In Need of Some Retail Therapy
Here's a fashion tip for those out there who consider themselves slightly challenged (or just completely uninterested!) in the style department: trends generally operate on a 20-year cycle. So in case you happened to be looking around, wondering why the youth are suddenly dressing like they just walked out of a Seattle garage circa 1994? Well, now you know. Everything from 20 years ago is now back to haunt us. Doesn't it just make you want to buy yourself some flannel, bust out those grunge albums and work up some angst? No? Ok.
Luckily, keeping up with the style zeitgeist isn't the only way to create wearable promotions that will actually be worn. By people. Outside their homes. The key is taking the cue from our retail counterparts—choosing accessible trends, recognizable names, and fabrications with added oomph—that will bring your promotion out of the back of the closet and into the light.
And the best part? There's no 20-year cycle to worry about. You can put these suggestions to use right here … right now (Hey! It's your tomorrow!).
1) Choose your trends wisely
We didn't say fashion-forward promotions were entirely out of the equation, did we? But according to Rachel Newman, director of marketing and sales for Hanes Branded Printwear, it does help to broaden your view on what's in to keep a promotion in rotation longer. "We incorporate fashion trends at a macro level so distributors have confidence in putting them in ongoing programs," she said. For example, as we mentioned, '90s-style flannel has come back around again this year. A distributor can take elements that characterize the look—button-down styling, softer fabrications, plaid patterns—and easily use them to give a promotion a more current feel. As Shelley Renning, general merchandise manager at SanMar noted, "We always try to be trend right, which doesn't necessarily mean fashion-forward." Incorporating key style details can help achieve that goal.
The promotional products industry is full of brand names that already have a strong foothold in the retail sector. While it might cost a little more on the front end, it could go a long way to ensure a piece gets the reach clients want.
"Our customers genuinely like us and they trust us … that reputation is a huge asset for suppliers," noted Newman. The recognizability is invaluable from a marketing standpoint as well. If a company is giving away a polo shirt that a consumer would buy themselves, it instantly adds to the perceived level of quality of a promotion.
Renning, whose company SanMar works with such retail heavyweights as Eddie Bauer and Fruit of the Loom, reported, "Having a logo on an unadorned polo shirt is one thing, but showcasing your logo on a Nike branded polo … adds a level of appreciation that consumers understand."
And the relationship is certainly symbiotic, Renning continued. As retail brands begin to reach the ceiling in the consumer world, the promotional products industry allows them to gain access to a whole new demographic. It's a win-win.
3) Adjust accordingly.
But not just any article of clothing is meant to be a solid promotion. Both Renning and Newman detailed a few ways to ensure retail designs have a strong marketing game:
• Logo placement: It seems counterintuitive, but taking the emphasis off the logo ups the wearability of a promotion. "We are seeing more tonal logos being used and updated placement consideration ... as different ways of showcasing logos," Renning noted. Spots that deserve a second look: back of the neck, on a sleeve, at the hem or underneath the collar.
• Gender-specific styles: The industry on the whole has made huge strides toward promotional apparel that avoids the one-size-fits-all trap, but it always bears repeating: "Women often drive the buying decisions, so fit and design are key to ensuring that the apparel is a want-to-wear versus a have-to-wear item," Renning said. Neckline differentiation, a brighter color palette and a closer fit are three features to look at when deciding on an apparel program that can appeal to a variety of end-users.
• High-tech fabrications: According to Newman, "New styles and fabrications are introduced every year. Clients may start with a basic option not realizing that their budget or use may be better matched with a higher-end shirt." Staying abreast of the latest technologies can help with an upsell, and even more importantly, ensure it provides true value to the end-user, she concluded.