E3 and Lessons in Competitive Marketing

E3, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, started this Monday in sunny Los Angeles. Even if you aren’t big into knowing the latest and greatest in the gaming industry, perhaps you’ve heard about the biggest rivalry going into the event: both Microsoft and Sony were there to show off their new consoles. While the actual products themselves have been amazing to get glimpses of, another thing on display this year is the level of competitive marketing the vendors have brought t his year. So what can you gain from examining this anti-wallflower mentality? Read on!

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Ariel Zambelich
As I mentioned above, all eyes have been on Microsoft and Sony and their respective new consoles. Microsoft revealed their Xbox One before E3, and it may have proven a dire mistake. Sony waited until E3 and was able to highlight their system by flaunting in a not so subtle manner the main differences between it and the Xbox One. For example, after the uproar that followed the announcement that the Xbox One would have costly requirements for playing used games, Playstation released this playful jab of a video demonstrating just how easy sharing used games on their console is. Waiting to unveil the Playstation 4, a move that was once criticized, gave  the marketing team the time to develop content that would be timely, relevant to the release, and successful in making in their console look like the superior choice.

Xbox One sounding a little too pricy? Well the Playstation 4 will be $100 less. If you think the Xbox One looks like an ugly VCR,  Sony will be quick to mention the slightly asymmetrical looks of the Playstation 4. For every complaint that has been lodged at the Xbox One, Sony has not so quietly offered a viable alternative. So far, it’s been tastefully funny mockery that has been fun to enjoy as a consumer. Sony has shown that it’s okay to be a fierce competitor, point out flaws, and offer your solutions without slipping into a mess of ugly marketing tactics. And it seems the gamble paid off, Fast Company mentioned that Sony seems to be “winning the event” at this point.

The mentaility at these expos seems to entail forgetting that the competition exists, never mentioned unless the word “exclusive” comes up. Sony has broken through these barriers by throwing convention to the wind. They played coy by waiting to show the world what the console would actually look like; teaching us that shouting “FIRST!” doesn’t necessarily mean your product will win the title of best. We now see that we can poke fun at a competitor without being rude. They’ve stayed on top of the news and the world’s reaction to the new consoles, releasing new content and details about the Playstation 4 to keep themselves in the spotlight as the expo has carried on. It’s a model that is easily applied to every day marketing where occasionally old rules can stifle new creativity; break free of your competitor’s or industry’s  mold

Now in case you’re thinking that Xbox and Playstation only reached these levels of competitive marketing is because Sony and Microsoft are willing to spend thousands in marketing, let me mention the Ouya console. Ouya is the little gaming console that could, and it raised $8.6 million in funding last summer. Not wanting to spend all that hard earned money of the staggeringly high fees of presenting at E3 and with the idea of attending “on its own terms“, they came up with a clever alternative. Ouya rented, will the necessary permits and permissions, parking spaces oppsite the Expo and invited people over to come check out the new console. The company behind E3 retaliated by renting parking spaces in the same lot and blocking Ouya’s stand with trucks. Ouya responded by simply renting more spots in front of the trucks and setting up banners. And that’s when the police were called. However since Ouya had obtained all the right permits, there was nothing amiss going on legally and Ouya still has their stand. The story has made cemented Ouya’s image as the scrapping-indie company to watch for, and given it a firm place amongst the console news coming from E3. The lesson here? Even if you’re considered the broke underdog use everything in your power to create an impression. It may require some extremely creative thinking but as we were all taught in school, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

What do you think of the friendly (and in Ouya’s case not so friendly) competition that surrounds product unveilings? Would you prefer to be the one who unveils first or sits back and waits?

Stepping outside your product comfort zone

Have you ever been suprised by a company’s promotional product offerings? I found myself pleasantly shocked yesterday when I saw the Public Radio Tattoos offered by the This American Life online store. When you think of National Public Radio and it’s offerings, I rarely think of tattoos but instead except something like the fundraiser-drives that offer CDs and tote bags. I would have never thought to offer Sailor Jerry-inspired temporary tattoos, but then again, I’m not This American Life host, Ira Glass.

According to their website, Glass suggested the idea of temporary tattoos only to have colleagues think it was a crazy idea. 70,000 temporary tattoos later, his far-fetched idea has proven a success.

