Rumors Of The Death Of Golf Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

golf gloveIn recent years there has been a lot of press around the shrinking popularity of golf.  Many reasons have been given, but a few of the most common are the cost of equipment, the lack of time in a busy schedule, the difficulty of the sport and the well-publicized fall of the game’s most popular superstar, Tiger Woods.

However, according to the National Golf Foundation, golf’s participation base remains stable.  The number of people who played golf on a course in 2017 remained unchanged since the year before (23.8 million), and an additional 8.3 million played at off-course facilities like Topgolf, driving ranges or indoor simulators.  In addition, the number of U.S. non-golfers who said they are “very interested” in playing at a golf course hit a new measured high, and helped boost the number of golf newcomers for the fourth year in a row.

All of this is good news for companies that want to reach a wide variety of potential customers.  Golf isn’t limited to middle-age executives, as some may imagine.  Consider the statistics:

  • Juniors (6-17) and young adults (18-34) comprise more than 37% of all on-course golfers.  These groups make up 69% of the off-course only participant pool.
  •  There are 5.8 million women who played golf on a course in 2017. Women account for 24% of the on-course golfer base and 41% of off-course only play.
  • Newcomers to golf are increasingly diverse: 35% are female, 26% are non-Caucasian and 70% are under the age of 35.

The variety of branded merchandise that is available for these groups is as diverse as the players themselves.  The classic golf staples are always good – branded golf balls, towels, hats and divot tools.  But for today’s eco conscious younger players, it’s good to consider more earth-friendly options.

  • Reusable water bottles for those that have eschewed disposable one-time-use plastic bottles
  • Dissolvable corn starch tees
  • Organic cotton polos and hats
  • Recycled golf balls
  • Recyclable golf pad & pen combo

Spring is around the corner, and the game of golf is going strong.  It’s time to start planning for your next golf giveaway.




Can Swag Be Cool?

guitarsBefore we can determine if there is such thing as cool swag, we should first consider what the word “cool” represents, keeping in mind that what is considered cool changes over time, and varies among cultures and generations.  What was cool in the 1960’s would certainly not translate into the same for today.  One consistent aspect however is that cool is widely perceived as positive and desirable.

In addition, even with the subjective, ever-changing nature of what it means to be cool, it clearly represents individuality – a conscious decision to avoid conformity.  When we think of mobile phones – Steve Jobs, an industry rebel, created what most people consider to be the first truly cool phone.  Is there any cooler car than James Bond’s Aston Martin?  or singer Pharrell Williams’ Grammy hat created by Vivienne Westwood?  All these examples have one thing in common:  none of those items were common when they first came on the scene.

So, back to cool swag.  Yes, branded promotional merchandise can be cool.  But that doesn’t mean it has to be a product no one has ever seen before, or wouldn’t use.  After all, we had phones, cars and hats long before the aforementioned folks introduced their personal styles to the world.  The trick is to choose appropriate promo items that can be decorated with the corporate brand in a way that avoids conformity without ignoring the brand guidelines.

Creative graphics incorporating the company logo can be used on practical items like playing cards, socks, notebooks, glass water bottles, custom-shape flash drives and – one of my personal favorites – guitars!  The product is useful, and the presentation is unforgettable.  And speaking of presentation – don’t forget the impact of custom packaging, personalized print collateral and kitting items together to make a cool statement that is as individual as your brand.

Swag can definitely be cool!  Giving cool swag is all about the mindfulness of your approach to selecting the right product for the audience, and decorating the item in a creative manner that protects the brand identity while delivering that “wow” factor.  Keep your mind open to the different branding possibilities – your customers will notice!

(Image courtesy of Brand O’ Guitar Co)




June Is National Safety Month

safety_largeAccording to  injuries are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages – and they are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44.  In an effort to prevent and control workplace hazards, and stem the growing workers’ compensation costs, many companies have launched injury prevention programs. In fact, currently 34 states have established laws or regulations designed to require or encourage injury and illness prevention programs.

While ongoing safety programs are proven to increase loyalty and decrease illness and injury, there are many companies that supplement a formal program with spot incentives and reminders to increase awareness of preventive safety measures in the workplace and in the community.  Since safety at home, on the roads and in our communities is equally as important as safe practices at work, using the month of June as an opportunity to provide reminders of the power we all have to prevent accidents is a corporate initiative worth implementing.

Product ideas for branded merchandise that will help with that call to action can be guided by the weekly safety topics that will be highlighted in June through the National Safety Council. 

  • Week 1: Stand Ready to Respond 
    • first aid kit; emergency contact information magnets; survival tool
  • Week 2: Be Healthy
    • pedometer; pocket calorie counter; jump rope
  • Week 3: Watch Out for Dangers
    • flashlight; bright colored duct tape; hard hat key chain
  • Week 4: Share Roads Safely
    • bicycle safety light; helmet reflectors; reflective armband/sneaker stickers

Individual safety awareness is a choice to stay healthy and active.  Show your employees, customers and community neighbors that your company cares about their well-being – they will thank you with increased brand loyalty.




