That's My Bag, Baby
Lethal Weapon. Rush Hour. Turner and Hooch. The buddy cop film is among Hollywood's classic tropes. You know the format: the grizzled veteran, one day away from retirement, reluctantly teams up with the brash-but-talented, hotshot rookie. Eventually they learn to put their differences aside and work together, overcoming plot holes and impossible odds with a combination of killer '80s hairstyles and a ton of explosives.
The promotional marketing world has its own version of the buddy cop film. Only in this one, reusable bags are the stars, and there are fewer explosions (usually). Instead of Danny Glover, you've got the tote bag, the reliable old pro with a proven track record. In place of Mel Gibson, you've got the biodegradable plastic bag, the exciting newcomer with something to prove. Granted, they won't get into car chases or take down any bad guys (unless the bad guys are pollution and global warming), but reusable bags can be more lucrative than a buddy cop film at the box office.
If we've learned anything from Bad Boys II, though, it's that strong leads alone don't always guarantee success—and this is especially true when it comes to reusable bags. You also need to choose the right materials and features, negotiate challenges and integrate creative ideas. Do all that, and your promotion might just be a blockbuster.
Choosing the right material for your reusable bag could be the difference between a memorable promotion and groceries scattered on the floor. Make sure you understand the capabilities and limitations of each type of material before settling on a bag.
The Tote: "The predominant bags of the past five years have been the nonwoven polypropylene reusable tote and grocery bags," said Virginia Semrow, president of American Ad Bag, Woodstock, Ill. "These bags have the characteristics of cloth in that they have stitched seams and feel like canvas. They are strong and send an eco-friendly message just by their use." She noted that much of a bag's strength depends on its GSM (grams per square meter), with higher GSM ratings yielding thicker, stronger bags and lower ratings allowing for bags that are less expensive to produce.
Chris Flynn, national sales manager for TARGETLINE, Owosso, Mich., explained further the importance of understanding GSM when working with reusable bags. "Many different levels of material are available," he said. "70-80 GSM polypropylene is great for trade shows or giveaways, [while] 100+ GSM polypropylene is great for shopping or heavier-duty projects."
The Biodegradable: "Oxo-biodegradable bags look and feel like regular plastic, and are just as durable," said Chad Majewski, vice president of sales for Amsterdam, New York-based Noteworthy. He explained that because oxo-biodegradable plastic contains an additive that allows it to break down on a molecular level when exposed to the heat or UV light, it degrades much faster than standard plastic. "Plastic incorporating cornstarch-based additives cannot be recycled and may contaminate the recycling process," Majewski added. "Oxo-biodegradable plastic can be recycled along with regular plastic, and does not emit methane [upon breaking down]."
While both totes and biodegradable plastic bags fill the critical "carry-your-stuff-while-saving-the-environment" niche, each has its own strengths and applications.
The Tote: "The benefit to utilizing a reusable tote bag in any promotion is the long-term usefulness of the item coupled with the advertising opportunity," noted Flynn. "Most totes feature a rather large imprint area that can accommodate multiple logos."
Majewski cited the general strength and durability of totes as their primary advantages, but also mentioned their propensity for customization. "They can come in all sorts of material and color combinations, as well as imprinting methods," he said.
The Biodegradable: While totes generally feature a sturdy construction, they can cost more as a result, explained Majewski. "People want to be 'green' but they don't want to pay for it," he said. "Oxo-biodegradable bags allow distributors to offer a green product at no additional charge."
He also noted that full-color, high-definition images can be digitally printed on the bags. "This allows end-buyers to be much more creative with their artwork, making the first impression a memorable one," he stated.
In a perfect world, we'd all be billionaires, the Terminator franchise would have ended with the second movie, and promotional campaigns would run smoothly every time. There's not much we can do about the first two, but knowing the potential challenges of working with reusable bags can help you avoid setbacks.
The Tote: "I would highly recommend that distributors determine with the client what the main use will be for the reusable bags," said Flynn. "Knowing this will help them provide their client with the most appropriate bag for the occasion."
Semrow stressed the importance of working with a trustworthy supplier to ensure that a given promotion runs smoothly. "Since these bags are imported I would recommend that distributors deal with suppliers that they trust will stand behind their product and deliver a quality product on time," she explained.
The Biodegradable: Majewski pointed out that the same eco-friendly design that allows oxo-biodegradable bags to break down in landfills also gives them a limited shelf life. "They will start to degrade in two years depending on their exposure to UV and heat," he stated. "However, if they are stored in a cool, dry location they will remain usable for 5-plus years."
With everyone scrambling to "go green" these days, a reusable bag promotion will likely succeed on principal alone. Still, a little creativity never hurts, and totes and biodegradable plastic bags can be used in a variety of imaginative ways.
The Tote: "An organization can sell advertising space [on the tote] to local businesses and still feature its logo prominently," said Flynn. "In turn, the organization can earn income from the ad space as well as [the resale of] the totes."
The Biodegradable: Majewski described a promotion where a distributor working for a major store chain purchased a large quantity of the bags and planted tree seedling in them to highlight the bags' biodegradable properties. "An instructional card was given to plant the tree in the ground with the bag," explained Majewski. "The program was so successful and brought so much awareness that the chain has now switched all of its bags to oxo-biodegradable."