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

We Love the 80s

Any fans of the VH1 series I Love the 80's out there?

I've had 80's on the brain a lot at work recently... and it's not just because the 80's Popular Hits Radio Station on Pandora is one of Seth's favorite choices for background music. No, it's because 80's product trends and styles are experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

In my personal opinion (i.e. lacking factual basis), we're seeing this trend because a lot of today's decision-makers, product buyers and marketing managers, were children born and raised in the 80's. They have a soft spot for the neon colors and Ray-Ban sunglasses of their youth, and they recognize that their similarly-aged event attendees and customers do too.

If you're looking for a retro promotional piece with nostalgic appeal, consider one of these fun options.

Inexpensive, rubberized sunglasses shaped like Ray-Ban Wayfarers are a fun choice for kids' promotions, outdoor festivals, and risky business events.

Neon and highlighter shades are very popular in retail apparel right now. American Apparel offers several neon T-shirts, tanks and sweatshirts for wholesale printing.  

This hooded pullover is reminiscent of your retired acid wash jeans. It's also one of the softest sweatshirts I've ever felt.

I'm absolutely in LOVE with this umbrella inspired by Pac-Man.

Fanny packs. The trend that just won't die.

I like the idea of using reflective slap bracelets at an early morning 5K or family fun run. Kids still love them, and they're a great safety piece. 

Which trends do you wish would come back into style? Which ones would you rather see left in the past?

This Week at Sonic Promos 7.17.12

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

... drawstring bags for Huntington Bank's health and wellness program, printed with full color decoration and individually poly-bagged.

... performance jerseys and cotton T-shirts for players, line judges and guests of the 2012 Washington Kastles Charity Classic tennis match. Kastles team members will play alongside D.C. politicians, media and sports personalities, donating 100% of ticket proceeds to the D.C. Public Education Fund, Share Our Strength, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. 

... and custom-shaped flash drives for Bryn Mawr College. 

"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.

Color Theory and Consumer Behavior

Let's talk about color.

Most of us have a favorite color. Mine is yellow. Specifically PMS 107.

It makes me feel happy and warm. And it's not all in my head; humans really do have physical and psychological reactions to different hues.

Do you ever think about how certain colors make you feel? Generally speaking, blues and greens are very soothing, and warm colors like red, orange and yellow, energize and motivate action.


Marketers are attune to these effects, and they apply color theory to retail stores, websites, advertisements and direct mail all the time. Shouldn't you be thinking about it when designing promotional materials too?

Most of the time, our clients opt for items that match (or closely match) the colors present in their logo. There's nothing wrong with that, but it can be fun to mix things up, especially if a different choice would better enhance your goal.

For example, orange is supposed to appeal to children and energize adults. How about doing orange Frisbees for August's summer company picnic? Or, if your primary goal for October's trade show is to gather signatures for a sustainability pledge, opt for red tabling materials to A) grab attention and B) motivate a call to action.

What are your thoughts on color theory? Do you agree with the associations in the table above? Have you ever applied color theory to a marketing campaign with particular success?  

This Week at Sonic Promos 7.10.12

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

... corporate gifts, including blankets and picnic baskets, for Ogletree Deakins.

... toys, T-shirts and pens for the Collaboration Council.

... and polo shirts for Southern Management communities. 

"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: Variable Data

What belongs to you alone, but is used more by others?

Your name!

Okay, you've probably heard that riddle before. Hopefully the rest of this post will tell you something you don't already know.

We've discussed full color, digital decoration a few times before on the blog, but we've never mentioned incorporating variable data. 

The next time you order promotional products for a targeted campaign- whether internal or external- consider personalizing each item with the recipient's name. It's a minor addition, but it increases the item's perceived value and adds a personal touch.

Personalizing certain items, like deep-etched drinkware or embroidered fleece jackets, will add a run charge to your promotion. But, if the item will be digitally printed, like the writing utensil caddy in the above picture, the addition of a name is FREE. Just send us an Excel spreadsheet with a list of names, and we'll do the rest.

Digital printing is an excellent solution for all kinds of copy changes, not just name drops. Need 100 journals for your ad agency? Why not order 10 for each of your 10 largest accounts, and decorate the cover with the client's brand? So long as you use the same item and hit the catalog minimum, you can change the printed logo as many times as you like. Pretty neat!

Patriotic Designs

Happy 4th of July, from the team at Sonic Promos!

Every four years, we [Americans] enjoy a prolonged period of red, white and blue. We proudly decorate our doors with flags and Americana in preparation for barbecues and neighborhood potlucks on Independence Day. A few weeks later, our festive decor displays support for the nation's athletes at the Summer Olympic Games. If we procrastinate long enough and ignore Halloween, we can keep the flags flying straight through November in anticipation of the presidential election.

