Your Business's Legal Structure: What Is Right for You?
Harvey Mackler, Banking on Harvey
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

Thinking about leaving our present position and heading out on your own? Maybe you’ve already done that and your business has grown significantly over time and you’re wondering if you have enough legal protection. Whatever the case, the business needs a legal structure, even if it’s as a sole proprietor.

There are a number of structures available to you. The decision should be based on a number of criteria, including tax treatment, personal liability, and future flexibility. Please be very careful and consult an expert for detailed advice and state registration requirements. Here’s a brief overview.

The easiest is the sole proprietorship.You own the business and if you have not set a structure, by default you are a proprietorship. Your net income is reported on Schedule C of your 1040. Your earnings are taxed as ordinary income. In addition, you are required to pay the self-employment tax, which effectively increases your social security taxes. (If you are salaried in a company, then the employer pays the excess, in fact more than the excess you would pay.)

When operating as a sole proprietor, any liabilities by the proprietor are personal. That means that if someone is owed money, they can get a judgment against you personally. This also included product liability claims. Without question, this is the single biggest reason to look into other structures, even as a one-person independent contractor.

You can form a corporation, either a C or S Corp. That will shelter you from any personal liability. Of course, there may be some modest charges to set up the legal structure. The C Corp files corporate tax returns and pays income taxes at the corporate rates. Any money that you want to take from the C Corp (other than salary) is taxed as dividends. In theory, think of it as double taxation. You only have the after tax income to distribute, then you pay personal income taxes on the dividends.

The S Corp is a pass through from a tax perspective. It still must file a business tax return, however, the income passes through to the S Corp shareholders. The owner can be an employee which avoids the self-employment tax. (The company pays it and gets the deduction as a payroll expense.)

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Limited liability corporations (LLC’s) were created to allow small businesses to be structured as legal entities with all of the liability protection but the income tax treatment of S Corps.

There are other differences between S Corps and LLC’s as well. There is greater flexibility with the ownership of LLC’s in terms of numbers, citizenship, and other legal entities. For most of us, the differences do not apply.

S Corps are legal companies in the truest sense of the word. There have shareholders, shares, corporate bylaws, annual meetings, and officers. Shares can be sold without restrictions, either to existing or new shareholders.

LLC’s are more like a partnership. There is an operating agreement, member(s) in charge, and percent equity interests. It is more difficult to change ownership and typically there is a dissolution date. Death of a member may be cause for dissolution.

Each state (where you register your business) has different registration (and cost) structures. Also the requirements for various other payroll related costs (such as unemployment insurance, workers comp, and state disability insurance) vary.

There are other considerations. For example, if you rent space and want to purchase the facility, what if you need a financial partner? That would be a separate legal entity, and you can work with passive income for the real estate venture which avoids employment taxes and allows for valid expenses for the operating company.

Can you change? Suppose you operate as a proprietorship and realize you need better liability protection. That is the easiest to do, as you basically morph into the new entity. You can even select a similar name for the entity.

Changing between the others typically involves more work and definitely more expense. In the worst case, you can always allow the one entity to dissolve and start new. But sometimes that is not practical and you need to elect for the changes. In many instances it can be done, and you will need your accounting and/or legal advisers to assist you.

As a sole proprietorship it is easy to change to the new structure. Just prepare the right papers and start anew. Anything else requires the professionals. And there may be significant tax implications. The IRS publishes regulations on these changes.

Granted, this isn’t the most exciting business topic but is one that requires careful consideration so you and your family are legally protected.

Enough No-Doz? You can go back to selling now.

After graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvey Mackler enjoyed a 20-plus year career in commercial banking, exercising his “golden parachute” in 1996. He was executive vice president and COO of a commercial finance subsidiary in Manhattan and chairman of the Small Business Banking Unit of the American Banker’s Association. He has served on the board of the acclaimed George Street Playhouse in New Jersey and chair of the Easter Seal Society of New Jersey for two years, as well as a captain on his local emergency rescue squad. He acquired GWI Corp in February, 1997 and transformed it to focus on the supplier/distributor/end-user model, growing the company's sales by 500 percent. He is past chair of the SAAGNY Foundation, current Co-Chair of the PPAF EXPO and past Chair of the Supplier Committee of PPAI.

Content Creation: From Daydream to Reality
Part one of a two-part series. Aubrey Collins, Creative Challenges
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sponsored by American Apparel

This was the year. Your year. The year you unleashed your content upon the world. Well, more accurately, it was supposed to be. But something happened – or, rather, nothing happened.

Creating content seems so easy. Other people – friends, colleagues, competitors – are churning it out like crazy.

But every time you sit down to write, you spend an hour staring at a blank Word doc. Or you find yourself deep, deep in the rabbit hole of “research” – where you ultimately walk away with little actual customer data and an embarrassing amount of knowledge about your childhood best friend’s cousin’s wife’s mother’s yoga studio.

So, you finish your “writing session” with no writing to show for it and now have a new life regret that you don’t a yoga studio or live in Vermont. (I mean, seriously, that woman looks so happy.)

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Even professional writers get stuck staring at a blank screen, figuratively and literally. (And at least you have a renewed interest in yoga. Silver linings, my friend.)

While there are tons of tricks, tactics, and hacks you can employ to churn out copy like the best of them, Part Two of this series will dig into them.

Before we get there, you have to do the difficult-but-essential work of figuring out why you flopped. And then you get to do the not-as-difficult-and-some-might-say-fun work that will ensure it won’t happen again.

First, you need to look in the mirror. Oh, the dreaded look in the mirror. Difficult but necessary. Something is getting in the way of your content creation, and it isn’t just writer’s block.

Maybe you’re overanalyzing every idea come up with and are ultimately paralyzing your progress. Perhaps you aren’t analyzing anything at all and having trouble because everything you write lacks substance. Or maybe you’re waiting for ideas to just come to you with no strategy or plan.

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Once you figure out what is hanging you up and sort it out, there is another important yet often missed step. You need to make sure you’ve done enough research.

Research? But that’s what got you looking into purchasing a cabin in Vermont! Yes, it’s true that without precaution or care, research is the slipperiest of slopes that can take you from productivity into procrastination without any warning. But the right kind of research will arm you ample ideas to fill your content calendar for 2017 (and probably 2018 too).

When it comes to content and idea generation, the right kind of research is qualitative research. Qualitative research is exploratory research, and utilizing it can help you start to understand the reasons, opinions, and motivations for behaviors. To understand what you need to write, you need to understand what your audience wants (and needs) to read. Start talking to people on the frontline so you aren’t writing based on assumptions.

