Category Archives: Brand Identity and Corporate Logos

Lions and tigers and promotional products… Oh my!

Home to 4000 species of exotic animals and 100 acres of lush wildlife, the San Diego Zoo is one of the largest and most famous zoos in the country. I can attest to the vastness first hand because I was lucky enough to visit the Zoo this past weekend. While there, I pet a camel, heard about numerous conservation efforts, learned that koalas are marsupials (not bears) and was able to snap this photo of the San Diego Zoo’s promotional products.

I also started thinking about how much animals influence the realm of business. Over the years, well-known companies in a variety of industries have used animals as a logo to symbolize their strong brands.

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Rethinking a Marketing Strategy: Promotional Products and Social Media Synergy

A study of Internet usage released by The Nielsen Company shows that Americans nearly tripled the amount of time they spend on social media sites and blogs between August 2008 and that same month one year later. Over the course of that time, people developed and altered the way that they gain information. Not only are consumers turning to online news sources such as or the New York Times online, but also people are garnering more of their news from sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This means that hard news stories- about the earthquake in Haiti or the latest status update on healthcare reform- are cluttered with personal status updates, such as what John Smith ate for dinner last night or the color of Jane Doe’s new hat. What’s more, consumers are hearing the news through secondary sources that cannot help but add their own personal bias.

Personal bias about online news also applies to brands. Social media sites provide an easy and uncensored outlet for shoppers to share their likes and dislikes about certain products, companies and customer service experiences. Thus, as consumers spend more and more time on these sites, effectively changing the way they share and acquire information, marketers are forced to shift their campaigns as well. And they are. The same Nielsen study reveals that while the time consumers spent on these sites tripled, the amount of money that businesses spent advertising online increased 119 percent during that same time span.
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How promotional products influence brand recognition

radiolab.orgWNYC’s Radiolab — a fantastic podcast — had a fascinating short this week called “Do I Know You?” about people with a delusional disorder called Capgras.

A woman suffering from Capgras comes home to find a man sitting in her living room, wearing her husband’s clothes and containing all his physical features, but who, to her, simply is not her husband. In actuality, he is. But she can’t shake the feeling he’s an impostor.

Click to find out about how our brains manage recognition, and how promotional products enter in…

Costumed Sign Wavers Versus Promotional Products

Kolin ToneyOn my way to work each morning I drive by one intersection that always has someone dressed as a reindeer, dancing, waving, and holding a sign that reads “Caribou Coffee.” I have never stopped at that Caribou Coffee on my way to work, nor do I plan to, as I make coffee at home in the morning and have my first cup of the day on the road, and then my second (or third…) using the coffee maker at the office.  However the cheerful, dancing deer often leaves me with a feeling of pleasantry as I continue on my morning commute.

That is until I reach another intersection probably about a mile down the road (maybe 2? I am terrible with estimating distances). It is at this intersection that I am confronted with two (sometimes even three) people dressed in the most terrifying costumes resembling the Statue of Liberty(see scary mask below) that one could ever imagine holding signs that say “Income Tax” in bold letters with a telephone number below. They rotate their body position to direct their signs toward different directions of oncoming traffic, but cheerful they are not. No dancing, and I have only witnessed a wave once maybe twice. I suppose it may be fitting as income tax is not generally considered to be a “cheerful” subject matter, and certainly is less of a joyous matter than say, coffee at 8:45 am. And the costume, though frightening, is also fitting, as they are advertising for Liberty Tax Service whose logo includes a portion of the Statue of Liberty’s head (though the signs do not even denote the company’s name – I figured it out through a little online research).


Some further research led me to find that there are more than 2,500 Liberty Tax offices in the United States where more than 10,000 people are seasonally employed to wave at passing cars. This must be a reactionary effort created by the current administration’s job stimulus plan, was my first thought. My second – does this form of advertising really work? According to Paul Mason, professor and chair of the Department of Economics & Geography at the University of North Florida, it can:

“At first I thought that it was stupid, like people standing on the street waving for their political candidate,” he said.

So like any good skeptic, Mason began investigating to see if the sign holders made any difference in helping a business grow and thrive.

“I have asked business owners, restaurant people, etc., about how effective the sign holders are,” he said. “I discovered that particularly for stores that don’t have strong street presence or are just opening, it seems effective at letting people know that the place is there. It helps people try new stores by announcing their presence.”

