March 14, 2013
Grumpy Cat, the new Internet sensation that’s sweeping the globe faster than the Harlem Shake, is currently killing it as the star attraction at the annual South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Interviews with His Grumpiness are hard to come by these days, but I recently had a chance to sit down with the legend — also known by his real name “Tard”, short for “Tardar Sauce” — to ask him a few questions. The following is the transcript of our conversation.
Team Blog: So Grumpy Cat, let’s start with an obvious question: Why are you so grumpy?
Team Blog: OK … coulda fooled me. Anyway, onto the next question. I work in the promotional products industry, or ad specialties, you know, products with logos that promote a company, product or service. Like T-shirts, pens and mugs. Got any favorite promotional products?
Team Blog: Alrighty then, appreciate the honesty. Now that you’re a big Internet sensation, inspiring thousands of grumpy memes and rubbing elbows with celebrities, you must have some good stories, right?
Team Blog: I’ve been called worse. But anyway, there must be things you like, right? Got any favorite movies?
Team Blog: Awesome! Well, that’s a start. Whaddya think about the new Star Wars Episode 7 currently in pre-production. Are you psyched?
Team Blog: Well, that makes one of us.
Team Blog: OK, I guess we should end here before your claws start doing the talking and I end up with cat-scratch fever or something, ha ha!
Team Blog: That was a joke … a bad one … sorry. Please don’t hurt me.
March 5, 2013
I’m not much of a book reader outside the occasional novel about serial killers (don’t judge). But when I found out Advantages magazine was reaching out to industry people for titles that not only motivated them, but inspired sales, I surely was curious.
From the popular (The Biography of Steve Jobs) to the unusual (Who Moved My Cheese?), this article titled “Book It! 10 Title to Inspire Your Sales” is loaded with great tips and advice on how to find motivation when you need it. Read this article now, and in the meantime, here are the 10 titles chosen:
February 13, 2013
Queue Barry White’s Greatest Hits and get the wine chillin’ … it’s that time of year again, when lovers young and old exchange heart-shaped Hallmark greetings, drop ridiculous dough on fancy restaurants, and overdose on chocolate. Yep, Valentine’s Day 2013 promises to be all that and more for those of us with significant others. (For those of us without, like yours truly, there’s always a hockey game on and cold beer in the fridge.)
And in keeping with his annual tradition, Joe Haley of The Joe Show fame presents his top sexy promotional products of the year. Watch this year’s video here, and in the meantime here is the list of the 6 Sexy Products for Valentine’s Day:
July 17, 2012
Nicole – fitness and dance enthusiast here. So, after a bass-heavy impassioned flurry of club music that had attendees grooving together in groups of three and five, even on top of chairs with arms in the air after an emotional level, Tony Robbins took things back down a notch to talk about how to succeed in an area attendees want to improve.
“What’s an area you feel really strongly about?” Robbins asked the crowd. “Say, ‘I’m a master of whatever it is’ – that’s where your focus goes, and the energy flows.” The point is that if you’re masterful or successful in one area, you’ve got all three “pillars of success” in place. If there’s an area you’re not successful, you’re probably missing at least one or two of Robbins’ pillars.
Time to drill down. Robbins explained the first pillar: First, get laser-focused on that area – name it, be clear about what you want, and define compelling reasons for wanting to achieve it. With his typical bombast, Robbins, yelled, “If you want to lose 25 pounds, say why you want to do it – you want to rip off your shirt and say, ‘Look at me!’
Next, after you really know what you want and are motivated to go after it, get the best strategies, mentor, tools, map, coaching, to achieve the results you want. “I wanted more energy at one point, so I found like the greatest amateur athlete, this guy who ran 1,000 miles in 11 days,” said Robbins, who says that his “guru” learned how to do this from a South American Indian tribe that as a group annually runs 76 miles in a day. “So, he taught me the strategies. I got a play by play what he did, and I got more energy. In the area you want to improve you haven’t found the cutting edge. You need to go make that your drive.”