Talk to your customers about how they spend their days and what keeps them up at night. In doing so, you’ll uncover their pain points, and experiencing it all in their words will help to put you in their shoes, which will elevate your content.

Take the time to build relationships and spend more time with your prospects. It will help you will create content that shows how you are a differentiator. Content that showcases how you offer alternatives that others don’t. That highlights how you think about things differently.

When you take the time to learn about your prospects’ true journey, you’ll be able to personalize your content to satisfy their needs. Which will keep them coming back for more.

Aubrey Collins is the director of marketing and communications at MediaTree, a supplier of branded digital entertainment cards. She fell in love with the promotional products industry in 2011 at her first PPAI Expo. She shares her perspective on everything from the industry, what parenting continues to teach her about business, to what marketing campaigns make her cry on her blog. Connect with her on Twitter or email her

The Identity Collection - Calendars, Planners, and Diaries -
A collection of calendars, planners, and diaries to build your brand and fit your budget. Identity Marketing Staff, Identity Collection
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Word of the Week: Positive
Kirby Hasseman, Word of the Week
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sponsored by Warwick

Kirby Hasseman is the owner of Hasseman Marketing and the author of Delivering Marketing Joy (a book about better promo!) and his latest book Fan of Happy. He is dedicated to personal development and building the integrity of the promotional industry. He can be reached at
Has One Bad Apple Spoiled Your Promotional Bunch?
Sorry in advance for the earworm. Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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Product recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been as high as 10 percent of China’s monthly toy exports to the U.S., a fact that could affect the promotional products industry.
sponsored by Bay State

The Osmonds’ #1 song from the 70s suggests people should be given one more chance, and not judged simply by all the other bad “apples” out there. When it comes to judging fruits, though, apples do produce ethylene, their own gaseous ripening hormone, so it’s true that one bad apple can eventually spoil the whole bunch. And as it relates to promotional products, the selection of a single bad apple could end up spoiling one of your upcoming campaigns, as well.

We have talked here frequently about the importance of a transparent supply chain when it comes to safe and compliant promotional products. If you are sourcing and decorating brand name blank products, it is much easier to track the factory and country of origin. But what of the so-called “untraceable” imported goods in our industry? You may not have thought about it, but you buy untraceable domestic goods for yourself all the time. You buy Washington apples, or Florida oranges, but you don’t know if those apples came from farmer Dan or farmer Pete. You just know they came from somewhere in Washington. Apples from Washington, berries from Michigan, and oranges from Florida are all frequently consolidated from neighborhood farms and, because of that, unfortunately, farmer John may not worry quite as much about the quality of his fruit as his neighbor. Once they are consolidated, who’s going to know?

The same thing is true of the significant numbers of untraceable goods imported to the U.S. from China. Imports from China in some years have accounted for 60 percent of the apple juice sold in the U.S., more than 50 percent of the garlic, and 10 percent of the shrimp, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “Over the last decade,” say researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Chinese firms have exported toys, drywall, infant formula, toothpaste, cold medicines, blood thinners, pet food ingredients, and other products laced with lead, antifreeze, and other poisons.” Product recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been as high as 10 percent of China’s monthly toy exports to the U.S., a fact that could affect the promotional products industry. According to the Stanford researchers, “China accounts for a disproportionately large share of imports refused entry to the United States” by the FDA. In 2007, China accounted for 5.8 percent of all U.S. agricultural imports, but 8.6 percent of FDA refusals.

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The traditional thinking is that consolidating suppliers is the best way to encourage producers of unbranded goods to improve quality. But the Stanford research dismisses that idea, arguing that having fewer producers would lead to higher prices for consumers. The better option, researchers say, is government intervention, in the form of strong domestic regulations. China does have an FDA-equivalent, but recent history suggests that may not be the best solution. In 2007, the Chinese government actually executed the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration after authorities determined he’d taken bribes in exchange for approving products that had not been tested at all. A risky job, to say the least.

The challenge for product safety in the promotional products industry is one of constant change – new regulations and policies pop up literally daily. According to Joe Cade, vice president and legal counsel for BIC Graphic, and chairman of the QCA Compliance Committee, the number of suppliers with comprehensive compliance programs is relatively small. “We see a core group of 25 to 35 suppliers in our industry who are working very hard to develop and continuously improve their compliance programs. We hope that trend will continue. We have been seeing many states enact their own product safety laws and many more are under consideration. We see this continuing to grow over the next five to 10 years. This poses a challenge because there is very little consistency to follow.”

As a distributor interested in responsible sourcing, Cade offers the following advice, “I would try to develop a general understanding of the product safety laws that apply to the products I buy. There are some excellent resources in the industry that are free for the taking. The testing labs have some very good newsletters that track important developments in the product safety sector. Most importantly, though, I would work with suppliers that have strong compliance programs and who are experienced with addressing the requirements of major companies.”

How about you? Have you found a “bad apple” in the middle of one of your programs? You may want to dig all the way to the bottom of the barrel to make sure that each of the items traces back to a responsible supplier.

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for more than 35 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He recently retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. As a recovering end-user client, he can’t help but continue to consult Fortune 500 consumer brands on promo product safety when asked. You can also find him working as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, traveling the world with his lovely wife, or enjoying a cigar at his favorite local cigar shop. Follow Jeff on Twitter, or reach out to him at

Save the Date
Lisa Schofield, Product Feature
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75 percent of calendar recipients also report doing business with the company they received their calendar from and plan to do business with them again.
sponsored by Next Level Apparel

At this time of year (September), many businesses and families begin to look forward, to project. First comes the holiday season to plan for, and businesses begin to review successes and losses with an eye towards ending the year in an upswing.

And immediately following, as both families/individuals and businesses know, is a brand new shiny year replete with myriad possibilities, opportunities and obligations.

Sure, our electronic devices remind us what day it is, and many programs give us the current month in grid form, tiny as it may be. And sure, we can program our devices to remind us of meetings, appointments and special dates for fun.

However, a substantial majority still feel the need to have some sort of paper date reminder/calendar and/or diary. Very often, as we tend to write down a date/reminder, we also jot relevant little notes that may be cryptic to others but have full meaning to us. And, let us not leave out the doodlers who create unique works of art as they festoon their calendars with subconsciously driven glyphs.

Let’s look at some key facts provided by Bill Mahre of ADG Promo: 98 percent of people look at a calendar every day; 82 percent enjoy receiving a calendar, 80 percent remember the name of the company that gave them the calendar, 79 percent of all homes have at least one calendar, and the average home has three (this particular writer has two, plus a pocket calendar toted in a purse).