By Joseph Baneth Allen
Publication: Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

I have not done any of the cost analysis (nor could I find any done by anyone else online) but I just cannot imagine that this form of advertising to the local community could be more cost-effective than say, doing a promotional products mailing to residents of the area. If you do choose to employ “Costumed Sign Wavers” however, please make them cheerful, and do not have them wear scary masks. Thanks.

Team Lead – Multimedia

Extreme Makeover: Promotional Products Edition

Jo Naylor-open-bookWhat do golden arches, a partially eaten apple and Mickey Mouse have in common? This question might sound like the start of a bad joke, but the answer is no laughing matter. These items all represent strong brand identities, which belong to McDonald’s, Mac, and Disney respectively (not that I had to tell you that.) Moreover, these symbols prove that a company name, logo and even a mascot send a message about the quality and consistency of the brand’s products or services.

As Jaime and Kim mentioned in their blogs earlier this week, it’s important to set yourself apart from the competition. The methods you use to attract consumers- offering free shipping, next day delivery or even just a catchy name and Web site design- all fall under the larger umbrella of branding. Business might be booming, but if no one can remember your name, customers will soon be drawn to competitors who offer similar products. Whether you are just starting up or trying to re-brand an established business, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are on the right track.

To start with, who is your target audience? Go beyond just demographics and consider what types of products these people buy and how frequently they make purchases. Your research should certainly incorporate statistical analysis, but never underestimate the power of speaking directly with your customers. Listening to consumers’ needs and understanding their backgrounds will help you determine the most effective way to reach them; proven strategies often include interactive Web sites, social media, and promotional products. At the end of the day, your brand should be able to tell a story- if it doesn’t, you might need to step back and take a revitalizing approach. Does your brand need an extreme makeover? Use promotional products to re-brand.

Marketing Coordinator
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Tell your brand’s story with promotional products


Recently I visited my friend Brian, who was looking for bikes on Craigslist. Now, Brian already has two bikes — a fixed gear and a tandem — but he wants more. Brian’s not the kind of guy to be satisfied with a practical fulfillment of his needs; he obsesses over things. When he adopted a cat a few years ago he wasn’t satisfied with that, either. He let the cat have four kittens in his house, then he adopted a ferret and brought his childhood pet snake from his parents’ house. The animals all live in harmony with his roommate’s hedgehog. Brian is neither greedy nor rich. He doesn’t have a television set and you’d be hard pressed to find a suitable water glass in the house, but he proudly owns a 100-piece collection of vintage mushroom pottery.

Brian’s actually not that different from most people. We like to think that we buy based on price comparisons and consumer reports, but most of the time we act on gut feelings. I may be looking for a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with a balcony, but if I fall in love with the quirky floor-planned 1 bedroom with poor insulation, I’ll start talking myself into the buy. “That screened-in porch could totally work as a second bedroom… and the real estate agent said it used to belong to an heiress in the 1920s!”

We often choose story over sense. In a globalized market there are too many choices, and we’ll pick the one that stands out. That’s why it’s important to think of your brand not as a transaction maker, but as a storyteller. Coca Cola designates its entire museum to telling the story of its product, and their ads too. This commercial turns a simple transaction — buying a coke from a vending machine — into a complex narrative. Notice the ending:

Back to my friend Brian. During our conversation he remarked that he likes the Craigslist bikes with a story behind them. “I want to know why they’re selling them,” he said. “Maybe it’s the guy’s daughter’s bike, and she’s going away to college, and she’s not going to use it anymore. Maybe they’re moving out of the country. Whatever it is, I want to know.”

I found similar responses when I was selling my couch on Craiglist earlier this year. “Why are you selling the couch?” people would ask, even before they started haggling the price. Putting a story behind your brand lends it authenticity. And the power of promotional products is that they communicate that story to your customers.

So what is your brand’s story? And how will you use promotional products to tell it?

Creative Writing Intern
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I Work for Entrepreneurs in the Promotional Products Industy; How Do Entrepreneurs Impact Your Life?

global entrepreneurs weekThis week marks the second annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, hosted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and business coalition Make Your Mark (based in the United Kingdom). The week coincides with the U.K’s Enterprise Week, and altogether, the events encompassed by these joint celebrations number about 25,000! Over 75 countries are taking part in the festivities, which kicked off in New York yesterday with the ringing of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange immediately followed by a panel discussion between college students and renowned entrepreneurs from an array of industries.