Promotional product manufacturers, anticipating this surge of patriotic sentiment, will typically add a few red, white and blue pieces to their product menu during Olympic/election years. 

Sometimes, these seasonal designs are only available for a limited time, so make sure to stock up if they work well with your organization's branding.

This Week at Sonic Promos 7.3.12

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

... stuffed animals, bubbles and sunglasses for a sponsored event for children at the Central Park Zoo.

... sandwich containers, printed umbrellas, custom magnets, mesh visors and other merchandise items for Matsunaga Elementary's Gecko Gear fundraiser in the fall.

... and canvas tote bags and solar chargers for Bryn Mawr College. 

"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 6.26.12

This week and last week and the one before that at Sonic Promos, we're working on...

Apparel, backpacks, lanyards and other collateral for summer camps and summer programs!

As you can see, screen-printed T-shirts are a popular choice for summer camps. Bright colors help counselors keep track of campers during off-site field trips, and clear, coherent imprints help parents easily identify staff members and counselors. 

We love Camp JCC's use of celluloid buttons to celebrate birthdays, and Butler Camp's map bandannas will be a great resource for young campers en route to archery, equestrian and other activities.  

"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: Four Color Process

Multiple color imprints require additional run charges on promotional products like pad-printed portfolios or screen-printed apparel, but other items (think digital mouse pads, notepads, and sublimated drinkware) are priced to include a full color decoration by default. 

If you're already paying for full color decoration, make the most of it! 

In the example above, Seamless, a popular online food delivery service, increased the 'wow factor' of their screen cleaner promotion by printing a colorful image of take-out food behind their logo. Visually, the design is more appealing than a bland white background, and it helps explain Seamless' service to those not in the know.

This Week at Sonic Promos 6.19.12

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

... T-shirts with full color digital imprinting for Weber Shandwick, to promote ice cream products this summer.

... printed business collateral and promotional materials as part of a re-branding for Issa Physical Therapy.

... and custom woven apparel labels for the Washington Kastles' line of merchandise. 

"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 6.5.12

This week at Sonic Promos, we're working on materials for some exciting summer events!

The 18th Annual HOT ROD Power Tour kicked off last weekend, and a band of performance cars and automotive enthusiasts are currently wending their way from Detroit, Michigan to Arlington, TX. Sonic had the opportunity to work with Gold Eagle, one of the Power Tour sponsors, on the concept, creative and fulfillment of fully custom magnets. Recipients will receive one magnet piece at each stop on the 7 day course, ultimately completing the magnetic license plate frame. 

To roll out the new Roadster 2 Universal Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone, Motorola sponsored a prize wheel game at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. If players landed on the Kyle Petty wedge, they won a phone call to a friend or family member from Kyle Petty, via the new Roadster product. 

We love these travel tumblers for the American Conservative Union, commemorating the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

"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 5.29.12

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

... T-shirts for a sponsored challenge race for charity.

... screen cleaners for Seamless, an online service that makes ordering delivery and take-out from your favorite restaurants, well, seamless.

... USB chargers in custom velvet pouch packaging for Cantor Commercial Real Estate.

"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.

Use Promotional Items to Enhance Your Charitable Event

What was the last sponsored event you went to? I bet you saw branding everywhere, right? How were the branded materials being used?

Sometimes, promotional materials are just... present at an event. They provide a backdrop for photo ops, decorate empty tables and watch the action pass from a merchandise display in the corner. Used in this way, promotional items are simply wallflower attendees; they stand back from the action and never draw attention to themselves.

At other events I've attended, promotional materials are the focus of attention. They interact with the audience, add character and liveliness to the event's atmosphere, prompt discussion and steal the spotlight. Compared to the wallflowers described above, these promotional materials are social butterflies.

The funny thing is, the same item has the potential to be a wallflower or a butterfly. The difference is all in how you implement and distribute the materials.

As an example, let's look at how the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer uses promotional items to enhance their event series.

Engage alumni

Annual events like the Avon Walk attract the same participants, year after year. These alumni are your loyal customers; they enjoy the experience and support your cause so much that they return annually. The Avon staff recognizes alumni with colorful buttons that are handed out for free at Event Eve, and they're always a huge hit. On the route, the buttons act as great conversation starters, enabling walkers to identify seasoned veterans. They create a big impact for minimal investment.

Educate your audience

Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. This shocking statistic really summarizes the importance of breast cancer research, so the Avon Walk staff go to great lengths to ensure their walkers remember this factoid. Throughout the event, volunteers and crew members drape imprinted ribbons around walkers' necks at 3-minute intervals. At closing ceremonies, it's very sobering to look around the crowd and take in the number of "marked" individuals.

