Ugly Sweaters – Beautiful Branding

ugly christ sweaterWhat started as a joke in the snowy upper Midwest has grown into a national craze that shows no signs of slowing down. To say the public’s affection for the ugly Christmas sweater has gained momentum is an understatement. From holiday parties to group shots with Santa Claus, people everywhere are donning hideously adorned holiday apparel.

As a natural evolution of everything that’s hot in retail, the ugly Christmas sweater craze has hit corporate America.   In 2015-2016, Uber sponsored an ugly sweater giveaway in designated cities across the country.  Wine and spirits companies have created ugly sweaters that promote their brands.  The craze has even landed one company a Shark Tank deal and in two years they went from a million dollar company to a ten million dollar company.   That’s a lot of ugly sweaters!

The appeal goes well beyond just the company holiday parties. They’re also great holiday gifts for customers and employees; perfect for the holiday fun runs (gotta stay warm!); and unforgettable as a community outreach program.  Consider branded ugly Christmas sweaters for this holiday season, or next – and keep in mind, as Oscar Wilde said,  “The ugly can be beautiful”.

Image courtesy of

Branding In A Brave New Tech World

techModern technology, driven by perpetual innovation, can boost the visibility of your brand.  Not just for the tech-savvy consumer, even the simplest of products can inspire excitement through smart design and practical application. From smart pedometers for the health conscious consumer of any age, to high capacity power banks that appeal to the techies that never have enough battery life to get through their day, there are tech products that will appeal to every audience. Today’s corporate buyers have as many price point options as style options, so there’s a tech product solution for every marketing budget.   Consider the newest offerings in this trending category of promotional merchandise: $3.00 – $5.00:

  • Slim slider stylus attaches directly to back of phone or tablet
  • 2″ sphere shape silicone speaker
  • Water resistant phone protector

$5.00 – $10.00:

  • Custom shape PVC ear buds
  • Mobile phone charger
  • Neoprene sports armband to hold mobile phone

$10.00 – $15.00:

  • Bluetooth speaker/amplifier
  • Calibration pulse reader pedometer
  • Laser pointer flash drive

$15.00 – $20.00:

  • Remote photo snap for mobile phones
  • Compact aluminum tablet stand
  • Wireless webcam

Branding in a tech-savvy world isn’t difficult, and can be as cost effective as your budget demands.  Next time you need a new idea for a discriminating audience, think tech!

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

Increase Your Socially Responsible Footprint

corp soc respAccording to corporate social responsibililty (CSR) is “A company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates.”  This concept has been around since the late 1960’s, and since that time corporations increasingly realize the value of the improved brand reputation that comes from a commitment to CSR.

CSR initiatives are a powerful branding tool when executed in a way that demonstrates a true commitment, rather than just a PR gesture.  Printing on both sides of the copy paper and recycling pop cans isn’t enough to establish a company as socially responsible.  Using sustainable materials in manufactured products;  reducing energy consumption in operations; and donating employee time to community projects are all practical ways to increase the corporate socially responsible footprint.  Oh – and let’s not forget another important action that can demonstrate our pledge to social responsibility – buying and distributing promotional products that are eco-consious, and, in some cases, sourced from fair trade, fair wage suppliers.

Examples of socially responsible products range from gourmet food produced in Yonkers, NY by a bakery committed to fair wages and community renewal, to tote bags made in Cambodia from recycled mosquito netting.  Jewelry is created from tagua seeds that are harvested from the sustainably-harvested Ivory Nut Palm grown in the rainforests of Columbia.  And something as simple as an organic cotton coffee cup sleeve ($3.00 for an opening order minimum quantity of 100 pieces) supports Kenyan mothers of children with special needs.  The prices vary as widely as the products, so there is a product and a pricepoint to fit most corporate marketing needs.

Most of us understand that not everything purchased to promote brand awareness can be eco-friendly.  Sometimes the pricing can’t meet the budget guidelines, and other times the product options don’t offer choices that speak to the target audience.  But with all else being equal, companies that actively promote their corporate social responsibility programs by putting their brand on products that speak to their commitment to society and the planet, are viewed more favorably.

Earth Day is April 22 – now is a good time to give visible testament to how your company plans to increase your socially responsible footprint!

(Image courtesy of Tawheed Manzoor)

Summer Is Coming

coolerAlthough we are still battling winter, we buoy our spirits with the knowledge that before long summer will be here.  Before that happens, however, the saavy corporate buyer can take advantage of supplier price specials on summer items like t-shirts, sunscreen and coolers.  And, for an added bonus, the timing of these first quarter specials allows us to think ahead of the spring/summer corporate events, and take a little extra time to explore some of the exciting options for creative product branding.

For instance …

  • Coleman coolers can be decorated on every side, including the top of the lid, with the corporate colors, graphics and marketing message;
  • the right screen printer can turn a simple cotton t-shirt into a fashion statement with brand graphics as subtle, or bold, as the corporate advertising theme dictates;
  • and simple items like SPF15 lip balm, insulated beverage holders or acrylic sport bottles offer a logo billboard that has full color, full wrap decorating potential.

Creative graphics can be as basic as adding an all-over solid imprint matching the corporate logo color, and adding the logo on top.  To add a little more style, there are millions of professional photos and graphics available on various internet sites like Shutterstock for very low prices.  Or, in the case of companies with larger marketing departments, in-house graphic artists can create something completely original.

Taking advantage of price specials on the right product for the next event makes budget sense.  Working with your promotional products provider in March to brainstorm creative branding options for a gift-with-purchase program that launches in July, gives the process owner peace of mind, and the recipient a more exciting gift experience.