Posted by: brandextenders | October 6, 2015

It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

What a record: He served in WW II as a gunner’s mate on D-Day in Normandy, played 19 years as catcher for the New York Yankees beginning in 1946, played in 18 All-Star games, 14 World Series, won three Most Valuable Player awards and later served as coach of both the New York Mets and New York Yankees. But Yogi Berra, born Lawrence Peter Berra, is probably best known for his “Yogi-isms” or sayings that lacked logic, but had nuggets of truth within. Not all the sayings attributed to him were actually his, leading him to famously note, “I never said most of the things I said.”

"The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase."

“The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.”

Here are a few of my favorite Yogi-isms along with my own interpretation of their illogical logic:

  • “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” Floating through life like a cork on water may take you places you don’t want to go. Setting goals, planning and strategizing your life will give you a path to follow, but sometimes, as Yogi said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Don’t let your plans blind you to opportunities that may take you in a whole new direction.
  • “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.” It’s easy to blame others, to blame things, to blame the universe for what’s happening in your life. Success comes from taking action and working to make your dreams come true. As Yogi said, “You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.” Taking responsibility for your life will make you a better person.
  • “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” It’s easy to worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next month, but most worry is useless. Rather than worrying about the future, focus on today and what you can do to make your future brighter.
  • “You can observe a lot by watching.” For scientists to prove a hypothesis they must observe and use their senses to understand. You wouldn’t cross a street without first observing whether any cars are close enough to kill you, right? Take time to observe the world around you and find where you can make a difference. And remember to listen more and talk less because as Yogi noted, “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”
  • “Take it with a grin of salt.” Life is too short to do things that don’t move you forward. Don’t take things too seriously (unless you’re a brain surgeon) and learn to roll with the punches. Timing is everything. “You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.”
  • “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Don’t give up on goals or life or anything. One lost battle does not lose the war and should things get really tough, always remember you can “Pair up in threes.”

Sportswriter and journalist Allen Barra described Berra’s witticisms as “distilled bits of wisdom which, like good country songs and old John Wayne movies, get to the truth in a hurry.” We’ll miss your pithy comments Yogi and Joe Biden’s malapropisms will never be able to replace yours.

Posted by: brandextenders | September 15, 2015

Order Taker or Problem Solver?

Seems like a pretty cut-and-dried decision, right? Do you take orders all day long or do you help people solve their work or personal challenges? Let’s see, the attendant at a drive-up window at the local fast food joint or salesman for a high-tech company that supplies the military with satellite navigational devices. You’d think the fast food person pretty much takes orders and the high-tech guy is a problem solver, right? But don’t judge a book by its cover.

Not just an order taker

Not just an order taker

It’s rare, but I’ve heard drive through people who are born salespeople. They are smiling when they ask for your order, but they also suggest options other than “would you like fries with that order?”  They make it easy to place your order, they’re efficient and say “thank you” as you drive off. On the other hand, I’ve seen supposed big-time salespeople who simply take the order for products or services from a procurement manager. No questions, no up-selling although they may remember to say “thank you.”

What differentiates someone as an order taker or problem solver in life? Here are just a few traits you might recognize in yourself:

  • Creative: Problem solvers are always looking for a solution to the challenges they face and not necessarily the most obvious ones. They look for creative solutions, ways that will differentiate them from the pack. Sales is a completely different game today than it was five or 10 years ago. The Internet has changed things and made it much easier for customers to find information and look for the cheapest price. Problem solvers don’t sell price, they sell solutions that solve problems, plain and simple.
  • A desire to help others: Order takers want to be helpful as long as they don’t have to do much to make that happen. Problem solvers, for the most part, have a true desire in their heart to help others. They will go above and beyond to help their customers, friends and family solve the challenges that arise and will do it with a smile as big as the Grand Canyon. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, always looking for new ideas around which they can create a business
  • No whining: Problem solvers don’t whine. If one option doesn’t work, it’s on to another and another and another until they find one or agree one doesn’t exist. But to whine would be counter-productive and wouldn’t get them any closer to helping others find creative solutions. As Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “If you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have time to do something about it.”
  • Go beyond the obvious: Almost every challenge or issue has an immediate and obvious answer. That doesn’t mean however that first answer is always the best course of action and problem solvers dig deeper. They’ll ask questions, take notes and discover what’s working and what’s not. Their options will usually be more encompassing and will look to not only solve the immediate challenges but those that may yet be on the horizon.
  • Always willing to learn: Order takers are happy there are clients that don’t need a lot of hand-holding. Problem solvers want clients that challenge them and make them look for new ways to tackle challenges. They are always learning, reading books and articles, taking classes. They understand the world is growing at an incredibly fast pace and if you aren’t keeping up, you’re falling behind. They understand continuous self-education is a key to their success.

