This One Time... at Brand Camp

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

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.


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.

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.

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

... chocolate hockey pucks, drawstring bags, shot glasses and to-go cups for a Winter Classic-themed party in December.

... rolled blankets for Redtail Technology.


... and a postcard mailer for Huntington Bank with removable static stick decal.

"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...

... custom snow globes for Cantor Fitzgerald and their partner companies.

... teddy bears in tees for Montgomery College.

... and custom flash drives for Metropolitan Meat and Seafood, in the shape of their logo.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

"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...

... silicone bracelets and postcards for .Co. The silicone bracelets doubled as tickets for entry to the event.

... sublimated lanyards and leather writing pads for Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel's management conference in New York City last weekend.

... and T-shirts with a full color digital print for Fluor-Lane.

"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...

... flash drives, Atone-Mints, stylus pens and a booth display for ShalomLearning to use at an upcoming trade show.

... photo frames with a custom insert (not pictured) for Sittercity. 50 frames are being sent to winners of their pumpkin carving contest. You can find more information about the contest on their Facebook page.

... and key-shaped flash drives and key tags for Baker Tilly, to be distributed at a tax conference this weekend in Chicago.

"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...

... power bank chargers for Forrester Leadership Board's seminar gifts.

... polo shirts, dress shirts and hats for Fluor Lanes, the company installing HOV lanes in Virginia.

... and custom lapel pins for General Electric.

"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.

Time to bring back one of our favorite series: Print This, Not That!

Today's printing lesson is all about the underbase. 

In screen printing, an underbase is a layer of ink (usually white) that is printed on dark garments to prevent the material's color from showing through the surface print. You might have also heard this base layer referred to as a flash. Flash is short for flash curing, which describes the process in which the underbase is spot heated, but not completely cured. A printer wants the underbase to feel dry to the touch before laying other inks on top, but the inks aren't entirely cured until the complete design is run through the drier at the end of the process.

Looking at the image above, you'll see why the underbase is an important step not to be missed. Without it, you'll end up with discolored artwork. A yellow ink printed on a blue shirt without an underbase will appear green, just as white ink printed on a red shirt without an underbase will appear pink.

Many printers will charge an additional fee for the underbase, so be sure your printing quote includes this important base layer.

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

... smartphone gloves for Seamless, a popular online food delivery portal (check them out here!). The gloves lack thumb and index fingers tips so that they can be worn while browsing a smartphone or iPad. Seamless plans to hand out the gloves at food trucks as the weather gets colder.

... hats and T-shirts for Heineken and Dos Equis, to be used as giveaways promoting happy hours and drink specials.

... and red T-shirts for the Washington Kastles. These shirts were handed out during a celebration at the Wilson Building in Washington DC on Monday afternoon. Mayor Vincent C. Gray honored the team by naming October 22, 2012 Washington Kastles Day. Check out photos of the event here. Congratulations, 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.

Here's a fun case study for you today. Have you heard of Allie the Ally?

Allie the Ally was created by a student group from James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, Maryland called Allies 4 Equality. To spread awareness about LGBTQ issues and to give hope to kids struggling with acceptance, both from themselves and others, the group developed a colorful paper doll named Allie. What began as a local high school initiative quickly became a national campaign, thanks to the group's active Facebook page. Allie has now traveled across the United States and to four different countries. Supportive fans post photos of themselves with the doll, along with a brief message. Many schools and religious groups have gotten involved with Allie; even the Governor of Maryland has participated.

The students have even been honored with a national award for their efforts.

Recently, Allies 4 Equality came to Sonic looking for a way to sell Allie the Ally T-shirts to school communities across the country.

The T-shirt features a 7-color front/1-color back screen print. With so many colors involved, we knew printing the shirts individually was not going to be a cost-effective option. To keep costs down, we worked with the students to develop an online store with an ordering window of three weeks. This allowed us to print all the shirts in one run and net volume price breaks.

The ordering window for this round of shirts has closed, but be sure to keep up with Allie's travels by visiting the students' Facebook page regularly. You can find them on Twitter and Tumblr too.

