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The Brand of No Brand

no-logo-why-un-branded-luxury-goods A little while back, we covered a DIY fashion trend in which people were customizing their own garments with patches to add a little personal flair. It turns out there’s another trend going on in haute fashion circles: un-branded luxury products have now become chic and desirable to some consumers. Rather than wield their logo-splashed Louis Vuitton bags, these fashionistas are sporting luxury handbags that feature either a minimized logo or none at all. 

What to make of this phenomenon? Well, it does seem to indicate that some consumers are striving to express their own personal identity rather than channel it through a major label. Maybe it’s a way to express an even more exclusive affiliation—a sort of secret club or coveted entry into a fashion speakeasy, if you will, where it’s simply gauche to wave the signs of your success—your Coach bag and your Hermès scarf—in front of the have-nots.

It’s also possible that some of these same consumers place a higher premium on the quality of the product rather than the brand name or logo. This brings to mind the popularity of Muji, the popular minimalist Japanese company whose full name Mujirushi Ryohin literally means “no-brand quality goods.” As our ideas of branding change and become more sophisticated, how will this impact your branded your promotional items? We’re on it. Contact us for details.

The Power of Branded Apparel

CA72AD59-1FEF-416A-81CF-BAF9BE95C843Apparel items and wearables such as t-shirts, caps, and outerwear are among the most popular promotional products available to companies wanting to reach customers. Each of us has seen a nice t-shirt with a logo on it, and we probably have one at home ourselves (I know I do), but at the end of the day we might still wonder: how effective are they? Well, the research is in. People love promotional products in general and branded items of all types attract new customers to your business, but wearables have a special place in the heart of the American consumer. Here are some data points that show just how powerful t-shirts, caps, hats, and other wearable branded items can be in promoting your brand.

  1. Recall is highest for apparel items. According to a 2014 study, 88% of people recall the advertiser that gave them a t-shirt or hat. 57% of U.S. consumers feel more favorable about the advertiser who gave them a promotional shirt.
  2. Wearables are extremely popular. 48% of Americans own logoed t-shirts. They are the second most popular promotional product in America after writing instruments (56%). 25% of us own logoed caps and headwear as well.
  3. Attractiveness is important. 42% of people who keep promotional hats do so because they are considered attractive, and 54% of people who hold on to outerwear for the same reason.
  4. Outerwear has staying power. On average, U.S. consumers keep outerwear for a year and a half. When asked why they hold on to it, 75% say they do because it is useful while 52% say it’s because they find it attractive. 49% simply say that they enjoy having it.
  5. Certain demographics especially enjoy t-shirts. Interestingly, men (52%) are more likely to own promotional t-shirts than women (46%), while African-Americans (46%) are the most likely of all ethnic groups to keep their t-shirts, citing attractiveness of the t-shirt as a reason for holding onto it.
  6. Even certain regions have specific preferences for wearables. T-shirts are especially popular in the Southeast, where they generate nearly 4,000 impressions over their lifetime. Folks in Minneapolis enjoy logoed hats—they wear them as much as six times per month, creating impressions every time they go out. Outerwear is especially popular in the Midwest, where 15% of consumers report owning an item, likely due to the cold weather in winter.

Everybody loves a good t-shirt, as it turns out, especially if they think it’s attractive or useful. And in a sense, everybody wins: someone gets a new piece of apparel that they’ll enjoy and keep for a long time, and the business knows they’ll remember who gave it to them and look on them a little more favorably, perhaps even think of doing business with them. If you’re thinking of smart ways to get the word out about your company, wearables are a great choice.

We should also mention that there are a lot of different kinds of wearables you can pick from when thinking about a possible campaign or giveaway: t-shirts, sweatshirts, polo shirts, caps & hats, sweatbands, sunglasses, bandannas, flip flops, handkerchiefs, scarves, socks, gloves, jackets, earmuffs, and plenty beyond that. You can get creative with your choices and pick something appropriate for the season, a particular holiday, obviously your brand, or a special event like a trade show or a conference. Promotional products work best when they’re considered useful, attractive, and relevant (to a season or event, for example), so it’s a good idea to keep that in mind when planning your promotion.