At the end of the day, I’d say I fall into both of these categories. While I’m more than willing to be an order taker if that’s all I think an opportunity offers, my best work is done when I’m working to solve a problem. That’s when the creative juices kick in, when I’m most enthusiastic and when my customers understand I’m there to help them with their challenges and to help make them look good.

The need for problem solvers is at an all-time high as the world grows more and more complex. If you learn all you can, go beyond the obvious, be creative and don’t whine, chances are you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams and help others along the way.

Posted by: brandextenders | September 1, 2015

I’ve got a Secret

I’ve got a secret, a secret I don’t really hide, but also don’t yell from the mountaintops. I’ve decided to come clean for this blog, for better or worse. My secret? I didn’t finish college.

I always planned on getting a sheepskin, but after three years I decided to break into radio; a medium I’d loved listening to growing up in Los Angeles with Top 40 DJ’s on AM powerhouses. I started at a small town station in California as a disc jockey and ended up eight years later as General Manager of a traffic reporting company in Atlanta. When I left radio, I fell into the world of promotional products, a career I’ve practiced now for 29 years.

mas_Certified-logoMany times I’ve wished I’d finished college, joined a fraternity and made the lifetime memories and friends that are a natural part of the process. I even looked into finishing my BA once, but ultimately chose not to pursue it for a variety of reasons. All this is a long-winded way of saying I believe in education and if I had to do it over again, I’d definitely finish my undergraduate studies. I’m proud of the fact though I earned my MAS (Master Advertising Specialist) 2004 and I take classes at every opportunity and believe I’m a much more professional than I would be otherwise.

Why should you continue to educate yourself and not merely rely on the skills you already have to achieve success? We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule or more properly known as “Pareto’s Principle”, originated by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who studied wealth at the turn of the last century. He found 80% of the wealth of most countries is controlled by 20% of the people. Over the years, this rule has been expanded to reflect the theory that most results in a particular field or subject come about as the result of a minority of the people in that field. The most successful 20% of the people in our industry have not achieved that success through blind luck. Most continue to learn through structured education, reading books, online research and interacting with others in the top 20% who are committed to learning and succeeding. Rick Merrill, former Director of Education with PPAI told me once of continuing education, “It gives people a broader view of how to solve business challenges and objections. If you can pull one or two ideas from every course, you’ll find yourself better able to face the challenges of everyday business.”

The question I’m often asked is why not just take classes you’re interested in? My answer is that without following a predetermined track of courses, you’re likely to take only those classes that interest you, which exposes you to a limited amount of material. The CAS/MAS “tracks” are designed to give you a well-rounded education just like a college degree. Both CAS/MAS tracks require you earn points in each of four areas, those being Sales/Marketing, Business Management, Professional Development and Technology. And yet less than five percent of the tens of thousands of people who have chosen to make this their livelihood have taken the time to earn their CAS/MAS.

copy-CEHomeHeader2There are so many ways you can earn the CEU’s needed for a designation and there is no reason anyone should be left behind.

· Attend classes put on at the major trade shows throughout the year. Las Vegas, Orlando, Chicago and others sponsored by both PPAI and ASI have education days with a variety of classes to keep you up-to-date with the rapid changes in our industry.
· PPAI offers two or three intensive seminars each year dedicated to learning as does ASI
· Most regional associations have education days as well where they offer classes and usually tie it in with a table top show. In fact, being a member of your regional association is something I highly recommend not only for the educational aspect, but to meet others who face the same challenges we do every day.
· Listen to recorded programs from the various seminars given throughout the year. Each of us spends hundreds of hours a year in the car driving to and from work and appointments and what better way to spend that time than to hone your skills through educational CD’s and podcasts.
· Take classes outside the industry at your local college. Most classes that have any relationship to selling promotional products can earn you CEU’s.
There is no dearth of ways to educate yourself on our industry, but may decide this really is too much effort and you can survive and prosper just fine without continuing education. However, a word of caution; nothing in life is static and by choosing not to continue learning and growing through education, the odds are you will be left behind selling stuff to those companies that are only looking for people who sell stuff. No marketing expertise needed, no creative ideas wanted, just give them your best price on a white mug with a logo on it.

