The Year of the Straw

by Taylor Borst , Taylor’s Take (From

While opinions fall all over the board, there’s no doubt that they’re selling well and selling fast, so going all in on them can be financially rewarding from a sales perspective. Whether you love them or hate them, you’re missing an opportunity if you ignore this fact. Over the past few months, I’ve heard some doubt and confusion surrounding the trend and can’t get the negativity out of my mind. Yes, at face value, straws seem like a weird trend that popped out of nowhere. However, if we take a step back, we can get a better look at what’s really going on here: changing behavior and reducing waste.

Straws are not the solution to our problems – they are the catalyst for change.

Straws are our gateway drug to bigger, better solutions that can help reverse negative impact on the planet. The movement is fueled by optimism for a brighter, cleaner, more hopeful future.

One of the main criticisms of this movement is that in the grand scheme of things, reusable and paper straws don’t actually save much plastic. The truth is…they’re right. According to National Geographic, plastic straws only make up about 0.025% of the plastic that flows into the ocean every year. While cutting back any amount of pollution is wonderful, this will not single-handedly save our planet.

And that’s the point. The straw is a stepping stone, slowly training us to be more thoughtful in our consumption. As a society, if we can learn to take baby steps and prove that changing simple behaviors can lead to bigger lifestyle changes, our goal suddenly becomes more attainable.

Reducing single-use plastic is the overarching trend.

Straws are a narrow category, and it’s easy to get tunnel vision. However, there’s an overarching trend happening and it’s the movement toward fewer single-use plastic options. With several cities and states banning or planning to ban single-use plastic products, our focus for the future has to expand beyond straws. Our industry has been under scrutiny in the past for increasing waste and pollution, but that doesn’t need to be our narrative.

The phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” was intentionally written in that order. First, we must reduce the need for single-use plastic, then reuse a product repeatedly before finally recycling the materials. So often, when our industry hears the request for an “eco-friendly” option, we jump straight to products made with recycled material. While this certainly isn’t a bad thing, we’re completely missing the first two steps. On top of that, there’s a 4th “R” gaining traction that our industry needs to be prepared for- “Refuse.”  The push to “refuse” single-use plastic and seek alternative options, such as glass and stainless steel.

I’m not going to pretend to ignore the fact that our industry might have a negative reaction to the words “refuse,” “reduce” and “reuse”. Often, our livelihood is based on consumers ordering much and often. However, if Amazon and other online commodity sellers continue to encroach on our market, our strategy needs to change. The future will likely depend less on commodity sales and more on consultative marketing and creative problem-solving. Providing quality solutions that align with your customers’ goals and mission will only increase in value.

What this all could indicate is that by increasing our focus on socially-conscious practices, sustainable products and intentional consulting, we can advance our sales and the environment at the same time.

The straw is certainly enjoying its time in the spotlight, but it’s not just a standalone fad that’s here today and gone tomorrow. Straw sales will begin to wane eventually, but this is the tipping point that will increase and normalize the thoughtful approach to consumerism – and cut down on single-use plastic. If we prepare for the change ahead, our industry can make the proper adjustments to prosper in a time of increased social consciousness.

Taylor Borst is head of communications and public relations for American Solutions for Business. Joining the print and promo industry in 2015, she specializes in social media, promotional products, and supplier relations. Taylor is currently a Sous Chef with PromoKitchen, on the Networking Committee for PPAI SPARK and is an advocate for education and youth involvement in the industry. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn

The Logo Design and Branding Trends of 2019

By Joseph Myers for Promo Marketing

Psychologists and other experts frequently tell us that there exists no one way to live a good life, and, as more research emerges, trend followers are reporting that the same principle applies to logo design and branding pursuits. Through the Logo Lounge’s 2019 Logo Trend Report, businesses and prospective entrepreneurs can enjoy an immersive look at the creative means that their actual and possible peers are using to excel.

