLIVE have our backs: They love their combo highlighter pens so much, they Instagrammed them:
It’s not a matter of good or bad. It’s about choosing swag smartly. -Patricia Keays
In doing an informal key chain survey around the office, I discovered a couple of things.
Katie Anderson, loves her Camp Kandalore key chain. She hasn’t worked at the camp in over 7 years, but she still carries it around with her and smiles from ear to ear when telling me about getting it. But, let’s set her feelings aside for a minute and crunch some numbers. If Katie has used her keys twice a day (once when leaving home and once when coming home) every day for the last 7 years, that adds up to over 2500 times that Katie has looked at her Kandalore key chain.
At less than one cent, that’s the type of cost per impression that marketers dream about!
Would a Camp Kandalore Key chain have the same effect on me? Nope. But, I’ve had the Roxy keychain below for close to ten years. I got it on a trip to Hawaii for my brother’s wedding so the sentimental value of that keychain is through the roof for me. I actually dove to the bottom of a dumpster and fished that key chain out of a puddle of trashed-filled water one time.
Pictured above starting at 12:00: Rob Montebelli, from the RIGHTSLEEVE spin-off company commonsku, carried his soccer key chain with him when he moved from Italy. Julia Corcoran loves the Heineken key chain she got in Amsterdam. I went dumpster-diving to save my Roxy key chain, and Katie Anderson still carries her Camp Kandalore keychain long after leaving camp.
Bottom line: Keychains resonate with recipients when chosen well and distributed appropriately.
Rule #1 for trade show promo: make sure the product matches the needs of the audience. -Mark Graham in 7 Ways Social Media can Transform Your Next Swag Campaign
Bottomer line: All swag resonates when chosen well and distributed properly.
HubSpot and I could argue back and forth all day on what specific pieces of swag we like the best, and that’s okay…we do that exact thing in the RIGHTSLEEVE office too. What HubSpot thinks is cool swag isn’t going to be what the next company thinks is cool…the commenters on HubSpot’s original post prove that point. That’s why we emphasize the importance of matching your swag to your audience.
So, next time you’re planning for a tradeshow or a giveaway or an award or any other piece of branded merchandise you’re giving out, think about your recipients first and the items second.
I don’t know if it started with assembly lines, fast food restaurants, the Internet or something else, but we live in a society of instant gratification.
Our mail sends and is received instantly. I can get reviews for products then purchase the product in less than a minute if I want to (and now get same-day delivery sometimes!). I can finish a book and have another one downloaded immediately with my ereader.
The pace can be staggering when you stop to think about it.
Along the way we have also equated faster with better.
In our industry, we are seeing the pattern play out with decreasing turnaround time on orders. But, being on the front lines, I can confidently say, faster isn’t always better. Here are 3 ways we can service you better with longer turnaround times.
The internet and social media have made our customers more highly informed than ever before. Back before data was so widely available, our customers came to us with the specifics of their promotional campaigns because they needed us to source products to fit their marketing and advertising goals – that is, after all, our area of expertise.
Nowadays, our customers can source products themselves through internet search or by tapping their social networks. As a result, we don’t always know the intended use of the products our customers are ordering. The shift has been slow and subtle, but it’s there.
While there are benefits to having a more informed consumer base, developing this habit of “shopping list” fulfillment of promotional products isn’t the right solution. In the best case scenarios, we deliver your product (on time, of course) and your event is a success. On the downside, however, your product idea could be a complete mis-match for your audience. Or worse, it could be illegal.
For example, If a local drugstore wants to give away a swag bag of items, and in it, include a free sample of an over-the-counter allergy medication, the bag of promotional items can’t be handed away for free. A nominal amount of money (1-cent) must exchange hands as an indication that the recipient understands that he or she is receiving a drug. If we don’t know about the extras being included in the bag, we can’t advise on technicalities like that.
Clay Johnson talks about being highly informed versus being well informed in his book, The Information Diet, and these types of interactions with our clients are an excellent example. While so many of us are highly informed nowadays, our knowledge is often spread widely, not deeply.
To overcome these potential knowledge pitfalls, we all need to recognize our particular areas of expertise and engage others for their their areas of expertise.
It’s taken me a couple of days but I’ve almost recovered from our annual client party. All day this year, I kept comparing our event to a wedding. You spend months arranging details like food, guest lists, venue etc. and the day of the event comes and goes in such a whirlwind of activity that you look back on it and wonder if parts of it were a dream.
With a name like SWAG2.0, our use of product marketing should be top notch. Our goal this year was to infuse our entire event with promotional products and do it in such a way that we highlighted some of the many ways you can use swag well.
They say there’s no second chance to make a first impression and that’s why we like to hand out a nice gift as soon as guests arrive to our party. This year, we chose the chromo journal because they’re a quality piece of stationary and the chrome trim makes them a real eye-catcher.