Play with color

Screen printed T-shirts for staff, volunteers and attendees are pretty standard at athletic events for charity. Take it a step further, and change up the shirt color for different groups. At the Avon Walk, crew members and youth crew members are easy to spot in yellow and blue tees. All walkers receive a white T-shirt when they register (to wear during training walks and fundraising events), and a colored T-shirt when they cross the finish line (as a souvenir for their hard work). The Avon Walk also distinguishes breast cancer survivors with a different colored finisher tee.

Reward exemplary fundraising

When a walker registers for the 2-Day Avon Walk, they commit to a hefty amount of fundraising- $1,800 to be exact. Although this money is used to further breast cancer research and supporting services, the Walk staff understands that it's never easy to ask friends, loved ones and local businesses to donate funds. For this reason, they really do everything they can to encourage and support their walkers throughout the process.

Branded materials come into play here too, in the form of fundraising rewards. Walkers can earn things like branded shoelaces, hats, and sports equipment by achieving and surpassing certain benchmarks. During the walk, it's quite common to spot a "Fantastic Fundraiser" proudly sporting a hard-earned hat. 

Cultivate a community

Avon Walk coordinators and staff put a lot of effort into procuring colorful and memorable event materials, but they also count on walkers and supporters for further decoration. They've successfully created a culture in which participants voluntarily deck themselves from head to toe in pink accessories and witty team T-shirts. In my three years with the Avon Walk, I've seen Team Boob-Bees sporting antennae and stingers, fans of the Washington Capitals "rocking the pink" in custom tees, ladies in iridescent butterfly wings, magenta tutus and hot pink rattan hula skirts. These team costumes come at no additional expense to the Avon Walk, but they really improve the spirit of the event.

I hope these examples have given you some ideas for your next event. Focus on creative implementation and distribution to get the biggest bang for your buck.

This Week at Sonic Promos 5.22.12

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

... tumblers with coordinating straws, tote bags and sport towels for BGC and Cantor Fitzgerald's summer company picnic.

...Smash Light flashlights for The Penguin Diner in Bethany Beach, DE. We love this piece! LED lights make it super bright, lithium batteries give it a shelf life of up to 7 years, and a magnet, wrist strap and flat, lightweight shape make it easy to store and mail.

... and cute, compact fish totes for Kelley Drye, to be used as part of an attorney handout.

"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.

Tootsie Pop Wrappers

How do you feel about lollipops?

I have to admit, they're not my favorite candy. As a kid, Blow Pops and Tootsie pops generally littered my Halloween pumpkin well into April. Mounds Bars, Almond Joys, and Whoppers had priority, in case you wanted to know.

Despite my indifference to Tootsie Pops, I never failed to check the wrapper for a hidden star. Everyone knows that a star-marked wrapper is gold in your hands. Hello, free lollipop!

I never really thought twice about this promotion until my coworker Michael sent me this article last week.

Apparently, it's a total myth, and no one is entirely sure how or why it came to be.

The full illustration shows a boy dressed as a Native American chief shooting an arrow at a five-pointed star. It's said that roughly one third of Tootsie Pops are wrapped in this print, so the star is neither rare nor special.

Check out the full article to read more about how the company responds to letters and crinkled wrappers from kids hoping to redeem their freebie.

Pretty neat how a little 3 inch square piece of coated paper can cause such buzz for a candy company!

This Week at Sonic Promos 5.15.12

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

... custom journals and Fisher space pens for Hanley Wood. 

Space pens? Yep, the ones that write upside down, underwater, in freezing cold and scorching heat. Remember this episode of Seinfeld?


... USB car power adapters for Latisys.

... and awards for the Small Business Administration (SBA).

"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 5.8.12

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

... temporary tattoos for the Human Rights Campaign. The HRC advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, working to put fair-minded politicians in office and educate the public on LGBT issues. 

... screen printed apparel and nylon backpacks for a private party organized by Off the Charts! Event Planning.

... and Jelly Belly bean dispensers for Baker Tilly, to be awarded as gifts to employees participating in their employee referral campaign. Check some additional materials used to promote the campaign, here.

"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.

Take a Vote

Last week, we discussed the difficulties of deciding on a single shirt/style/color/design for a promotional apparel campaign. There are a lot of people to please- how can you be certain everyone will like and wear your garment? We recommended sticking with comfortable styles and time-tested brand names, but there's an alternative solution to guessing...

You could always ask!