Issued on May 30, the analysis by Logo Lounge founder Bill Gardner is long on insightful observations and visual reflections on what comprises companies’ creative efforts, with his poetic prose giving ample evidence to back the report’s point that “Modern culture continues to shift the ways we interpret symbols and how we visually prioritize in context, setting topsy-turvy the relationship between identity and application.”

With so much pressure, both self-produced and industry-created, to stand out, which marks are people using to mark themselves as icons in their respective fields? Gardner answers that by addressing 15 logo design preferences, offering four examples for each.

Have you checked out this year’s Logo Trend Report yet?! The 2019 Logo Trend Report is HERE with some of the best categories yet. Check it out!

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A seasoned pro could inspect the representations and maybe find at least 15 more themes that businesses have been using in 2019, such is the plethora of concepts out there. In terms of what Gardner tackles in Logo Lounge’s  17th examination, we want to devote some space to two trends that might seem as if they are opposites in a way—namely, holes and periods—to tap into the psychology of companies’ decisions.

For the former, the writer posits that “These fields were not designed to hide but to illustrate for the consumer an incompleteness that only they can solve.” What an explanation! By relying on open expanses in their logos, according to Gardner, enterprises are rejoicing in the idea of being incomplete and serving as some sort of puzzle through which consumers can find themselves. That might be an overly cerebral explanation for many end-users, but through it, the Logo Lounge founder is reaffirming the belief, through a design, that we do not need to have all the answers to enjoy something—in this case, a visual lure.

Much like with color psychology, a topic that we have devoted time to, shape analysis can prove a riveting experiment. Four sections after covering holes, Gardner gives periods some play, and while those punctuation marks give off a definitive feel, he lucidly offers that their numerous uses show that “It’s the designer that flips the significance of a word or a name by considering the period outside of traditional context that sharpens the wit of the conversation.” That’s another intelligent way of saying that well-chosen logos and brand identifiers invite observers to find personal meaning in their repeated interactions with a brand. While nothing is wrong with coming to a concise conclusion about what a logo means to someone, that variable feel seems to be what companies are going for in 2019.

Other design sensibilities in the report include orphan shadows, zip tone, gradient breaks, Morse shade (described as “a concentric string of hyper-effective dots and dashes”), wings and doors, among others. What are your takes on the 15 represented design possibilities? You can check them all out—with visual examples of each—here.

Joseph Myers

Joseph Myers is Associate Content Editor for Promo Marketing and Print+Promo.

Walmart Is Ditching the Blue Vests in Favor of Uniform Choices

Brendan Menapace for Promo Marketing

Cheers! Bar & Restaurant Promotions

Promo Journal 5/30/2019
Lisa Schofield, Product Feature

With over 600,000 restaurants and 62,000 bars in the US, the competition can be fierce, points out Gwen Brey of Beacon Promotions.  Food and drink sales reached over $745 billion and are still growing. There are approximately 15 million people working in bars and restaurants nationally. “Therefore, items like magnets that can be used on the refrigerator are a constant reminder of the venue,” she comments. “These items can be printed with a phone number for easy access and a website with menus, events, etc.  It’s a constant reminder of the good time the customer had at the venue or event.”

Jake Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing for Webb Collection reminds us to not forget about the companies that supply the bars and restaurants, as a large number of his company’s promotional products are sold to the beer/wine/spirits distributors and not directly to the bars and restaurants. “I see some of the minimums in the industry as a deterrent to the single restaurant entities,” he remarks. “The actual breweries, wineries, and distilleries are looking to promote their product both to the retailers as well as the consumer — so having an effective ad campaign can do wonders to increase sales. Gifts with purchase and sign up to win campaigns are popular for consumers. Also, our products are commonly used as incentives and gifts for retailers.”