Innovative Sales Ideas

It shouldn’t be that difficult at this time of year to launch the concept of date reminders (calendars, diaries), but there are other creative ways you can present it to your clients that may seal the deal.

Phil Martin of Warwick Publishing notes that there are dozens of innovative and creative ways to use Warwick desk calendars. They are attractively and commonly used as a “Thank You” to customers and clients, but they are also often used as a “save the date,” a daily reminder of a service performed, or as a volunteer thank you. “Fundraising organizations and awareness programs are terrific candidates for desk calendars as they are inexpensive, easy to mail and they stay front and center every day, all year long, to keep your customer’s message top of mind. As a bonus, all Warwick desk calendars are paired with free mailing envelopes and there are no set-up charges.”

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According to Jerome Hoxton of Tru Art Advertising Calendars the most effective sales approach is to present the calendar you as a promo products distributor personally like best. This approach is easy, powerful and consistently produces orders.

He advises reviewing calendar lines and samples and pick the one calendar style you like best – and then understand why that product is your favorite: size, design, artwork, features, paper, finishing, packaging, etc., or any combination. This is the sample you present to your clients, as follows, say, “'I have something I think is very effective advertising and I’d like your (the buyer’s) opinion." The complete presentation is showing the sample and telling the customer why that calendar is your favorite! Because you are talking about and showing your favorite, your enthusiasm creates a presentation that is comfortable and very effective.”

Hoxton then believes afterwards, one of three things can happen: the customer will agree and buy the calendar presented – sale closed; the buyer agrees calendar attributes are beneficial for promotion but wants a different style or design – the right calendar is selected for that account and – sale closed; or even if the customer isn’t interested in calendars at that time, “the seed for calendar advertising is planted.”

Shelley Brown, MAS, MASI of SunGraphix emphasizes that pocket diaries and calendars provide what no other identity-product in the industry can – branded exposure every day, all year long. Further, the average person looks at his or her calendar about 10 times a day. Also, she asserts, many people actually wait for someone to give them a planner or calendar; if not, they will buy one. “What if you dug a little deeper and added custom content with an audience-focused message and images?” she offers. “This content would look different for every company; it could be product information, location information, maps, anything. What an amazing opportunity to share information and capture attention in such a convenient location.”

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Mahre advises to remember that print technologies have changed and improved dramatically over the last decade. “Those improvements have helped us make calendars and pocket planners personal. By adding a person’s name to the cover of a planner, adding custom wrap pages, we can take an ordinary planner and make it specific to any distributor’s clients’ business needs and personalize it for their top customers,” he comments.

In case a client balks because “everyone now relies on their digital devices today,” Joe Bunsness, MAS, of Hotline Products says that the reality is that printed calendars work synergistically with electronic calendars, allowing for more precise and reliable schedule planning for the year. It would behoove distributors, he says, to cite a recent industry study showing a full 33 percent of the respondents reported never using the calendar feature on their computers and/or phones. Also, he adds, calendars allow the client to reinforce and tie into its other promotional activities planned throughout the year.

Margit Fawbush of BIC Graphic observes that since people do rely on their smartphones and computers so much now, many are unsure if calendars are still relevant. “However,” she emphasizes, “calendar products are still very relevant in many settings – and many people still rely heavily on a planner. Organizational habits die hard. Calendars, planners and diaries are still very relevant.”

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There are many innovative options for calendars and planners that make this traditional product category more appealing, according to Amberlea Barnes of Drumline Calendars, which offers as she describes several trendy calendar and planner styles such as Drum-Line’s new “Color Your Calendar” with adult coloring patterns. She suggests, “Try personalized image planners with the recipient’s name creatively embedded in the cover photo. Completely custom wall calendars with your client’s photographs and special events on each month – these are available for orders as small as 100 pieces.”

Bunsness points out that studies show that 75% of calendar recipients can recall the name of the advertiser on their calendar and that 75 percent of calendar recipients also report doing business with the company they received their calendar from and plan to do business with them again.

He adds that distributors should remember the annuity factor for their own businesses. “Calendars will repeat year over year at a 70%+ repeat order rate,” he says. “A focus on calendar advertising gives the distributor sales rep sales revenue they can count on each year – you don’t start the new year at $0.”

What’s New (and Notable)

SunGraphix has three new products just launched. The Letts Principal planner in three colors in the 4" x 2 3/4" size, Brown describes, “is perfect for a pocket or a purse. It even has its own pencil tucked away in the spine, so no more scrambling to find some to write with.” SunGraphix’s new Blossom Collection planners and journals feature “soft luxurious covers in four striking colors with individual debossed designs; they are a perfect gift item that offers the option of creating a branded gift set of a planner and a journal,” she relates.

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Mahre reports that ADG has the ability to make every piece personal by adding the recipient’s name; this makes for a powerful “thank you” or as a recognition gift.

According to Martin, Warwick has several new calendar products this year, most that feature full-color digital printing. Warwick’s new Monthly Billboard Calendars are suitable for desk or wall, home and office; these offer full-color, edge-to-edge printing in two sizes (4 ¼” x 7” and 7” x 9”). Both feature a full month in view 13 month datepad. In addition, says Martin, full-color printing is also now available on six desk calendar styles. “Four-color process printed Desk Calendars can showcase new products, a new building, a personal photo or any full four-color process art and has low 150 piece minimums with no set-up charges, he explains.

There are several trends upswinging in this category. Fawbush reports that some of these trends include products that are interactive and unique, such as shaped calendars, special inks and coatings used to create powerful visual impact, customizable options as well as ones using technology in conjunction with a printed piece. “We offer a calendar that combines technology with imagery. Simply download the Pixaction app on our website and watch drone aerial footage come to life. How cool is that?” she says.

This year, HotLine Products, notes Bunsness, launched adult coloring books. HotLine’s product contains 32 pages of coloring book information along and useful tips about how to manage stress. HotLine offers two image themes and the availability to customize the cover both outside and inside – 1- to 4-color outside covers are included free, he notes.

“Coloring has therapeutic properties which can reduce stress and create focus,” Bunsness explains. “Similar to meditation, coloring gives the brain opportunity to switch from the stresses of the day to other thoughts and mindfulness. Any therapy or stress related business’ can benefit with this promotional item. Additionally, HR departments for most every business can utilize this product for employee well-being and increased productivity.”