A few weeks ago I received an email from Set Up Events, one of the nation's largest triathlon production and timing companies, regarding the upcoming Pinehurst International Triathlon in North Carolina.

The email included three images of long sleeve race tees and requested registrants of the event to vote on their favorite design.

What a great idea! Sure, you might get a handful of responses that pooh-pooh all three choices, but at least you'll gain valuable feedback from those whose opinions matter most... the people who will be wearing your shirt.

I also recommend limiting the ballot to 3 or 4 options, as Set Up Events did, or the poll's results might be more frustrating than helpful. 

So, if time allows and you have a way to contact your audience, play it safe and take a vote!

Tell Me About Your Favorite T-shirt

As product consultants, our job at Sonic Promos is to advise and guide our clients' choices in branded materials. Much of the time, this entails recommending apparel styles, brands, colors and decoration techniques.

Our choice in product must be synonymous with the campaign's message and budget, but it's equally important that the product appeals to its target audience. If the item's recipient doesn't like the look, feel, or quality of the product, the branding impression loses value.

Pleasing everyone is especially tricky when it comes to apparel. People tend to like clothing for various reasons: the cut fits them well, the color flatters their complexion, the material feels nice against their skin, or the imprinted design appeals to them visually. Unfortunately, these preferences aren't always homogeneous across a target marketing group. Your intended audience probably contains a mix of ages, a mix of body types, and a mix of blondes/brunettes/redheads.

Despite these surface differences, there are generally features in clothing that most people can agree on.

Just for fun, I asked a few Sonic employees to send me pictures of their favorite T-shirts. Though we are a varied bunch in terms of appearance and style, you'll notice several similarities in our choice of tees.


These are my favorite shirts for two reasons: 1) the soft fabric and 2) the vintage-style decoration. The blue Red Sox shirt uses a washed, soft-hand ink for its screen print, and the grey Red Sox shirt is decorated with a distressed appliqué. The Celtics shirt is also really soft, but I like the color more than anything. Green looks good on redheads. It brings out the "Irish" in me.


The Quactus shirt is for my brother Gabe's band. I think the logo is fun, and the colors look nice together. It also makes me think of my kids when I wear it. There's an adorable photo of them wearing the same shirt, taken about four years ago.

The Judge shirt is another favorite of mine because it's red, and I can wear it at Caps games. I get a lot of comments when I wear it... mostly people yelling "JUDGE!". I like to respond with, "I'll be the judge of that" or "This is my Judge Reinhold fan shirt" or "You can't judge a shirt by its color, or can you?"


I bought this shirt a few weeks ago, and if it's not on my body, it's in the wash. Of course I love the cute imprint, but it's the comfortable material that really won me over. This is the American Apparel Track T-shirt, and I've used this model several times for work projects. For some reason, I've never owned one of my own... until now. I also adore the faded blue grey color. In the same vain vein (heh) of Jamie's reasoning above, blue looks good with blonde hair. 


This shirt is one of my favorites because it's the first T-shirt I bought when I visited Austin before moving there. Being a New York girl, I thought it represented the city's vibe well. Now I know that the "Keep Austin Weird" shirts are much more appropriate!


I got this shirt at one of the last concerts I attended in El Paso before moving to the DC area, so I associate it with good memories. I also really like the material; it's very comfortable to wear.


This sweatshirt is one of my favorite pieces to wear. It was a gift from my lovely girlfriend, and it was made by a small apparel company in Cleveland, Ohio. It's very soft, and the neutral grey color goes well with brown, orange, blue and red (Browns and Indians).

I realize this little office poll isn't exactly statistically significant, but it does show you that people look for similar features in a T-shirt. Comfort seems to be a consistent theme in our responses, for example. Though standard heavyweight cotton tees are an economical choice, it might be worth it to invest in a better quality, brushed cotton or fine jersey tee for your next apparel campaign.

It is also important to note that we all personally identify with the branding/imprint. The boys are all proud to support their favorite sports teams, and Jen, Eve, Michael, and I all have fond memories of travels and time spent in our hometowns.

So, while selecting the style(s) and color(s) for your apparel campaign are important decisions, remember that your branding is often the trump card. Ultimately, the whole point is to promote your organization/band/team/company and to connect with your supporters. Work the power of brand equity. Your fans already like you... just give them something fun and comfortable to wear, and they will.

This Week at Sonic Promos 5.1.12

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

... golf items for BGC Partners golf tournaments during the spring and summer. 

Did you miss our last mailer? It was full of ideas for your next tournament, including a helpful planning guide and sample budget.

... red water cups for Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP to promote an employee referral program.

... and business portfolios to organize pre-conference materials at GIPC 2012.

"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.