Thanks for the opportunity to get involved with this movement, Allies 4 Equality, and keep up the great work!

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

... wristbands for a Target tailgate at a Nascar race last weekend. The bracelets featured removable tabs for prize drawings at the party.

... tie-dye T-shirts for the Joy of Motion Dance Center in Washington DC.

... and business card holders for Ellen Tillman & Company.

"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...


... pink socks with slip-resistant puff paint tread for Tigerlily Foundation, to be included in care packages for breast cancer patients.

... pens for Redeemer Church in Winter Garden, Florida.

... and VBS cups for a boxing match at the Verizon Center.

"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.

It might seem early to start thinking about corporate holiday gifts, but as any responsible shopper will tell you, now is the prime time to buy.


Why order early?

To Avoid Rush Charges. Waiting until the last minute to purchase client gifts could easily double your budget if rush production and/or expedited shipping are required to meet the in-hands date.

To Enjoy Greater Creativity. Some people get their best ideas under a tight deadline. We are not those people. A short turnaround time limits the number of products we can consider for your project. Give us time to find the perfect product for your project, not just the one that can ship in two days.

To Experiment with Design. More time to plan means more time to tweak and play with the artwork. Allow us to proof out a few options and explore less common decoration methods. Creative design is what makes a good product great.

To Outsource Fulfillment. We offer a wide range of packaging and decorating services to make sure your gifts are presented professionally and creatively. We can also take care of picking, packing and shipping your gifts to separate locations.

To Jump on Special Pricing. This is the time of year when we offer the best prices for holiday gifts. Edibles, holiday cards and calendars in particular are less expensive when ordered before the end of October.

To Lessen Stress. The last two months of the year are incredibly busy for just about everyone. Check this task off your list before it gets buried beneath other to-dos. You'll thank yourself come December!

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

... kiss cut stickers with variable data printing to be handed out during the StartUp Britain Bus Tour. As an event sponsor, .Co offered every attendee a free domain name.

... cherry blossom grow kits and tablet stands for the Worldwide ERC Conference in Washington DC. CapRelo will use these items as handouts and VIP gifts, respectively.

... water bottles for an in-store promotion with Electrical Wholesalers.

"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.

Hooray! October is here!

Oh, how I love this month. I'm looking forward to fall festivals, Halloween decorations, Pumpkin Spice K-cups, seasonal beers and most importantly, 31 days of pink ribbon pins and dedicated attention to breast cancer awareness.

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we've pulled together some past posts related to non-profit marketing and promotions for races and charitable events.

Use Promotional Items to Enhance Your Charitable Event

Promotional items can and should serve a greater purpose than decoration. See how the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer creatively uses promotional items like T-shirts, ribbons, and buttons to engage alumni, educate spectators, organize staff and volunteers, reward exemplary fundraisers and cultivate a community.

The Life of a Promotional Product

Your event's T-shirt might mean more to attendees than you realize. Promotional products, T-shirts in particular, often become tangible memories.

Successful Race Promotions

Sponsors and event planners of the Nation's Triathlon know a thing or two about smart branding and successful promotional marketing. See how they used promotional products to incentivize, reward, organize and recognize.

(image source)
Non-Profit Marketing Code Name: Fundraising

Consider a creative spin on traditional fundraising methods to set your charitable organization apart.

We recently pulled a product ranking report to determine current best-sellers within our Signature Collection. Not every category has a clear winner (there are several equally popular styles of reusable bags, for example), but here are some items that noticeably stand apart from the rest of the competition:

Cotton Tees: Gildan 6.1 oz. 100% Ultra Cotton T-shirt

Training Tees: Sport-Tek Competitor Tee

Cotton Polo Shirts: Port Authority Silk Touch Sport Shirt


Performance Polo Shirts: Nike Dri-FIT Sport Shirt and Nike Dri-FIT Pebble Sport Shirt

Pens: Javalina Pen

USB Flash Drives: Rotate USB Flash Drive

Cold Drinkware: Sedici Tumbler


Fun Giveaways: Rubberized Sunglasses and Malibu Sunglasses

Did any of these winners surprise you?

