INTERNATIONAL CHESS MASTER Gary Kasparov’s loss to the computer Deep Blue in 1997 was a benchmark for computing. It was the first time a computer beat a reigning human world chess champion. At the time, Deep Blue was the 259th most powerful computer on earth. Today, the raw computing power of Deep Blue can be matched in almost any off-the-shelf personal computer.
Computer technology may be the most quickly advancing market, which means the wealth of computer-related promotional items is ever increasing.
For consumers and end-users, processing speed and capacity aren’t the only factors driving demand. Style and design come sharply into play. Consider the iPod explosion. “MP3 player” and “iPod” are almost synonymous in the United States, even though iPods are far from the cheapest or highest capacity music machines on the market. What iPod offers is sleek presentation and countless marketing dollars. Distributors can take advantage of Apple’s hard work.
“Anything iPod-related is selling,” said Daniel Oas, CEO of Calibre International, Irwindale, Calif. Calibre’s line includes a crank-powered flashlight that charges an iPod as well as speakers for MP3 players. Oas said both items are selling well. “I’d say, right now Apple is the hot thing,” he commented. Oas also noted the popularity of “smooth iPod white.” One item in Calibre International’s line is a USB-powered mood light, finished in sleek, white plastic.
Beyond design, the proper balance between utility and cost is key. Currently, Calibre International’s most popular tech item is a star-shaped USB hub which Oas said is successful, chiefly because it is inexpensive and works well. Harris Cohen, founder and president of All-In-One Manufacturing, San Diego, also stressed the importance of finding balance in tech promotions. “We’re at a crossroads,” he said. “You’ve got the promotional products business merging into the high-tech market and it’s a different game there because the items are not one-dollar pens.” All-In-One Manufacturing’s tech line focuses on high-end accessories, especially memory.
Cohen keeps a careful eye on trends and developments in technology. When Microsoft announced a feature called ReadyBoost as part of its new Windows Vista operating system, his company was poised to take full advantage of the capabilities. ReadyBoost allows a computer to treat a sufficiently fast USB flash drive almost the same way it would treat RAM. This enhances the computer’s performance. All-In-One Manufacturing responded by ensuring that its FileSafe line of flash memory drives was ReadyBoost-certified. “That’s a really big thing and we’ve been promoting that because it’s state-of-the-art,” said Cohen.
Promotional opportunities for flash drives will expand as prices continue to drop and capacity continues to increase. As Cohen said, in the future, “everyone will own one.” Flash drives could soon permeate educational institutions. One flash drive could easily hold every syllabus for every class a student takes over his or her entire educational career. Memory devices can also be used for personalized promotions. Cohen described campaigns in which flash drives were imprinted with a logo, a message and with each end-user’s name. Each drive could then be loaded with personalized marketing data for each specific end-user. Cohen is also working on sophisticated uses for the drives in medical and personal safety fields, but could not elaborate further at present.
Other soon-to-be ubiquitous items, according to Cohen, include Web cameras. Popular video sharing sites and Internet-chat services are making streaming video devices necessary computer accessories. Cohen said these are very good promotional items because they have the potential to sit on a desk for years.
Keeping up with technology may seem overwhelming to some distributors, but stretching boundaries is necessary, according to Oas. “You’ve got to try new things and give them a year or two.” Oas cited several items he added to his line, which had relatively few sales at first but which picked up after six or more months. Oas said customers want to see these items even if they are not quite ready to purchase them. “If you don’t show some interesting things, then they don’t think you’re on the cutting edge,” he said.
Finally, technology facilitates security-related products. “That’s the end-game,” said Cohen. “Without security, you’re just open to trouble if it falls into the wrong hands.” Security systems can be as advanced as thumb-print scanners or as simple as mechanical locks, but all serve to make the end-user more secure and increase confidence and excitement about a promotion. With these carefully planned moves, and by looking at current trends, any distributor can check-mate sales in the computer accessory market.