China Bans Foreign Waste – Time To Get Serious About Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

bottle wasteThe U.S. exports about one-third of its recycling, and nearly half goes to China.  For decades, China has used recyclables from around the world to supply its manufacturing boom.  But it has recently declared that the waste coming from other countries includes too many other non-recyclable materials that are “dirty”, even “hazardous”.  Therefore, in an effort to  develop their country more like a world power rather than the world’s dumping ground, China has instituted strict restrictions on the amount and type of recyclable waste it will accept.

What does that have to do with corporate branding efforts?  In a world that has dwindling  options for all the trash that is created, corporations trying to increase brand awareness while supporting a cleaner planet can win on both fronts.  Distributing logo products that promote less trash, like refillable beverage cups and bottles; reusable acrylic or stainless steel straws; and non-woven grocery totes is both responsible stewardship of our earth and savvy marketing foresight.

Many popular promotional products are available in biodegradable materials that are easy to recycle – balloons, pens, bags, and coffee cups to name a few.  Other products like lunch coolers, drink coasters and reusable sandwich bags promote reducing and reusing rather than relying on throw-away packaging.  These items are an example of how the world of branded merchandise is responding to the need, and the market demand, for more eco-friendly options.

Keeping and using an item with a corporate logo increases brand awareness and improves customer loyalty – the ROI is clear.  Distributing environmentally conscious products helps to reduce waste – the benefit to the planet is clear.  It’s time to get serious – ask about products that protect your brand and the earth at the same time.





Made Better In America

usaThere are many reasons to prefer merchandise that is made in the USA – patriotism; opposition to foreign standards on low wages and poor working conditions; support of domestic jobs – but the one I like the best is the quality of US-made goods over that of many overseas manufacturers.  And when a corporation adds their logo to an item that will be distributed as a way to increase brand awareness, that company wants to know the quality of that product reflects the quality of their brand.

Americans recognize the competitive advantage of American-made goods, and are not settling for just the cheapest product anymore.   Added to the fact that the cost competitiveness of US manufacturing has begun to take off, while the rising labor costs in China erode their cost advantage, USA-made merchandise becomes not only a choice that’s good for the corporate conscience, but is also a practical decision for the budget-minded.

As for the quality of those goods – the high US manufacturing standards and strong employee attitudes around pride in the quality of their work, contribute to the product excellence buyers are looking for.  According to the Boston Consulting Group, 80% of consumers surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for “made in USA” products than those with a “made in China” label.  Not surprisingly, BCG goes on to report that 82% of Chinese say they “agree” or “strongly agree” that they feel better about Made in USA quality.  Made in USA has come to represent old world craftsmanship and socially responsible values.

But once convinced that the quality and price for USA-made goods make it an attractive choice for corporate logo products, it’s good to know the types of merchandise that are easily sourced and readily available for timely shipping.  After all, very few corporate event planners consider their giveaway sooner than a few weeks prior to the need date.  I have listed below a few of the most common promotional items in the Made in USA category.

  • Items made from recycled materials:  drinkware, flyers, ice scrapers, bag clips
  • T-shirts
  • Pens
  • Tote bags
  • Key tags
  • Ceramic mugs
  • Mouse pads
  • Calendars
  • Lip balm

When considering your next promotional product, consider the quality of USA-made merchandise.  Your customers will notice!




Skimping On Quality Incentives? Quality Employees Will Lose Interest

1-skimping-on-business-plan-ssTaking care of the people who help grow and expand your organization is essential in a corporate world that is becoming short on quality employees willing to stay with an organization longer than a few years.  Therefore, when executing an incentive program, it’s important to keep product quality and gift variety front of mind when considering award options.  One size definitely does not fit all, and regardless of the program budget, the quality of the items offered should be considered the core of the program itself.

Keeping in mind that quality merchandise comes in all price categories, there are ways to design an incentive program product selection that suits your audience as well as the expense guidelines that should have been defined at the beginning of this process.  Also, creative thinking can enhance a program by incorporating more than just gift items into the plan.   Bonus vacation days, local spa and restaurant gift cards … one firm even created cardboard cutouts of actual employees to build excitement … are all ideas that can heighten excitement and increase participation.

If the budget calls for gift tiers that start at $10.00 and top out at $50.00, then be sure to select items that the participants will recognize as the best $10.00 item available.  For instance, a simple water bottle is a cost effective item, but be sure to consider a bottle brand that most employees will recognize as the best water bottle on the market.  The same strategy applies to all price points – it’s better to select gifts that are seen in the retail market with well-known, well-respected brand names than to offer a lower cost item that looks like every other logo product on the market.

A few examples of brand name items, in the $10.00 – $50.00 price range, that can be sourced in the incentive market and branded (or not) with the company logo:

  • Camelbak® Sports Bottle
  • Stanley® Insulated Beverage Bottle
  • Moleskine® Notebook
  • Built® Neoprene Wine Bottle Holder
  • High Sierra® Backpack
  • Woolrich® Blanket

Your employees are the key to continued organizational growth and success.  Let them know you recognize their value with a quality incentive program that reflects the quality of those individuals.

(Image via

Maximum Brand Benefit Through Minimalist Approach

Minimalism brings the simplest and fewest elements together to create the maximum effect.  When building a corporate brand through a promotional merchandise program, the motto less is more becomes a good guide for product selection.

I have always encouraged clients to narrow choices for logo products in their on-line stores to those items that are needed often and must be delivered quickly.  When making the initial product selection, the program administrators are working hard to please all the internal buyers.  Since the premise for the program generally begins with centralized buying for this category of spend, it is always tempting to create a long list of items that presumably appeals to everyone in the organization.  But while the intention is noble, the outcome often creates unnecessary inventory obsolescence and expensive year-end product buyouts.

Stock items should be limited to essentials like pens, padfolios, t-shirts or inexpensive give-aways that are often ordered at the last minute for meetings, trade shows and community outreach.  These items would represent the staple products that everyone in the company recognizes as approved branded material, like stationary or business cards.  Other than those few staples (and the word “few” is relative to the size and reach of the organization) all other logo items or premium appreciation gifts should be purchased with a fresh approach and aimed squarely at the audience it is intended for.

The brand identity is reinforced every time a logo product is received.  But to keep those product choices fresh, minimizing stock items in order to maximize the opportunity for new, creative ideas is a concept that should be considered the next time the company store merchandise selection is being refreshed.

(image via Smash&Peas)