This One Time... at Brand Camp
Come for creative product campaign ideas and branding advice. Stick around for obscure movie references.

What's Hot in Corporate Apparel for 2013?

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?

Sonic Staff: Meet Jamie

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

JCCGW Mystique Mug

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.

Color Perception and Optical Ilusions

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:


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 1.15.12

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.

Sonic Staff: Meet Lindsay

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

Promotional Products as Save-the-Dates

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 1.8.13

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.

Sonic Staff: Meet Mallory

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

This Week at Sonic Promos 1.1.13

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.

Sonic Promos Logo Evolution

After we posted about our new logo last month, Seth unearthed a stack of his old business cards. Check out how our logo has evolved over the course of 15 years:

Thanks for the great picture, Rahmie!

What do you think? Which version is your favorite?


This Week at Sonic Promos 12.18.12

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.

Sonic Staff: Meet Jen

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!).

12 Ways to Spend 12:12 Laughing or Smiling

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.

This Week at Sonic Promos 12.11.12

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

... fun T-shirts for Gene's Johns, a family-owned portable sanitation business in Germantown, Maryland.

... Brookstone wine openers for BGC Partners.

... and rotate flash drives and screen cleaners for WMC Global.

"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.

Emerald Green for 2013

Every year, Pantone selects a Color of the Year. 2012 was the punchy Tangerine Tango. Their top pick for 2013 comes from the opposite side of the color wheel. Say hello to Emerald green!


Pantone's choice of color has a lot of influence, inspiring everything from beauty products to fashion trends and home decor. Expect to see a lot of green on the shelves this year.

Why emerald? Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Leatrice Eiseman explains, "It's a color of growth, renewal, healing, unity and regeneration- words we're all so in need of at this point of history."

"The entire green family has been so strong, upcoming through the '90s as we're paying attention to nature, so the family isn't new, but what we needed to look at and revisit was the psychological background: Emerald is such a balanced color, and balance is something to pick up on and listen to," she adds (source).

Like many industries, we rely on the Pantone Matching System (PMS) Color Chart in promotional products to communicate imprint colors with our clients and vendors, so I always find the color announcement to be pretty exciting.

What are your thoughts on Emerald? I bet Starbucks is pleased!

Sonic Staff: Meet Rahmie

In last week's post about our new logo, I briefly mentioned some of the changes we experienced as an agency this year, including the addition of new staff members.

These awesome individuals have been members of our team for several months now, but it occurred to me that we sort of skipped proper introductions. So, over the course of the next few months, I'll be posting short staff interviews. First on deck? Graphic Designer Rahmie Santoso.

Meet Rahmie:

How long have you been working at Sonic Promos?
I've been with Sonic since June 2012.

What role(s) do you play here?
I play many roles in the art department: Graphic Designer, Production Artist, Expert Paper Cutter and Creative Instigator. I see design projects through from concept to creation, and I make sure art is vendor-ready for production. I also create and prep all of our in-house art, from business cards to letterhead and documents, making sure that everything is cohesive and in line with Sonic's branding guidelines.

Best part of the job?
Creating! It's what I love; it's what I'm good at. Designers aren't limited to just logos and flyers. We're problem solvers. We help companies display themselves in a way that achieves the goals they seek.

Worst part of the job?
I have to say the only negative for me is the commute. I travel an hour to and from work. But, I really love that I can work from home when needed.

What's your favorite kind of project to work on?
I like projects that challenge me creatively. Branding or re-branding a company is always fun! As the designer, you have to put a lot of thought and time into figuring out how to create a look that suits the client. It's always different.

What do your coworkers love to tease you about?
Here at Sonic, we're a big family, and joking is what we do best. From getting teased about wearing leggings as pants (guilty), to having things tossed at me, to getting my face Photoshopped on someone else's body... the jokes and teasing vary from day to day.

This Week at Sonic Promos 12.4.12

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

... flashlights and perpetual calendars for Hirshson Design Group.

... bookmarks for elementary school students to promote Matsunaga's Read-a-Thon over winter break.

... and compressed T-shirts for Chevron.

"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.

Sonic Promos Gets a Makeover

Many of you have noticed and commented on the new Sonic Promos logo. It's been on our website and in our email signatures for several weeks now, but we haven't yet officially announced the change. What have we been waiting for?

Well, business cards. Business cards make it official.

2012, our 15th year in business, has been a year of change at Sonic Promos. We settled into cloud computing, streamlined our production process, welcomed several new employees, and more than doubled our office space. It felt appropriate to give our logo a face lift as well.

We absolutely love our new look (and we hope you do too!), but it definitely wasn't an easy decision. We have an... opinionated... office, and it took a little time and a lot of patience from our art staff before we reached a consensus.

Care to see how we arrived at the final design?

Truly, we liked all of the versions seen above, but we're very pleased with the end result.

Cheers to another successful 15 years.

Wooden Wine Label

Last weekend, Julianne attended a wine tasting and snapped a picture of this unique balsa wood label.

The man hosting the tasting said to her, "Even if you forget the name of this wine, you can always recognize it because of the wooden label."

It turns out that there are a few wineries that mark their bottles with laser-etched wood, but the number is pretty small, making the chances of Julianne becoming a repeat customer significantly higher.

Unique packaging is just as important for attracting new customers as it is for maintaining repeat customers. As much as we hope that the quality of our service or product will speak for itself, the truth is, buyers often make purchasing decisions based on visual appeal. 

I admittedly know very little about wine, and when I select a bottle from the store, 9 times out of 10 my choice has more to do with a cool label than anything else. This wooden one would certainly catch my attention.

The lesson here? Make sure the exterior packaging of your product is as unique and appealing as its contents.