The week serves as a platform for young entrepreneurs to gather with experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other knowledgeable professionals to network, learn and share ideas. Due to the current global recession, many entrepreneurs are becoming disheartened with their work, so this occasion provides a valuable opportunity for them to re-energize, listen to personal experiences and triumphs of other entrepreneurs and refocus their priorities. Did you know that over half of the companies listed on the 2009 U.S. Fortune 500 got their starts during a recession or bear market? If that statistic isn’t a source of inspiration for today’s entrepreneurs, I don’t know what is!

After reading several stories about Global Entrepreneurship Week in the press, I was suddenly hit with the realization that entrepreneurs are the people who make the world go around. Yes, I knew this sub-consciously, but I think I have taken for granted the significant impact that entrepreneurs have played in my life. Change would not be possible without forward-thinking risk-takers. Who can deny that entrepreneurs have been the driving force behind every appliance, product and service in existence? Take, for example, the founders of Pinnacle Promotions, Mitch and Dave Weintraub: they noticed a need in the marketplace for a reliable, efficient online distributor of promotional products. Their entrepreneurial spirit led them to found Pinnacle, and fourteen years later, this company remains at the forefront of innovation and improvement in our industry.

Now, before I turn this post into a list of reasons why I love working at Pinnacle Promotions (I’ll save that for another post, another day!), here are a couple of motivational quotes from the kick-off event for Global Entrepreneurship Week:

“Entrepreneurs that I’ve met who have been really successful, whenever you ask them about why they did it, or how they did it, it’s never about the money, and it’s never about the business plans – it’s always about, ‘I saw the need.’”
-Blake Mycoskie, founder of eco-friendly footwear company TOMS Shoes

“If you can drive authenticity through your market and own that space, you are going to have a sustainable business.”
-Barry Sternlicht, CEO of Starwood Capital Group

“Study what’s missing and what you want to become. It’s 2009 – anything’s possible.”
-Snoop Dogg, Rapper

To learn more about Global Entrepreneurship Week, you can visit

Team Lead – Social Media
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Twitter puts @promotional products in its new digs

Twitter has done a great job with branding. Every encounter I have with Twitter leaves me feeling light and refreshed. Their monochrome blue is relaxing, and their subtle clouds and sun rays somehow work without being cheesy.

Remarkably, Twitter has even managed to incorporate a mascot: its little bluebird.

Everything that Twitter communicates visually about itself is consistent with the content and practices of the business.

Twitter is fresh.

  • …in its content. Beyond being the hot new fad, Twitter has stayed relevant with innovations like # and retweet. Brilliantly, however, Twitter lets its members do most of the work, and people are constantly discovering new ways to use the site.
  • …in its appearance. Light clouds and sun rays make you feel you’re tweeting in a meadow.
  • …in its digs. Twitter’s new space even includes a DJ booth. And what’s fresher than music created on the spur of the moment?

Twitter is transparent.

  • …in its content. There are very few places to hide on the Twitter site. Most accounts are public, meaning your tweets are instantly available to the entire Tweetdom.
  • …in its appearance. Twitter’s sky blue website is so airy that you feel you could reach your hand through the screen.
  • …in its digs. Exposed rafters and light bulbs, vast spaces and large windows make the headquarters feel open. And like Gawker, Twitter employees sit at communal drafting tables with no cubicle walls.

Twitter is simple.

  • …in its content. 140 characters. That’s it.
  • …in its appearance. One color. No clutter.
  • …in its digs, with bird decals on the walls and a modern, minimalist design. The colors of the walls and floors stick to Twitter’s monochrome scheme.

I love how Twitter has translated its brand to its new offices, even — wait for it — using promotional products in the décor. They even showcase an embroidered promotional pillow that reads “Home Tweet Home.”

For a company that exists on the internet, they’ve seamlessly extended their brand to their physical surroundings.

Creative Writing Intern
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Take A Tip From the Automobile Industry and Logo Your Promo

mercedesbenz_logo1Consider the logo pictured at left. What thoughts immediately came rushing to your mind upon seeing that particular image? Speed? Class?  Luxury Vehicles? Even Germany, perhaps?