Those who continue to learn why promotional products make marketing sense and is truly the most targeted medium an advertiser can purchase will thrive. In other words, those who use consultative selling are the ones who are going to work with the innovative corporations and be rewarded for their efforts with fatter paychecks and more prestige.

Posted by: brandextenders | August 17, 2015

“Kid, You’ll Move Mountains!”

Did you read Dr. Seuss When You Were a Kid?

Did You Laugh at the Creatures Who Oftentimes Hid?

Well the Good Doctor’s back and he’s Hot Yet Again

“What Pet Should I Get” Tops the Charts My Dear Friend

Question: How often does a book hit the #1 spot written by an author who passed away 24 years ago?

Answer: Never.

Seuss & some of his characters

Seuss & some of his characters

In the early days of his career, Theodore Seuss Geisel (Seuss was his mother’s maiden name) received a rejection letter that stated, “Too different from other juvenile books on the market to warrant its selling.” Well odd they were, but 650 million of the quirky Dr. Seuss books have been sold, 450 million of them since his death in 1991 and he is the 9th best-selling fiction author of all time.

I’ve always had a fascination for the faux doctor since we share a birthday and I’ve made it a habit to buy at least one Dr. Seuss book as a baby gift for friends. So what is it that makes his books so popular and why? A large part of the allure is his drawings of strange and crazy made-up animals that inhabit the pages of his stories. And while he claimed to never begin writing a book with a moral in mind, a great many of those stories moralized about his views on consumerism, Hitler, racial inequality and the arms race.

I loved reading the books to my boys when they were young and still pick them up from time-to-time for their timeless wisdom and there are four I’m particularly fond of.

Keep Your Word: In “Horton Hatches the Egg” we find the Elephant Horton being conned by the lazy bird Mayzie to sit on her egg while she takes a short break. That short break is permanent as she’s flown the coup to Palm Beach so he sits on the egg often muttering, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, 100%.” In business and all of life it’s important to keep your word; to do as you say and say as you do. That’s how relationships become long term and despite what some may say, sales is all about building positive relationships with your clients.

Thing 1 & Thing 2 at your service

Thing 1 & Thing 2 at your service

Gratitude and Starting Each Day Anew: “The Cat in the Hat” came out in 1957 and is the story of a conniving anthropomorphic cat that entertains a brother and sister on a rainy day in their house. Things go awry, but at the end of the day the cat fixes his messes with a machine and says, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” Waking up with gratitude in our hearts each day creates a positive attitude that will carry us through the challenges and negativity that are bound to land in our path.

Be Open to New Experiences: I’m quick to say I don’t like something even though I may never have tried it before. But when you think about it, everything is new until you’ve tried it the first time. In “Green Eggs & Ham” Sam-I-Am urges the narrator to try the concoction named in the title and at one point says, “You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may!” At the end, the narrator does try them and proclaims, “I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you, thank you Sam-I-Am.” Only by being open to new experiences will we learn our boundaries and those boundaries may be much larger than we ever imagined.

Persistence Shapes Your Destiny: Seuss’s last book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go” has an unseen person (“You”) leaving home and facing the obstacles life can throw at all of us. From slumps to wiggled roads and the “waiting place” where everyone is biding their time just waiting for something to happen. But Seuss tells us to be dexterous and deft and if so we’ll succeed, 98 ¾% guaranteed. And while persistence won’t always make one successful you see, the chances are better than not that you’ll wind up ecstatic beyond your wildest dreams.

The Seuss estate is a well-run machine that continues to promote his stories and books throughout the year and is headed by his widow, 94 year-old Audrey Geisel. “Dr. Seuss is a brand and our job is to keep growing it even though he’s been passed away quite a while,” says Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books.

So should you need solace to keep yourself going

Make sure to read Seuss, it’s much better than rowing

There’s Sally, the Lorax, the Grinch and the Fish

You’ll always feel better when you wish for a dish!