Finally, kick yourself into action. “Unlock and unleash. Take massive action. Achieve, succeed, contribute and celebrate,” said Robbins, who said that here you might start feeling conflicts like, “I want to make everyone happy but I want to always tell the truth.” How do you solve this conflict? “You’ll keep taking steps back or you’ll just give up,” he said. Robbins said to resolve these conflicts, you need to put yourself into a better state, which is a theme he’s been driving home all day – that is, remember what your mental and physical states were when you succeeded in a truly spectacular way.
“Look, what it comes down to a lot of the time is accepting what you’re afraid of,” Robbins said. “Courage is when you’re scared shitless and you do something anyway.”
July 17, 2012
Michele here, appropriately covering the portion of Tony Robbins’ presentation that has to do with getting past negativity and self-sabotage. I get it because my default attitude is snark, misanthropy and nihilism. According to Robbins, people like me have “life conditions that do not match their blueprint.” Meaning, one’s life’s conditions are not aligned with their expectations. Bring on the karmic cleanse and attitude adjustment, Mr. Robbins!
One attendee bravely stood and announced to the crowd of hundreds, at Robbins’ urging, where her main pain point resides:
“I’m unhappy with my weight,” she said.
“Why?,” Robbins asked.
“Because I’m fat,” she said matter of factly and to the howls and applause of the audience.
Robbins maintains that progress in life is the key to happiness and that we “grow or die.” “You need to change the filter of your life and your perspective from what’s missing in your life and focus on what you have.”
Pain, Robbins says, provides three choices:
“Sometimes not getting what you want is how the universe makes things work out,” Robbins says. “Without making mistakes, there’s no growth.” (Side note: It’s amusing, incidentally, that Tony Robbins is not unfamiliar with “working blue,” and peppers his speech with colorful cursing akin to a sailor on shore leave… He’s sassy!)
Learned helplessness breeds the “Three Ps,” Robbins noted: “If your problem involves Permanence, Pervasiveness and is Personal it can be difficult, but it’s not insurmountable. Changing situations and story telling alters your life condition and things will improve.”
Robbins also said that if one wants freedom in their life, they should expand their blueprint. “You can’t control relationships, but you can alter your blueprint” and manage expectations.
And as I’m ready to sign off and turn over the blog for the next hour to my colleague Nicole Rollender, Tony Robbins – who always seems a little too “evangelical” and rah-rah – won me over with this missive: “Are you unhappy in life? Get over it, dipshit.” Rock on, you crazy giant.
March 9, 2012
With its “Look Book” feature, each issue of Stitches magazine goes in search of the latest in fashion finds from the runway. Billed as a “guide to what’s hot and new,” today’s “Look book” fashion finds could be tomorrow’s hot promotional apparel trend. Don’t miss this month’s edition: New York Fashion Week, written by Julie A. Cajigas.
And here are some fashions items from this month. Enjoy!
Let’s get lacey. Oscar De La Renta combines detail with drama to achieve this high-voltage runway gown. The bodice, neckline and straps feature a delicate black lace, bringing attention to the model’s shoulders and face. Choose lace, crochet and other intricate fabrics to take outfits and accessories to the next level.
Walking down the A Detacher runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, this look confirms that polka dots are once again hot. Polka dots might remind you of childhood fashion (or perhaps ’80s fashion), but when used in the right color palette, or in moderation, polka dots can add a lovely femininity to any ensemble. Choose polka dots to adorn an accessory, layer with solids and spice up basic black. Polka dots don’t always have to be the star of the show. They make a wonderful peek-out lining for jackets and bags alike.
COLOR OF THE YEAR
Pantone has named tangerine as 2012’s hot color — and the 2012 runways are full of this juicy shade. Here, Sherri Hill paired tangerine with a cool sherbet orange in this stunning gown. “Tangerine is a new, different, refreshing color,” says Susan Gagainis, brand consultant for Geiger (asi/202900). “And, men can easily wear tangerine, too.”
On the runway, tangerine is often selected as an allover garment color, but can also be paired with other shades. “The color looks great with other shades,” Gagainis says. “Head to the opposite side of the color wheel and consider blues, teals, greens, browns and reds as complementary colors.” When decorating tangerine garments, choose a color that stands out and stands up to this bright, bold color.