This simple circle surrounding a 3-sided star has the ability to evoke so many different associations in ones mind from the products the company produces to the place of its origin. While this logo has been around since 1926, having had decades to establish such recognition for the entire Mercedes-Benz automobile company from its simple design, it is purely an example to demonstrate the power that symbols have in our world today.

Promotional products can be successful means of aiding in establishing logo identities as logos are like links to memories in consumers’ minds, and material items can help to reinforce those memories. After all, even with well-known car companies it’s not only their own automobiles that don their symbols. They produce apparel, key chains, and more, that are all customized with their logos, providing exposure for their brands in more arenas than just on the road.

Automobile companies have some of the most recognized logos throughout the world – see if you recognize a few, or all, of these:


Team Lead – Multimedia
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Media Buying – Social Media is Changing Everything


Among business functions, Marketing is changing the most; not the goal, but certainly the methods used to build recognition, brand value and, yes, sales. What was regarded as effective five years ago is ineffective today as audiences age and technology offers more interactive options. The rapid change leaves most of us who are “old schooled” in marketing and media buying wondering what to buy in order to develop a high level of recognition. Where do we focus our time in order to build brand value? If engagement is better than traditional mediums that hold audiences at arm’s length, how do we do that well with our limited time and recently reduced budgets? And, while social media does a great job at improving customer relations and humanizing companies, it has yet to show real strength at increasing sales…so, do I go social?

Building Recognition

In walks “promotional products”. In terms of advertising mediums, promotional products has long been thought of as secondary to television, radio, and print advertising, and the add-on to a campaign or media buy. For media buyers who narrowed their focus to “cost per impression” and failed to understand promotional products longevity, or preferred mass mediums, it was considered too expensive. Now, when newspaper readers are declining and magazine ads are proving very expensive for the exposure; with TiVo making it possible to eliminate high-priced commercials, and radio giving way to iPods, media buyers and marketing professionals are taking a new look at promotional products.

According to a 2008 study by the Advertising Specialty Institute, the cost per impression on promotional products averages $0.004 because of their inherent shelf life. This means that they are highly effective in delivering a branded message over and over and over.

Building Brand Value

Brand value is based in how customers respond when they see your brand. It is develop through the culmination of customer experiences. Media is one of several means for experiencing a company brand. Using a product is another one, as is shopping a company’s store location and talking with their sales or service representative. Is it any wonder that marketing places such a high value on control of these interactions?

The challenge is no longer in whether or not we’re saying something of value through our media (most marketing professionals are well versed at building branding statements), but in ensuring that our message is seen/heard enough to develop an acceptable level of recognition.

The 2008 ASI study of business people found that 81% of promotional products are kept because they are considered useful; of these, 56% were kept at home and 28% were kept at the office. The study also found that the average number of impressions for these items is roughly 363 per month. This repeated exposure of the brand on items that are deemed valuable enough to keep is highly effective in adding to brand value.


The concept of engagement in marketing is fairly new and is defined as consumer interaction with a company or brand. While many companies wrestle with how to do this through social media, there are challenges with the new media that are inescapable. First, social media is based in scrolling feeds. That means that information is quickly out of sight. Second, marketing professionals are quickly finding out that the nature of people on social media site is to “talk” rather than “listen” (probably because of our human nature to be self-absorbed). So, for companies that wish to listen to consumers talk, it’s great. For presenting a message, it’s risky.

Promotional products are the original engagement tool. By interacting (using) products, consumers develop a higher level of affinity for the company brand. In the 2008 ASI study, 42% of respondents had a more favorable impression of an advertiser after receiving the item, and 24% said they were more likely to do business with the advertiser.


One of my favorite studies is the 1990 study by the Advertising Research Foundation that found that the strongest factor linking advertising to sales is “likeability” – if respondents liked an ad, they were more likely to buy the product. Since those findings, the ARF has continued to validate the study. The link between these findings and those of the 2008 ASI study are clear – when advertisers place their artwork on a promotional product that is well liked, people are more likely to remember them, have an higher level of affinity for the company, and purchase from them.

The bottom line? In a time when most mass mediums are struggling to get and hold the attention of consumers, promotional products continue to perform well and are a good value for advertisers.

This is a guest post authored by Karen Sherrill, Director of Marketing at Gold Bond, Inc., an ASI Top Forty Supplier in the advertising specialty industry. Follow Gold Bond on Twitter ( and visit their Facebook page ( for additional information about the company.

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