I'm Only Happy When it Rains
Umbrellas, or as they're called in the promotional industry, "giant portable billboards that also provide users a valuable utility," are a versatile advertising standard that gets better every year. Decoration technologies continue to improve, structural advancements continue to get stronger, and advertising uses continue to become cleverer. This year, as every year has been before it, is the "year of the umbrella," bringing new ways to decorate, build and sell promotional umbrellas.
New Ways to Decorate
Decoration has always been one of the umbrella's greatest strengths, offering a huge, eye-catching space to display your client's designs. There are several new design innovations, however, that make decorating these big moving billboards an even better proposition. Thom Casey, online marketing specialist for Tex Visions, Carlisle, Pa., described one technique, called "Multisol L FR," that would be useful for umbrellas designed to provide shade from the sun, such as those used at the beach or a restaurant dining area.
"Multisol L FR provides brilliant color reproduction on a nearly opaque knitted polyester with a matte surface," he said. He added that the company has the ability to print images on both the panels and the valance (the small dangling flaps that hang off the sides of umbrellas to provide extra shade) so the decoration can cover the entire umbrella if desired.
Besides brighter imprints, easier imprints are another recent innovation. "The latest offering from Peerless Umbrella is digital imprinting on our handheld umbrellas in lower quantities," said Dan Edge, national sales manager for Peerless Umbrella Co. Inc., Newark, N.J. "Typically when done overseas, you would see minimums of 1,200 units. Now we are able to do digital imprinting on handheld umbrellas (folding, fashion and golf styles) at quantities as low as 100 units," he explained. "We are really excited about this and think it is going to really open up the creative minds of many of our customers. An umbrella provides a large imprint area, why not take full advantage?"
Gary Libman, president of Storm Duds Raingear, Attleboro, Mass., mentioned a clear bubble-dome umbrella Storm Duds is introducing that will allow for decoration around its lower border. "This product can also be customized with a step-and-repeat design all over the edge," he said. He mentioned as well that full and under-canopy designs are available on the company's solid umbrellas.
There are several new technical innovations in umbrella design that help them weather the elements more effectively. Casey described one that improves the longevity of an umbrella's decoration.
"Variotex R was added this year," he said. "It's an opaque woven polyester that's UV-protected and resistant to water and weather, allowing our umbrellas to move away from being just an 'advertising' umbrella to more of a weather-resistant product."
Storm Duds has continued to add to its windproof offerings. "We are introducing several new styles in 2014, including a vented folding umbrella called the Windflow Dynamo," Libman said. "This product has a windflow venting system and prevents inversion in high winds."
Ways to Use
Like many other promotional products, umbrellas are a more versatile advertising product than they might seem at first glance. There are many creative ways to use them besides giving them to someone and saying, "Here's a well-decorated item that will also keep you dry."
Casey mentioned one promotional use for umbrellas is as point-of-purchase displays at bars or restaurants. "Our umbrellas have been featured and utilized in a wide range of different ways at hotels, bars, sporting events and more," he said. "Commonly, we see them paired with our advertising chairs, as this duo helps to create a maximum advertising impact."
Edge also shared a point-of-purchase example, but with an added twist of using the increased foot traffic and TV coverage that comes with the presence of a large, nationally televised and ultra-hyped event.
"We work with a distributor who in turn works with a large soft drink company," he said. "This year's Super Bowl is right here in N.J., so we are super excited! They purchased many patio umbrellas that were digitally imprinted with their brand and images," he explained. "They are putting these all around NYC on hot dog carts, newspaper stands, etc. These are being used as eye-level billboards throughout N.Y.—a great marketing campaign."