More than ever, says Lindsey Farm, marketing coordinator, Best Promotions USA, eateries and bars are trying to create memorable experiences by hosting events such as bands, partnering with other businesses for value-added exposure, holding competitions such as trivia nights, sponsoring a local sports team and much more. These events are meant to raise awareness and increase patronage. There are many fun and inexpensive items that the establishment can give away here – and also sell T-shirts, caps and tank tops, too.

Also seeing this trend is Carrie Lewis, marketing/communications manager for BIC Graphic, who observes that increasingly, more bars and restaurants are hosting events like tasting dinners and street fairs (in conjunction with local tourism and municipality organizations) as consumer trends shift toward experiential spending. “Every special event is another opportunity for promotional items to enhance the occasion,” she emphasizes. “Additionally, many such events are sponsored by local companies or food/beverage suppliers – so a promo sponsorship can be built in without added cost to the hosting establishment.”

As far as some hot trends, Lewis reports that eco-friendly promotions, driven by the resistance to single-use plastic, are popular in the food and beverage industry right now. “Silicone, plastic or metal options are memorable eco-conscious giveaways, and fully imprinted paper straws are great for everyday use by customers.”

A rapidly growing trend is food delivery apps/services such as GrubHub and DoorDash. These are welcome by establishments that do not have delivery on their menus, and when they do join the service, this is a great opportunity to include “classic and effective promos like pens that can help restaurants spread the word about new delivery services and remind people they can still have their favorites when they don’t feel like going out,” suggests Lewis.

As can be imagined, competition for tummy-filling (and the attendant dollars) is fierce in areas like downtowns or on busy highways. Good news is that we need to eat daily and if we’re busy and on the move, we enter a bar or restaurant. “Competition is fierce in the bar/restaurant industry and anything they can do to set themselves apart and encourage people to try them out and come back is crucial,” Farm underscores. “Investing in promotional items helps to increase their reach and acts as a reminder of the great times had.”

There are solid reasons for your local eatery or bar to invest in promotional items to create a buzz, establish loyalty and position their brands.

“Promotional items should be part of the larger mix to attract and keep patrons – good food, service, atmosphere, are all part of the mix,” states Ron Rosencrans, CAS, president, ProRose Inc. “If a diner leaves the establishment after a good meal or enjoyable evening, and has a souvenir cup in their hand they will remember the experience and it will be an easy decision the next time they are choosing locations for their night out. It also won’t hurt to have that cup being used and viewed at home day after day.”

In Lewis’ viewpoint, people who love a restaurant or bar are great promoters because they want to share their favorite places with their family, friends and even co-workers. As such, promotional products will remind them of good times they’ve had at these establishments, and prompt others to ask these loyal brand ambassadors why they should spend money with those businesses.

Josette Bosse of Bay State points to Americanna’s Cork Coasters as big sellers for restaurants/breweries and wineries. For example, the Barrel Cork Coaster provides a protective barrier against water rings and scratches, and it is both absorbent and durable. People like to collect coasters and this one, says Bosse, will be a constant reminder of your customer’s bar when taken home!

Peterson has an interesting take that can be used to persuade your bar/restaurant clients to engage in effective promotions: “People will not always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. A gift, a drink special, a food discount will invoke a feeling in any customer. Consumers want to be impressed or feel like they are getting a good deal or are getting more for less. Promotional products are a great tool to take any campaign to the next level. Offering a creative, decorative, tangible item will enhance the experience and keep the bar/restaurant top of mind.”

As the number of food and drink events grow – including food festivals, restaurant weeks and pub crawls – attendees will be spending quite a bit of money to sample. Promotional products distributors can seek out the organizers as well as the participants.

For example, Beacon Promotions, says Brey, can produce banners that can be used for sponsorships and events. “We can provide name badges for event staff. We can also provide the coasters, bottle openers, loyalty discount cards, and a variety of other items that can be tied into a theme.”

