Parasols, Maraschino Cherries and Green Olives
Some mixed drinks stand out with ridiculous names, like “Jamaican Me Crazy” or “Sex on the Beach.” Others employ distinct and unusual ornaments, such as huge celery stalks, bright syrups or tiny paper umbrellas. These conventions likely started as a way for bartenders to brand their specialties, which was a good idea, but over time, hasn’t the luster faded a bit? Funny names and elaborate decorations are so common now that for a new drink to stand out, it would have to be called something like “Dreams of a Private-eye Mouse,” and be garnished with celery, fire and a tiny deerstalker hat.
Not to say it’s foolish to try for uniqueness, but staying competitive in the creative arms race has become difficult. Obviously, this is not a problem exclusive to cocktails. Many fields suffer from extreme creative competition, but certainly up there on the difficulty scale would be those who deal in drinkware itself. For every one mixed drink, there are dozens of possible containers, and each of those has multiple counterparts, similar in function but altered in style or design. Housing drinks, too, is a tiny piece of the drinkware spectrum, an enormous field that covers a broad range of human activity, from work to travel to play. If it’s difficult for the bartender to make an impression, in an arena that is much larger and more competitive, how is a promotional drinkware distributor to get by?
A basic component of standing out is being up on popular styles. Mike Merkin, regional sales manager for Bullet Line, Miami, pointed out some current visual trends. “You’re getting a more curvy look to pieces,” he said. “Some more hourglass-shaped designs, some more color-blended designs. … You get into an almost ‘retaily’ type of a look with the newer styles.”
Understanding the basics of style, however, is not enough to ensure a memorable promotion. Without proper focus, decorating efforts can go to waste. To capitalize on drinkware ornamentation, Anna Ramos, vice president of sales for Berney-Karp, Vernon, Calif., explained matching the design to the end-buyer can be effective. “We try to be direct on what the customer wants,” she said. “For a chiropractor, we do a vertebrae [mug], or we have a pink-ribbon handle for [breast] cancer. We have a double-handle [mug] if you’ve got people merging together or working together as a team.”
Though the benefits are obvious, matching the mug to the promotion doesn’t always have to be so literal. Ramos pointed out several of Berney-Karp’s more subtle and functional design features can be well-paired to marketing campaigns, like attaching carabiner-handle clips for a university promoting athletics or water bottles with mirror attachments for the opening of a new salon or spa.
The right crowd
Matching your promotion to its intended environment is critical. Ramos suggested matching the pink, rhinestoned products that Berney-Karp offers to primarily female demographics, and Merkin had recommendations for fitting drinkware into corporate environments. “We … have a couple of styles in the line that are more desktop-oriented, so they’re not necessarily made to sit in a cup holder, but it’s a covered container for the desktop,” he said, adding that office cleanliness/cost-saving programs (no messy, destructive spills on the keyboard) and green initiatives (saving on paper/plastic foam cups) were good applications for said products.
Ramos also mentioned more abstract ways to pair a promotion with a client’s needs, either with popular ideas like USA-made products or adapting to budget restrictions. She gave the example of glitter-imprinting versus Berney-Karp’s more expensive rhinestone embellishments. “You can just put [glitter] on an everyday mug, and it can be a very inexpensive way to bring a value to your piece.”
Besides visual embellishments, standing out via touch is another avenue for drinkware to establish a distinct identity. Ramos mentioned a 3-D imprinting that Berney-Karp offers which works similarly to embossing, creating an image that the end-user can actually feel while holding the mug, as opposed to the normal one- or four-color flat imprints.
Along with a distinct feel, Merkin highlighted the importance of physical toughness. “We’re using the heavy-gauge steels with our steel mugs and the heavy-gauge aluminums,” said Merkin. “That’s one of the things you want to make sure of with the drinkware, because you can put two items up against each other that look exactly alike, yet, if the item is made with a thinner-gauge steel, it’s going to dent easier, you can almost squeeze it and dent it with your hand,” he said. Merkin also recommended knowing the quality of any stainless-steel products, as they may actually contain imperfections that will cause the product to rust, and making sure all drinkware is tested for lead and other contaminants.