Are you looking for branded apparel or other branded promotional items to help your company stand out from the competition? There are a lot of ways they can draw attention for your business. Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on exceptional promotional products that can represent your brand with style and grace.

At the Rio Olympics, It’s All About That Swag

Team USA gear created by Ralph Lauren for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Team USA gear created by Ralph Lauren for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Have you been watching the Olympic Games in Rio this week, cheering on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team and chuckling at #PhelpsFace memes? If so, you’ve no doubt noticed some of the interesting branding stories coming out of Rio too. The Olympics are an incredibly high-profile sporting competition, playing out on just about the biggest stage there is, and the IOC is guarding its branding very carefully. It’s been notoriously strict about use of official Rio 2016 logos and even GIFs (yes, believe it or not, you’re officially not allowed to share animated GIFs of the Olympic Games on social media… though that didn’t stop clips of #PhelpsFace from going viral). Not surprisingly, the IOC has also taken a dim view of unauthorized swag being peddled during the two-week athletic event.

Still, there have been some really interesting and even surprising branding stories coming out of Rio, along with some pretty covetable swag we can all appreciate whether we’re into sports or not. Here are some of the most intriguing types of Olympic branded products—or stories about Olympic swag—that have gotten our attention as the Games have gotten underway:

  • Custom Nike swag for Olympic athletes. Preparing for the Games takes many years, as Olympic observers know. Tokyo 2020 organizers are already deep into planning for their turn in the Olympic spotlight. Brands are no different. Nike spent three years preparing custom swag for Team USA and Team Brazil, designing individualized gifts tailored to each athlete’s specific schedule and needs. That incredible attention to detail no doubt left a strong impression on the athletes, and it’s smart Olympic branding. When giving promotional branded gifts, it’s always a pro move to make sure that your gifts are useful, helpful, and relevant to the people receiving them.
  • The IOC is making its own knockoffs. This is fascinating! While actively going after unauthorized vendors for churning out counterfeit merchandise, the IOC itself is getting in on the act, selling cheaper versions of its official Olympic branded goods in downtown Rio. One good aspect of this development is that it makes Olympic gear accessible to Brazilians who might not otherwise be able to afford it, but it’s also an impressive display of chutzpah and branding control at the same time.
  • Fashion-forward team gear. Swag and high fashion have been converging in an interesting way lately—Justin Bieber’s new line of tour-inspired merchandise is just one example. Not to be outdone, the Olympics are featuring some attention-getting team gear created by famous fashion brands such as Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, and Christian Louboutin. If there’s a particular look you like or a team you want to support, you can buy the same swag online and rock a cool Olympic pose yourself.

We’ve got just over a week to go, with more intriguing examples of Olympic swag and interesting branding stories sure to come out of Rio as the Games continue. They’ll be worth keeping an eye on as you cheer your favorite athletes to victory!

Are you looking for branded promotional items to help your company stand out from the competition? There are a lot of ways branded goods can draw attention for your business. Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on exceptional promotional products that can represent your brand with style and grace.

It’s Promotional Products Work! Week!

Promotional Products Work!Did you know it’s Promotional Products Work! Week? It is, and we’ve been celebrating with the industry. Promotional Products Work! is an annual event dedicated to showing how powerful and effective promotional products are in promoting your business. Last week we shared 6 ways promotional products can benefit your business right here on the blog, and this week we are running special social media posts on our Twitter and Facebook profiles to highlight the many ways in which promotional products can make an impact.

So what’s Promotional Products Work! Week all about?

