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Awareness 101

How to plan, buy and work with awareness bracelets

July 2011 By Michael Cornnell
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It's been years since the LIVESTRONG bracelet boom seemingly created a whole new product genre overnight, sprinkling the world with little yellow silicone cancer-fighting bands and kicking awareness marketing into the mainstream. Since then, such bracelets have evolved from a simple novelty giveaway to a full-fledged promotional genre, complete with all the expectations, risks and challenges of any other product offering. Whether you're new to awareness bracelets or just looking to brush up on the basics, there are a handful of key introductory concepts you should know while working with the silicone wonders.

The first thing you should know before beginning your bracelet promotion is that the available product selection has grown far beyond the solid-colored silicone band with a simple debossed decoration. Within the suppliers interviewed for this feature alone (Alliance Rubber Company, BamBams and Buztronics), there are glow-in-the-dark bracelets, multicolor bracelets, fragrance-infused bracelets, extra-wide bracelets, extra-thin bracelets, watch bracelets and light-up L.E.D. bracelets. If you assume that even a quarter of this variety is repeated through the rest of the bracelet suppliers out there, there are plenty of choices out there for you if you or your client finds the standard silicone loop a little passé.

The other main idea to grasp before you begin is that awareness items can carry more emotional charge for end-users than others. "That's something about the awareness market," said Katie Hammel, promotional market manager for Alliance Rubber Company, Hot Springs, Ark. "It's something that's personal, it's emotional," she noted. She stated that because people often have a personal connection to the cause being advocated, be it through themselves or a family member, they tend to care a great deal about the items provided. This care can be a powerful promotional tool, but should also be a cause for cautious work since you're likely dealing with something close to a lot of people's hearts.

Once the bigger tasks of picking your bracelet and weaving through end-user emotions are complete, there are a couple more nuts-and-bolts concerns to sort through. For starters, you're going to want to brush up on your bracelet terminology and make sure you and your supplier are speaking on the same language wavelength. Hammel gave the example of bracelet lengths and how it can often cause confusion between supplier and distributor.

Hammel explained that some distributors will request a bracelet length without any specific context, such as asking for a 7" band for example. If your client means a 7" diameter, but your supplier always measures on the flat (so 7" long from end-to-end), this can not only lead to a lot of confusion but also lost time and money. "[It's] just communication, making sure you have the right sizes," she said.

Another tip to keep in mind when ordering is that if you're in a major time crunch, domestic printing can help ease the pressure. Katharina Pieper, marketing analyst for BamBams, Lorton, Va., explained that domestic printing can give a turnaround time of days compared to what you would normally wait for full overseas production.

Like with any other product, you'll want to do a little quality assurance work before working with a silicone bracelet supplier for the first time. "You should definitely make sure that they're safety tested," said Pieper. Keep in mind as well that depending on your bracelet's coloration or sizing, it may be construed as a children's product and fall under stricter CPSIA regulations.

Beyond product safety, you should also investigate the silicone density of your bracelets. "In a silicone bracelet, you want to make sure it's six milligrams of silicone, that's the top quality," said Hammel. She explained that a lower density can lead to softer, more fragile material and also "gates" across the bracelet. "Gates" refer to thin seams along a bracelet where it is folded from the flat and sealed into the finished looped bracelet. "It gives a person when they stretch [the bracelets] an opportunity for them to break."



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