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 11.20.12

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 11.14.12

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 11.6.12

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 10.30.12

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.

Print This, Not That: Flash Underbase

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 10.23.12

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.

Allie the Ally

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 10.16.12

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 10.9.12

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.

Holiday Gift Planning: Why to Start Early

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 10.2.12

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.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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.

Best in Show

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 9.25.12

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 9.18.12

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.

Smart Tips for School Fundraising

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!

This Week at Sonic Promos 9.11.12

In lieu of our traditional Tuesday post summarizing work in the office, we'd like to instead call attention to one very special client project in honor of today's significant date.

On September 11, 2001, Cantor Fitzgerald tragically lost 658 employees from their corporate headquarters on the 101st-105th floors of One World Trade Center in New York City. Every year since the attack, the company and its affiliate BGC Partners, Inc. have hosted a Charity Day event to commemorate these employees.

From Cantor's website:

Beginning in 2002, Cantor Fitzgerald commemorated the employees we lost by reaching out to help others through our annual Charity Day. Continuing this caring legacy, each September 11 (or the business day nearest September 11), Cantor and its affiliate BGC Partners, Inc. operate their business as a global Charity Day to help those less fortunate than ourselves. 100% of our revenues worldwide are donated to charities as our way of commemorating those we lost on 9/11, totaling more than $77 million through 2011. With these funds, we can help children by investing in medical research as well as taking care of those with special needs, provide support for injured veterans, and assist medical and social service organizations around the world and assist many other humanitarian causes. Charity Day for us is very special, as it turns the most difficult day of the year into something positive and uplifting.

We are honored to play a small part in Charity Day and join Cantor Fitzgerald in remembering the lives lost 11 years ago today.

This Week at Sonic Promos 9.5.12

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

... T-shirts with a milk mustache design for the "got milk?" campaign.

... grip stands for Ogletree Deakins, for use at the SHRM Conference.

... and magnifier cards for JK Moving to be handed out at a senior living facility.

"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.

National Graphic Designer Appreciation Day


I have no clue if such a day even exists. If it does, odds are it's probably not today.

But here on our blog, we deem it so.

In honor of this "holiday", I'd like to dedicate today's post to our fantastic design team at Sonic Promos. Michael Fritz and Rahmie Santoso work behind the scenes to support our staff and wow our clients. Their hands touch every order, at multiple stages.

Here are some of the many ways our artists improve your marketing materials.

They think beyond the logo. We create product at Sonic- branded merchandise and marketing materials for clients in a wide range of industries. Promotional products are a form of advertising, so clearly the logo is central to any project. But, it's not just about the logo. You want your target audience to actually wear, carry and use your materials. Good product selection helps achieve this goal, as does creative and interesting artwork. We rely on our art team to suggest details that add some all-important oomph. And they deliver.

But they don't forget the logo. As I said above, the products we create are advertisements, contributing to an organization's visual identity and overall brand. We take our clients' style guidelines very seriously, and we don't take liberties. Our graphic designers are respectful of and pay acute attention to PMS colors, logo versions, protective fields and minimum size restrictions. Additional graphic elements should only enhance, never corrupt nor distract from your logo.

They check production proofs like hawks. The moment you set foot on that casino floor, they'll be watching you like hawks. Hawks with video cameras. Ocean's Eleven, anyone?

When an order is moved into production, our graphic team is responsible for uploading and submitting art files to the supplier. As is the case with any communication, you can control how the message is transmitted, but you have no control over how it's received and interpreted. That's why production proofs are so important. They confirm that the supplier has correctly used and placed the artwork. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to discover inconsistencies. Checking and rechecking proofs before giving approval to print is very important, and we greatly appreciate the art department's keen eyes.

Michael and Rahmie, thank you so much for your incredible work and diligence. We hope you know how important you are.

Staff Favorites

"Which products do you really like?"

Clients ask us that question all the time. We never know quite how to respond, because every product that we recommend for a project is one we honestly believe to be a great choice.

I suppose, though, that what they're really after is our personal opinion, not our professional opinion. And like "neutral" parents, we'd be lying if we said we didn't have our favorites.

I asked some of Sonic's staff to weigh in:

Debbie's Pick: Rechargeable External Power Bank

"I love this product. It first caught my attention when we saw it demonstrated at the conference in Nashville earlier this year. The light changes color to indicate its level of charge: purple for full charge, blue for half charge and red for low charge. I think it would make a perfect executive gift or incentive for traveling employees."

Lindsay's Pick: The Gripstic

"I remember rolling my eyes when I saw this piece at a show in Atlantic City last year. I mean, the name is pretty ridiculous. I grabbed a few samples and surprised myself by actually using them at home. I still do. They're really easy to slide on and off and they create an air-tight seal. I think it's a fun product for inexpensive event giveaways, food and beverage promotions, and campaigns targeting college students. The only downside is the small imprint area; it's not the best choice for text-heavy artwork or logos with fine detail."

Jamie's Picks: Bookbound Journals and the Camelbak Eddy Water Bottle

"If I said that I had three of these journals on my desk right now, would that make me sound crazy? These are my go-to notebooks. They look professional for meetings, they're the perfect size to easily throw in my bag as I'm walking out the door, and I like the pocket for notes and business cards in the back.

As for the Camelbak, I'm completely in love with the straw. It's almost reached the point where I refuse to drink from any other bottle."

Michael's Pick: Bottle Opener

"I'm a big fan of the bottle opener key chain. I got one at the finish line of my first Mud Dog Run. It has a full color imprint and is shaped like a dog tag. I use it all the time, mainly because it's attached to something very important: my keys. Truly, any kind of bottle opener is a good one. They're an important device, providing access to the sweet nectar that is beer."

Seth's Pick: Pizza Cutter

"The Pizza Cutter gets a lot of use in our household; our family easily consumes 12 quesadillas per week. My favorite version features a blade that detaches from the handle. Both pieces are dishwasher-safe and easily cleaned. It's just so simple. When I'm using this product for a campaign, I like to package the cutters in small cardboard pizza boxes for easy distribution and mailing."

What are your favorite promotional products? Take a look at your desk, fridge, kitchen drawer, dashboard, and purse. Tell us what you find and what you'd hate to live without!