So why did these custom temporary tattoos cause such a stir? Perhaps it has something to do with a survey Harris Interactive did that last year that found 1 in 5 U.S. adults sports a tattoo; being inked is now considered in vogue. With reports that radio is struggling to stay relevant, I can only imagine the drive to connect with a younger audience that may only know to tune into Top 40 stations. These promotional tattoos may seem silly but just take a look on their page to see the spectrum of age groups that have happily applied their temporary tattoo. It’s a fresh, fun idea that gives the recipients instant gratification, and even if the tattoos is left unapplied it can easily hang around a desk monitor as a constant reminder of public radio offerings. If you’d like to know more about the temporary tats, This American Life did their blog post on them here.

What do you think about stepping outside of your product comfort zone: do the rewards outweigh the risks?

When Products Become Legends

Mashable has a great article out now about a noble quest: a documentary team is leading an expedition into the New Mexico desert to see if there is any truth to the myth that video game maker Atari buried almost 4 million copies of their terrible game, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. If this is indeed what happened, it means that Atari spent millions on this failure of a game and then realized that their last alternative was to bury their shame in the New Mexico desert.

Now let’s jump to the most impressive part of this whole ordeal: Atari released this game in 1982 and, if the rumors are correct, this games were buried in 1983. It has been 30 years, an impressive lifespan for such a terrible game. In fact, according to this AP article, one of the reasons the film crew is even being allowed to do this excavation is because the town’s commissioner recalls playing the game and can vividly remember just how terrible it was.

I recently blogged about choosing promotional products that last, but what about those that take on a life of their own? What about those items that become their own versions of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket? Like the Beanie Babies that can go for thousands simply because of a speling error or Pokemon cards that are made extra rare because they are extra shiny.

What traits do both these mythical products, both the failures and successes, share? And, perhaps more importantly, how can this translate into your everyday product choices? I’m sure entire disserations can be written on the nuances, but I’ve chosen my top three traits.

1. There is an urban myth: The Atari  game is the best example of this. The story has lasted as long as it has because it has an urban myth attached to it.There have been plenty of terrible games releases since 1982 but very few have reached these levels of cult notoriety. The possibly buried games have stayed in the limelight for such a long just because their is a possibility that they exist. While you may not be able to create an urban myth immediately on an item you choose, you could always choose a product that hints at an urban myth you can relate to your event or company. After all, most people who go searching for the Loch Ness Monster come back with no proof but some awesome souvenirs.

2. There is rarity: A rare Superman comic found in the insulation of a dilapted house sold for over $100,000; there’s a reason people are willing to spend money of the first editions of old books. People love the idea of having something rare, something not easily attained or available in small quantities. On a broader scale, think of the collaborations that Target does with big name designers: their recent collaboration with Prabal Gurung sold out one day after it was released. Items that were reasonably priced in store were going for double or triple their retail value online. So think of your wording: perhaps phrases like “limited edition” will help make your item the next hot commodity; consider working with local artists to add a touch of exclusivity to your design.

3. There is a feeling that it was worth it: This last point ties closely to rarity. Imagine now that the film crew looking for the buried Atari games does come across them, I imagine there will be both a feeling of deep satisfaction and immense relief that the journey actually produced results. Back to the Target collaboration example from point two, the Prabal Gurung collection allowed people to enjoy clothing by this famous designer who under other circumstances they probably could not afford or find. The lesson here is: make it worth their while. If people stand in line at your tradeshow, give them a sense of satisfaction that it was worth the wait, make the item worth the cost.

Are there any other traits that you would add to this list? And let me know if anyone has actually played the E.T. Atari game, I’ll be waiting with baited breath to see if they do find anything in the desert!

Weekend Guide: Tunes from the Tombs, Modern Atlanta Design is Human, and More!

Hello, local readers! Hot off the press is this week’s edition of our weekend guide, filled with the best things to do in and around Atlanta this Thursday through Sunday. As always, be sure to add anything we missed in the comments section. Enjoy your weekend!!

 

 Keep reading for more information about Brew at the Zoo, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Atlanta Caribbean Carnival and other exciting weekend events!