This yearly event is a chance to showcase how well promotional products get the word out about your business, generate customer interest, and create increased opportunities for sales. The promotional products market is booming, too: promotional products advertising is the fourth-fastest growing advertising medium, ranked right after mobile and digital. Here are a few stats that illustrate its popularity and effectiveness:

  1. 8 in 10 people own a promotional product.
    1. Consumers especially like promotional products that are useful, attractive, informative, desirable, and fun.
  2. 88% of people who receive a promotional product remember the advertiser.
    1. That’s incredibly powerful brand recall and a very cost-effective investment.
  3. Promotional products create a favorable view of your company and lead to sales.
    1. 59% of people who received a promotional product had a more favorable view of the company.
    2. 85% of people who received a promotional product did business with the company after receiving the product.
  4. They’re especially popular in the kitchen and workspace.
    1. 91% of people keep promotional products in the kitchen.
    2. 74% keep them in their work area.
    3. 55% hold on to promotional products in their bedroom.
  5. People hold on to promotional products for a long time.
    1. 47% of consumers hold onto the promotional products they’ve received for a year or more.
  6. Wearables and writing instruments are hot.
    1. Wearables and apparel, including t-shirts and hats, get a 41% brand recall.
    2. Writing instruments draw a 35% brand recall.
    3. Drinkware is also quite popular, at 19% brand recall.
    4. Sporting goods (15%) and pocket/purse items (13%) also do well.
Promotional Products Work

Infographic: Promotional Products Work!

Promotional products can really make a difference for your company, creating increased grand recognition, a favorable view of your company, and new business opportunities. If you want to learn more about how promotional products can have an impact, check out this handy infographic or the Promotional Products Work! Week website for more information.

Looking for some expert guidance on which promotional products might be a good fit for your business? Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on exceptional promotional products that can represent your brand with style and grace.

4 Personal Branding Tips for Business Owners

Personal brandingPersonal branding is a hugely popular topic these days. As everyone’s busy curating and refining their online presence in an attempt to stand out from the crowd and attract more attention to their company, business owners wonder whether or not they should incorporate personal branding into their overall business branding strategy. If you haven’t considered exploring personal branding to benefit your business, you may want to give it a look. Here’s why.

How can personal branding help my business?

For starters, personal branding can establish you as a leader in your field and highlight your strengths as a businessperson. It also gives you more opportunities to promote your business—each time you appear in the media or write a blog post about an industry topic, for example, is a perfect chance to highlight your company’s products and services in an entirely natural and genuine way. And if you’re an entrepreneur who plans on starting more than one business, personal branding can help shine a spotlight on any venture you put your name behind.

So if you’re interested in developing a personal brand, what sorts of guidelines or best practices should you keep in mind? Here are a few bite-sized tips to get you started:

Personal branding tips for people running a business:

  1. Be authentic. Now more than ever, people want to see authenticity from the brands that they do business with—particularly Millennials. It creates trust, which leads to more enduring business relationships. Think of the personal brands you most admire. What do you appreciate about them? Is it their slightly quirky sense of humor, their realness, or the values they embody? Share what makes you unique with your audience and you will inspire greater loyalty in your customers.
  2. Highlight your vision and your values. Why do you do the work that you do? What are your goals, and what are your values? What are you most passionate about? Make sure that you communicate your purpose with your personal brand. Rather than dealing with a faceless corporation, people want to make a connection with the person behind the business. Giving them a chance to know you in a genuine way makes that possible.
  3. Tell your story. Storytelling is one of the most effective forms of branding, and people who have strong personal brands do it very well. Telling your story gives people a chance to make a connection with you and possibly even identify with you, which is very powerful from a brand perspective. People also tend to remember stories, which aids in brand recall.
  4. Make sure your personal brand syncs up with your business. Is quality a particular value that you’ve decided is important for your personal brand? Then you’ll want to make sure that your business delivers exactly that—quality—whether that’s in the form of a product or a service. If you don’t, you risk running afoul of tip #1 (Be authentic). Your personal brand should naturally flow through and be reflected in your business.

