This One Time... at Brand Camp

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

Fall Racing Season and T-shirts

Morning, all! Did anyone watch the NYC Marathon last weekend? I love tuning in to watch the elite runners compete, in any televised marathon really. They make it look so easy!

What's even more impressive is how many people participated in this year's event. 50,000 runners! Isn't that insane?

Check out some of the swag from the 2013 ING NYC Marathon:

Dunkin' Donuts distributed 15,000 fleece hats to chilly runners at the starting line. Looks like they had plenty of takers!

The official T-shirt and finisher's medal.

(source for all above photos)

Sure, I might be particularly interested in swag because it's what we live and breathe at Sonic, but these items mean a lot to plenty more people. Libby James explains it well in this article from the Coloradoan:

Runners are on their own to purchase pants, but the T-shirts they wear are another story. Since the early days of the running boom, T-shirts have been the souvenir almost always included in the price of a race entry fee. And runners love them.

In a recent scientific survey conducted among a group of seasoned runners, I learned runners favor tech or synthetic, lightweight fabric T-shirts over cotton — the fabric of choice for so many years. Runners say they fit better, don’t get smelly, breathe, have a nicer texture and stretch enough to “cover a car” according to one respondent. The few who favor cotton complain tech shirts smell funny and don’t fit well.

The runners I questioned own anywhere from five to 200 shirts, and admit that T-shirts have a habit of accumulating in dresser drawers, making them collectors by default. Some rotate through their shirts as they train and race, others have old favorites they prefer to wear over and over. Favorites become loved because of color, logo, fit, fabric and “how I look in it.” Favorites recall an especially difficult race, a memorable travel experience or provide the owner with a subtle way to brag about having completed a status race such as the Boston Marathon.

Fit is an ongoing issue. “Unisex sizing means men’s sizes,” one runner said. “Even a small men’s shirt becomes a nightgown for me. If race organizers want me to wear their shirt to advertise their race, then I need to have one that fits.” Women runners appreciate women’s sizing and tapered shirts that fit them better. Several runners mentioned liking a no shirt option and paying a lower entry fee.

T-shirts can create a bond between strangers who strike up a conversation based on a shirt. It’s fun to learn when and where a race took place, and whether or not the experience was good. “When I race in my ‘Alaska, Land of the Midnight Run’ shirt, I often hear ‘go Alaska,’” one runner shared.

What happens when T-shirt storage capacity is maxed out? Shirts get thrown away, given away, cut up for rags, transformed into quilts or find new life halfway around the world. They arrive in huge bundles and get sold on the street for pennies in Third World countries. I once saw a young man in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, proudly displaying a shirt that read, “Detroit Dance Marathon, 1995.” Who would have thought?

Occasionally races offer hats, socks, a bag, jacket or sweatshirt instead of a T-shirt as a race souvenir. And sometimes runners appreciate a change. But in the end, it’s the T-shirt most race participants covet, and that can even become a factor in deciding whether or not to participate in a race.

If you're a runner, what are your thoughts on race tees? Do you have an entire drawer of them? And what did you think of the 2013 New York City Marathon shirt?

For more reading, check out these other Sonic blog posts about racing and race swag:

What WE Get When We Race

Successful Race Promotions

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On to the Next Holiday... Thanksgivukkah!

Happy November 1st, readers! And happy belated Halloween! Is everyone experiencing a sugar coma this morning like we are?


Now that Halloween is behind us, we can officially begin celebrating the next holiday. Don't you hate it when stores try to push Christmas merchandise before Halloween is even over? One holiday at a time, people!

The next holiday in queue is a special one indeed. Are you aware that the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving this year? It's a very rare occasion, and one we intend to celebrate fully at Sonic.

To get us all in the spirit, our art team designed a few T-shirts. Let us know if you're interested in ordering one of your own, and help us spread the Thanksgivukkah joy!

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'Tis the Season for Really Fashionable Sweaters

Our focus at Sonic is this: How can we get our client's brand into the hands of their target audience, and how can we get it to stay there? Of course, client project goals are a bit more specific, but that's really the gist of it.

We pay attention to how and why people use promotional products. A few reasons off the top of my head:

1. It was in the right place at the right time. That magnet on your fridge promoting a Realtor you don't even know? It's probably there because you received it in the mail alongside a holiday card from your relatives in California. You used it to hang said holiday card, and now it's still there five years later. The magnet, that is, hopefully not the card.

2. It's especially functional. I bet you have one reusable grocery bag that you like better than all the others. Maybe it's really durable, comfortable to carry, or easy to clean. Whatever the reason, it serves a purpose, and it serves it well.

3. It holds sentimental value. A perfect example is the drawer of race T-shirts in your bedroom dresser. They've probably seen better days, but you wouldn't dare trash them. Think of the memories!

4. It's just plain fun. Just ignore the 5 packs of plain yellow sticky notes in your office drawer. These sticky notes are rainbow-colored and they come in a cute little hardcover book. Adorable!

Today's feature item- the stretchy bottle sweater- is just plain fun. If you're a fan of Sonic Promos on Facebook, you've likely seen us post photos of this piece before. We find them to be the perfect enhancement to our office cocktail hours and beverage holidays.

Choose from a variety of stock holiday designs, like the blue snowflake, brown argyle and red reindeer designs above, or create a custom knit as we did. They're very stretchy and truly fit any kind of bottle, can or glass, as you can see below in the photos of a standard 12 oz. beer bottle and liter of margarita mix.