Peachtree Hills Festival of the Arts

Peachtree Hills Park.  Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm. Free

Enjoy a two day outdoor local arts and crafts even this weekend near Peachtree Hills Park. Admission is free

More info and directions

Atlanta Cotillion Presents: Cirque de Nuit

The Delta Heritage Museum.  Saturday, 7:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.  Tickets: $50-250

Join the Atlanta Cotillion in celebrating their annual fashion forward soiree with donation going to AID Atlanta. Dress up in your most avant-garde cocktail outfits and prepare to dance to music provided by DJ Mike Pope and Todd Skelton. Bid on the silent auction, or try a hand at the blackjack table.

More info and directions

Modern Atlanta Design is Human

ADAC.  Saturday – Sunday 11:00 am- 4:00 PM.  Tickets: $35

This citywide festival celebrates modern creation. Take an in-depth look at the interior design, fashion, and architecture of our fine city. Check out exhibits, sit in on lecture, and enjoy the showcase of Atlanta’s design.

More info and directions

Tunes from the Tombs

Historic Oakland Cemetery.  Saturday 1:00 p.m- 8:00 PM.  Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the gate

Enjoy a day long music event at the Historic Oakland Cemetery. All genres will be represented on two main stages while buskers will perform on vignette stages throughout the cemetery. Pick up lunch from a local food truck, take a guided mini-tour, have your fortunes read, or enjoy a drink.

More info and directions

Air Canada Rouge and Choosing Fashion Forward Uniforms

If we’re being honest it’s easy to cringe at the idea of work uniforms isn’t it? It may conjure up memories of ill-fitting khakis and bland, itchy polos; all in colors that seemed to flatter no one. But, thankfully, times have changed and a work uniform can mimic the lastest fashions. Polyester is now breathable, with wicking capabilities. Bulky blazers can be exchanged for warm cardigans. Employees will be happy to don your uniform, and you customers will be wondering where they can snap up their own pieces.

Need a little more convincing? Then look no further than Air Canada Rouge‘s new cabin crew uniform.

They chose a light grey pant that paired nicely with their cranberry colored cardigans and vests. White polos and dress shirts serve as a neutral base for the ensemble. Everything looks comfortable, a key element for a happy crew during a long or difficult flight.  This just goes to show have far we’ve come from the days when Pan Am’s stewardesses were required to wear girdles and tight skirts. 

promotional accessories

They even paid attention to smaller details like scarves and ties. Each has been imprinted with the Air Canada Rouge logo and in complimentary colors. The trilby hat is a nice extra touch that will be sure to save many a steward and stewardess from dealing from a bad hair day. Air Canada Rouge even had the Canadian shoe company Fluevog create specific colors of their famously comfortable shoes to match.

Rouge is Air Canada’s new leisure line, and they wanted their new brand uniform to reflect the same “je ne sais quoi” that they had based Rouge on. Renee Smith-Valade, vice president of customer experience at Air Canada Rouge, has been quoted as saying that Air Canada Rouge has a personality “which is fresh and youthful” and that certainly has been well translated into their uniform selection. There is nothing overtly formal or stuffy about the look, and, as The Consumerist joked, “Flight attendants can wear them from work to a concert to picking out artisanal marshmallows at the local farmer’s market”. But with destinations such as Venice, Edinburg, and Costa Rica, would this not be the  low key vibe you wanted to present to your passengers? Rouge wants you to feel like you could jet set off with only the fabulous clothes on your back.

The uniforms have been in the limelight since they were first debuted. Bloomber Businessweek has affectionately dubbed them the “Hipster Flight Attendent” look. Design blogs have embraced the uniform as well. To do away with any naysayers who would argue that the uniforms looked better on models than actual flight attendents, Air Canada Rouge chose actual cabin crew members to model the looks, giving an honest view of what this will look like up in the skies.

I’d love to know what  you think about Air Canada Rouge’s new uniforms: too Brookly-hipster or a great take on a classic steward uniform? Personally, I love the uniform, especially the scarf and shoes. But would you wear this “Hipster Flight Attendent” uniform be something you’d wear?

Guide to Promotional Apparel Embroidery

So after perusing our Apparel categories or working with our sales team, you’ve found that perfect piece of apparel. Maybe you’ve chosen the softest hoodie on the market, or gone with a rugged, durable jacket. Either way you’ve committed and now you want to make it official by tying the knot, the embroidery knot that is. There will be no screen-printing  bedazzling, or debossing here. Your logo will be proudly stitched on your chosen location. But wait, what’s with all the crazy jargon? Digitizing? Tape Charge?

