This One Time... at Brand Camp

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

Profile Pictures

Last Friday night circa 8:00pm you would have found me hopelessly absorbed in old photos, paging through High School scrapbooks and Facebook albums from college. After an hour and a half, my right index finger was one “next photo” click away from carpal tunnel.

Though it can be a huge time suck, I love looking at old photos. Hairstyles and fashion choices from years past provide easy laughs, and I find it motivating to reflect on where I once was, compared to where I am now.

Coming into work Monday morning, I passed by a framed photo of the Sonic Promos team taken at an expo several years ago. It made me curious. Sonic Promos was founded in 1997, and I joined the team in February 2010. Needless to say, I missed out on a few years, many of which were pre-Facebook era. Without the convenience of a “Profile Pictures” album on Facebook for reference, I went digging for photos the old-fashioned way.

Here is what I found:

Edited to add: You can find these photos in our Facebook album "Old School Sonic Promos".

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Employee Recognition: During the Holidays and Year-Round

October and November, the months leading up to the winter holidays, are typically our busiest time at Sonic Promos.  Our corporate customers begin planning for client gifts, and our phone rings with requests for creative ideas.  

This begs the question… what do your employees mean to you?

It seems ironic that most business owners spend significant time, money and effort every day to impress their clients, all the while neglecting their single biggest asset- their employees.  Without a reliable staff of hard-working and talented individuals, you can bet there would be no business and certainly no clients of which to speak.

So often we forget to thank those closest to us.  A gift or bonus during the holidays offers a kind and generous gesture, but in truth your employees should remain foremost in mind all year long.  A positive and supportive work environment is critical to employee satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) recently included Sonic Promos on their 2010 list of the 75 Best Places to Work in the ad specialty industry.  While we would never dare call ourselves the perfect office (hello dirty dishes, moldy mini-fridge treasures, habitual F-bombs and 80’s music), we do know a thing or two about staying happy and having fun at work.

We like to keep things light, without sacrificing productivity:

Set realistic goals and follow up with rewards.  While some contest that fear or punishment provide more motivation than reward, I prefer to side with the latter.  Earlier this spring, Sonic Promos instituted a new system for tracking sales in-house.  The staff was encouraged by the incentive of a health-and-wellness gift to participate and adopt the new system.  At the end of the contest, we were all on-board with the new procedure, bouncing on stability ball desk chairs and flexing P90X muscles.

Leave the office.  We celebrate surpassing monthly sales goals with a nice lunch out.  We find it to be a wonderful way to connect outside the office, where no one needs to be called away by a ringing phone. The flaming cheese and tequila shots are also much enjoyed.  If you have a particularly adventurous staff, you might look into an outdoor team-building activity in your local area.  Enjoy some fresh air, and return with improved team skills.

Lighten up. Work is where we go to work (duh, Lindsay?), but studies have shown that a little fun can go a long way toward increased productivity.  You don’t necessarily need to follow Google’s example and erect volleyball nets or install video game equipment, but you should do something to stir up a few giggles and smiles.  Fart machines, inappropriate YouTube videos, upbeat music, and Tic-Tac-Toe golf get the Sonic Promos seal of approval!

In the end, you will spend at least 40 hours per week with those in your office.  I promise that those 40 hours will be far more enjoyable if you can cultivate a work environment characterized by mutual appreciation, respect, and fun.  The return on your efforts will be invaluable.

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What Does “Green” Really Mean?

As the green movement gains popularity, more companies continue to step up to do their part.  For many of our clients at Sonic Promos, this means a heightened interest in environmentally-friendly goods.

One of the best parts about working in our product-related field: we get to see the latest and greatest “green” goods on the market.  Grocery totes made of recycled water bottles, bill folds created from old paper currency, biodegradable Frisbees, bamboo lanyards… our ability to reuse and recycle seems almost limitless these days!

Still, there remains no single international standard for “green,” and many terms get thrown around loosely.  Concerned buyers must watch out for meaningless product claims or confusing rhetoric.

Let’s decode some of the more common buzz words seen today…

Biodegradable (bahy-oh-di-grey-duh-buhl): When disposed, goods made of biodegradable materials will decompose into the earth with no negative environmental effect.

Carbon Offsetting (kahr-buhn awf-set-ting): Companies that practice carbon offsetting strive to cancel out the amount of CO2 they release into the atmosphere by investing in eco-friendly projects.

