This One Time... at Brand Camp

Come for creative product campaign ideas and branding advice. Stick around for obscure movie references.

I spent last Thursday and Friday scoping out new product at the ASI Show in Dallas. You all seemed to enjoy our recap posts after the OrlandoShow in 2012, so I made sure to snap plenty of pictures this time too.

I've got a lot to share with you, so I'll be splitting the info up across a few posts like last year. If you're not particularly interested in reading about everything from mini silicone spatulas to ladies' work apparel, I'm planning to split up the posts like so:

Friday-- Part 1: Drinkware and Apparel 

Monday-- Part 2: Desk, Audio and Displays

Wednesday-- Part 3: Health & Home, Auto and Fun

Please be sure to stop by the blog next week if you're looking for new ideas in any of those categories. Alright, let's get started!

Drinkware

If the number of suppliers carrying a particular piece is any indication of its future success, these double-walled party cups (available with or without a lid) are promising to be the next acrylic tumbler and straw a.k.a. the next big craze in drinkware. They have that stupid, silly, fun appeal- the same sort of appeal that made Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" one of the most popular country songs of 2011. Get 'em while they're hot.

Another drinkware piece rocking the country party vibe is this Mason Jar Tumbler. They come in a wide range of colors, not just orange. Don't you just want to fill it with sweet tea?


Pint glasses- in unique materials like bamboo and silicone- were another common trend at the show. The silicone cups are really versatile. They're virtually unbreakable, and they withstand extreme temperatures (you can even use the shot glass size as a baking cup/liner/mold).

How sweet is this mug with heart-shaped inner taper?


If you're in the market for a nice water bottle, I was really impressed with the Contingo AutoSpout Addison bottle. The one touch push button spout is strangely satisfying (and addicting) to press.

This accordion water bottle is inexpensive and fun for a charity race or school promotion... maybe even for a yoga studio... stretchy!

Apparel

We just covered major trends in corporate apparel on the blog last week, so I'll try to move quickly through what I saw in Dallas. I realize that some of you may not find wholesale clothing as interesting as I do!






Apparel suppliers seem to be paying particular attention to ladies this year; many of them have launched new lines geared specifically to women. I was very happy to see feminine details like ruffles, flattering necklines and unique buttons in these new additions. They're a lot more special than traditional ladies styles, in which a fitted torso and narrow shoulders really seem to be the only elements differentiating them from their male companions. Whether or not you're a lady, you should certainly keep their preferences in mind when purchasing apparel for staff or a large group.





Other trends of note: bright colors, especially jewel tones, and interesting prints and textures (heather, houndstooth and acid wash, for example).

That's all for now! I'll cover desk items, audio gear, and displays on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Happy Valentine's Day, all!

Hopefully you're reading this before 10:00 AM and aren't yet burnt out on all things chocolate and sugary, because we've got a sweet post for you today.

Edibles is a huge category within promotional products, encompassing everything from restaurant dinner mints and personalized M&M's to holiday snack towers and cheese boards. The whole goal of promotional marketing is to put your logo on an item that people will take, keep, use and like, so candies and food items, which we all enjoy, are very popular choices.

With most promotional food items, your logo is placed on the packaging or an accompanying item. I mean, you can't exactly brand a nut (or can you?), so you brand a sticky note holder or crystal bowl instead. Mints, gum, nuts- generally the imprint goes on something else.

With cookies, brownies and certain other treats, however, you can get away with a direct imprint on the edible itself. Surface area isn't a limiting factor and edible inks keep the piece safe for consumption.

A current favorite in our office are these chocolate dipped picture treats with sprinkle border. We're partial to the Oreo, but there are also graham crackers, Nilla wafers, brownies, marshmallows, sugar cookies, crispy rice treats and fortune cookies.

Am I making your teeth hurt? Relax, here's an apple.

The edible inks allow for full color artwork, and there are more than 45 sprinkle varieties available to accent your design. If you go the fortune cookie route, you can even customize the paper fortune inside.


Next time you're in the market for an edible promotion, keep these creative picture treats in mind. They're almost too pretty to eat.

This week at Sonic Promos, we're working on...

... laminate bags for Discover Tile in Boston.

... hooded zip sweatshirts with a vintage print, coffee sleeves, bags and lanyards for the Schusterman Family Foundation.

... and table throws for the Phelps School's recruiting efforts.