We love the idea of a tacky [bottle] sweater campaign theme for holiday outreach.

Do you own a particularly tacky (and by tacky I mean fabulous) holiday sweater? Share a photo on our Facebook page, and we'll send you a Sonic bottle sweater!

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A More Affordable Pick

Guitar picks are a popular giveaway item at music festivals, concerts and college events. We offer a wide variety of professional grade Celluloid picks (like the guitar picks for Hebrew Union College featured in yesterday's blog post), but order minimums can run a bit higher than some client projects require. If you're just looking for a small quantity of promotional picks, here's a smart solution:

Like Camp JCC, have your full color artwork printed on plastic wallet cards and use a Pick Punch to create individual picks.


You can generally punch 3-4 picks per card. Easy!

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This Week at Sonic Promos 10.22.13

What have we been working on lately? Here's the scoop on two recent projects:

Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers is pictured above in one of the jerseys we printed to promote AAA's partnership with the hockey team. Long sleeve T-shirts and blankets were also produced for this project.

A few weeks ago, we assisted Hebrew Union College with guitar picks, coffee mugs and custom playing cards to use at student events throughout the school year. These are professional grade Celluloid guitar picks, but check the blog tomorrow for a super easy (and affordable) option for promotional picks.

"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.

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US Congress Handbook Fall Mailer

If you're looking for a creative theme for your next promotion, consider drawing inspiration from the current season. Sonic Promos recently assisted Columbia Books with a fall-themed direct mail campaign. Read on for more details!

Every year, Columbia Books conducts a large scale gift mailer to promote the US Congress Handbook to clients and prospects. The gift is typically seasonal, and this year's mailer focused on fall.  

Each mailer box contained a beautiful plush blanket, a set of pumpkin carving tools, three carving stencils (a donkey, an elephant and the Capitol Building) and a custom guide for local pumpkin patches.

The goal was to create a thoughtful, personal gift that would get the recipient excited about the Handbook and the festive season ahead.

Of course, I'm obsessed with all things fall, but I say, "mission accomplished!"

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Grammar Mugs: Using Promotional Products to Educate

The first thing that came to mind when I saw these mugs? They'd be perfect for an office kitchen.

We're all guilty of committing grammatical errors from time to time, and unfortunately these mistakes seem to occur most often in client emails, company-wide memos, or (cringe!) on printed T-shirts.

I think these mugs provide a clever and friendly reminder to proofread important correspondences. I know I'd rather have my morning cup of coffee correct my grammar than a grammartician coworker!

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This Week at Sonic Promos 10.1.13

Happy October, everyone! To kick off the new month, here are some projects keeping us busy this week at Sonic Promos...

... bags, table runners and T-shirts for Bloom Montgomery Village.

... dry erase decals for 3 Pillar Global.

... and shoe bags for BGC.

"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.

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The Social-climbing Lobster: A Lesson in Branding

What sort of things come to mind when you think of lobster? Maybe you picture coastal Maine or New England, a nice restaurant, or fancy menu items like Surf & Turf or Lobster Bisque. You probably don't picture prisoners, servants and canned meat. Lobster has come a long way, and we can learn a lesson in branding from its history.


I read an interesting article this weekend called "How Lobster Got Fancy", and I encourage you to click over and read the full piece too. But, if you're pressed for time this morning, I've recapped the facts and tidbits that I found to be most interesting below.

-- Lobster is an expensive food today, and that's due to supply and demand. The price diners pay depends on how much lobstermen are able to catch, and unfortunately that price can surge as much as 18% in one year, like it did in 2012. It wasn't always this way.

-- Lobster used to be so abundant that it was thought of as a trash food. Something you would serve only to servants and prisoners, certainly not esteemed guests. People hated the look of them (I can understand that- they're pretty ugly creatures), and it was common (and cheap!) to buy lobster meat in cans. It didn't really matter that lobster meat was delicious; social influences determine our food choices more than how the food tastes. (Psst.. check out this post for another interesting article about social influences and food enjoyment.)

-- Lobsters have railroads to thank, in part, for their improved social status. Inland passengers were unfamiliar with lobster's lowbrow reputation among coastal residents, so trains began serving lobsters as an "exotic" menu item. People loved the taste and began to request it in restaurants. It also helped that around this time, chefs realized that cooking lobsters live greatly improved their flavor.

-- As lobsters became more popular, fishermen noticed a decrease in population, and so the price was driven up. The industry took a hit during the Great Depression, when no one was able to afford the dish. Thankfully, this period of time allowed the lobster population to recover slightly.

-- During WWII, lobster resurged in popularity because it wasn't rationed like other food items. People of all classes ate it frequently and loved the taste. By the 1950s, it was back to being a delicacy.

I just love that story... such a great example of smart branding!

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This Week at Sonic Promos 9.24.13

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

... SmashLights for SmartBrief. A little more information on this item, since it's a fun one... SmashLights are essentially a flat flashlight that use lithium ion batteries and LED lights, giving them a shelf life of several years. Their flat shape makes them perfect for direct mail campaigns.

... folding sunglasses and erasable highlighters for Kaztronix recruiting initiatives.

... and T-shirts for UMD and VT football games, courtesy of AAA.

"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.

Continue reading
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