Energy Efficient (en-er-jee ih-fish-uhnt): A term used in reference to products and services that require a lower amount of energy to operate, or produce, than their counterparts.

Handmade (hand-meyd): Handmade products are created by hand, not by mechanical production. Generally the processes involved in handmade crafts (since they’re not completed on a factory scale) are less polluting to the environment.

Natural (nach-er-uhl): Refers to products or materials that do not have man-made origins.

Non-toxic (non-tok-sik): Made of substances that show no hazardous or poisonous effects on a living organism’s health and survival.

Organic (awr-gan-ik): This term refers to plants or animals that have been raised under specific conditions mandated by the US Department of Agriculture (or in foreign countries, the equivalent government agency).  Generally speaking, no artificial hormones, synthetic additives, radiation, genetically modified organisms, or pesticides were involved.

Post-consumer (pohst-kuhn-soo-mer): This term describes a product or material that has been recycled and reused after its original purpose has completed (ex. Water bottles that were recycled after consumption).  “Pre-consumer” describes products or materials that were reused before they became a consumer good (ex. Water bottles that were wasted or damaged on the factory line).

Recyclable (ree-sahy-kla-buhl): Made of materials that can be broken down post-consumption and reused in another item.

Sustainable (suh-steyn-uh-buhl): To be very general, sustainable activities seek to get as much as possible from what we have now, without adversely affecting the future.

Some “green” products will boast several of these attributes, others maybe only one or two. Your purchase should reflect what is most important to you!

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Non-Profit Marketing Code Name: Fundraising


October, my favorite month, is rapidly approaching.  Not only are there beautiful leaves, pumpkin-flavored treats and kitschy Halloween decorations to enjoy, but it’s also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  In its honor, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate a post to fundraising.

Fundraising is, after all, marketing.

Non-profit organizations and charities face the same main challenge as corporations and businesses: getting the message to the masses and competing for precious consumer dollars.  As an added hurdle, non-profits tend to have significantly smaller budgets and often lack tangible goods to offer as a return on investment.

People only have so much they can give.  In order to differentiate your organization from the rest of the worthwhile charities and admirable missions in the marketplace, you need to think outside the box.

Sonic Promos works with a variety of non-profit organizations and charitable event planners, and we understand the importance of standing out from the crowd.  Here are three of our favorite creative ideas, adaptable to the individual or organizational level:

Host a night-in. Galas and events are a common way for large non-profit organizations to raise funds. Side note: sorry to switch up the nouns and verbs on you here, but these are the big-wigs, people… they don’t fundraise, they raise funds. Big, glamorous events, though lucrative, take a lot of resources – time and dollars – to produce.  For a creative alternative, send donors an invitation to join you for a charitable night-in!  Pair a formal paper invitation (including a donation envelope as the rsvp, of course) with a small gift of packaged bath salts, cocoa mix or movie theater candy.  People might want to support your charity, but have trouble finding time to attend your event.  Give them a good case for giving and an excuse to spend a relaxing evening at home.

Organize a virtual silent auction. Silent auctions are a popular fundraiser for many reasons.  With just a little effort and organization, they can bring in a significant amount of money.  Additionally, they provide sponsors with the opportunity to benefit from a little marketing by putting their product(s) or service(s) up for bid.  The main downside to silent auctions?  Much like events and galas, they’re geographically-specific and inherently limit the potential reach of your donor base.  Instead, move your auction to a location where everyone can participate: the Internet.  Organize an online auction by asking sponsors, friends and family members to contribute items or services for sale.  Have them send you a photo of said good.  Build interest before the big day by posting these photos on your website.  On the day of the actual sale, buyers will email you their bids.  Throughout the day, post and update the highest bid on each item so your buyers have a chance to outbid one another.  At day’s end, announce the winner of each item, and arrange to have the prizes shipped via mail.

Give potential donors something they don’t want. I have seen this creative tactic used a lot lately, involving everything from goats to embarrassing lawn ornaments.  ?!?...  Allow me to explain.  Using lawn ornaments as an example, the individual or organization seeking donations purchases 20-30 pink flamingos (or gnomes, pinwheels, gazing balls… it’s your choice) and stakes them in a neighbor’s lawn.  They are removed once the neighbor has made a small donation.  Said neighbor is then offered the chance to select the next lucky recipient, and the game continues on.

We hope this gives you some good ideas.  Happy fundraising – in October and all year long!

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