Or as Dr. Seuss himself said it much better, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Posted by: brandextenders | June 13, 2015

Friends, Romans, Countrymen and the Rule of Three

Ever pondered why so many things we hear or read come in threes? How about the three little pigs, the Three Stooges or the Three Wise Men? Thomas Jefferson’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our Declaration of Independence, Caesar’s veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) and Shakespeare’s line from Julius Caesar, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Movie titles include “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Tora, Tora, Tora” or in advertising consider Nike’s Just Do It, McDonald’s I’m loving it and KFC’s Finger Licking Good.

The familiar Geodesic Dome at Disney's Epcot

The familiar Geodesic Dome at Disney’s Epcot

In Latin there was a phrase (guess there still is), “omne trium perfectum” which roughly translates into everything that comes in threes is perfect. In construction the triangle is the strongest shape, able to evenly balance the stress put on it, and is seen in such structures as a geodesic dome, the Eiffel Tower and bridges throughout the world. Even in comedy, the rule of three creates a pleasing rhythm with a surprise ending and is sometimes referred to as boom, boom, bang. Comedian Laura Kightlinger, offers this example; “I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, how you met, or why they’re dead.” Boom, boom, bang!

You may be saying who cares if the pyramids in Egypt are triangular, (a square pyramid?), that location, location, location is still key in real estate or that the third time’s a charm? Because information presented in threes is sticky, meaning it sticks in our brains more readily than lists of four, seven or 10. If you create Power Points or other presentation materials, think three bullet points in legible font, not seven in tiny, tiny, type (alliteration usually comes in threes). Titles of articles or blogs with three words or a boom, boom, bang will tend to draw a higher percentage of readers.

In sales, the Rule of Three or Power of Three is potent. When writing an email to a prospect make three salient, brief points to intrigue them enough to respond back. In a presentation or pitch, ask three open-ended questions that build on each other. For example; how do you use promotional products in your marketing mix? What product(s) have been the most effective? Why? People love hearing their name so strive to use a customer or prospect’s name three times in a conversation. When seeking information, ask three times for additional facts, i.e. why do you prefer using Company A over Company B? Why else? Is there anything else you can think of? The key to this technique though is to let the other person talk and for you to listen, listen, listen.

Present offers in threes like the classic good, better and best. Ask for three referrals, list three things that differentiate you from the competition, follow-up three times after you send someone a quote, separate your list of prospects into cold, warm and hot, reach out to someone at least three times before you give up (in this last case it’s actually been said it takes at least eight try’s before you are likely to get a response).

Like anything, the rule of three isn’t immutable, but given it’s longevity in human history there does seem to be something to it. Consider our Earth is the third rock from the sun, that there are three (more or less) political parties in the U.S., there are three feet in a yard (no comment from you metric users), people run three-legged races at picnics, Freud’s theory of personality is that we all have an Id, an Ego and a Super Ego or that we play rock, paper scissors.

Give the rule of threes a try and let us know below in the comments section what other ways you’ve seen the rule of three used successfully. But remember, if you’re into sex, drugs and rock n’ roll then chances are you may not remember that truth, justice, and the American way are the three causes for which Superman fights. And there’s a reason why Santa Claus says ho, ho, ho and Beanz Meanz Heinz.

Posted by: brandextenders | May 20, 2015

Is Following Your Passion Just B.S.?

There’s a lot of talk these days about following your passion in work. The “they” people say don’t be satisfied doing something you don’t like, only work that stirs your heart and soul. Of course we all want to love our jobs and make more money that we can possibly spend, but are those two things mutually exclusive? Can we all be one of those people who had a dream, followed it through thick and thin, didn’t let anything deter them and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams? If reading will make it so, then choose any of the 1,300 business books about “passion” on Amazon.

Bring passion to whatever work you do

Bring passion to whatever work you do

Mike Rowe, from the TV series “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” has what I believe is a realistic take on following your passion. His series followed everyday people who had jobs most of us would never consider; a man whose company cleans the inside of cement mixer trucks, another who turns uneaten food from Las Vegas casinos and hotels into grub for his pigs, someone who collects roadkill off the highways and byways and, well, you get the idea. Do you think these people are passionate about their work? Does a young child dream of being a chicken sexer when he grows up? Most likely not. Here’s what Rowe says: Like all bad advice, “Follow Your Passion” is routinely dispensed as though its wisdom were both incontrovertible and equally applicable to all. It’s not. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean you will. Does that mean you shouldn’t pursue a thing you’re passionate about? Of course not. The question is, for how long, and to what end?”

