Talk To Me
It's time for some real talk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,437,163 Americans died in 2009. While the CDC only has released preliminary data for 2010, the leading causes of death remain the same. Heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases comprise the top-three list, with strokes, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes rapidly gaining ground.
Until we live in a Utopian society where we remain untouched by life-threatening conditions, there will always be a need to find a cure, to spread awareness, to connect. In turn, Americans have built a diverse, multibillion dollar industry by volunteering their time and money to drive attention to important causes. We are all familiar with their efforts (e.g., runs, walks, corporate events). The media floods our television sets and Web browsers with breaking news. Friends saturate our inboxes with emails directing us to their personal fundraising page. Whether it's something close to our hearts, a sense of obligation or just plain guilt—we donate. After all, every dollar counts.
This presents a huge opportunity for the promotional products industry. For every event that takes place, there is a need for keepsakes and thank-you gifts for all parties involved. When it comes to giveaways, it is important for distributors to know their options. So, where is the best place to start?
Andrea Reid, sales manager for Ad Bands, Hot Springs, Ark., said awareness bracelets have carved a permanent niche in this market. Bracelets remain the top-selling item for the company, but workout bands are becoming popular as well.
"We have seen tremendous growth in our workout bands over the past few years," Reid observed. "These products are used to create awareness for healthy living and being active no matter where you are."
Reid mentioned another trend that is currently evolving: interactive products. Ad Bands recently perfected its ability to add QR codes and other data options to promote an enhanced experience for the wearer with the launch of QRC Bands. The QRC Bands can link to various applications including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other websites.
Aaron Bradley, sales and marketing director for American Greenwood, Chicago, is also finding success with an interactive product. "We are starting to see an increase this year in our Sprout Tyme line, which is seeded paper and seeded items. The growing/eco theme really ties in well with awareness promotions," he commented.
Bradley recommends the seeded paper items to distributors who need a more interactive piece to keep the message alive. "This way the end-user can keep the printed material the seeded paper comes with (bookmark or postcard) and plant the awareness shape to grow wildflowers," he explained.
Bradley recalled a particular promotion American Greenwood did for a distributor who was working with a large breast cancer awareness foundation.
"They were putting on a walk to show their support for the cause. We started out with a lot of spec samples so that the client could pick and choose. They ended up going with a seeded paper bookmark, a drawstring backpack and our awareness ribbon with pin," he said. "The artwork was very similar across all three products to increase synergy and visibility for the promotion."
Other products that are awareness favorites? Bradley noted the staying power of traditional items like lapel pins and ribbons. An awareness ribbon with a pin attachment is an inexpensive option and provides a highly visible, united front. "It really looks nice when everyone that is doing a walk has the same colored ribbon attached to them supporting their cause," Bradley remarked.
In regard to promotional giveaways, the final decision correlates with the end-user's budget. Lapel emblems fare well with family foundations, for example, but a big bank that is sponsoring a promotional walk might prefer high-end items such as mugs or bags. However, no matter the client, distributors must remember that this is a sensitive market.
"You never want to start a selling conversation in this category based on price. It needs to start off with the type of promotion they are doing, what point they want to get across," Bradley cautioned. "You want to get as much out of the way before you start talking about price. Let the end-user mention the word 'budget' before you do since the subject matter is so delicate."
Reid concurred. "Never lead with price. Always pay close attention to the cause and message and make a recommendation based on the needs of the organization," she instructed.
Bradley said it is common to see distributors misunderstand their potential clientele. He offered some final advice. "If you are doing a unisex walk, obviously you need to be pitching a unisex item like a lapel pin or ribbon. If it is an all-female walk or fundraising event, not only could the product be changed to be effective to the end-user, but the imprint as well," he concluded.