In the early days of SWAG2.0 we went back and forth on the use of name tags; after all we know our clients! But, then we realized that our clients don’t necessarily know each other and name tags make introductions a lot easier. We still like to to keep the name tag thing kinda casual so we encourage guests to write their own and add a spark of creativity if they like.
One of my favorite things about product marketing is that you can use a normal product in a unique way and give it an entirely different life. Anyone remember when we used a post-it wall as our sign-in book? Well, this year, we took a unique product and made it even more special.
Our animal poppers have been a big hit as employee gifts as most people appreciate their ability to relieve stress and cause a few laughs. We decided to give our poppers even more of a personality by making them the focal point in a game we called “Popper Pong”. In addition to showing how our products can be given new life with a different application, Popper Pong was a great talking point, an ice breaker, and a way for our clients to engage with each other.
The idea of Popper Pong was to have fun, so we made sure that everyone got a prize for playing. Manufacturing a one-inch button on the spot if you scored was also a way to introduce an offline, viral component to the event. Seeing players proudly displaying their red, blue, or yellow pins was a great way to let word-of-mouth do our jobs and direct new players back to the game.
Swag2.0 is all about interaction and engagement.
We already had our ice-breaker with Popper Pong, but we wanted something else to drive interaction with our products and also put to good use our love of social media.
QR codes are a great way to link offline products with online activities so we decided to run a QR code contest. When guests scanned the QR codes on their free stress toy they were taken to one of two videos which indicated if they won or lost. Winners were then directed to the RIGHTSLEEVE booth to pick up either a Sigg waterbottle or a slap-watch as their prize.
I must admit that sending folks to our RIGHTSLEEVE booth to pick up their prize wasn’t on accident. We sent guests there to
Leave ‘em with More
Okay, so the phrase is “leave them wanting more,” but in this case we wanted to send our clients on their way with a great swag bag of useful, eye-catching items. As guests departed the event, we handed them their final dose of product. We stuffed our sling and ella coolers with a variety of gear
We put on SWAG2.0 every year because we love our clients and want to show them a great time. Using swag to entertain and delight is just the icing on our proverbial wedding cake. If you came to the event we all hope you had a blast and that you learned a new thing or two about creative ways to use promotional products.
To see more pictures from the event, check out our Facebook album.
For some great ideas on product marketing you don’t have to wait until next year, give us a call (1.877.975.3383) or subscribe to the SWAG2.0 blog.
Cookie photo courtesy Carolyn Van.
One of the biggest educational challenges we face day-to-day is explaining the ins-and-outs of decorating on product. It can be a confusing conversation because constraints on one product might not apply to others. In part, it’s because so many consumers are used to the most versatile of all business products – the business card. Taking it one step further, we’re growing more and more accustomed to digital design where options are virtually unlimited.
The most important thing to understand about decoration on products is that we are printing on a three dimensional object made from any variety of material – glass, metal, paper, plastic, cotton, and wool to name a few. The color, type of material, and shape all present different challenges when decorating an item. A logo printed on a white notebook cover will have different decoration standards and options than one printed on a black mug. We overcome this challenge by offering a variety of decorating methods and recommending the best method & product for your needs:
Pad Printing uses a “burned” metal plate as a pool for ink that is then picked up by a rubber or silicone carrier and transferred to the product that you’re using. Pad printing usually allows for printing multiple colors and can be Pantone matched. Pens, golf balls, and other small objects are frequently printed using this method.
Embroidery is a style of decorating textiles with a needle and thread. The number of stitches required to complete your logo decoration is the biggest determinant of cost for embroidery. Like the standardization using Pantone colors for printing, embroidery also uses color standards in the form of Isacord or Madeira thread colors. Fabric, caps, and bags are often decorated via embroidery.
Screen printing uses inks pushed through a woven mesh to transfer design onto an object. Screen printing works best on flat surfaces and is most commonly seen on t-shirts and sweatshirts, though modern machines can also accommodate cylindrical objects like mugs and bottles. Screen printing supports multiple colors and Pantone matching. As we discussed previously you can alter the screen printing methods to achieve different looks on your apparel.
Other product decoration methods include laser engraving, etching, and embossing – all of which are used to great effect on particular materials such as metal, glass, and leather. Other fabric options include transfers, tackle twill, and flocking. If you don’t understand why your RIGHTSLEEVE contact is suggesting a particular item or imprint style, just ask and we’ll be happy to explain.
Have you ever been left in the dark as to why your logo wouldn’t work with a particular item?
Vintage is hot right now and a lot of customers want to know how to go vintage for their apparel campaigns. If you ask our resident screen printing expert he’ll tell you: It depends.
Vintage vs. Vintage
Some people think that vintage is a look. Other’s say it’s a feel. Purists might say that vintage only applies if it’s a genuine old thing. So, your idea of vintage might not match with your designer’s idea. Defining the categories below will help you get the look that you’re interested in.
Logos change over the years. If you have full creative control over your logo, ask your friendly neighborhood graphic artist to have fun with your logo and give it a throw-back overhaul. Our friends over at Google and Pinterest have a ton of images for inspiration. We’ve pinned some favorites on the RIGHTSLEEVE Pinterest page here.