If you’ve ever watched America’s Got Talent, The Voice or American Idol you know there are some truly talented individuals on these shows. But many really suck and no amount of practice or diligence will make them any better. I’d love to have an amazing singing voice, but I don’t. Just ask my neighbor who has to listen to me sing with my ear buds in while I’m working around the yard. A “moose in heat” has been bandied about as a sound similar to my vocal prowess. Sure, I could take vocal lessons, sing anywhere there is an audience and audition my heart out for singing find-your-passiongigs, but chances are I will never be able to make a living at it. And that’s O.K. I love what I do and while it will always be work, I can bring my passion to it and make good money. So perhaps they key to being passionate about your work, even if it’s not your dream job, is to find where your talents can benefit others. Aristotle said it succinctly some 2,500 years ago, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” And that just might be using your God-given talents as a buoy cleaner or a leech trapper.

Posted by: brandextenders | March 7, 2015

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I was speaking with someone recently in Arizona about scheduling a call the following week and typically it’s a no-brainer. Here’s the fly in the ointment (an odd term I’m going to research): I’m scheduling an appointment on a day that is still in daylight standard time, but the day of the call is after we’ve shifted to Daylight Saving Time (DST) which Arizona doesn’t observe. They’re in Mountain Time (MT) today and will still be in MT in three days, but here in Eastern Time (ET) we’ll have moved ahead an hour. So if they’re two hours behind today, will they be three hours behind next week? I’m assuming so, but need to be sure since this is an important client. I’m beginning to feel as though I should be on the show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” since I’m having trouble with something seemingly so simple. I started Googling to see if I could find a site that would show the time different between various locations during DST with no luck, but I did learn a lot about this controversial topic.
DST vs. MST vs. EST. Oy vey!

DST vs. MST vs. EST. Oy vey!

I was surprised to learn this is not a universally adopted concept and that half or less of the world’s population makes the shift and those that do aren’t in sync on when it happens. In the U.S. we spring ahead on March 8th and fall back on November 1, but in the European Union they move ahead March 29 and fall back October 25. Those crazy Euros, they always have to be different, don’t they? The concept of adjusting schedules to take advantage of the longer hours of summer daylight goes back to ancient civilizations. In modern times, as the U.S. envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin wrote an anonymous, satirical letter urging Parisians to economize on candles by getting up earlier in the day during the summer months. He suggested taxing shutters, rationing candles and waking cities at sunrise with church bells and cannon blasts, but he never proposed DST as is often cited. In 1905 a well-known English outdoors-man, William Willett, conceived the idea of shifting clocks ahead during the summer, published an article on the subject two years later and lobbied for the change until his death in 1915. Ironically, the tipping point was World War I when German and its allies set their clocks ahead in April of 1916 with other countries following suit the next year and the U.S finally hoping on board in 1918.

A benefit touted early on was more time for outdoor leisure activities. During the war, when it began, it was touted as a way to alleviate hardships from shortages of coal and air raid blackouts. After the war, many countries permanently ended its use, as did the U.S. It wasn’t until 1966 it was finally standardized here although there continue to be detractors and occasional pushes to end it. And what are the benefits? One of the earliest advantages touted was that it saves energy, mostly the use of incandescent lights. In today’s world though, recent studies have shown that higher use of air conditioning around the world tends to negate the savings from using less lighting. Benefits on health, public safety, the economy and reduced crime continue to be debated and chances are unless something substantial changes, our current use of DST will continue.
Part of Arizona along with Hawaii, Midway Atoll, Wake Island and a small region of Alaska don’t observe DST, each for different reasons. In Arizona they say they need another hour of sunlight like they do a whole in the head because of the summer heat. Oh and one final note, count quickly how many S’s there are in the term. Until yesterday I would have said two and I would have been wrong. It’s Daylight Saving Time, no “s” at the end of saving. As the website Daylight Saving Time says, “Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight.” A better name for this would actually be Daylight Shifting Time or even Daylight Time Shifting since we don’t save any daylight.
So now you know more than you ever needed to about Daylight Saving Time. As to my question about Arizona and the time difference between Atlanta and Phoenix, it’s a three-hour difference beginning at 2:00 a.m., Sunday, March 8, 2015. And in case you need to know more, here are a few links to check out:
Posted by: brandextenders | March 2, 2015

Trinkets and Trash or Arts and Treasure?