Couture and retail looks were shining and shimmering their way down the Mercedes-Benz runway in preparation for a glowing spring/summer 2012 fashion season. The look? Fabrics that shimmer and glimmer. “Shiny fabrics are great for spring and summer because they are soft, feminine and fluid,” says Jennifer Tsai, vice president of operations and Lilac Bloom designer for Tri-Mountain (asi/92125). “As the weather warms up, women can ditch the chunky knits of winter and slip into slinkier fabrics and more flattering silhouettes.” Seen here on the Ralph Lauren runway, these glowing garments are appearing in various metallic shades along with blush pink and pastel green.
Spring showers will bring summer flowers – and a bevy of runway-ready rain gear, including this gorgeous jewel-tone jacket from the Irina Shabayeva spring 2012 show. Outerwear always has a high perceived value, making it a great gift, giveaway or incentive – and outerwear is never more important than on a cool, rainy day. In addition to leveraging the trend by providing a fashion-forward raincoat, decorators can put clients’ marks on a unique umbrella or even provide a printed plastic poncho for their outdoor events.
January 11, 2012
I guess the old saying “Everything Old Is New Again” really is true, especially when dealing with promotional apparel. In fact, this month’s Counselor magazine has an article titled exactly that, with seven examples of iconic images from yesteryear tied back to some current fashion trends. For example, remember:
Well, of course you do! And yes, they’re all coming back into fashion again! Read this article to find out more, and don’t be afraid to hold onto those parachute pants a little longer!
April 28, 2011
From Counselor Senior Writer Dave Vagnoni, our guest blogger who’s reporting from the land of China …
On an especially hazy day here in Hong Kong, I had breakfast with Danielle and Randee from Dard, along with Ross Beaton of Australia’s Logo-Line. Ross, who’s a former Counselor International Person of the Year, has been trying for days to get me to eat how the locals do (that means eating fish that stare back at you). He’s also been pushing Peking Duck, which is not on my top 10,000 list of things to eat. Sorry, Ross.
As a compromise, I did decide to take baby steps toward enjoying Far East cuisine by sampling authentic Chinese noodles this morning. Now, in America, a similar noodle dish would come with broth and maybe mushrooms. Real Chinese noodles, though, can come with exciting additions like fish balls. I opted for spinach noodles in a broth with some unpronounceable green vegetables, a bit of pork (I think) and, yes, a few of the aforementioned fish balls. While it was, I admit, a tasty dish, I’m still craving Italian food. A burrito doesn’t sound bad either.
After breakfast, I went to a press conference hosted by Jeffrey Lam, the chairman of the Hong Kong Gift Show organizing committee. He had some interesting things to say about pricing, labor and exporting – both in his general remarks and to me in our sit-down interview. He told the audience – a group of about 20 members of the international press – that he expects labor costs in China to increase 10%-15% every year for the near future. He admitted manufacturers in China face serious challenges related to inflation and the rising costs of raw materials.
He also said he anticipates the U.S. dollar will remain unstable and may even “tumble” in years to come, while Chinese currency will hold its value, he believes. Here’s part of my Q&A with Lam from this morning. There will be more to come from this interview online and in Counselor magazine.
Q: How can companies really know that products manufactured in China are safe and compliant?
A: Hong Kong has a very mature testing industry. The international companies are here and the labs are here. They are here to help the industry test their products. All the manufacturers do test their raw materials and also the finished product before shipping. I’m sure they can provide the buyers with the certificate about the safety aspect of the product. You know, this is something that the buyer should ask for and the supplier should supply to buyers. Hong Kong, like the toy industry, works very closely with the U.S. importers and U.S. toy companies on certain safety standards. I know all the toy products made here comply with the U.S. and international regulations.
