For a Rainy Day
Few things in life sell themselves. Ice cream, holiday cards for mom and maybe movies about mopey adolescent vampires. But in general, to sell a product you need a sales pitch. You need an angle. You need an idea.
Say you want to sell umbrellas. Great products, considering they keep you dry, can be imprinted beautifully in dozens of different ways and generally have a high perceived value. You can't take that information alone to a client however, and expect a sale. "Hey, check out this umbrella! It's neat and, uh, umbrellas! They stop rain!" isn't exactly going to have product flying off the shelves.
How about this: Umbrella suppliers Dan Edge, national sales manager for Peerless Umbrella, Newark, N.J., and Helen Stromberg, president of Stromberg Brand, Peekskill, N.Y., offer some ideas on running effective umbrella promotions? This way, the next time you're pitching umbrellas, you can replace the "It stinks being wet" with "I heard about this promotion someone else did with umbrellas, and I think it will work for you as well." You'll get to make a sale, the client will get a great promotion, and no one has to worry about one more person joining the "vampire soap opera" marketing dreadnaught.
Using an umbrella as a direct-mail promotion may seem a little far-fetched, but Edge described a promotion that did just that. The end-user company, a convention bureau based out of Phoenix, implemented a marketing plan emphasizing its state's sunny climate. Mailed to meeting planners around the country, the inside of the umbrella was printed with a bright, warm scene complete with palm trees and text reading: "If you were in Phoenix, you wouldn't need this umbrella." Caught in a rainstorm, the idea was the meeting planner would see the scene inside his or her umbrella and think that much more fondly about booking a convention in warm, dry Arizona. "I thought it was a fun way of using an umbrella for someone you wouldn't typically think would need one," said Edge.
THE PROFIT CENTER
Umbrellas have a lot of potential when it comes to the complexity and scope of designs they can present. Stromberg mentioned two museum clients of Stromberg Brand that capitalized on the large imprint area of an umbrella, creating items to be resold in their gift shops.
The museums took images of paintings from their collection, paired them with classically-styled fashion umbrella bodies and printed the designs either on the inside or outside of umbrellas. "That's where they bring in a lot of money," noted Stromberg. "You can have a four-color process umbrella sold at $40 at retail."
THE CONCIERGE SERVICE
"We do a ton of umbrellas with hotel logos," said Edge. "I think a lot of that has to do with when people travel … the last thing they think to pack is their umbrella. So when you get somewhere, it's a nice service to be able to go to the front desk and get an umbrella from the hotel." Hotels can use umbrellas in a variety of ways. Some loan the umbrellas out, expecting them to be returned, while others give them away as free advertising. Similar to museums, Edge said hotels will sometimes use them as a profit center. "They'll put an umbrella in every room as part of the wet bar," he said. "They may even design a little hangtag and hang it on the handle, saying if you use this umbrella, you'll be charged $30."
THE RUSH ORDER
Sometimes, umbrellas excel not as the centerpiece of a promotion, but as a way to save an event from a wet and disastrous end. Edge described several instances of rush orders his company had filled to spare outdoor events from cancellation, including a network TV Christmas tree lighting in the span of about a day. He cautioned distributors planning outdoor events to keep an eye on the weather report. "If a company schedules a golf outing, they own that course rain or shine, so a golf umbrella can be a real savior for the day," said Edge. "I've been at golf tournaments where it's rained and they gave out leather scorecard books, but meanwhile, half the golfers there didn't have umbrellas, so everyone was scrambling," he continued. "If everyone had umbrellas, it would have been a nice way to salvage the day."
With a high perceived value and ample connection to luxury, you could do worse than an umbrella as a gift or reward item. Stromberg detailed a successful promotion where an upscale shopping mall used an umbrella as an incentive and gift to help increase sales during its opening. Mall patrons who spent over a certain dollar amount were allowed to purchase the umbrella for a mere $7. "They ordered about 2,500 umbrellas," said Stromberg. "They sold out after about a month." The umbrellas were specifically designed for shoppers, featuring not only the mall's logo, but a shoulder carrying strap so patrons would be able to browse stores unencumbered.