I’ve been in this business a long time and have heard the products I sell called all sorts of names; some reflect a fondness for promotional products; others disdain. There’s “tchotchkes” (originally a Slavic word for toys), stuff, junk, novelties, trinkets, giveaways, handouts, premiums, incentives and arts and treasures. O.K., the term “arts and treasures” was coined by someone I worked with in this business so there was some bias attached to that one!

Where did this perception that promotional products are simply junk that companies buy for recipients to

Lots of trinkets and maybe some trash?

Lots of trinkets and maybe some trash?

throw away come from? My best guess is the many companies that buy branded items to hand out do so without much forethought and spend as little money as possible. One day the person in charge of trade shows remembers he needs 1,000 of something to hand out next week so he calls his promo rep and orders something cheap and completely unrelated to the event. Many companies at trade shows put a big basket of cheap pens, candy, buttons or something else at the front of their booth and as a result people grab handfuls as they walk by. Businesses I’ve worked with over the years are more likely to buy a lot of something cheap vs. a lesser quantity of a quality, useful item.

But here’s the rub: promotional products are one of the most favored forms of advertising available today. According to a study on trade shows by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), 76% of attendees have a favorable attitude toward a company that gives them a branded item and almost 72% remember the name of the company that gave them that product. Put yourself in the position of a trade show attendee: if given a useful promotional product with a perceived value of $5.00 (it may have only cost the exhibitor half that) or a pen worth a quarter, which company would you most likely have a more favorable attitude toward? That’s not to say pens aren’t a worthwhile investment since they account for almost 9% of total promotional products sales, but how many pens can one person use?

Another key to the success of promotional products is their longevity. How often are you going to use a TV commercial? That’s ridiculous you say, you watch it a few times on TV and it’s gone. And that’s the point! You can’t play with a TV spot at your desk, you can’t wear it or use it at home and you certainly can’t take it to the gym with you every day. But a promotional product you can and studies have shown the average promo product is kept between 10 months and a year. If a gym bag is used three times a week over the course of a year (that’s 156 times) and the cost was $7.00, your cost per impression of the recipient seeing your brand is about a nickel. Not a bad return on investment for a tchotchke.

It’s much easier to track the cost per impression (CPI) of traditional media (TV, radio, newspaper) and even much of the online advertising venues, but that doesn’t make it a better form of advertising. You wouldn’t buy a TV or radio campaign without making sure the station or stations you were using met your target demographics, had a good CPI and the spots were creative and informative. It’s easy to wait until the last-minute to purchase your promotional products, spend as little as possible and then gripe about it being a waste of money. In doing that you are feeding the myth that promotional products are in fact trinkets and trash.

Next time you need some branded products for a trade show, customer gift, new product introduction, gift with purchase, sales leave behind or thank you, take a moment to answer these basic questions:

  • Who is my target audience? Young, old, men, women, what’s their income bracket, what do they do for a living, are they prospects or customers, qualified buyers or tire kickers.
  • How are we using the product? Is it at a trade show where you have a combination of customers and prospects? Is it to motivate people to do something? Is it to introduce a new product, new logo or new tag line? Do you want the item to be used in the office or in the home?
  • How are we giving them out? Will you be giving them individually to customers, prospects, employees? Are you using them in a direct mail piece? Is it for the masses or for a targeted group of people
  • What’s your budget? Most of the time promotional products are the last thing anyone thinks about which is why they are typically bought at the last-minute and need to be cheap because the budget is gone. By making them a more integral part of any campaign with proper planning, I would almost guarantee that you’d be pleasantly surprised with results that will help you see the power of promotional products.

Buying branded products for your company without thought or planning will perpetuate the myth of trinkets and trash and be a waste of money better used elsewhere. But taking time to plan ahead and invest some thought into the questions above will not only bring you better results, but make the branded products you buy truly arts and treasures, at least in the minds of your recipients.

Posted by: brandextenders | February 10, 2015

Did You Have One of These?