Think About The Box

tee box

When brainstorming new ideas, we’re told to “think outside the box”.  This basic premise for creative thinking assumes we should view the issue at hand more expansively. When the issue is the next corporate giveaway, the packaging that is used to deliver a gift, trade show giveaway or conference materials should be viewed with the same creative approach.

Packaging can be considered a silent salesperson, communicating feelings and information that can’t be delivered by just the branded product inside.  It can generate excitement and curiosity, creating buzz even before the box is opened.  A clever container with vivid graphics and brand-specific messages can be designed for nearly any item.  Food, apparel, print material, tech items, drinkware, writing instruments … the list of potential promotional gifts is long, and there are innovative box options for each.

Consider these inspired packaging picks – all available with custom graphics – for a branded item that may otherwise be familiar and forgettable.

  • Butterfly box:  top opens like butterfly wings and holds any small gift item (heart box is another option in this genre)
  • Milk carton box:  keeps cookies, nuts or candy in a box that dispenses as easily as morning milk
  • Single-serve coffee box:  this box is self-explanatory and perfect for a new employee welcome pack or hospital/student care package
  • Tool box:  provides an instant marketing message and can hold food, conference items, or (spoiler alert) tools
  • Bottle neck box:  slips around the neck of a bottle with a place to add another small gift item
  • Pyramid box:  build your argument with this distinctive shape even before the gift is revealed
  • Suitcase box:  fill this with travel essentials for the next sales incentive program

The choices are limited only by your imagination and creativity.  When thinking outside the box on your next marketing initiative, begin by thinking about that box!

(Image via Admints)

Get In The Game

blanketIt’s September, and football season has started – time for the corporate branding team to get in the game!   Almost everyone has a favorite team – high school, college or professional – and many of those fans will find themselves at a game this season.  According to ESPN, every NFL team drove between 942,000 and 1,279,000 fans to their games in 2013.  Football attendance topped 50 million for the first time in 2013 for NCAA schools, and Friday night at the local high school stadium remains a favorite fall outing. Considering the vast number of fans and the snug seating arrangements in the bleachers, companies have a great opportunity to take advantage of the high visibility for any branded merchandise that is used by employees and customers at those games.

Imagine the possibilities:

  • Two-sided blankets that offer the warmth of fleece and a waterproof backing
  • Square, round or rectangle shaped stadium cushions to soften the hard, cold seats
  • Waterproof pouches for phones
  • NFL approved clear vinyl totes for all the essentials we have to carry through stadium security
  • Covered stadium cups for the pre-game tailgate party
  • Knit scarves and hats in the corporate colors
  • Rain ponchos for the inevitable inclement weather

All the products that make game-day easier for the football enthusiasts are appreciated and used all season long.  Get in the game! and consider these options when looking for a high profile seasonal giveaway for increasing brand awareness.



Low Price Losers

costBranded merchandise doesn’t have to be expensive to have a high perceived value, just as high prices don’t guarantee quality.  It is the job of your corporate supplier partners to introduce you to product options in all price categories that will enhance your company brand and carry the message of quality, creativity and reliability that most firms want their customers to see in their own products and services.

Distributing quality merchandise, regardless of the price point, should be one of the most important considerations for corporate marketing and procurement departments.  There are thousands of well-made low-cost items in the advertising specialty industry that can improve brand awareness.  However, there are just as many inexpensive giveaways that are poorly made and/or have little or no value for the recipient.  So why consider those options just because they are cheap?  After all, if the gift you decide to give is discarded immediately, why give it at all?

I have listed below a few of my favorite low-cost promotional items, and have followed that list with the same number of low price losers that I recommend leaving off your list of options for the next giveaway.


  1. Pen/Stylus:  Less than $1.00.  You never have enough!  Available in multiple colors with double duty practical applications for writing and working on a touch screen device.
  2. Anti-Slip Phone Sticker:  Less than $2.00.  Keep that phone in place!  Full color digital graphics on phone grip that comes attached to a full color marketing card.
  3. Laser Cut Acrylic Magnet:  Less than $1.50.  Creative approach to a classic!  Available in custom shapes with full color graphics, and inexpensive to mail.
  4. Neoprene Can Cooler:  Less than $1.00.  Especially in the summer!  Multiple colors and decoration options from camo pattern to rhinestones.
  5. Hand Sanitizer:  Less than $1.50.  Everyone uses it!  Full color label graphics available on a variety of container options from small bottles to credit card shape.


  1. Small Plastic Toys:  Choking hazards are never good!
  2. Scented Anything:  So many people are sensitive to smells and additives, it’s safer to choose unscented products made from natural ingredients.
  3. Inferior Tools:  Tools that break under the pressure of using them are frustrating for the user and a poor reflection on the giver.
  4. Low-Grade Speakers:  Speakers are meant to improve sound, not drive the listener to turn it off!
  5. Open Cell Foam:  Fingers, balls, hats.  These things are cheap for a reason!  For the tournament game, go with a noisemaker or rally towel for close to the same investment.