Besides talking with Lam, I also had the chance to meet with several other show suppliers – some from the industry and some that aren’t. One company I spoke to manufactures those really elegant greeting cards sold in the U.S. by retailer Papyrus. Another company supplies housewares and gift items to Pier One and Bed, Bath & Beyond. A third supplier – from Japan – showed me a bunch of relief-from-the-heat novelties that he hopes to soon introduce to companies in North America. The items were pretty clever and have promotional potential. If you want more details, shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Following the press event, I spent a very educational hour with Jeff Lederer from Prime Line. As he met with a factory contact, I watched him literally take a pitched product and create a design for a new, multi-use pen that I think is really going to do well in the industry. Jeff is also extremely knowledgeable about compliance issues. Our conversation will be part of the video I’m putting together, plus the feature I’ll be writing for Counselor.
As I was walking the streets of Hong Kong today, I realized my time in China is passing quickly. With fondness, I thought I’d type out a few things about China that I’ve found particularly odd, humorous or just plain surprising. Here goes.
OK, back to my trip. Tomorrow, after some early meetings with industry folks, I’ll be headed to Victoria Peak and, if all goes according to plan, I’ll close my Friday with a trip to the night market. Anybody have souvenir requests?
April 27, 2011
From Counselor Senior Writer Dave Vagnoni, our guest blogger who’s reporting from the land of China …
Find in your mind an image of the busiest ASI Show you can remember. Now imagine a show at least five times bigger, held on three separate floors in giant halls and concourses, with more than 4,070 suppliers – that’s the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair. The grandiose event is billed as the largest of its kind in the world, this year hosting exhibitors from 36 different countries.
Suppliers here are not only trying to sell products, they’re also looking for new and different items themselves. That means buyers include distributors AND suppliers alike. Promotional products are just a part of what’s on display at the Gift Fair. You can find everything from vacuums to electric-powered butterflies to ribbons. The booths, which are largely pre-built for suppliers, range from simple cubicle-like setups to ornate 20-foot high toy castles.
In contrast to an ASI Show, you don’t see much apparel at the Hong Kong Fair. I passed a few Gildan racks, but that was it. Electronics, though, are extremely popular here. While there weren’t any products that wowed me, some of the coolest items were in the tech category. Among a handful of things I hadn’t seen before were colorful 3D cell phone cases, waterproof cell phone pouches and crystal Bluetooth headsets (some pics are below). I also thought the “Push-A-Plant” product was unique for green marketing. With a push of a button, a plant starts growing out of Lego-looking base without needing water for an entire week.
Once again on Wednesday, I shadowed Danielle and Randee from Dard, filming them at their booth, on the show floor and at new product meetings. Buyers from all over the world (Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Nigeria and Mexico, to name a few places) visited Dard’s booth to see patented items. Throughout the day, the product hunt continued. Danielle (who is living on grill cheese sandwiches, Raman noodles and other just-add-water delicacies) brought along with her to the Fair a shopping list from customers. She clearly has a keen eye for design. I’ve noticed Randee on the other hand (who has a much more adventurous palette) seems more impressed by practical items.
Their balance of opinions was evident during a late-day meeting with a China factory representative that showed off 50 or so products. Danielle and Randee made a series of snap judgments, deciding whether a particular item would play well in their product line and in the ad specialty industry. If there was a brand-new product they liked, they asked the factory for exclusivity. In other cases, they had to weigh whether taking on a product would make sense if a competitor has already started ordering large quantities. There were maybe three or four products Danielle and Randee really loved in the stationery line. I’m sworn to secrecy but I suspect they’ll be offered solely by Dard in the near future.
So, to recap, while I didn’t spend 18 hours in the air or get detained by customs agents, Wednesday was still an interesting and exhausting day. I can’t stress enough how massive the Gift Fair is…and how diligent suppliers must be to assure products manufactured in China are stylish, yet socially compliant.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back at the Fair interviewing industry suppliers. Plus, I’ll have an exclusive as I visit with Jeffrey Lam, the chairman of the organizing committee for the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair.
Finally for now, thanks everyone for your emails. Please keep them coming at firstname.lastname@example.org. Although I won’t be buying any designer suits per one person’s advice, (there are pretty big discounts here on clothes) I will be following a suggestion to visit Victoria Peak for a great view of Hong Kong.
