This One Time... at Brand Camp

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

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!

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, 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.


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.

"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!

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

... fully custom woven crew socks for the USO. The first two pictures show the prototype at different angles. The third image is the original sketch. 

... orange sweatshirts for Camp JCC staff, as a gift of appreciation for another successful summer season. 

... and 2011 Builder 100 Awards for Hanley Wood. 

"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.

As a kid, I never understood the adage "less is more". That's probably because when we're young, we think everything is pretty great. And a greater amount of great things can only be... greater.

Two bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal was better than one. A full hour of recess was more exciting than 15 minutes. And a marathon of Saturday morning cartoons was far superior to a single episode.

As we age, we grow wiser (well, most of us do... maybe not Charlie Sheen), and we learn to appreciate the value of "less". Less traffic during rush hour, fewer bills cluttering our coffee tables, less belly fat, less stress... all good things.

Are you familiar with the "jam experiment"? It's a classic psychology study involving jars of jam; I think its findings clearly support the notion that "less is more".

The "jam experiment" was conducted by Sheena Iyengar, a researcher for Stanford University at the time of the study. Iyengar sought to understand how people make choices, and she looked to the grocery store as a prime location for observation. Her research assistants posed as jam suppliers, setting up tables for sampling.


In one version of the experiment, the sampling table offered six flavors for tasting: kiwi, marmalade, peach, black cherry, red currant and lemon curd. In another condition, twenty-four jam flavors were set out. In both versions, customers were encouraged to sample flavors and were given a coupon to buy a jar at discount.

Can you guess what happened?

The twenty-four flavor table attracted the most attention, but it actually reported smaller sales than the six-flavor table. Only 3% of shoppers who visited the twenty-four flavor table proceeded to buy jam. Compare that to the six flavor table: 30% of visitors left with a jar in hand.

The study concluded that twenty-four was an overwhelming number of flavors for shoppers. Unable to make a decision, tasters gave up and left empty-handed.

This study teaches us that it's good to have options, but too many options can be a bad thing. In promotional products, where the set of options for a particular product category can easily reach six or seven digits, we really understand and appreciate the value of "less". In fact, limiting choices for our clients is arguably one of the greatest services we provide.

You'll notice that the number of products featured on our Signature Collection website typically hovers around 2,000. The selection is updated on a daily basis to reflect popular trends, but the overall volume of choices stays consistent. 2,000 is still a big number, but when you compare it to the millions of products to which we have access, it's not so daunting. Think of it as our version of the six flavor table.

Relying on our knowledge of popular trends, supplier capabilities, and product quality, we aim to guide our clients to sound product decisions, as painlessly as possible. In general, we define a painless process as one without an overwhelming sea of choice. Should you be a twenty-four flavor sort of person, though, just let us know. We're happy to oblige!

What are your thoughts on the "jam experiment"? Are you the kind of person who likes a lot of options? Or do you prefer a smaller consideration set?

We have some exciting news to share! It's even more exciting than additional floor space and office baseball!

Inc. Magazine ranked Sonic Promos on its sixth annual 5000 List, a ranking of the nation's fastest growing private companies. We came in at number 3,373. Spot our name below!

Among Advertising & Marketing companies on the list, Sonic Promos was ranked at number 295.

In response, Sonic's President Seth Weiner said, "We are honored and excited to be included on this prestigious list. It is a validation of our belief that success comes from providing exceptional customer service and offering creative solutions to our clients' evolving promotional needs. We appreciate our loyal client base who brought us to this point, as well as the hard work of our employees, who always strive to insure we are doing the very best for our clients."

To view complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region and other criteria, visit

Thank you to Inc. for including us, and thank you to our wonderful clients for your continued support!

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.

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, 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.