Similarly, new from DrumLine, says Barnes, is the Color Your Calendars and Journals, which “tap into the adult coloring trend. Coloring has been shown to help relieve stress and anxiety, so we combine that benefit with organization and planning,” she remarks. “These are great for hospitals, senior care, rehabilitation, counseling, or human resources to promote health and well-being of employees.”

sponsored by Bay State

Also new from DrunLine are Easy Read Wall Calendars, which feature large-print numbers and holidays with room for notes. “As baby boomers age, demand for products targeted to seniors increases,” she observes. Easy Read Calendars, Barnes notes, are a suitable choice for banks, home healthcare, eye-care practices, assisted living facilities and other senior-living businesses or associations.

Now is an advantageous time to make a list of your current clients – and prospects – listing how a date reminder (calendar, journal, etc.) can fit into a successful promotional campaign for 2017.


Shelley Brown, MAS, MASI of SunGraphix: “One creative use of one of our planners is from a large equipment manufacturer. It created 80 custom pages to add to one of our best-selling planners, the Compact Planner. The pages describe its product line with written descriptions and images along with definitions of what to look for and performance measurements. The Compact Planner is pocket-size (4 5/16" x 2 13/16") and comes in a choice of two cover materials. This handy planner and custom reference guide is in the pocket of equipment professionals all across the nation.”

Bill Mahre of ADG Promo: “A local nursery/garden center wanted to increase local and seasonal traffic. Our Garden Retreat Stitched wall calendar was chosen, and was handed out in the store during the holiday season as well as was mailed to local customers. The calendar served as a constant 365-day reminder of the products and services available at the garden center from Mother’s Day flowers to Christmas trees. Custom date blocks were added for special sales events and seasonal savings. The Garden Center saw an almost 8 percent increase in store traffic over the previous year and had a record turnout at its fall event.”

Phil Martin of Warwick Publishing: “A regional chapter of the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) wanted to thank volunteers for their service. Volunteers save the organization well over $2 million a year. Gifts were given for years of service, but a Warwick Desk Calendar was given to every one of VNA’s more than 1,000 volunteers. This is the fourth year that a Warwick Desk Calendar has been given to volunteers, but the first time VNA ordered the four-color-process imprinting. This calendar stays in front of volunteers at their home as a daily reminder of the great service they perform and how much they are appreciated. The total cost for 1,800 calendars, and mailing costs for 1,400 was about $6,300 (including postage). The VNA feels this is a bargain considering the year-long goodwill it brings to the organization, and the knowledge that its “thank you” is in front of their volunteers every day.”

Amberlea Barnes of Drumline: “A wholesale optical lab mailed personalized wall calendars to clients for holiday gifts. It can be challenging to select budget-friendly gifts for professional clients, such as optometrists and physicians. A calendar that creatively featured the doctor’s name in each photo was a relatively inexpensive choice, but had added value because it was personalized. Everyone likes to see their names in print! Add a name to a useful calendar or planner, and your client is guaranteed year-round exposure.”

Jerome Hoxton of Tru Art Advertising Calendars: “A Midwest winery designed a gorgeous calendar featuring exceptional photography of its operation. The calendar is produced with top-grade papers, high-gloss coatings and deluxe finishing. Most unique is the overall content and presentation. Each month features one of its premier wines paired with foods that create a unique dining experience. The calendar is used as a promotion, distributed to customers, media and wine and food experts. The calendar also is sold as a retail item in a variety of gift shops, expanding market reach.”

Meet Your PPAI Distributor Board Member Candidates
A rebroadcast of PPAI's distributor board member candidate webinar. PPAI, PPAI Headquarters
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Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, our organizations and this industry.
Meet Your PPAI Supplier Board Member Candidates
A rebroadcast of PPAI's supplier board candidate webinar. PPAI, PPAI Headquarters
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Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, our organizations and this industry.
Col. Sanders Scented Sunscreen; Who Do You Follow, and more.
Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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sponsored by American Apparel

In this weekly “talk show” column, industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of brandivate discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

New from Industry Suppliers
Identity Marketing Staff, New Products
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

A variety of new candy and gift sets are available from Webb Company. More than 65 options are available, including gourmet chocolate and nuts, new candy fills, holiday candy colors and more.

This portable Leather Magnet Snap USB flash drive from Athena Promo has a clean upscale look that is sure to please our clients. It features Tier 1 grade A chips and free data loading up to 2GB. It is available in five colors (red, blue, black, white, and brown).

The TUMI Tegra-Lite Continental Carry-On, now available from Beacon Promotions, is a hard side four-wheel carry-on ideal for the frequent traveler. It is designed to see most domestic carriers’ carry-on guidelines and offers a roomy interior for several days of travel. Among the many technological and functional advancements is TMI’s patented X-Brace 45 handle system that adds structural rigidity to the case and prevents damage to the handle.

New Classy Double Panel Menu Covers from All Book Covers are 8 1/2" x 14" to provide more space for your hospitality food and beverage items to help them look bigger and better.

Corporate Casual or Traditional: How to Dress?
Kirby and Amy Hasseman, He Said, She Said
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sponsored by Identity Marketing

Kirby and Amy Hasseman have over 35 years of combined experience the promotional products industry. Together, they own and operate Hasseman Marketing out of Coshocton, OH (the birthplace of promotional advertising). Hasseman Marketing has four full time employees and six sales team members.
5 Steps to Attract New Clients with Facebook
Johnny Campbell, Campbell's Soup to Nuts
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sponsored by American Apparel

Johnny Campbell, DTM, AS, is a million dollar sales producer, hall of fame speaker and author. Johnny is CEO of Rise-Up and Win International, and the publisher of the Promotional Product Sales Confidential report. He is an expert at helping business professionals use LinkedIn and social selling to acquire, retain and recover lost customers. He can be reached at or
In the News
Prime Lime, Jetline Enhance Canadian Shipping Programs. Identity Marketing Staff, Business News
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sponsored by SunGraphix

Prime Lime, Jetline Enhance Canadian Shipping Programs
Prime Line® announced an enhanced Canadian shipping program for its Connecticut headquarters and a new program for its Jetline South Carolina facility. Distributors can read more about Prime’s Flexible Choice FOB Toronto Program here:

For Canada-bound orders shipping from Prime’s Connecticut headquarters, the Flexible Choice FOB Toronto Program enables distributors to save on freight and gives them the option to choose the courier when transporting an order from Prime’s hub in Mississauga, near the Toronto airport, to its final destination. Prime’s previous FOB Toronto program offered UPS as the only courier option.

For Canada-bound orders shipping from its Jetline facility in S.C, the company launched a new FOB Canada program that coincides with the introduction of Canadian pricing for the entire Jetline product line. As Prime’s value line, Jetline offers free 24-hour rush service on most items to U.S. and Canadian distributors. For more information on Jetline’s FOB Canada program, distributors should visit

“We’re focused every day on finding ways to make it easier for Canadian distributors to do business with Prime and Jetline,” said Jeff Lederer, President and CEO of Prime Line. “The beauty of our Flexible Choice program is that it gives our Canadian customers the ability to choose their preferred courier or to have their order picked up. Either way, it is likely to result in a savings on freight.”

