The Fourth of July is right around the corner — I know, where did the first half of this year go?! — and what better way to celebrate than with a primer on how to source “Made in the USA” products? This month’s Advantages magazine devotes an entire Strategy section to this topic, including tips on the following topics:
How to know if a product is really made in the USA
5 reasons to buy American
Which product categories benefit most from a U.S. pedigree
Is the price worthwhile
What is “Made In USA Certified”
And finally, listed here, the Top 5 Markets Where American-Made Matters:
Ever since I was in college in the mid- and late-’90s, the debate has raged on how to pronounce those little animated loops that were so prevalent in the early days of the ‘Net (remember The Hamster Dance?!). My nerdy lifestyle afforded me ample access to computer geeks, from designers to developers, and no one could agree on how to pronounce a ‘GIF’ file … was it an animated gif (hard ‘g’), or an animated jif (soft ‘g’)? For me, I’ve always maintained that choosy designers choose GIF … choosy moms, on the other hand, choose JIF, the sandwich spread. (I mean, how can you compete with choosy moms?!)
However, the creator of the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), Steve Wilhite, recently accepted a Webby Award that he punctuated with a 5-word acceptance speech:
And just like that, I — and millions just like me, who choose to pronounce the hard ‘g’ — was wrong. Or was I? If you took to the Web right after this announcement, it was afire with rhetoric ranging from comical to defiant, but all seemed to support the hard g. On Twitter, this announcement began trending giving rise to new hashtags like #hardg, #softg and #gifgate. Some of the best-ofs from Twitter:
@shanselman If I lose a job or tank an interview because I hard-G the word Gif, so be it. We’ll be homeless. I WILL NOT BE MOVED. #hardg?
@Articul8Studio Nothing gets pronounced “jif” in our office, whether it be file formats or peanut butter. #hardG
@derekdevries It doesn’t matter how the “father” of GIFs pronounces it, like every aspect of the lexicon it matters how the public pronounces it. #hardg
@XControlled My gunior high school years would’ve been jreat if more jirls would’ve been interested in joing out with me. #gifgate
@shahruz How do you pronounce GOB? #SoftG
Seeing an opportunity to ride the wave of hoopla, the creative folks at Jif — the sandwich spread made of peanut butter — created their own animated gif (er, jif) in response to the announcement. Read Katherine Leonard’s blog called “Jif Newjacks the GIF” to see Jif’s clever take.
And in the meantime, we want to know: Where do you stand on the JIF vs. GIF debate?
Earlier this week I wrote a blog about the importance of brand management in times of crisis and used an example of an epic brand meltdown on a business Facebook page. That business — Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro — did incredible harm to its reputation simply because they had no brand management plan. (And, some might argue, common sense.)
Of course, once the smoke clears and the dust settles, Amy’s might want to investigate on how they can rebrand their business. Because, well, they’re gonna need it. And that’s where ASI comes in! So, Amy’s, take note … here’s a great video by Counselor that provides 3 important tips for rebranding your company. Enjoy!
Just a few days ago, I never heard of The Harlem Shake. Now, I can’t go a few hours without hearing about it!
Featuring a song by Baauer of the same name, The Harlem Shake is basically an Internet meme that went viral earlier this month where groups of people film themselves emulating a funky dance style. Lasting no more than 30 seconds, The Harlem Shake begins with one individual — usually masked or helmeted — dancing alone for 15 seconds and surrounded by people who seem quite oblivious. Then, as the music kicks in, everyone joins the convulsive dance. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.
How or why this has become such an Internet sensation is befuddling, but it’s so pervasive that some of the folks in the industry — including ASI — have jumped onto The Harlem Shake bandwagon. Check them out below, and if your company is doing one, we want to know! Post a link here, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Want to be a wine expert for you next client dinner?
– Need tips on how to create an effective product video?
– Looking to ramp up your return on investment (ROI)?
– Befuddled by that darned Twitter bird and want to know how to tame it?
It’s all in here, plus so much more! So what are you waiting for? Become better at everything now. And in the meantime, here’s a little teaser on how to get better press:
HOW TO GET BETTER PRESS
“More than ever, news releases have become tools used to communicate directly between your brand and your clients and prospects, as well as a way to captivate the interest of reporters and editors – the gatekeepers to traditional and online media outlets,” says Dick Pirozzolo, founder, Pirozzolo Company Public Relations.
CHOOSE GOOD SEARCH WORDS. The people you are trying to reach likely have set up Google searches to receive e-mails alerting them to news that matters to them; include the search words prospective customers would use to find you on the Web in every release. Also, include your website URL and the URLs of any authorities quoted in the release, and post the release on your website. Pirozzolo says it’s also a good idea to create a virtual newsroom apart from your website as a go-to source for journalists to get any of your company news, access to experts, video clips and high-resolution photos.
DON’T RUSH IT. Too many PR pros boast how quickly they can knock off a news release. Pirozzolo once spent a month on a single news release touting the health benefits of wild blueberries. “We wrote and rewrote and revised more times than I care to think about,” he says. Ultimately, that one release launched a campaign that generated coverage in Vogue, in Martha Stewart Living (magazine and TV), on the cover of Time magazine, and in hundreds of major daily newspapers. “The impact of that single release came from thinking about what we wanted to say, not how fast we could say it,” he says.
BE SPECIFIC. Read your press release about your new product, and replace the product name with the words “canned soup.” If the release still makes sense, then the language is too superficial and not specific enough to have much impact on journalists. Rewrite.
WRITE HIGH-IMPACT SUBJECT LINES. Grab attention in the first four words of your subject line, or you have no chance, he says. Since the majority of news releases go out via e-mail, the subject line is the only shot to grab an editor. “Texting kills careers, study shows,” is a release subject line Pirozzolo’s firm used to generate press for a writing software company.
LOOK OUT THE WINDOW. Keep tabs on what’s going on outside of your organization that relates to your news. Tie your release into the latest current events, and watch your release readership increase.
In addition to tips, steps to success and a great case study, this edition also features a very informative Q&A with Douglas Karr, author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies, about blogging. Here it is:
Q: What is the most common mistake you see corporate bloggers make?
A: They underestimate the effort that it takes. They may hire someone to help them design it and blog for a week or two, but if they don’t get any leads, they quit. You have to approach it as something that grows over time, so at the end of the year, you have maybe 250 topics that are valuable to readers, capturing a hundred different keyword combinations. Then you start seeing really great return on investment. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Q: Is it really worth it for a business owner to hire an SEO expert or outside consultant to help with blogging?
A: A few years ago it might have been worth it to hire an SEO consultant who would tell you what keywords to go after, but honestly, the algorithms that Google has developed recently work so well that really it is not necessary. If the content is compelling, it’s going to rise in the search.
Q: If SEO is not as much of a focus today, what should bloggers be concerned with?
A: Social integration with Google is huge right now – 30% of all searches are customized based on your network. You want to position yourself as a thought leader within your network so people you know are sharing your posts. Talk about your clients, so clients in your network will point to your article and say, “Hey, that’s us!” Then you’re all talking about each other, and a rising tide lifts all ships.
This month’s Advantages magazine has a terrific article titled “Wearables in the Works” that showcases four distributor case studies and their successful apparel-based promotions. From baseball battles to horror movies, there are some pretty creative ideas in this article, so check it out. And in the meantime, here are 7 cool things to do with a T-shirt, compliments of Advantages magazine!
Queue Some QR: “I suggested a client put a QR code on the back of a T-shirt we were designing and printing for a community walk they were sponsoring,” says Jay W. Vandervort, owner of Proforma Nextidea Marketing (asi/300094). “The code would link the walkers to the website the company was trying to promote. After testing it successfully, we went ahead and printed the T-shirts with the QR code on the backs, and the promotion worked very well.”
Now You See it, Now You Don’t: “We called upon a nudist association and sold them T-shirts with an imprint of Michelangelo’s David,” says Mark Ziskind, COO of Caliendo Savio Enterprises (asi/155807). “We used light-sensitive ink to put a fig leaf over his private parts. So, inside you would see the naked statue, and outside he would be covered.”
And here are 5 more clever ideas from Marsha Londe, owner of industry consulting firm Tango Partners:
Flip the Script: “Print the graphic upside down so when wearers hang their heads, they see the art. It’ll make everyone else look, too,” she says. “I saw such a shirt recently: On the back, printed upside down, it said, ‘If you can read this, pull me into the boat.’ And, because it was upside down, I focused on it to read it.”
Fold and Roll: “Take the shirt, fold and roll it, and stand it on end to turn it into a figure. As a display at a convention, shirts were rolled and put into a standing position,” Londe explains. “Sunglasses were put at eye level, and they were topped with a hat as the giveaway. It was a great presentation of gifts to attendees or trip winners, and a fun use of a shirt gets everyone in the mood to party, celebrate and enjoy.”
Supersize It: Londe suggests making T-shirts oversized for wearers to use when sleeping, or as a beach or pool cover-up. “A comfortable cotton tee could be a hit with a sleepy recipient,” she says.
That’s a Wrap: “Use a wraparound imprint to attract attention,” she says. “People can’t help themselves; they have to walk around the wearer to capture the full message.”
Bright Idea: This concept is perfect for kids on a field trip, adult groups on a hike, or a club. Suit up everyone in the same bright color – think neon pink or squint-inducing yellow. “It makes it easy to spot another member of the group. You can even add a number on the back of the shirt, so it’s easy to know who’s missing,” Londe says.
It’s a fascinating, and bold, read, if I do say so myself. Why bold? Well, when you see the five items C.J. discusses, it’s just difficult for me to imagine the promotional apparel industry offering such products. But, oh boy, wouldn’t it be nice?!
What We’re Missing: Peruse the footwear selection on ESP and you’ll find plenty of golf shoes and flip-flops. But despite all appearances, the majority of the world is doing more things than playing a round of golf or hitting the beach. Not only is footwear an essential part of a uniform, but it’s a defining proclamation by the wearer. So what could work? Consider a branded partnership with an iconic footwear style – something like what Dickies (asi/49675) has recently done by partnering with Converse and its Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Chucks offer instant brand currency and consistent retro cool.
My Take: Since I golf and go to the beach about as often as I watch Lifetime TV (not that there’s anything wrong with it), I gotta say footwear in this industry just, well, doesn’t do it for me. Chuck Taylor’s, on the other hand? Gold! Of course, I say YES!
What We’re Missing: Plenty of people are content going through life with a solid-colored wardrobe. But for those who want to let their personality shine, bold prints can certainly do the talking. Styles like florals, polka dots, argyle and tribal add a dose of visual pop without being too over-the-top. Plus, they are constantly in vogue among the fashionistas and trendmakers.
My Take: As a guy, I’m all about solids and the occasional pinstripe, but my personality shines just fine without any bold prints, thank you very much. But that’s not to say I don’t like them - just not on me. In my humble opinion, there’s nothing more beautiful than a woman in a nice floral print, preferably on a sundress. So I say YES!
What We’re Missing: There is nothing more all-American than a pair of blue jeans. And when it comes to clothing that is worshipped, the cult of denim is unmatched. So why is it so hard to get a pair of leading-edge fashion jeans in this industry? For one, the durability of denim is unmatched. Plus, jeans have emerged as a tried-and-true casual uniform alternative – something that can be dressed up with a blazer or dressed down with a T-shirt. Offer them at a sensible price tag (compared to what some people pay for jeans) and you’ll have people in blue heaven.
My Take: Here at ASI we not only have casual Fridays, but casual Mondays as well. And on every Monday and Friday you can count on me wearing one specific apparel: blue jeans. So, of course, I say YES!
What We’re Missing: It’s the great unexplored territory in the branded apparel industry, and it’s time that bottoms (especially for women) got their just due. We’ve covered jeans, but there’s a whole world of additional options out there – everything from skirts to trendy shorts to capri pants to high-end corporate apparel pants and more.
My Take: As a big fan of ladies’ bottoms, I give this a resounding YES! (And the garment ideas ain’t bad either!)
WIDER VARIETY OF MATERIAL
What We’re Missing: The modern classy dresser is a material connoisseur. They pay attention not only to looks, but texture and feel. So while industry manufacturers (rightly) love cotton and continue to push the limits of technical fabrics like polyester, bamboo and rayon, the classic fibers and weaves are left behind. Linen is a staple of summer cool and unique construction. Khaki has emerged as a versatile all-purpose fabric, ready to be deployed for down and dirty work or as an alternative trendy suiting option. Tweed is a winter favorite of men and a supremely durable choice. Chambray can be used for more than everyday workwear. It’s time to take these materials off the bench and insert them into the starting lineup.
My Take: There’s only one fabric for me, cotton. And it’s a big — albeit, expensive — part of the industry. You can keep your khakis and tweeds, and definitely linen. That stuff wrinkles when the wind blows. So, NO on this one.
From Counselor Senior Writer Dave Vagnoni, our guest blogger who’s reporting from the land of China …
Just got back a little while ago from a VERY late dinner where I visited with distributors from four different continents. The table conversation was direct and engaging. It’s true that a salesperson in Brazil faces different challenges than a salesperson in Japan, but the bottom line is they’re both still trying to do one thing – convince clients and prospects that promotional products are a great way to advertise.
Certainly, selling direct was a topic of heated discussion at dinner. Here’s my simple take on a complex subject. Hey, we know some distributors bypass suppliers. We also know some suppliers cut out the distributor and sell to end-users. This is reality. It’s not going to change. The companies that display the most integrity are the ones that have the most staying power in the industry. Margins might be trimmed sometimes, but there is money to be made through ad specialties. If you’re not making it, your competitor will.
Now, onto the rest of my day. It started with a breakfast meeting with Gene Geiger and Jo-an Lantz. I interviewed Jo-an on camera to get a domestic distributor’s take on the role of China in the industry. You’ll be able to hear Jo-an’s thoughts in a video to be posted in a few months. Gene, as always, also had some sharp insight, too. His comments will be included in my Counselor feature later this year.
I also had the chance to spend time today with Philippe Varnier of Polyconcept and Trevor Gnesin of Logomark. I asked them what country could eventually emerge as the next China. Philippe said it could be India. Trevor said it could be North Korea. After our respective interviews, as a parting gift, Philippe gave me a pen. Trevor, meanwhile, offered me gifts – as only he can – that can’t be written about in a blog. If you know Trevor, you can understand what I’m talking about. If you don’t, he’ll be at the ASI Show in San Diego. Be sure to say Hi.
Also today, on the advice of ASI’s Ron Ball, I journeyed to one of the top tourist spots in all of Hong Kong – Victoria Peak. The site attracts seven million visitors every year and is home to private residences and four signature restaurants. The view itself today was incredible, although much different than the scene you often see on postcards. Today was rainy, dreary and foggy here. Being up so high (nearly 2,000 ft. above the harbor), it’s as if I were standing in the clouds. Literally, it was like being surrounded by blankness.
ASI Publisher Rich Fairfield (who came along) and I couldn’t even see the water from the highest overlook at the peak. We certainly couldn’t see the stunning city skyline. Hong Kong was basically invisible. Our enthusiastic cab driver kept urging us to come back on Sunday when the weather is predicted to be nicer, even though we mentioned at least four times that we’re leaving Hong Kong on Saturday. It’s all the more reason for me to make a return visit here someday.
Before I sign off for the week, I want to thank everyone that helped me along the way, especially Danielle and Randee from Dard. What great people! They’re down-to-earth, hard-working, sincere and very patient. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog. I’m sure I’ll write a few entries again sometime in the future…from wherever I am. Please keep in touch. Zai Jian!
Danielle and Randee helped this group of children with a school project this morning.
Here I am with one of the supplier mascots at the Hong Kong Gift Fair.
I enjoyed dinner with distributors from all over the world.
My treat to myself after a busy week in Hong Kong.
This month’s Advantages magazine has a great story about entering the world of e-commerce. Full of tips and strategies, this is a must-read for anyone who’s considered putting their products and services into an online store. Click here to read the story, and here are 10 questions you might want to think about before taking the e-commerce journey … enjoy!
What is the client’s budget? “These stores can take a lot of time and effort to set up, and unless there is a big payoff at the end of the day, it may not be worth it,” says Phil Cantore, vice president of sales for Hygrade Business Group Inc. (asi/229272).
Who is the client’s target audience? “A little bit of research on current events will make a big difference when their customer gets the promotional item they have selected,” says Charles Urbina, president and CEO of Solucion Marketing (asi/329854). “The research is the most important part to identify the right mix of products I can offer to my customer.”
Who will be in charge of the inventory? “Where is the inventory going to be stored, and most important, are they going to expect me to keep it on hand?” says Tom Fletcher, president of Ad Promotions Inc. (asi/105230).
How much overhead will be needed? “If the client would like you to stock the inventory, then you will need to ask who owns the inventory – who is promoting the store internally – along with a maximum shelf time for each product,” says Rob Knaszak, partner with PDS Corporate Sales (asi/290671). “The relationship can turn ugly when you own merchandise, and it ties up your cash for a year or two.”
Will apparel be sold? “If your store includes apparel, I’d recommend getting a general idea of the individuals who will be purchasing the apparel, and if you can get a sizing list before anything is ordered, that’s even better,” says Joe Schlechte, owner of Landmark Promotions Inc. (asi/248490).
Will the store be external or internal (employees only)? “You’ve got to find out if the products are going to their employees only – and if they can redeem a promo code or use a point system,” Schlechte says.
How will shipping be handled? “Where are the products going to be distributed?” Schlechte says. “Are you going to be shipping them out every day? Dropping things off from your car? Do they have a UPS or FedEx number you can use?”
Should only in-stock items be listed online? “Will the site be filled with items in stock, or will it be comprised of just-in-time inventory?” Knaszak says.
Will there be ample time to test the site before it goes live? “It will really help if you know how much you are going to have to handle as soon as you go live, and hopefully anticipate any problems before they happen,” says Robin Hartowicz, account executive at Print Resources Inc. (asi/299441). “If they are already used to a large volume of orders, you might want to make sure you allow ample time to test, test, test and test again.”
How much regular maintenance will be required? “The most common maintenance includes adding new products to freshen up the site, working with the client to remove products that are no longer relevant, monitoring inventory reports and adding, editing and updating any user information,” says Mark McCormack, owner of Proforma Identity Marketing Group (asi/300094).