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 8.21.12

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



... pens, carabineers, and spirit items for Montgomery College. Is it time to go back to school already?!  



... aluminum water bottles, umbrellas, pens and pink items galore for the Tigerlily Foundation. Founded by Maimah Karmo, a five year breast cancer survivor, speaker and advocate, the Tigerlily Foundation provides support services to young women before, during and after breast cancer. Check out the website to learn more about the organization, how you can help, and details about their upcoming Pink Boa 5K! 



... and nifty speakers for an upcoming golf tournament. 

"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.


Ch-ch-changes

Exciting times at Sonic. We've expanded!

Walk through here, and you will find...


... a new wing! And cheerful, Sonic-red walls. We're absolutely thrilled!

Sure it could use some more furniture, but until then...


... it's a great space for impromptu baseball.

And if you work up a sweat...


... hit the showers!

Check out our Facebook page for some additional photos. Even better, come pay us a visit and see it in person!


This Week at Sonic Promos 8.14.12

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



... T-shirts for the Washington Kastles, commemorating yet another record-breaking season. The Kastles will head to the WTT Championships in Charleston, SC this September to defend last year's title. We'll be rooting for them to pull it off, continuing their 30 game winning streak, the second longest in pro sports history.  



... T-shirts for a KaBOOM! build, sponsored by Kool-Aid. 



... and rotate flash drives for Hebrew Union College, to welcome new students this fall. 

"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 8.7.12

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



... double wall tumblers and banners for MidCap Financial, to celebrate reaching the $1 billion milestone.  



... pens and watermelon lip balm for a Heart Walk benefiting the American Heart Association. 



... and LED key chains for new homeowners with Wright Management

"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.


What's Trending Now: Stylus Pens


Stylus pens have experienced a wave in popularity in the last 10 years. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Palm Pilots and small PDA devices were new to the market, styluses were used regularly. This is because these early technologies used resistive touch screens, screens that respond to and register pressure. Resistive touch screens are not particularly responsive to fingers, so a stylus was extremely helpful, even necessary.

Around 2005, many companies made the switch to using capacitive screens. Capacitive screens are much more accurate and do not require you to push on the screen. A light touch, or simply placing your finger, is sufficient to register movement or selection. With the introduction of capacitive screens, the prevalence of styluses really dropped.

Now, in 2012, they seem to be back in full force, the ballpoint pen/stylus combo in particular. They're a popular choice for trade show giveaways, career fairs and tech conferences. We're also using them for restaurant promotions. Servers can keep a few in their apron to enter orders for the kitchen, and they're helpful for patrons signing mobile payments.

Why use a stylus instead of your finger?

A stylus pen is more precise. Whether you're sketching on a tablet or signing an electronic document, using a stylus will keep your work and penmanship tidy and legible.

A stylus pen is more sanitary. If you carry a pen with you to prevent picking up germs, why wouldn't you carry a stylus as well? Just think of the number of fingers that have swiped that screen before you. Keep a stylus/ballpoint pen combo in your purse, and you'll have your writing bases covered.

A stylus pen is gentler on your screen. If you have long nails, using a stylus pen instead of your finger will prevent scratches on your phone or tablet's screen.

Do you use a stylus when working on a tablet or browsing your phone?


Evolution of Popular Logos

I came across an interesting article by Nicholas Tart on the Retire@21 blog today: 17 Evolutions of Your Favorite Logos.

It's fascinating to see how much has changed, and across a very short period of time in many cases.

You know on makeover shows when people comment, "you look like you've lost 10 years!"? I feel that way about the Apple logo in 1976. What a difference. It's hard to imagine the original logo illuminated on an iPad, isn't it?

IBM's logo has also come a long way. Granted, these changes occurred over the course of 80+ years, compared to Apple's 36 year journey.

In the original article, Tart explains why the original Volkswagen logo is reminiscent of Nazi symbolism. Apparently, Hitler was involved in the company's founding. After WWII, Volkswagen understandably revamped its logo.

Over the years, the UPS logo has assumed a much cleaner look. That seems to be a common theme with many icons. Check out the evolution of the Kodak, Nokia, Shell and Yahoo logos in Tart's article. All of them adopt bolder fonts and stick with 1-2 colors.

I have to wonder if this is done, in part, to simplify reproduction. It's a lot easier to accurately reproduce a logo across multiple media (printed collateral, websites, products and packaging) when there aren't fine lines, small details and complicated color schemes present.

What are your thoughts on these logo transformations? Do you prefer one of the older versions, or do you agree with the company's current choice?

All diagrams sourced from www.retireat21.com.