Pro Towels Welcomes Anderson as Key Accounts Manager

The Pro Towels family of companies, including Pro Towels, Kanata Blanket Company and Superior, announced the addition of Sarabeth Anderson as key accounts manager, Western region. Based in Seattle, WA, Anderson most recently worked as vice president of sales at Logomark and, prior to that, as Northwest USA and Canadian sales manager for Bag Makers. Anderson was also a recipient of the 2013 PPB Rising Star Award.

9 Things To Know When Selling Decorated Apparel
Jennifer Cox, Needle Points
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Building your product awareness and your level of knowledge about the different apparel decoration methods, pricing and limits will help you sell orders that look great, meet the customers’ needs and keep them coming back for more.
sponsored by Warwick

Decorated apparel comprises the largest segment of the promotional products industry. If you are not selling much apparel with logos, you are missing out on a lot of business. I am surprised at how often we hear distributors say that they don’t sell apparel because they are unsure of how to do it successfully, or they are unsure how to handle getting the products decorated. Here are the top nine tips to know about selling decorated apparel:

1) Your clientele is not buying “apparel!” Customers are buying an end result that can be achieved through the use of decorated apparel. They have clothes at home. Find out what they are trying to accomplish with the decorated apparel. Presenting the right style(s) to help them make that happen becomes much more streamlined when you have identified their desired outcome.

2) People care about the clothes they are going to wear, yet care a bit less about the clothes they are going to give away. If you are selling to a customer who is going to be wearing the apparel, showing samples of the products is likely to help you close the sale. People like to see and feel the garments that they are considering. They have higher confidence in getting the sizes right. They see the quality of the fabric and the garment construction. If you are selling to a customer who is buying apparel for an event, or a situation where the apparel will be given away, they are a bit less personally invested in getting the apparel they want as they may be working with budget limits that move them to a lower quality garment. Remember – find out their “why” and keep that goal in mind as you make product suggestions.

3) You can hit nearly any price point they define. There are so many options now for creating decorated apparel. Small full-color custom art jobs to huge runs of single-color designs, and everything in between. Embroidery, screen printing, transfers, digital garment printing, sublimation, rhinestones, applique, laser on fabric – and even mixing these different applications – the options are endless. The conversation comes down to how many, how soon and how much. They may ask for the moon, most customers do. The secret is getting down to knowing the essentials, and then finding the right products and the right decoration processes to fulfill their needs within their budget and timeframe.

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4) Use size scale to estimate group orders. Scale refers to the ratio of quantities/per size – per DOZEN like items. Today, the scale for sportswear is 2-4-4-2. This means out of 12 people, approximately two will fit medium, four will take a large, four will take extra large and two will take 2XL. Scale does not yet reflect S or 3XL sizes. We generally have found them to be equal to .5-1 out of 14, so we use a modified scale that is 1-2-4-4-2-1, same as above plus one will need small, and one will need 3XL. It is always best to review this scale with your customer, especially for the small and 3XL sizes. He or she can usually easily identify the individuals who will require these sizes at the far ends of the spectrum, allowing you to project the correct amounts.

5) There are differences in the scope of available colors, depending on the method of decoration. Inks can be mixed to create an endless array of colors. If you are doing embroidery and applique, you are limited to the available thread and fabric color selections. There are hundreds of thread colors available, but the selection is not infinite like ink. Your embroidery professional will find the closest possible options for your customers.

6) Logos and designs can be placed just about anywhere. If we can get it on the embroidery machine, printer or heat press, we will do it. It is okay to get creative with placement ideas, as long as you do not make promises that your apparel decorator cannot keep. Let you customer know that you will see if the design can go there instead making a promise that can’t be fulfilled. And when you bring the job to your apparel decoration professional, be specific about where the design should be added. A “chest” logo is not nearly as specific as a “left chest” logo.

7) Design sizes matter. The cost of a screen printed design is not impacted by the size of the design. However, the size of an embroidered, appliqued or rhinestone design does impact the cost. Work with your apparel decoration professional to learn how to estimate pricing so that you can quote accurate price.

8) Find a selection of good apparel decoration professionals. There are talented contract apparel decoration professionals all over. But not all apparel decoration professional do contract work, meaning wholesale work. You need a good screen print professional and a good embroidery professional at least. If you need help finding a good contract embroidery professional, please feel free to contact me directly, as we have resources for you in nearly all 50 states.

9) Not all contract decoration professionals are created equal. Some printers have manual operations; others have automatic presses. Some embroidery shops have huge banks of multi-head embroidery machines. Some embroidery shops excel at decorating caps, others with jackets. When you align your apparel orders with the apparel decorator’s highest skill sets, you and your apparel decoration professionals will make the most of your partnership – and wind up with a very happy client.

Becoming proficient and profitable selling decorated apparel orders is possible. Building your product awareness and your level of knowledge about the different apparel decoration methods, pricing and limits will help you sell orders that look great, meet the customers’ needs and keep them coming back for more, year after year. Partnering with the most appropriate apparel decoration professionals by following these nine tips create a win-win situation that will benefit you for years to come.

Jennifer Cox is president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals. NNEP members receive personalized marketing consulting designed specifically for their business. To join NNEP today, visit, email Jennifer at, or call 800-866-7396.

In the News
American Apparel Explores Move, Sale; Chocolate Inn / Taylor & Grant Makes Donation. Identity Marketing Staff, Business News
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American Apparel Explores Move, Sale

After firing founder and CEO Dov Charney, American Apparel has been through a lot the past few years and according to several sources, the apparel retailer and wholesaler is exploring a move out of its long-time home in Los Angeles and a possible sale.

Sources note that it is considering a move to either North Carolina or Tennessee, which could save the company a significant amount of money. The company eliminated about 500 jobs this year and as California plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next four years, the move could result in significant labor savings as the minimum wage in those states hovers around $7.25.