With some thoughtful care and attention, you can develop a personal brand that draws more interest and attention for your current business as well as any future ventures you may choose to launch down the line. Have you considered trying personal branding for your business? If so, how did it go and what did you learn? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.

Looking for some expert guidance on promotional gifts or products might be a good fit for your brand? Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on exceptional promotional products that can represent your business with style and grace.

Co-Branding: What It Is and Why Brands Do It

Kung Pu Panda and Wix team up on a co-branded advertisement

Kung Pu Panda and Wix team up on a co-branded advertisement

Did you tune into the Super Bowl earlier this month? If so, you probably noticed a couple of ads that were a bit different from the others. One was an ad for Wix featuring personalities from Kung Fu Panda 3; the other was a commercial for Airbnb featuring characters from The Jungle Book. In both instances, popular characters from films that are currently playing in theaters were used to showcase the benefits of a service. What’s going on here, and why might these brands have chosen to team up in this way?

Co-branding, in which two different brands join forces for an advertising campaign or a special product release, has been around for quite some time. Very popular with the auto industry, it spans several verticals, right on up to consumer retail. Also referred to as a strategic partnership, co-branding allows brands to reach audiences they might not other be able to access, leading to increased awareness and sales. Co-branding also implies a subtle endorsement that can deliver positive benefits by dint of association: if one of the brands is highly esteemed and has a stellar reputation, simply appearing alongside it can have lend positive associations to the other brand as well. If the two brands have similar target audiences and brand identities, engaging in co-branding can help reinforce and strengthen their respective brands.

Sometimes co-branding ideas come naturally through the course of doing business: for example, Pottery Barn got lots of questions about the paint colors used in its catalogs, so it teamed up with Benjamin Moore to create a special color palette to better serve customers. In the beauty world, MAC recently teamed up with Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper to promote new, bold product lines of cosmetics. Household products have also gotten in on the act: Tide offers a version of its detergent that includes Febreze, a popular freshener.

Brands also occasionally partner up to promote humanitarian causes, such as when Bono’s Global Fund (Red) formed a sort of brand supergroup, collaborating with American Express, Apple, Converse, Dell, Emporio Armani, Gap, Hallmark, and Starbucks on a major initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. The campaign is still going strong, having recently welcomed Snapchat for a special social media campaign on World AIDS Day last fall.

Co-branding is also a popular and growing trend where promotional products are concerned, spanning a wide array of sectors and brand levels. Selecting a branded promotional product that people already recognize, appreciate and trust can be an effective way to draw their attention and get them to positively associate you with a brand they know and admire. We offer top national and international brand name product lines ready to be co-branded with your logo or design, from elegant corporate gifts designed by MoMA to a generous selection of Moleskine notebooks and weekly planners, Brookstone products, and many more items from every day brands like Thermos, Carhartt, BuiltBobble, Cutter & Buck and Swiss Army / Victorinox!

If you’re curious to know more about the name brand promotional products we offer, including select executive and corporate gifts from brands that are not listed on our website, such as Tumi and Mont Blanc, feel free to reach out to us! We’d be happy to share advice and suggestions on what types of branded promotional products might best fit your needs. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll advise you on branding ideas that can represent your company with style and grace.

Color Matching: Why Is It Important?

UNICEF LogoConsistency is one of the most important aspects of branding. It’s how people recognize your brand. If your company’s logo is inconsistent, it can throw consumers off and confuse them. The color used in a logo can also be very important. For example, take UNICEF’s iconic blue logo, which is referred to as UNICEF Blue in its brand book. No matter where you see it, it’s always recognizable and evokes a certain feeling.

In order to ensure this consistency, some companies issue strict corporate branding guidelines that dictate such things as the proper color to be used in the logo or the correct spacing for letters in the logo. They can also provide instructions how to use the branding for promotional items. This can be very helpful when it comes time to make decisions about what promotional products the company wants to select and how it wants the branding to appear on them.