"This Week at Sonic Promos" is a regular feature on our blog.
Read all past posts here.
Check in every week to see some of the work that's going on in our office.

Meet Julianne:

How long have you been working at Sonic Promos?
Well, the company came with the spouse, so I have been at least tangentially involved since 2000. I began actually coming into the office back in 2006.

What role(s) do you play here?
I am the COO and have my hand in HR, accounting, marketing and sales.

Best part of the job?
On the personal side, I love getting to see Seth (my husband) during the weekdays, being able to bring my dogs to work, and a flexible schedule that allows me to make it to every kid school play and parent teacher conference. On the professional side, I love when we come up with a cool image or a super witty tagline. And having clients respond to our work feels incredible. I remember one order of T-shirts where the client wrote in to say this was the first time he had seen his company name on something real- it was the realization of a lifelong dream. Pretty cool to share in that!

Worst part of the job?
When I am wearing my HR hat and need to put an end to the "fun", whether it be a heated discussion that is getting a bit political (any mention of Chick-fil-A has been banned from our internal group chat) or language not appropriate for use around our high school interns. It makes me feel like a spoil sport. Also, the horrible, painful spot in the pit of my stomach when, for some reason, an order doesn't go right. The stress of waiting for the UPS truck to arrive, with minutes to spare before an event starts- just ugh!

What's your favorite kind of project to work on?
I keep the T-shirts and mugs and pens from experiences in my life that have significant impact. I like doing projects where I feel like the recipient- not necessarily the client, but the person they are giving the item to- will get that same sentiment. Medals for individuals completing races, items for employee appreciation, shirts for a big conference or concert... those things hold memories for years. Memory totems, if you will.

What do your coworkers love to tease you about?
I call ground beef "hamburg". I forget things people tell me almost instantly unless I write it down. I can't hold my liquor.

Years ago, Seth told the office that my college nickname was "One Can Julianne". At the next conference we attended, my name tag said "Onecan Weiner". Every person I met that day looked at me funny and said something like, "Oonacanay, it's nice to meet you." Took me a while to figure out why.

Keep reading for more staff interviews in the coming weeks. In case you missed it-
Meet Rahmie
Meet Jen
Meet Mallory
Meet Lindsay
Meet Jamie
Meet Seth

This week at Sonic Promos, we're working on...

... stuffed bags for Huntington Bank's health and wellness program. The drawstring cinch packs contain a water bottle, paper mouse pad, apple stress ball and informational card.

... table tents advertising Gold Eagle products.

... and sticky notes, temporary tattoos, and plastic and paper bags for the Washington Kastles.

"This Week at Sonic Promos" is a regular feature on our blog.
Read all past posts here.
Check in every week to see some of the work that's going on in our office.

If you've ever worked with Sonic Promos and don't know Seth, I'd be very surprised. Still, I hope you at least learn something new with today's interview!

Meet Seth:

How long have you been working at Sonic Promos?
Since Day 1. Which means close to 16 years. I'm still waiting on my gold watch.

What role(s) do you play here?
I was classically trained at Juilliard. I have played MacBeth twice. I enjoyed playing Dannie in the all-male version of Annie.

Best part of the job?
It's a toss-up. Either the people, the dogs or the chocolate.

Worst part of the job?
The dogs or the chocolate.

What's your favorite kind of project to work on?
I especially like Health and Wellness and new brand launches.

What do your coworkers love to tease you about?
My ability to find an appropriate song for any situation, liking the Pittsburgh Steelers but hating the Penguins, and the fact that I frequently date myself with pop culture references- it was the MOOPS!

Keep reading for more staff interviews in the coming weeks. In case you missed it-
Meet Rahmie
Meet Jen
Meet Mallory
Meet Lindsay
Meet Jamie

Happy Wednesday, readers! Before we get too deep into the New Year, let's talk a bit about current trends in corporate apparel. What's hot right now?

Hansel. So hot right now. Hansel.

Sorry, I couldn't resist! Please don't click away. I'll stay on topic for the rest of the post. I promise.

Performance Materials:

In polo shirts, polyester and blended materials are still very popular. These performance materials are extremely comfortable to wear and easy to care for. Look for pieces that wick sweat and absorb moisture, resist snags and stains, manage body odor, body map for temperature control, and protect from sun exposure.