Creative marketing giveaways can be found at every price point.  Be sure to enlist a supplier partner who understands the merchandise as well as the budget.  Your customer will be glad you did!

Pens … We Never Have Enough!

spectrum penBecause of their mass appeal, writing instruments remain one of the most popular giveaways for corporate marketing events, ranking third in market share of all branded merchandise sales, right behind t-shirts and bags.  To feed the world of pen-hungry recipients, pen style options range from the mundane stick pen to the 14K gold executive fountain pen, with styles and price points to suit every taste and budget.

Financial institutions have long known the power of the pen, giving away countless basic pens in brand specific colors with logos and tag lines that remind the recipient where to go for their next loan.  Entertainment and media giants use pens that allow for multiple rolling messages to advertise their shows, web sites and concert dates.  For companies that work with art establishments and the creative community, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and a well-known promotional merchandise supplier have collaborated to produce pens that showcase innovative materials and embrace MoMA’s design sensibility…simple, good design.

To increase their appeal, pens can be packaged with other promotional items to drive home a marketing campaign or internal corporate initiative.  A pen combined with a business portfolio isn’t exactly unique – but what about a group of low-cost colorful pens in a coffee cup as a welcome gift for new employees?  or a stylus pen with every new touch-screen device?  or a high-end personalized pen combined with a framed award certificate for top performers?

There is a large culture of people who love their pens.  Pens that have fine or thick tips; pens with rubber grips that make writing more comfortable; pens that light up for reading in low light; or maybe just a pen that fits exactly right into the inside pocket of our jackets or purses.   For countless reasons, we never have enough pens.  So the next time a corporate buyer considers pens for a gift or promotion, it’s a good idea to take the time to explore all the ways to make this otherwise ordinary item extraordinary!

A Case Of The Blues

blue-peacock-keiser_1338_600x450This summer, the world’s top designers have rolled out fashions in every shade of blue, from icy blues to deep denim blues, and everything in between.  The color is often associated with health, loyalty and wisdom, so it is also a natural fit for many corporate logos and promotional apparel choices.

According to Karen Haller, an internationally renowned business color and branding expert, brands use blue to seem calm and logical.  Blue relates to the mind, so consumers associate it with logic and  communication.  It’s also serene, like the ocean, and calming to look at.  However, the wrong tone of blue “can make a brand appear cold, aloof and unapproachable”.  She goes on to say that companies can double their branding message by seriously considering color choices.  The results are seen in 3 key areas of the business:

  • Makes your brand instantly recognizable
  • Stand out from the competition
  • Increases sales and profits

Considering all the choices in the various shades of blue for hats, shirts, and jackets that are offered by promotional industry suppliers, there are no shortage of options to capture exactly the right hue for every corporate purchase.  The next time you ask your branded merchandise provider for product samples, be sure to request a variety of colors, as well as different styles, so your color message is clear!

Photograph by Anne Keiser for National Geographic

New Year Brings New Hot Product Picks

holiday 2013At the start of every new year, I prepare myself for the inevitable question that every corporate promotional product customer asks – what are the new product ideas that deliver the highest perceived value for the most budget friendly price?  While all the new products are too numerous to list, and many times the word new refers only to a different feature on a classic style, there are always a few items that stand out to me for no other reason than I think they are cool!  Of course, judging the cool factor is very subjective, but what follows is only the beginning of a list that we will explore and evaluate together throughout the year.

  1. Yoga Pants with customized sublimated waistbands.  Good karma!
  2. Heat Cuffs use new technology that sends heat through pulse points to your hands and feet.  Stay warm!
  3. Bicycle Helmet Cover features full color imprint on form-fitting Lycra material.  One size fits most.  Heads up!
  4. Cup Shape Tissue Dispenser fits in your car cup holder for easy access.  Holds 40 tissues. Healthy habits at hand!
  5. New Revolution iPad Case features built-in wireless Bluetooth removable plastic keyboard.  All together now!
  6. New Line of Apparel includes hoodies, sweatpants and shorts in flourescent orange, pink and green.  Stand out in the crowd!
  7. Silicone Speaker amplifies iPhone sound with no batteries necessary. Holds iPhone horizontally or vertically.  Turn up the sound!
  8. Retractractable Bottle Opener/USB Flash Drive is offered in metal or plastic.  Open up the possibilities!
  9. iEraser is handheld microfiber piece that glides across the screen of phone, tablet, laptop or TV.  Keep it clean!
  10. Re-Engineered Camelbak Sport Bottle features exciting shapes and colors, great flow rate and easy-clean straw and cap.   Weekend warrior essential!

From the practical to the whimsical, one size definitely does not fit all!   I look forward to moving into the new year with a fresh perspective and sharing what comes next in the world of branded merchandise with corporate partners ready to explore new ways to bring the marketing message to their audience.