Some companies use the Pantone Matching System (PMS) to make sure they get the right color every time. So if UNICEF were a new customer of ours and they were to place an order for promotional t-shirts printed with their logo, for example, we would ask them for the PMS code of their logo, along with a file for their vector format. Or, they might supply us with a brand kit or set a brand guide that provides details on proper use of the brand elements including their logo, colors, and other brand elements. This would allow us to get a full sense of how to match their colors on promotional products. This type of preparation helps ensure that we are using the correct color.

Pantone ColorsAlthough PMS color codes themselves are exact, there’s a wrinkle—the product on which the color is printed may affect the way it appears. The color may also look different depending on whether you’re looking at it outside in daylight as opposed to indoors under fluorescent or incandescent lighting. Many printers know that they must make an adjustment to control for this factor, but some do not. This is where we can help.

If you need your promotional items printed with a specific shade of blue, for example, it we’ll ask you for a specific Pantone® code. But if you don’t know it, we’re here to help. In some cases where our clients consider color very important and require an exact match, it may be best to order a pre-production physical sample for review prior to placing a full order. While a printed sample adds a little time to the process, it’s a great help if exact matching is a priority.

There are two types of these printed samples available. One is a pre-production sample, or pre-pro. We recommend this if you know you are definitely ordering 5,000 t-shirts, to give an example, and want to see how they look before going to final press. There’s usually a small cost to create this sample. The second type is a spec proof. This type of proof is ideal if you really like the idea of a certain product but, before making the commitment to order 5,000 of them, you want to see if your logo looks good on it. In that case, you would just order one spec. If you like it, you can go ahead and put in the order, if not, you don’t have to and only pay for the spec sample.

We’re here to help you get the color that’s best for you, whether it’s color matching or finding the right product color. If you have a designer on staff and already know the exact color you want, great. If you are brand new to the process, that’s fine too. We’ll work with you to find out exactly what you need to know. With deep experience and careful attention to detail, we can help you find the right solution.

Looking for custom branded promotional products that can make a difference for your brand? We’d be happy to share some recommendations and creative ideas with you. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on branding ideas that can represent your company with style and grace.

5 Terrific Trade Show Giveaways That Will Boost Your Brand

Bluetooth speakers are a popular trade show giveaway item

Bluetooth speakers are a popular trade show giveaway item

Exhibiting at a trade show can be an exciting opportunity for your business to connect with potential customers and clients. But how can you make sure you stay top of mind with them after they’ve left your booth? Promotional giveaways are often a great way to create lasting and effective brand awareness. Here are five ideas for great swag that will boost your brand at these events:

  • Tech gadgets – Particularly if you’re in the tech sector, tech gadgets are always a hot item. USB drives come in handy at conference time, as do power banks, earbuds, and styluses. You could also consider offering a raffle or a contest for a higher-value item, such as Bluetooth speakers.
  • Pens and notebooks – If you’re late for a breakout session but just ran into that potential client or business partner you don’t want to miss, you don’t want to be caught without a pen or a piece of paper for exchanging contact information or taking a quick note. We’ve all been there. That’s why pens and notebooks, while seemingly simple, can make thoughtful and effective gifts.
  • Branded care packages – Trade shows can be exhausting and physically draining. The people who come up to your booth may look like they’re doing fine, but they may be privately grappling with a headache, a rumbling stomach, or a blister from all that walking throughout the exhibitors’ hall. Branded care packages including a little TLC such as water, breath mints, aspirin, snacks, and even band-aids can make a lasting, positive impression.
  • Eco-friendly giveaways – As we all know, trade show attendees get lots of swag—so much so that they can begin to wonder about its impact on the environment. A lot of the most popular trade show swag, including tote bags, notebooks, and even eco-friendly USB drives, are among the many environmentally friendly promotional items you can give away.
  • T-shirts – Long the ubiquitous staple at trade shows, t-shirts are still an enormously popular item for giveaways. They double as free advertising for your company; they get worn on-site during the conference or event, spreading the word about your products and services.