Let’s face it, I suck when it comes to being handy around the house, repairing cars or building stuff. Always have been. So why as a kid was I drawn into Radio Shack stores with all their neat rows of diodes, capacitors, early computers, circuit boards and batteries? The batteries were really the only product in the store I had a clue what to do with and I proudly carried my Battery of the Month Club card with which I could get my choice of a D, C, AA or 9-volt battery once a month. A savings of up to $4.68 if I dutifully picked up my battery each month and a fond memory from the salad days of Radio Shack, which filed for Chapter 11 recently.

A free battery every month

A free battery every month

Founded in 1921 by two brothers, it was originally a place for ham radio operators to obtain equipment and parts through the mail. Their name came from the wooden shacks on a boat used to house a ship’s radio equipment. By the early 60’s though the company was faltering and was purchased by Charles Tandy who owned a leather goods company, but saw potential with the electronics chain.

In 1977 they introduced the TRS-80, one of the first personal computers mass-produced, which was a huge hit. In the mid-90’s they started selling wireless phones and other mainstream retail products in a bid to get out of selling smaller electronic components, and ran head on into companies like Wal-Mart, Circuit City and Best Buy. Rebranded “The Shack” in 2009, they moved more heavily into selling wireless products and their demise was written on the wall.

Under bankruptcy protection the chain will close nearly half their 4,000 stores and sell up to 2,400 locations to Sprint where the Radio Shack brand will be sold within the Sprint stores.

Interestingly, there is talk Amazon may snatch up some of the RS locations and start a brick and mortar operation to showcase its brands and act as a returns/pick-up point. Plus, these could be the locations where Amazon expands its delivery of goods to local customers as they’ve been experimenting with at a Manhattan location. Apple stores were an afterthought, but now have the highest retail sales per square foot and Amazon may be realizing there is a limit to selling in the virtual world only and now is the time to jump into the physical world of brick and mortar.

Perhaps though like the circle of life in the Lion King, there is a circle of life in the business world and for every company that goes under, one or two are born. In this case a co-branding deal with Sprint and maybe an Amazon retail presence inhabiting the shells of the former RS stores.

If only they ‘d shifted from the Battery of the Month Club to a Gigabyte of Memory a Month Club they might have survived. We could certainly all use more memory!

Posted by: brandextenders | February 4, 2015

Do You Fall for Sneaky Sales Tactics?

As I walked the Stairway to Nowhere (aka the Stairmaster at the gym) one recent morning I was shocked to see a news story on TV entitled, “Sneaky Sales Tactics.” I watched, mouth agape, as they listed the most nefarious methods marketers and retailers use to separate you from your money. They included:

  • Sales
  • Discounts
  • Free freight
  • Buy one get one free (aka BOGO)
  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Music conducive to shopping (and you spending your money)

When I got home I quickly did a Google search of sneaky sales tactics and came up with even more devious techniques including upselling, banner ads and psychological pricing; you know, where you’ll pay $19.99, but not $20.00.

Ancient BOGO hieroglyphic sign

Ancient BOGO hieroglyphic sign

Brands conduct research, hold focus groups and try various marketing techniques to get you to buy their products. And while today’s marketing is savvier and more research driven, the same need to sell products and services has been going on since the first “for sale” hieroglyphic was painted on a stone sign. Do modern-day marketers manipulate us as some, including Vance Packard in his 1957 tome “The Hidden Persuaders” suggest? Probably, but it’s their job to find out what gets us to buy, be it words, pictures, gimmicks, contests or simply the cheapest price.

Should Congress step in and regulate how brands advertise? Perhaps limit the discounts, control the banner ads and only allow prices in whole dollars, none of this psychological pricing BS? Balderdash. It’s an aberration to use the words Congress and free-market in the same sentence since nothing is free when Congress gets involved.

I’ve got an idea. How about people take responsibility for themselves and not blame music in the store or a coupon for blowing their budget. No one is forcing consumers to buy and it could be argued that sales, discounts and BOGO’s help people spend less if they simply purchase what they need in moderation. Are there people out to scam us? Of course there are, but it’s not likely they’ll use a BOGO to do it.

I know this post may sound snarky (love that word!), but it’s not meant to be. What it boils down to for me is ethicscartoon308 and honesty. Brands want to sell you their products and services and if done in an ethical and honest manner it’s a win-win for everyone. As a consumer, do your research, have a budget and stick to brands you trust. The old saying is still true, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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