The company also has hired an investment bank to explore a possible sale, reports. “As we have regularly communicated to employees, vendors and customers, we continuously evaluate strategic alternatives.” Any sale may be complicated due to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, under which former employees are suing for “wrongful termination, failure to pay overtime and retaliation for expressing concerns about working conditions and discrimination.”

sponsored by American Apparel

Chocolate Inn / Taylor & Grant Donates to Project Water 2016 Program

Chocolate Inn / Taylor & Grant provided mints and gum to Project Water, a non-profit initiative which helps distribute drinking water to the homeless throughout Toronto. “We are proud to contribute to such an essential initiative, we look forward to participating next year.” said Danielle Dawson, vice president of national accounts for Chocolate Inn / Taylor & Grant. In addition to providing water to the homeless, Project Water also provides the homeless with bags that feature essentials such as sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, gum, and mints which Chocolate Inn / Taylor & Grant gladly provided.

4imprint Named Top Place to Work

Great Place to Work® and Fortune® have named promotional products retailer 4imprint, Inc., one of the 10 Best Workplaces in Advertising & Marketing. This marks 4imprint’s second year on that list.

Goldstar Hires Azmitia

Goldstar announced the addition of Natalie Azmitia as the new Western regional sales manager. Natalie brings more than five years of industry experience and comes with a design and sales background. Prior to joining Goldstar, she was with a respectable supplier and Southern California distributor working alongside their SVP of marketing and vendor relations. She resides in Southern California and can be reached at or 818-359-5444.

How Capable Are You of Something Shameless?
Joel Schaffer, MAS, The Take Away
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The vast majority of distributors are more reactive than proactive.
sponsored by Next Level Apparel

Next month, September, is “Shameless Promotion Month” and it can be fun and capture a lot of attention for you and your clients.

If you are not familiar with Chase’s Calendar of Annual Events, you should be. It is the consolidated source of events, anniversaries, holidays, this day in history and an assortment of esoteric trivia. The morning weatherman who says, “Today is National Umbrella Day” has Chase’s to thank for that vital piece of information. Granted, if it is raining, that information is more relevant. But, what does National Umbrella Day do for your business? It may be a marketing opportunity for a client. Think of a dimensional mailing, think of event marketing in and around that date, think of employee appreciation. Chase’s is an annual book, but buying it just one time gives you a tracking of when an event is held, you can always “Google” that specific day in another year. The book retails for about $65 on Amazon, but is well worth the investment.

It is there… you will find “Shameless Promotion” week, day or month. In marketing, you can use this event to gain attention and a truly shameless promotion (with a wink of an eye) can do just that.

Advertising and promotional agencies perform annual account reviews. In most cases, along with that review, they present proactive concepts to help their clients reach brand goals, even if the client did not request it. My 48 years in our industry, and my experience as a distributor, gives me confidence to say that the vast majority of distributors are more reactive than proactive. They react to the specific needs, requests and activities their clients delineate over the course of a year. I’m pretty confident that most buyers overlook the creative force that a promotional products consultant and agency can be. They see us as product people in too many cases. To truly get a firm hold on your relationship, the more creative your input, the more important you become as a team member. I’d say that up to 99 percent of our distributors do not charge for creative services. It has long been a challenge to either get paid for our creativity or at least get recognized for our talents and value-added contributions done at “no charge.”

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The customer paradigm can be changed and the deliverable may be increased sales and a complete lock out of competitors. You can start by considering an annual review. A post-New Year’s visit or lunch is a perfect start to celebrate the new year, express gratitude and review the account. Trying to schedule such a meeting about six weeks in advance gives your client plenty of time to work it in.

Reviewing the account means looking back on the past year and making sure all is well and that your performance met the client’s expectations. You can bring your sales figures and discuss any issues there may have been. Try to elicit information as to the success or reception to the promotions you delivered. Success stories and case histories are invaluable to share. You may even elicit a referral or two.

Out of the office and sitting at lunch is the perfect environment to open a real dialog. Your other goal is to get your client to discuss the company’s plans and where your goods and services may be needed. So far it has been a review and an interview to seek assignments in a reactive way. If you have done a bit of homework, looked at your client’s business and related it to what you can see as creative opportunities with Chase’s Calendar in mind, you can now turn proactive. If you present enough creative and proactive ideas your client will quickly recognize how valuable an asset you are. Of course, not all ideas will be met with excitement and the green light. However, if your client wants you to work on just one idea, you have won.

The biggest companies already look at the calendar for promotional opportunities. About 15 years ago, I did four different promotions with a distributor and his client, one of the three largest banks in the U.S. Each promotion took advantage of a calendar holiday for a demographically determined group of depositors: Black History Month Promotion, Cinco De Mayo, Chinese New Year, Jewish New Year and St. Patrick’s Day. On a visit to the client with the distributor, I learned about programs it ran on Teacher’s Appreciation Day, Home Safety Week and more.

There are so very many appreciation days on the Chase Calendar you are bound to find one to fit most of your customers. I created a spread sheet and have used it in a seminar I have done over the years. The session was called “Calendar Daze.” (Download at Daze.ppsx) It is a Power Point presentation, but I have culled Chase (many years ago) and grouped events by application to our business. I arranged it by seasons, annual holidays and events. For each month, I group and identify appreciation events, healthcare events, corporate events, safety, silly, retail oriented and socially relevant. Again, if your client adopts just one of your proactive event marketing ideas, you are a big winner.

sponsored by American Apparel

Let’s put customers aside and talk about your business. January has customer service appreciation. Companies such as HBO have traditionally spent big bucks on thanking CSRs nationwide that field complaints about service, price, etc. How important are your suppliers’ CSRs? Very. So why not use that opportunity to say thank you with a card or gift and ensure even better service in the months ahead?

February is loaded with special event days and weeks and a good time to reach out to female employees and clients. March has “Companies That Care”… about what? Only a promotion can tell. April is customer loyalty month... can you help your clients build loyalty? Can you help your client’s employees relieve stress with a campaign on April 16... employee stress awareness day? I could go on and on, but space is limited.

I can only imagine the creative fun you can have and the applications you can make to your specific clients. If you put them all together in a proactive proposal and present them to your customer, you are a step closer to being recognized as a true marketing and promotional agency presenting proactive program concepts. Before I close, I do want to take a step back. The larger the client, the more probable such a presentation should be done in September/October. If a client loves a concept, but has not budgeted for it, you may have to wait a year. Larger companies budget in the autumn and begin to spend the assigned budgets in January.

The takeaway... get creative, get proactive and present your clients with unsolicited ideas – and use the calendar as a marketing tool.