I was surprised by the Javalina Pen. I incorrectly guessed the Bic Clic Stic would come in first, though it wasn't too far behind.

The sunglasses were also a surprise for me. I know they've been popular this year (I still have a pair of neon orange shades in my purse from a Comcast promotion at SXSW in March), but the numbers were more impressive than I anticipated.

What are your go-to products? Are you a Gildan T-shirt fan all the way? A Nike brand loyalist when it comes to polo shirts?

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

... lanyards composed of recycled water bottles for PRIM&R (Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research) conferences.

... lanyards, fun clapboard picture frames and cooler bags for the Down Syndrome Network of Montgomery County, to be used at their annual Buddy Walk ® on October 6th this year.

... and totes printed with full color artwork for BBYO. The design is a combination of four posters that are being used to increase understanding of the programs and values of the Panim Institute.

"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...

... a fulfillment project for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Jewish New Year cards and custom mirrors were sent out to individuals participating in the Foundation's programs. In case you've ever wondered what 270 shipping labels look like...


... class T-shirts for Springbrook High School's homecoming.

... and ponchos for AAA, to keep fans dry at rainy NASCAR races.

"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.

One of my favorite clients to work with is Matsunaga Elementary, Montgomery County's largest elementary school, located in Germantown, Maryland. They have an exceptionally involved and talented PTA, and we always have a great time brainstorming product ideas for their ever popular Gecko Gear fundraiser and other school events.

These ladies have great taste in product, and even better sales strategies. Knowing we work with a lot of schools and PTA boards in the area, they were kind enough to share some tips with our readers today.

Know your audience.

T-shirts, sweatshirts, knitwear, magnets, calendars, seat cushions, and noisemakers are common choices for school spirit wear and booster club merchandise. While these items might sell well at some schools, they're not necessarily the best choices for your school. Every market is different. Before committing yourself to a particular product, do some research and ask parents and students what they'd be willing to buy.

At Matsunaga, non-traditional items have surprised us as best sellers. For example, food storage containers sold quickly last year, and soft, vintage-style T-shirts were a parent favorite this fall. We've also learned that colorful prints and fun artwork featuring Mo, the school's gecko mascot, catch buyers' eyes.

Pay attention to what sells out quickly, and make notes for next season.

Start planning early.

Matsunaga's PTA board plans several events throughout the fall, and Gecko Gear is available for sale at each one. The back-to-school sale in late August or early September receives the best turnout, and the PTA plans for it several months in advance.

In June, we sat down and brainstormed product ideas for the fall season. Within a few weeks, final decisions were made and production commenced.

There are several advantages to early planning. First, building in a few months for production allows for overseas sourcing and greater creativity with design. Fully custom merchandise at a lower price? Yes, please!

Secondly, if you determine your product selection early on, you can begin to build buzz around back-to-school sales well before students step foot in the building. Matsunaga uses Facebook and the PTA website to share product images and collect pre-orders before the big sale.

Finally, if an item looks to be more popular than expected, early planning allows you to easily place a reorder before interest subsides.

Promote and cross-sell.

Now here is an area where the Matsunaga PTA team really shines. Sourcing great product is important, but it's not going to sell itself. Be vocal about upcoming sales and offer coupons and discounts for pre-orders and large purchases. In preparation for back-to-school sales, the Matsunaga PTA circulates "groupons" and pre-order forms.

I love this clever idea from PTA President Kim Penn. Give $1 off coupons to board members and have them leave it on the windshield of cars in the school parking lot bearing a school bumper sticker or magnet. Rewarding loyal customers... so smart!

Another good strategy is Matsunaga's "Final Call". After initial sales, the PTA board creates a form promoting remaining inventory. Parents complete the form with last minute orders, and items are sent home in students' backpacks for hassle-free delivery.

The Matsunaga PTA has been very successful in their fundraising endeavors, providing support dollars that pay for school events, mini grants for teachers, laptops for portable computer labs, and Promethean Boards for every classroom. Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks with us, Matsunaga!