Do you have a trade show on the horizon? We can help advise you on custom branded promotional products that can make a difference for your brand. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 for creative and innovative branding ideas to help your company stand out and make a great impression.

The Top 5 Brand Stories of 2015

Google Logo

Google’s New Logo

With the arrival of a new year, it’s a perfect moment to reflect on the major trends and developments that made a mark in our world in 2015. Several compelling brand stories made headlines, some for their creativity and others for the controversy they inspired. Here are the top 5 brand stories that caught our attention:

What brand stories captivated you in 2015? Feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section below. As we welcome 2016, best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Looking to start your New Year right with custom branded promotional products that can make a difference for your brand? We’d be happy to share some recommendations and creative ideas with you. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on branding ideas that can represent your company with style and grace.

What Is Up with This New Campaign Swag?

If you’ve been following the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections lately, no doubt by now you’ve heard all about Donald DTC-ODTRH-RD-2Trump and his famous “Make America Great Again” trucker hat. The Donald’s hat has even become a meme on social media! But he’s not alone—the other candidates, both fellow GOP members and Democrats alike, have come out with some pretty unique and funny campaign swag in recent months. Hillary Clinton is selling pantsuit t-shirts, Rand Paul is selling Hillary hard drives, Marco Rubio is proffering onesies for babies, and popular humor site Funny or Die has even posted a parody imagining some of the most oddball campaign swag imaginable.


So what’s going on here? Why are politicians suddenly rolling out complete online stores full of branded promotional items that seem so specifically tailored to certain demographic groups? Although campaign swag itself is certainly nothing new—branded goodies intended for political supporters have been around since the days of John Adams—it certainly appears to have taken on a bigger role in the presidential campaign than it ever has before. You would think that the campaigns themselves would not necessarily want to be jumping full-on into the retail business, with all of the management concerns and logistics that involves. It turns out, however, that they have a very clear strategy behind the rollout of these expansive online campaign stores featuring all this quirky swag.


jeb-bush-guacamole-bowl-w724-1When you buy an item from a campaign store, it’s not actually counted as a sale of a product. Rather, your purchase of campaign swag is considered the “premium” you receive in return for your donation. This means that, by launching robust online shops, candidates can boost their volume of small donations. The Obama 2008 campaign was particularly successful in doing this. Beyond the money, however, what the campaigns are really interested in is the data that these purchases reveal about personal preferences along a variety of demographic groups.


Feel the Bern hot sauceAs a recent New York Times article on campaign swag explained, “the choice of a product can reveal whether you are a beer drinker, a sports fan or what cellphone you use. It can suggest that there are a lot of joggers headquartered in a specific region of the country, indicating that a campaign may want to direct its health communications to that state; or that you really, really hate the other guy.” By identifying trends and building demographic profiles, the campaigns can better target their communications with particular groups or tap into a greater reservoir of funding they had not previously known about. Interestingly, according to the Times piece, this careful and very sophisticated segmenting of consumer data “would track very closely to what exists in a large or midsize fashion chain.”


trucker-hats-and-pom-poms-the-2016-candidates-are-selling-lots-of-swag-body-image-1443644051So clearly, campaign swag is about more than the coffee cup or the t-shirt or even the money associated with those purchases. For the campaigns themselves, it’s about really knowing their customers and their preferences, designing branded products that speak to their unique identities, then using the knowledge they gain from the data that comes in to better segment and target their communications even more perfectly to the groups that they want to reach. It’s a fascinating exercise in both branding and sales, and a trend that will be worth keeping an eye on as Election Day approaches.


Are you looking for creative ideas or strategy to get your message across with an upcoming company campaign, special project, or an event that you may have on the horizon? If so, reach out to us on social media—we’re on Twitter and Facebook—or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be happy to provide expert advice on how you can achieve your branding goals.