Joel D. Schaffer, MAS is CEO and Founder of Soundline, LLC, the pioneering supplier to the promotional products industry of audio products. Joel has 48 years of promotional product industry experience and proudly heralds "I was a distributor." He has been on the advisory panel of the business and marketing department of St. John’s University in New York and is frequent speaker at Rutgers Graduate School of Business. He is an industry Advocate and has appeared before the American Bankers Association, American Marketing Association, National Premium Sales Executives, American Booksellers Association and several other major groups. He has been a management consultant to organizations such as The College Board and helped many suppliers enter this industry. He is a frequent contributor to PPB and Counselor Magazines. He has facilitated over 200 classes sharing his industry knowledge nationwide. He is known for his cutting humor and enthusiasm in presenting provocative and motivating programs. He is the only person to have received both the Marvin Spike Industry Lifetime Achievement Award (2002) and PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award (2011). He is a past director of PPAI and has chaired several PPAI committees and task forces. He is a past Chair of the SAAGNY Foundation, Past President of SAAGNY and a member of both the PPAI and SAAGNY Hall of Fame. He was cited by ASI as one of the 50 most influential people in the industry.

Word of the Week: Discipline
Kirby Hasseman, Word of the Week
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sponsored by SunGraphix

Kirby Hasseman is the owner of Hasseman Marketing and the author of Delivering Marketing Joy (a book about better promo!). He is dedicated to personal development and building the integrity of the promotional industry. He can be reached at

Promotional drinkware follows lifestyle trends. Lisa Schofield, Product Feature
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sponsored by Warwick

If forced, we can live without a bite for 24 hours and only feel a bit fatigued and of course, our stomach grumbling. But it is much more uncomfortable to not guzzle liquid for any long stretch. Thus the absolute need for drinking vessels.

Of course, society just loves to enjoy what we need to do to survive, not merely do it. This means morning beverages to kickstart, hydration bevs and smoothies during the day for health, often energy blasters to maintain physical and mental alertness, then post-work cocktails, wine or carbonated beverages during dinner, and post-dinner coffee, tea or… more spirits. And we require that each of these drinking habits also has its own vessel. Would you guzzle Sprite® in a Pilsner glass, or down your energy drink in a crystal wine goblet? Conversely, who would sip expensive champagne from a plastic cup or ceramic mug?

Drinkware is everywhere – and perfect for a wide variety of promotions.

According to Margit Fawbush of BIC Graphic, studies show hydration continues to be an important component of overall health and well-being. “Stylish, functional water bottles can help make the habit easier to maintain on the go,” she comments, noting that Cool Gear’s blog, The Cool Down, summarized the benefits of hydration in its blogpost, “How to Drink More Water.” Promotional products distributors, she adds, can use these benefit facts to support drinkware recommendations for a variety of industries and programs, such as employee wellness programs, health clubs, sports clubs/teams, education, healthcare and more.

Further, she notes that drinkware trends “evolve with lifestyle trends. It’s all about functional style – making hydration a part of the end-user’s daily routine while keeping it interesting and relevant. Drinkware is also carried as a badge of honor. A really sporty looking bottle shows your athletic side, while a particular brand on a tumbler shows your personal affiliation or interest.”

sponsored by Bay State

So many possibilities for drinkware sales, but merely mentioning a beverage vessel may not quite be enough. Ron Rosencrans of ProRose, observes that samples do indeed lead to orders in our industry. He advises to run an order for yourself in a drinkware item of your choice to give out on sales calls and meetings. “It doesn’t have to be an expensive item, just something that is useful and able to be left behind to further drive your message about what you can offer,” he remarks.

Rosencrans adds that most events your clients have involve some sort of food and beverage component. This is the opportunity to present the concept of customizing disposable cups and napkins so the client’s image and message are being presented to the target audience in a positive way.

Anna Ramos of Ceramic Source suggests getting more keenly creative with printing methods such as 3D, deep etch, and flock imprint. Think about creative shapes that make sense for the business, such as a hammer handle for construction companies, or vertebrae for chiropractors.

Each client has his or her own unique and different need when looking for drinkware, points out Cheryl Gallagher of Starline. For clients who want quality travel mugs and water bottles, distributors have been very successful participating in Starline’s Ice Challenge with their clients. This involved distributors filling Starline’s vacuum tumblers and water bottles with ice and sending them to their clients. Clients were then able to witness the ice taking between one and two whole days to melt, which would lead to many orders, Gallagher reports.

sponsored by American Apparel

Fawbush sees that getting into shape and regularly going to fitness and health centers have significantly increased consumption of protein shakes and supplement drinks, which “are all the rage as fitness trends continue to promote meal replacement drinks and post-workout hydration.” Here, she adds, drinkware with double opening lids – wide mouth for filling and smaller opening for drinking, or a single tumbler that works for hot and cold beverages are most suitable.

With brand understanding at an all-time high, packaging glassware in sets for that retail presence, and even focusing more on the aesthetics of the glassware packaging itself, is really emerging and growing,” observes Stan W. A. Dohan, MAS, MASI Allen Company/Color Craft Line®. “Retail names and real brands are where beverageware, drinkware, and hydration has shifted rapidly. This is why we have advanced and developed and continue to concentrate and focus so much on our blender bottle®, Camelbak®, Takeya® KORwater, PRODYNE and Boss brands.”

Distributors’ clients are seeking certain factors in drinkware, suppliers report. For example, Tabasky says that Bel Promo's clients love the company’s multi-color capabilities on ceramics and glassware. As requests kept increasing, he notes, Bel Promo now offers full color printing on ceramics and glass for only a 36-piece minimum.

Ceramic is heavy, Ramos says, and buyers say it also breaks and freight is high. But customers consider ceramic as somewhat high-end and sturdy, perfect for hot beverages.

Dohan relates that “Distributors continue to tell us that their best clients are increasingly sophisticated and brand/retail conscious demanding quality brand names.”

Meanwhile, Allen Company/Color Craft Line® has launched new drinkware, such as its new Takeya® brand of vacuum-insulated hydration bottles keep beverages cold for 24 hours and hot for 12. The company has also added “cool colors in the Blender Bottle® series as well as the cool, functional GoStak®, four nested containers that can be mixed and matched. Prodyne from our Housewares are the newest, most innovative fruit infusers on the market!”

The company, he points out, has “taken a deep dive into insulated drinkware.” Its Boss brands of 20- and 30-ounce stainless-steel vacuum insulated tumblers that are highly suitable for outdoor activities. Its CamelBak® Brands have grown to 14 styles of hydration bottles and packs with numerous vacuum insulated and filtration options. The packs are updated quarterly.

New this year for Starline are unique finishes such as a stone finish, and “the variety of colors fit with any promotion,” Gallagher promises. Starline also recently launched its new Arctix Vacuum Tumblers, a family of six different styles, including a 12-ounce, 3-in-1 Insulator – all stainless steel; 20-ounce in a stainless steel and a black matte finish and 30-ounce in stainless steel. “These are all very retail looking pieces,” she says.