This isn't a style column, so I'm not going to say that cotton pique polo shirts are out- I don't think they'll ever be out; pique polo shirts are a classic and traditional look- but if you're looking to dress your employees in a sharp piece that they'll wear in and outside of the office, we recommend a performance polo.



In outerwear, microfleece jackets are popular as always, but bonded knit and soft shell jackets are particular trendy. As with polyester performance polo shirts, the main appeal of bonded fleece and soft shell is comfort and durability. They're extremely warm, breathable, and water-resistant or water-proof in some cases. They also tend to be less bulky than fleece with a more stream-lined cut, so the fit is very flattering.

Heather Colors:

I'm sure you've seen a lot of the heather trend in retail stores right now. It's just as prevalent in corporate apparel. T-shirts, outerwear, fitness apparel... it's everywhere.



Retail Design Details:

Think about your favorite wardrobe pieces. I bet there are little design details that you love about all of them. Things like thumbholes on your winter running gear or interesting buttons at the placket. Maybe it's a conveniently placed pocket, or a zipper guard that keeps your chin and neck comfortable. If you appreciate the small details in your own clothing, look for these particulars in apparel for your staff too. Your goal is to equip them with something that they'll actually enjoy wearing!


Unique Decoration Techniques and Placement:

We've talked about alternative decoration methods on the blog before. Techniques like laser-etching, deboss, and heat seal transfers were very popular in 2012 as alternatives to traditional embroidery and screen-printing, and the same is true for 2013. Ask your promotional rep about these options, as the best decoration method for your project will depend on the artwork and the garment's material.

For a really current look, think about decoration placement in addition to the technique. The shoulder, side panel and sleeve are easy to decorate and create a unique look.

What are your thoughts on these trends?

Meet Jamie:

How long have you been working at Sonic Promos?
6 years.

What role(s) do you play here?
Mainly, I work with clients on their branding needs. I oversee everything from the beginning stage of coming up with a concept to the final stage of making sure the right products are delivered with the correct imprint. I also help build our business through other avenues, such as our Premier Partners program. Have you attained that level yet?

Best part of the job?
Pretty much everything. I know it's cliché, but I really do love what I do. Simply put, it's fun almost every day. I love my relationships with my clients, vendors and our Sonic team. The greatest reward is when we help develop a project from its inception and it turns out perfectly.

Worst part of the job?
When a factory screws up something that is completely out of your control. We try to work with only a select group of trusted vendors, but once or twice a year, someone just makes a mistake, and it's extremely frustrating. On the bright side, though, we are almost always able to fix it in some way.

What's your favorite kind of project to work on?
Complicated ones! Projects where it's not just one item, but a few that go together. Maybe a conference with a padfolio with a pen inserted and placed into a tote. Or where we take two completely separate items and group them together as a gift, like a lunch bag and water bottle. It's a little more of a challenge, and I enjoy that.

What do your coworkers love to tease you about?
What don't they tease me about? Golfing on nice days, my love of Michael Jackson, my weird baby carrot and coconut allergy, my love/hate relationship with the Redskins, my age, or whatever else they feel like picking at that day. In all fairness, I do give it out as well, so I am fully prepared to take it.

Keep reading for more staff interviews in the coming weeks. In case you missed it-
Meet Rahmie
Meet Jen
Meet Mallory
Meet Lindsay

Tuesdays are typically reserved for a weekly roundup of client projects, but we're mixing things up today and giving the spotlight to a very special piece for the JCCGW.

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington celebrates its centennial anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, we helped them create a mug with a fun twist.

When empty, the mug displays black with a white logo near the lip. Fill it up with a hot beverage to reveal a charming photo from the Center's early days.

On the backside, you'll find the centennial logo.

Thank you, JCCGW, for the opportunity to collaborate on such a fun piece. Congratulations on 100 years of service! We wish you hundreds more.

Take a look at this image.

Which grey column would you say is darker? The one on the right or left?

Ah, trick question. They're actually the same color. But I'm sure you all saw that coming...

Even when I see it laid out plainly like this, I still have trouble convincing myself of the truth. Our eyes are so tricky!

Here's another example of the same illusion:


(source)

These illusions illustrate just how inaccurately we perceive color. Whether we view something as light or dark really depends on the context; background and surrounding colors greatly influence our perception.

Our eyes struggle with all sorts of colors, not just shades of grey. Take a look at the images below. If you didn't know better, wouldn't you say that the small blocks of light purple were the same color in each scenario? Same with the oranges?