April 26, 2011
From Counselor Senior Writer Dave Vagnoni, our guest blogger who’s reporting from the land of China …
My second full day in China began with a cab ride from my hotel to the Star Ferry. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought I was involved in a car chase. The driver swerved, then stopped. Sped up, then slammed on the brakes. I found myself holding onto the seat in front of me just to keep my balance. Picture a cab ride through New York City with narrower and curvier streets.
When the thrill ride ended, I walked to a lower port terminal to take the ferry across Victoria Harbour to Wan Chai. The fare was incredibly cheap – $2.50 Hong Kong dollars or roughly a quarter in U.S. money. The boat was filled with people – many with newspapers or cell phones in their hands – on their way to work. The five-minute ride left me within a block of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre where the large gift show will begin on Wednesday. Attached to the Centre is the Renaissance Hotel where I met the amazingly helpful Danielle Ruiz and Randee Horwitch from Dard.
While Danielle went to her office for some meetings and show prep, Randee and I, along with our translator and tour guide Polly, took a van into mainland China to visit one of Dard’s factories. The trip was mostly along three-lane highways and the writing on the road signs gradually changed from a mix of English and Cantonese into Mandarin-only. We drove through Shenzhen to Dong Guan (Dongguan), whizzing by impressive buildings, fruit and flower stands and tons of construction workers. The roads are well maintained and the infrastructure is much better here than in cities farther inland.
The factory wasn’t what I expected and the quality of life for the 300 workers is better than a naive Westerner might think. The average worker earns 3,000 RMB or yuan (about $500 U.S.) each month, but has room and board provided. Workers live in a dormitory adjacent to the factory and receive three meals a day. They typically work from 8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and can leave the gated factory space at night to go into town. The factory grounds also have a soccer field and basketball court.
We watched as workers put together, at various stages of production, items like ergonomic mice, pedometers and music players. Every step of the production process is done here – from molding to printing. You can read much more about my factory tour – including my sit-down interview with a worker and my first time eating dried fish and an egg popsicle – in an upcoming issue of Counselor.
And now, for the highlight of the day. On our way back to Hong Kong, we, of course, needed to pass through customs and immigration. No big deal, right?
At the third of three checkpoints, we (our driver, a factory manager, Randee and I) found ourselves waiting an awfully long time for clearance. The light ahead of us stayed red. Other cars on our right and left were being let through. Not us. Every so often, a customs agent peeked his head out of a small sliding glass window. The factory manager, a man named Michael, assured us nothing was wrong. Then, all of sudden, another agent came rushing up to the side of our car. A siren blasted behind us. The agent asked to board our van so he could escort us to another checkpoint area where we’d be searched. Randee – a bit unnerved as it was– was forced to practically sit in my lap to make room in the car for this customs agent, who didn’t speak English and didn’t have anything close to a smile on his face.
We arrived at this other checkpoint and were told to get out. Our belongings were taken out of the back of the van. By now there were four or five other agents walking around us. Imagine what I was thinking. They’re going to confiscate the camera, smash the memory card and break the tripod in half. Turns out my mind overreacted a bit. We were, though, taken to an X-ray room where all our things were put on a conveyer belt. That apparently wasn’t a convincing enough inspection because we were then taken to a small room with white walls, four chairs and a table. The agents again opened our bags. Poor Michael had everything inside of his suitcase taken out and displayed on the table.
After this part of the search was over, we were told our van was going to be driven through a giant screening machine. We were asked to sit in this little room and wait…and wait…and wait. Finally, handed our bags, were given the OK to leave. Everything was intact except maybe our sanity.
The entire screening process took 45 minutes and the agents thanked us for our patience. Of all of the hundreds and hundreds of cars passing through customs and immigration on this day OURS was the vehicle chosen for a thorough screening. We must’ve been part of a glorious training exercise. Lucky us.
At least I’ll always have a good story to tell – one that I’ll be sure to embellish over the years. Hey, how many other people can say they were detained at the China border? I’ll have much more on my trip tomorrow with coverage from the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair.