Posted by: brandextenders | February 18, 2011

Creating Stories in Our Lives

Creating stories with their music

I’ve grown to love country music over the last year and part of it is because, oddly enough, my two teenage sons listen to it all the time. The other part though is because more so than rock, country music tends to tell stories. Narratives about love, families, patriotism and of course some about having a little too much to drink. Stories are what life is all about and I love it when music touches my heart with its stories. This year’s Song of the Year at the Grammy’s is Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” and the story it tells of love lost is heartbreaking. 

It may sound odd, but promotional products can tell stories as well. Choosing the right product and creating a marketing campaign to go with it isn’t always easy, but the best ones create buzz and a corporate story that will be retold again and again. Below are three case histories of how promo products have been used to touch their end-users in a very special way:

·         Where in the World? After 25 years an insurance company had grown substantially and the executive management team began to realize the unique connection between the home office and their field reps had disappeared. They wanted a fun, creative way to reach out to these agents who hold the key to the company’s success. Working with their marketing department they created custom bobblehead dolls for each of the likenesses of the 13 top managers and sent them out to the field agents. The agents were asked to carry these bobbleheads with them as they traveled through their territories on calls and take creative photographs with the bobbleheads included.  At the end, the 12 most creative photos were chosen and showcased in a custom calendar the following year. The results were a new unity between agents and the management team and a new level or corporate camaraderie for all.


·         Copy That! A Fortune 500 company was in dire straits in the early part of the last decade having lost its way in the growing digital age. In 2001 a new CEO was named, a woman who had been with the company for over 25 years. Over the next five years Xerox was reinvented and became partners with their end-users and much more than just a copy machine company. Anne Mulcahy believed the employees, who embraced her changes, were the reason behind the renewed success and she wanted to thank each of these 63,000 people worldwide. They chose an MP3 player (iPods were still in their infancy then!) as the gift embedded with a thank you message from the CEO and produced in their Xerox red with custom packaging and ear buds. The employees were not only thrilled with the gift, but with the humbleness portrayed by their CEO in thanking them for their part in turning the company around.  


·         Is it safe? Sir Laurence Olivier kept asking Dustin Hoffman that question in the movie “Marathon Man” to which Hoffman had no answer. In modern-day manufacturing plants that questions is top-of-mind with management and workers alike for many reasons. In the early days of the industrial revolution humans were a commodity that could be easily replaced from work accidents that maimed, sickened and killed thousands. Today the complete opposite is true and a specialty chemical company challenged its managers to reach one-million man hours with zero hours of lost time. Not only would the goal create an even better work place for employees, it would also reduce costs in the areas of medical care and insurance. Using a multi-pronged strategy of signage, apparel with the tagline “Road 2 Zero” and a slew of other premium items, safety seminars were conducted on a variety of topics. Employees attending received promotional items each time they took a different seminar as well as when milestones were reached with no accidents. Through increased awareness and cooperation between employees and management the goal was reached and each employee received a 13-quart Rubbermaid Cooler at a celebratory steak dinner. This story had long-term effects at Ciba Specialty Chemical where injuries have decreased and a 59% drop in on-site accidents occurred.


I believe in something called memory value which results from these types of stories where promotional merchandise plays a role. Xerox employees will remember the story of their MP3 player and their part in rebuilding the company and every time a Ciba employee uses their Rubbermaid cooler they’ll think safety and smile at the role they played in the one-million accident free hours achieved.


A good friend has written a series of books on what he calls “Godwinks.” SQuire Rushnell doesn’t believe in coincidences, but in the fact God’s hand is in every choice we make and every story we create. If promotional products can play a minor role in creating the stories in our lives then I’ll feel I’ve done a small part to help make the world a better place.

With 25 years in promotional marketing, Steve works with customers to develop creative and measurable solutions based on their marketing needs. Promotional products, uniform programs, online company eStores, safety programs and rewards and recognition are all included in his marketing toolbox. He builds long-term relationships to become a trusted advisor and consultant his clients turn to for their brand extension needs. You can reach him at Staples Promotional Products: 

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