This Week at Sonic Promos 7.31.12

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



... magnifying card lights for CBO Financial. The card lights will be distributed at the Algae Biomass Summit in late September, promoting CBO as a financier and developer of commercial algae production.  



... clips, bags and puzzle key chains for a summer event with CACI. 



... and umbrellas and cinch backpacks for the Phelps School, a boys' boarding school in Malvern, Pennsylvania. 

"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.


6 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Promotional Products

You're probably familiar with the Five Ws and One H: who, what, when, where, why and how. In journalism, these questions are considered the basics in information-gathering; they comprise a formula for getting the complete story.

The Five Ws and One H are good questions to ask yourself when it comes to promotional planning as well. Don't rush a purchase until you've addressed these six topics.

1. Who is the intended recipient?

First and foremost, determine which market your campaign will target. Are you reaching out to college juniors at a career fair? Fortune 500 executives? Mommy bloggers? A product can easily impress one audience, and miss the mark with another.

Interns at the Human Rights Campaign, modeling some temporary tattoos.

2. Why are promotional materials needed?

"Why" goes hand-in-hand with "Who". Why do you want to distribute promotional products to this particular group? Promotional products are used to motivate a desired action. Do you want to drive website traffic? Encourage participation in a health and wellness program? Thank a loyal client?

It's silly to purchase branded materials "just because". If you look at it that way, your purchase is simply an expense, not an investment. Take the time to identify your objective, your goal. You want to be able to look back at the end of the campaign and assess whether the product effectively achieved the desired outcome.

Stadium cups for a .CO happy hour at SXSW 2012.

3. When is the event or program launch?

If possible, take some time at the beginning of each fiscal year to create a promotional marketing calendar. Note all major events (like trade shows, conferences, career fairs, and company picnics) and projected program launch dates. Reviewing this long term timeline will help you avoid rush situations. You might even spot opportunities to consolidate purchases and order in bulk. For example, if you have career fairs scheduled for both spring and fall, order enough inventory for both events in February, and store the extras.

Moreover, when you have several months of lead time, you open the door for overseas production, allowing for greater customization and potentially smaller spend. More time will give you better options, and ultimately better results.

4. How much money can be spent?

Budget a specific amount for each promotional purchase. You will find that each product category- drinkware, for example- offers an overwhelming variety of products across an extremely wide price range. By determining ahead of time how much or how little you're willing to spend, you automatically narrow the field of potential choices and simplify the decision.

Communicate your budget's parameters to your distributor partner, if you're using one (see #5), so that they can help you find a winning solution.

5. Where to purchase?

Here comes a personal plug. Obviously my response to this question is biased, but I strongly recommend sourcing promotional materials from a trusted distributor partner. Your company will benefit from the distributor's product knowledge, branding expertise, and their established relationships with manufacturers.

Additionally, you alleviate some risk by going through a distributor. Should something go wrong (a misprint, a missed deadline, defective product), your account representative is responsible for providing a solution.

6. What item is the right choice for my campaign?

It's smart to approach this question with a mind open to suggestions from your distributor rep. The reason being, a product often sounds great in theory, but fails in practice. Your branding might have certain properties that render it unsuitable for a particular piece. Perhaps the delicate lines of your tagline will bleed when sublimated on a lanyard, or the finer details of your logo will close on a pad-printed flashlight.

You might have your heart set on one product, but if a similar piece can be done in 1 week instead of 4 weeks, or can save you in shipping because it's produced in the same state as your event, it should be considered. A knowledgeable distributor will proactively spot production conflicts and opportunities, and he/she can guide you toward the best possible product for your campaign.

Think like a journalist when it comes to promotional planning, and remember the Five Ws and One H. These six questions will show the way to successful campaigns and responsible spending.


This Week at Sonic Promos 7.24.12

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



... decals for the 303 Brand of protectants, cleaners and associated products from Gold Eagle.



... journals, T-shirts, laptop sleeves and other event program items for the Harwood Institute



... and double wall straw tumblers for Christ Fellowship. 

"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.


Perspiration Inspiration: Sweat-Activated Apparel

How much do you sweat during a workout? Do you wear that damp shirt proudly? Or do you rush home to change and shower? If you belong to the former group, you're going to love this.

(source)

ViewSPORT is a growing clothing company that specializes in sweat-activated athletic wear. That's right... sweat-activated. When dry, the shirt resembles any other screen-printed T-shirt. It's only when you begin to perspire heavily or saturate the garment with water that a special decoration appears.

(source)

We think it's a unique solution for race promotions, corporate health and wellness programs, and yoga studio merchandise. Contact us to develop a custom design for your next campaign.

Sweat equity, for your brand. We love it!


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.

(source)

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.