Our imperfect color perception is yet another reason why careful proofing is so important. We might like how a color looks in one context, and hate how it looks in another. In the display of pens below, the grey works nicely on the black, white and blue pens. There is good contrast, and the imprint really pops. On the red and lime green pens, however, the grey imprint almost shakes before your eyes. It's a bit distracting and unpleasant to look at.

Don't ever settle for a black and white proof, and pay careful attention to how your selected imprint color looks against the actual item color.

This week at Sonic Promos, we're working on...

... event calendar magnets for Forrester.

... nice paperweights for internal meetings at Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals.

... and sweatbands for BBYO.

"This Week at Sonic Promos" is a regular feature on our blog.
Read all past posts here.
Check in every week to see some of the work that's going on in our office.

Another staff interview for you today! This time I am... um... interviewing myself. Enjoy!

Meet Lindsay:

How long have you been working at Sonic Promos?
At the end of January, I'll have been with Sonic for three years.

What role(s) do you play here?
I'm one of Sonic's Brand Managers. We're the intermediaries between clients and production. I brainstorm ideas with the client, suggest product solutions, make decisions regarding sourcing and artwork, and oversee the project's timeline. I'm also Sonic's primary blog author (yes, I'm awkwardly answering questions of my own creation), and I manage our website and social media.

Best part of the job?
Industry shows are a lot of fun. I really enjoy catching up with our reps and reviewing new product. It's also pretty neat to see something you worked on displayed at an event, or to spy someone wearing a T-shirt that you had a hand in designing.

Worst part of the job?
Hmm, I'd have to say shipping. Sorry UPS and FedEx, you all do a great job, but it really stinks to worry about and be held responsible for something outside your control. I could do without natural disasters and lost packages.

What's your favorite kind of project to work on?
I like projects that have a lot of moving parts. Split shipments, complicated decoration, variable data... all of that really appeals to my Type A personality. Ugh, I'm such a dork! I also love T-shirt design, especially faded imprints and retro/vintage apparel.

What do your coworkers love to tease you about?
I can be embarrassingly gullible. I have a really sarcastic sense of humor, but I'm apparently not very good at detecting it in others. I also get a lot of flak for my avocado obsession and strange lunch combinations.

Keep reading for more staff interviews in the coming weeks. In case you missed it-
Meet Rahmie
Meet Jen
Meet Mallory

Several of my friends and relatives were engaged or married recently (I went to five weddings in 2012, all of them in different states. Yikes!), so I've been spending more time than usual browsing wedding boards on Pinterest and other wedding websites.

I recently came across a bunch of cute Save-the-Date ideas on the Martha Stewart Weddings website that creatively use promotional products. These ideas can easily translate to any kind of product campaign... they're certainly not limited to weddings!


Lightweight, easily mailed and inexpensive, custom balloons are a great choice for any kind of promotion. I once saw them used to promote an event raising awareness for lung cancer. Funny!



Napkins are a promotional item with so much potential. Here are two more ways to use them for business endeavors:

1. If you frequently arrange catered lunches or bring in coffee and donuts for meetings with clients, bring along a stack of napkins branded with your company's logo and contact information. The extras will linger in their office long after your meeting has ended.

2. At food festivals or restaurant events, napkins are a great way to put more information in the hands of your guests. Print a map of the venue or a list of the various courses served or vendors present.


Note pads/cubes are one of my favorite promotional items. I realize that not all people are sticky note-obsessed like I am, but if they are, you can be sure your piece will occupy desk space for weeks. Note cubes are particularly good choices when you need ample imprint area; you can customize both the individual sheets and all four sides of the cube.

This week at Sonic Promos, we're working on...

... mints, Post-it highlighter pens and ear buds for Wilmer Hale.

... T-shirts for REAL School Gardens, to be worn at a community garden build.

... and Red Zone T-shirts for AAA and the University of Maryland.

"This Week at Sonic Promos" is a regular feature on our blog.
Read all past posts here.
Check in every week to see some of the work that's going on in our office.

Good morning, friends!

Anyone else feeling the post-holiday blues like me? How about another Sonic staff interview to distract you from that full inbox?

Meet Mallory:

How long have you been working at Sonic Promos?
About a year and a half. I started in May 2011, right before my birthday!