Relax, I know the embroidery process can sound tricky so I’ve put together this guide to make it simple. Let’s start with the first step after you’ve chosen you apparel. You’ll send us your logo and we’ll work with our art department to get it digitized. Digitization is a process that translates digital art files into stitches (magic I tell you!) and will help us determine a stitch count. Digitization’s cost is usually covered by your tape charge. Still curious about digitization? Check out this article by PowerStitch Design Studio “Embroidery Digitizing Explained for the Newbie

Once we have that stitch count, we can start getting a clearer picture of what the final product will look like. Simple, cleaner logos will have lower stitch counts while more complex logos will have higher stitch counts. Those with higher stitch counts may have some extra charges. From there we will have our art department put together a virtual sample  for you to get an idea of what the finished product will look like.

Next, our finishers (a Matrix-like term if there ever was one) will do a sew-out, a logo embroidered onto a scrap of fabric to test the quality of the logo, spacing, and any other concerns you may have. We can forward this onto you for final approval. After that your order will be run and arrive to it’s final destination where we know you’ll feel like each and every step was worth it, to get this perfectly embroidery piece of apparel into you and your customers waiting arms.

With those easy steps, you’re done! Celebrate to your hearts content! And if you have any other embroidery-related questions, get in touch with our sales team. If you’d like to learn more about promotional embroidery and the best practices used in ensuring your garmet’s embroidery is top of the line, I’d suggest reading PrintWear’s article “Prevent Pucker, Stitching tactics for even-handed embroidery“. The small attentions to detail that they mention are all vital to ensure that you receive the best embroidery possible.

So did I miss any other apparel meme jokes? I debated using “One Does Not Simply Embroider Promotional Apparel”, but, in fact, it is that simple. Let me know if you have a favorite embroidered promotional apparel piece in the comments below!

Weekend Guide: Atlanta Improv Open Mic Comedy Competition, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Summerfest and More!

Hello, local readers! Hot off the press is this week’s edition of our weekend guide, filled with the best things to do in and around Atlanta this Thursday through Sunday. As always, be sure to add anything we missed in the comments section. Enjoy your weekend!!

Atlanta Improv

Keep reading for more information about the Atlanta Improv Open Mic Comedy Competition, the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, Summerfest and other exciting weekend events!

Add Some Humor to that Promotional Coffee Mug

I recently came across this collection of Brutally Honest Coffee Mugs.

Funny Coffee Mug

[image source: College Humor]

And while I found some funnier than others, it got me thinking about using humor to promote your brand.  Some of the top brands use humor in their advertising and it’s wildly successful.

The first thing that comes to mind is AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” campaign, which features a man asking groups of children questions like, “Which is better, faster or slower?” and their hilarious answers.  AT&T’s message is that their service is simple and easy to use, but these commercials use a round-about way of illustrating that message, focusing on the humorous aspect of the kids’ answers more than anything.  (I researched it a litte bit to see if these ads are scripted.  Apparently they do have a “guided script” but often stray from it because the kids’ off-the-cuff answers are much funnier than anything the script writers have come up with.)

Or what about Atlanta’s own Scoutmob?  The daily deal (but better!) site capitalized on the “cool because it’s ironic” mustache trend and added a mustache-cam to their app.  Having an app that allows you to choose from different types of mustaches and put them on the pictures you take with your phone has nothing to do with daily deals, but it’s funny.

And while I’m taking about Atlanta companies, we can’t forget Mailchimp.  This email marketing service provider uses humor as an integral part of their brand image.  Whether that’s little things on their site that they do (after you send a campaign, one of your options is to “eat a banana”, which takes you to a Chiquita Banana Youtube video or the funny things they show around their office like their life-sized mascot,  Mailchimp understands that while the product may be great, sometimes an extra laugh really drives it home.

So, back to coffee mugs. Coffee mugs are one of our most popular product categories. For good reason too; I mean, what better way to show off your logo than putting it on the vessel for your customers’ daily java habit.

Funny Coffee Mug 3

[image source: College Humor]

While most coffee mugs get the job done, there’s something to be said about having your mug, the one with your logo, being your customers’ favorite mug. And while this might have to do with the quality or size of the mug itself, maybe adding some humor to your mug could make it shoot up on the mug popularity scale. (I rank my coffee mugs in order of favorite to least favorite, don’t you?!)