If you’re not in for a complete overhaul, you can still lend a vintage edge to your logo by using design filters.
The shirt below, from our CampRIGHTSLEEVE collection, was designed using a filter to give a distressed look when printed.
Quality printshops can also help clients achieve a vintage look on their tees by using different ink & decoration techniques. There are two primary techniques we recommend: no underbase and soft-hand.
Screenprinters usually add an underbase to fabric before they apply colored inks so the colors print truer. If you take away the underbase, the print won’t be as bright making it appear more vintage. If pantone-match is really important to you, this method might not be the right choice.
The easiest way to achieve a soft-hand print is to use water-based inks, however they are difficult to work with and are often more expensive as a result. Another route to the same effect is to use soft-hand additives, which are are mixed into the ink. The additives thin the ink, giving a softer feel, and can also give a faded look to the print.
Vintage isn’t just about look. It’s also about feel, so to cap off a vintage-inspired design, find fabric with a softer, or faded look to it. Going to a 50/50 blend over 100% cotton will give you a softer feel without having to go through the hassle of trying methods that may or may not work, like salt-water or chemical washes. You can also go with a throw-back style, like the ringer t-shirt below.
Every industry has jargon. When used well it makes communication clearer and quicker. When compiled into flashcards, it makes for a fun office game.
But, jargon can also be a barrier. It can make communicating across departments difficult in large organizations. When computer-troubleshooting with my parents, jargon can make everyone want to chuck the computer out the window and go back to carrier pigeons. At RIGHTSLEEVE, we work with a variety of industries that have their own forms of jargon, so it can be confusing when we’re using the same words but with different meaning.
Here are five jargon hotspots that often flare up into misunderstandings. Hopefully reading how RIGHTSLEEVE uses these terms might help bridge some communication barriers of your own.
Purchase Orders (aka POs) at RIGHTSLEEVE are used to communicate with vendors outside of our offices. They tie together an exterior supply chain rather than an interior spend. However, in large companies, POs are usually internal documents that are sent between various departments and their finance team. They are often used to approve large spends. Once approved, the PO number must be placed on all bills so finance knows to tie it back to the initial approval.
Samples fall into three main categories.
Proofs are often confused with samples. A proof is a graphical representaion of a logo on the item being purchased. The item can be a line-drawing with the logo added or a picture with the logo super-imposed (sometimes also called virtual proofs). Proofs are generally used to ensure proper placement and logo use. They are often sent as pdfs and viewed on computers. To allow for color display differences on monitors, many proofs will be done in black and white renderings with color noted as the appropriate pantone color.
Color and color theory are topics with a level of complexity beyond my comprehension and one of the biggest misunderstandings between our designers and our customers. A customer might come to us thinking the logo to the left is a two-color logo – blue and red. At first glance I see a 5 color logo – 3 different blues, red, and white. My designer would probably see five colors plus several gradients. Differences this big afffect not only how this logo can reproduce on the variety of products that we offer, but can also change the costing in a big way.
Digital Artwork is akin to color theory in its ability to confuse. Put plainly, artwork needs to be vector to re-size and reproduce well on the majority of our products. To really understand vector, take your favorite graphic artist out for a coffee and an coax the details out of them. For an abbreviated version from a non-graphic person (that’s me!) read on.
Vector Artwork is an image created in a vector-based software such as Adobe Illustrator (.ai file extension). The canvas for creating vector artwork is a grid. The lines of the image are defined by their relationship to points on that grid. Because vector graphics are created on this grid-like system, you can make the grid larger or smaller and the relationship between items stays the same with no loss of quality. By comparison, a .jpg file is not a vector image and therefore becomes pixelated or “muddy” when the size is adjusted.
People often say the same thing in different words, now I also keep an ear out for people saying different things with the same words. Hopefully that will help to keep the tower of jargon from collapsing around us.
Knowing the scope of your campaign makes a big difference when deciding on your product marketing. Things like gender marketing go beyond pinks and blues nowadays. For example, motorcycle shows are a typically male crowd, but 10% of Harley Davidson buyers are women. Knowing that, Harley Davidson can ensure women are accounted for as a small percentage of their product mix.
It can be content marketing, an editorial calendar, or promotional items, but coming up with fleshed out campaigns is universally one of the most procrastinated tasks in a day. Read around the web and you’ll get lots of advice on where to come up with ideas. Scanning magazines, looking at your competitors, and researching keywords are all places to generate ideas, but I prefer the 5Ws tack to generating promo ideas. This fundamental tool of journalism is a great trick for tailoring your promo campaign.
Product Campaign Cheatsheet
It’s super-easy to call your promotional marketing partner and give them vague generalities of what you’re looking for but you’ll probably spend the next several weeks trading emails and phone calls back and forth on ideas that don’t really hit the mark. Instead, spend one minute each fleshing out the questions above and in under ten minutes, you’ll have your promo campaign setting off on sure footing.