What role(s) do you play here?
Primarily, I keep everyone in the loop about crazy things happening on the internet. We have a group chat function that I like to abuse by sending out links and YouTube videos for everyone to enjoy. Other than that, I answer the phone, manage client accounts, and assist Seth on his projects.

Best part of the job?
It's always something different! I love helping clients with projects and finding the best items for their campaigns.

Worst part of the job?
There are no Starbucks within walking distance. It's hard to believe that this is America.

What's your favorite kind of project to work on?
The really creative projects-  I love finding a unique way to approach a marketing campaign- whether it's doing a custom piece or using something conventional in a different way. Also, any project that involves fun artwork!

What do your coworkers love to tease you about?
There are so many choices! I would have to say it's either my obsession with sharks or my complete lack of coordination.

Keep reading for more staff interviews in the coming weeks. In case you missed it-
Meet Rahmie
Meet Jen

Welcome to 2013, friends! We're away from the office today (and we hope you are too!), but projects are still moving forward. Here's a glimpse of what we're working on this week:

... poker chips for HD Radio.

... Awards for Atteloir.

... and T-shirts for field player and goalie clinics at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

"This Week at Sonic Promos" is a regular feature on our blog.
Read all past posts here.
Check in every week to see some of the work that's going on in our office.

This week at Sonic Promos, we're working on...

... picture frames for Cantor Fitzgerald's holiday party.

... executive pens for 39 West Lexington.

... and totes and duffel bags (guest's choice!) for a BBYO event.

We won't "see" you next Tuesday, so have a wonderful week and happy holidays to all!

"This Week at Sonic Promos" is a regular feature on our blog.
Read all past posts here.
Check in every week to see some of the work that's going on in our office.

I hope you all enjoyed learning more about Rahmie last week! Today, I introduce you to Jen Keffer. Jen wears a ton of hats at Sonic (as you'll see below), so she has definitely had her hand in your projects whether you knew it or not. We're super grateful to have her!

Meet Jen:

How long have you been working at Sonic Promos?
I've been with Sonic for just over a year.

What role(s) do you play here?
According to my business cards, I am the Operations & Logistics Guru here at Sonic. I create and manage our clients' online company stores, and I handle fulfillment projects, including our clients' holiday/gift wrapping needs. I'm also in charge of logistics and shipping, and I'm Debbie's second-in-command when it comes to CSR duties. I also wear the hats of Special Events Coordinator (I plan all of the fun office parties!) and Office Supplies Manager (I order all our office supplies and the ever-important caffeine). Basically, if it's thrown to me, I make it happen!

Best part of the job?
Handling fulfillment projects for the team. They are crazy sometimes, but I really enjoy doing them- the planning and logistics, even jumping in to help pack or haul boxes to the UPS truck. I've enjoyed taking on this role here at Sonic. Also, the ability to work from home is wonderful. I'm not from this area, and most of my family is back home in Texas. It's great to be able to leave for a week or two, spend time with the family, and still get my job done.

Worst part of the job?
The commute. I don't live very close to the office and there are days when traffic on the Beltway is a nightmare. Thank goodness for my awesome carpool schedule with Mallory!

What's your favorite kind of project to work on?
Anything that gets me away from my desk and involves me running around. It's part of the reason I enjoy handling fulfillment projects so much. I'm not much of a desk person.

What do your coworkers love to tease you about?
Not wearing shoes in the office, being a klutz (I'm always walking into walls and tripping over things), and being strongly anti-artificial sweeteners (I hate when my coworkers ask me to buy Splenda or Sweet 'N Low- that stuff will kill you!).

We share a lot of links at the office; everyone at Sonic is a pretty big fan of Thought Catalog and BuzzFeed, in particular. So, in honor of 12/12/12 12:12, here are 12 things we deem worthy of your special minute.

1. 19 People Who Are Having a Way Worse Day Than You

2. Patient Dog with His Best Friend

3. Cats in Christmas Trees

4. Maddie the Coonhound

5. 20 Cats As Fonts (Papyrus cat... I die.)

6. Concerned Penguins

7. Unfortunate Nicolas Cage Email Attachment

8. Some Really Awesome Rooms

9. The 50 Best Animal Photos of 2012

10. Dogs Worried About the Apocalypse

11. Mashup of 2012 Pop Songs

12. Sneaky Hate Spiral (a classic.)

Happy 12/12/12 12:12! Now get back to work.