CoolGear, according to Fawbush, offers a variety of portable drinkware options: Subzero Bottle (28-ounce), Mason Tumbler (16-ounce), Wine Glass with Lid (12-ounce), Aquaburst Bottle (20-ounce), Straightwall Pure Bottle (30-ounce), Shaker Bottle (24-ounce), Smoothie Tumbler (20-ounce), and Arise Wave (28-ounce).

Rosencrans reveals that ProRose’s “next generation will include a product line between single-use and high-end drinkware – kind of an inexpensive drinkware line that will be priced low but desirable enough to be taken home and used over and over again.”

So, let’s drink to increased sales of drinkware for creative promotions your clients will love!


Stan W. A. Dohan, MAS, MASI. Allen Company/ Color Craft Line®

Several years ago, distributors submitted quotes for a ‘$2 water bottle’ for a certain annual, extremely popular outdoor music festival. When many, many of the same RFQs arrived in a short time, we became aware of the end-user (festival) and use. Only a few distributors had the foresight (and maybe courage) at that time to understand the ‘customer base,’ primarily college kids travelling out of town to attend something that would be (to that point) one of the most enjoyable times of their lives. What was selected for corporate sponsor giveaway swag gifts and on-site retail sales ended up to be our most expensive CAMELBAK®option, the Double Wall Stainless Steel eddy™. The retail price on-site was $65 per piece. All 12,000 sold out on day 1. Two distributors were involved in these sales and still today are their largest orders of the year. The order has since increased to 25,000.

The Arsenal 17-oz. vacuum bottle from Bullet keeps drinks hot for five hours and cold for 15 hours. It has double-wall construction and a leak-proof locking cap.
This 17-oz. vessel from Glass America is double walled, copper vacuum insulated, and comes in a variety of colors.
Available from J. Charles, this stylish beer glass is designed for capturing the color, taste and aroma of good beer. Pour your favorite import or micro-brew and you're ready for a very personal indulgence.
Leprechaun Promotions now offers new RealColor 360° cups in 12-, 16-, 22- and 32-oz. sizes. They feature full high resolution 4-color process printing with full coverage; even the rim, is included. Cups are top rack dishwasher-safe and printed with FDA approved inks.
Put your brand directly in the hands of party-goers far and wide with this vibrant 5mm neoprene drink sleeve from Makana Line.
This open six pack cooler from Southern Plus has six separate compartments for cans or bottles, and a center compartment for an ice pack to keep them all cold for hours (ice pack not included).
The U.S.-made Soupreme from VisionUSA the perfect gift for use at the office or at home. Designed with function in mind, this mug features a bowl like base perfect for accommodating soup, salad, pasta, hot and cold beverages, cereal, ice cream, and much more.
Put your MUG on BamBams’ rug. These custom full-color printed drink coasters will be just what you need in the office, home or anywhere drinks are sat. "
The big one liter (33.8 ounces) German Mug from HowwUSA is U.S.-made and molded of clear, durable Styrene plastic. It is is recyclable, BPA free, FDA approved, and top rack dishwasher-safe.
From Webb Company, this 36-oz., clear, plastic carafe with a colored, flip-open, screw-on lid is a great way to serve up beverages and have them on hand in your refrigerator. BPA-free, the carafe is available with four lid colors.
Thanks for the Support; Self-fulfilling Prophecies; “Items”
Kirby Hasseman, Bill Petrie, UnScripted
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sponsored by Next Level Apparel

In this weekly “talk show” column, industry educators Kirby Hasseman of Hasseman Marketing and Bill Petrie of brandivate discuss a variety of hot­-button industry topics. Click on the graphic to hear their “UnScripted” conversation.

What's So Funny?
Mike Schenker, MAS, Uncommon Threads
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sponsored by Identity Marketing

A priest, a rabbi, and a nun walk into a bar, and the bartender says, “What is this, a joke?” I used to be funny. Then I grew up.

Seriously (as opposed to “funny”), there was a time when I could hold a room’s attention with my clever observations and witty repartee. What’s ironic is that, if there was a brick wall behind me, with some sort of logo on it, I ceased being funny.

But yeah… I was funny.

Or, at least, I thought I was. As the Trophy Wife pointed out to me years ago, I might not be as funny as I think I am. I don’t know, maybe she was kidding?

The thing of it is, humor is a very subjective thing. What you and I might find hysterical will make someone else simply cringe. I always found British sitcoms funny; some people can’t get past the accent. American shows that lean towards dramedy work for me now as they are a bit more highbrow and esoteric, and yet I still laugh when I see Dr. Sheldon Cooper in that ball pit on the episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” shouting “Bazinga!” Richard Pryor, Jonathan Winters, George Carlin, Robin Williams… all geniuses. Groucho? The king of them all.

If you’re a fan of Adam Sandler or Will Farrell, you might want to stop reading now. Some of my words might contain too many syllables. (Why do I fear I just lost half of my readership?)

What I did there was basic “insult humor.” I mocked those of you who might be fans of the lowbrow comedy of those two SNL veterans. Again: subjective. Clearly, the box office receipts for them prove that there is an audience for their brand of comedy. Who am I to judge?

Well, this is my column, so I guess it’s my right to judge. Get your own column if you disagree.

Here’s a somber bit of info I stole off the Internet (so therefore, it must be true): a recent study by the Gallup organization shows that we laugh significantly less on weekdays than we do on weekends. As it turns out, humor is serious business.

You may be asking yourself: what does this have to do with promotional products? I know that I’ve been asking myself that same question for the 45 minutes or so that I’ve been working on this column.

The fact is that this is a work in progress. I’m putting together a new educational session about humor in the workplace: what’s funny, what’s acceptable, what should never be said or done. I’m pretty sure that you can look at the behavior of the character of Michael Scott from the American version of “The Office” for a primer on completely inappropriate office behavior (ethnic humor, sexual humor, weight humor…).

That’s right – I’m getting my act together and taking it on the road. This session, along whatever else this excuse for a mind can come up with, is part of the new package of presentations and sessions I’ll be traveling around with… available for education sessions, keynote presentations, weddings, bar mitzvahs, interments – wherever there’s a crowd of three or more people, in need of enlightenment, insight, fashion tips, or directions to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts.

Now, let’s take a moment to discuss the Three Stooges, in any combination of the three Howard brothers along with Larry Fine (any of the “Joes” who followed were merely insults to us purists). And just by mentioning them, I am confident I lost the entire female readership of this column.

My apologies to the editors.

Mike Schenker, MAS, is a promotional industry veteran and member of the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) Hall of Fame. He can be reached at

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