Funny Coffee Mug

[source: College Humor]

What if you came up with something humorous – it could be generic, it could be related to your industry – and put it on one side of your coffee mug? On the opposite side could be your logo. It’s a great way to get your brand out there while also showing that you have a sense of humor.  And you never know, it might become your customers’ favorite new coffee mug.

Lee
Marketing Coordinator

Weekend Guide: Brew at the Zoo, Atlanta Jazz Festival, Atlanta Caribbean Carnival and More!

Hello, local readers! Hot off the press is this week’s edition of our weekend guide, filled with the best things to do in and around Atlanta this Thursday through Sunday. As always, be sure to add anything we missed in the comments section. Enjoy your weekend!!

Brew at the Zoo

Keep reading for more information about Brew at the Zoo, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Atlanta Caribbean Carnival and other exciting weekend events!

Promotional Products and Social Media

Recently we’ve received quite a few pictures from our customers of promotional products that we’ve ordered for them in action Whether is was the promotional sound activated wristbands used by a dating app or the custom corn hole board used at a sales conference, we love seeing how a promotional product can go from an idea to it’s in-use execution, and, much like proud parents, we make sure to feature them on our social media sites. This has become one of the newest trends in promotional products, tying them to social media. So for today’s blog post I am breaking down the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the tentative bond that promotional products and social media are forging.

The Good
Between Facebook now asking us what we’re reading/listening/feeling, Instagram’s ability to document each and every meal, and YouTube fostering a new generation of “haul” videos (videos where the host takes the viewer through what all they bought that day), people have never been more willing to talk and share about their favorite brands and items. Promotional products have never had a better stage to shine on.

Ask recipients to tweet you a picture of their promotional product in use, choose a witty hashtag, and you could be well on your way to Twitter fame. Think of Taco Bell’s #doritoslocostacos campaign, they had everything from pictures of the actual tacos to images of those waiting in line or taking their first bite (more of my odd love affair with Taco Bell’s revamped advertising here). Thank them for being part of your community and always make sure to feature content from your users because it’s a good way to let users know that it’s as much about them as it is you.

Which brings me to my next point: have a little fun showing off a little. Take, for example, the custom corn hole boards I mentioned above. Posted on a social media site, this image conveys the message that even when they are trying to sell you something, this vendor still wants you to enjoy yourself. If even General Electric managed to make themselves more than enjoyable on Pinterest, then we have no excuse!

The Bad
And now comes the fine print. Creating content, making connections, building loyalty – these things take work. Personally, I find the challenge a fun one but like the old mottos go, nothing worth having is ever easy. Luckily for you, our sales team can help you find the perfect promotional product, but you have to figure out the QR code or hashtag.

Sure, there will always be internet trolls and naysayers but you can curtail most of those by choosing a promotional product that lasts and quickly addressing any issues that come up via social media instead of deleting or ranting in response. And even if your online campaign gets sidetracked, hopefully it will be as hilarious as when the internet banded together to send popular rapper to a remote part of Alaska. This particular campaign was a winner on all counts: not only did Listerene Fresh Strips get tons of exposure, the rapper PitBull was able to show himself as a personable artist who is true to his word, and the town of Kodiak Alaska got to have a lot fun.

So, as long as you cover all your bases and prove yourself gracious in the face of the unexpected, the bad can end up being good.

The Ugly
Sometimes, things can go from bad to ugly. If customers are very unhappy with a product, they may take to social media to blast away, and if not handled delicately, the whole ordeal can turn into a social media scandal. To avoid reaching “the ugly” stage, make sure your product and campaign doesn’t cross the line of outrageously funny to outrageously offensive.

The Conclusion
While promotional products may be one of the older forms of advertising, social media is still considered the new contender. With a well planned campaign it can be easy to stand out among the crowd and shine with your chosen promotional product. Have you seen any promotional product/social media campaigns that you considered successful or have you seen ones that crashed and burned? Let us know in the comments. Have you considered showing off your promotional products on your social media sites or starting a campaign based on them?  Are you a fan of hashtag campaigns or QR codes?  I lean towards hashtags myself but have heard many a compelling argument fot the QR code.

As always, I love seeing promotional products in action so please send us some pictures or drop a link in the comments section!

Sofia
Merchandising Assistant

 

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Daily musings on promotional products in our world and media.