Rosencrans advises to realize that these events are planned early, so contact the organizers of the event early as well. Ask if there is a theme, what it is, the timing, the locations, the participants, how they are marketing it. “The organizers will have their hands full with planning and implementing, so if a distributor can offer to handle the promotional aspects of the event it will be received well,” he comments. “Put together themes and ideas and present to all of the bars and restaurants in the area.  If you are able to sign up a few locations it will be hard for the others to say no and be left out. You can sell anything from bottle openers to T-shirts, and event-themed drinking vessels that can be used at all participating locations, etc. There’s a lot here.”“The great thing about the popularity of food tourism events is that there is something for everyone, so the opportunity for promo is huge,” Lewis emphasizes. “These food and drink events run from high-end foodie events to casual pub crawls or food truck festivals. High-end events may have tiered tickets, so promos could have a place as an added incentive to purchase a more expensive access ticket,” she explains. “Something like an espresso set makes a great add-on to a VIP ticket package.”

For festivals that emphasize local breweries or wineries, says Rosencrans, logoed cups that are built into the cost of the drink and given away are very popular, as patrons love to get something they can bring home. “Sampling and tasting cups are a very strong category for ProRose. Typically, patrons visit many vendors at a brewfest, and they will want small tastings of many different brands.  Our 5-oz mugs, tasters, samplers are all great for these events, and distributors can offer them as an inexpensive product that distributors can sell,” he says.

BEST Promotions also supplies drinkware items and accessories, including the Slap Wrap drink coolie, which is now available in both round and oval shapes, Farm reports. At a lower price point, she notes, standard drink coolies can make a bold statement, offering a variety of shapes/sizes, full-color imprinting and can even be upgraded with rhinestones and spangles. “Drinkware products make for great items available for purchase or a raffle type giveaway at any food and drink festival or for themed nights at restaurants. Also, a full-color metal bottle opener is an eye-catching item that can be used by a bar or given away at an event.”

Webb Company, says Peterson, provides an assortment of bottle openers, corkscrews, and coasters, perfect for bars.  Because most of these items are relatively inexpensive, he emphasizes, they are a great starting point that can lead to more expensive items on future orders. “They are useful, light-weight and easy to carry, which consumers appreciate if they are expected to take them home with them.”

Also, don’t forget to ask about logoed table covers as well as staff apparel and aprons.

Remember, everyone loves to dine out. From festivals to high-end restaurants, to beachside bars and everything in between, there is a full-plate of promotional opportunities!CASE STUDIES
Ron Rosencrans, CAS, president, ProRose Inc.: “A microbrewery/restaurant was introducing their new summer ale and wanted to give away cups that would show their product and logo. They chose the ProRose 16-oz and 24-oz ProWare cups. Made of crystal clear unbreakable Tritan and printed in full-color graphics, these cups did the job and their customers were thrilled to be able to order the summer brew and get a cup to take home. Several re-orders followed throughout the summer.”

Gwen Brey of Beacon Promotions: “A local bar was planning an Octoberfest event and worked with the local brewery; the two businesses co-sponsored the event. The event was held at the bar, but the brewery had a trailer, with kegs of their beer, in the parking lot. The staffing for the event included employees from both businesses. They had full-color banners printed with their logos. They also ordered name badges since the staff didn’t know everyone working. They also gave out a co-branded Bottle Opener (#HW53BO-4CP) to anyone who ordered a beer from the brewery. The bar and brewery are already making plans for next year’s event.”

Lindsey Farm, marketing coordinator, Best Promotions USA: “A bar was hosting a band and with each cover charge purchased, the customer was given a themed Slap Wrap with both an image of the band along with the bar’s logo imprinted on it. Customers used this around their beverages purchased that night and being a Slap Wrap, it fit around any drink including cans and bottles. Because the Slap Wraps included an image of a band customers enjoy and are useful items, they were taken home and continued to be used, increasing the bar’s exposure to potential new customers and serving as a reminder of a great time had by attendees.”

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Promo for the beach and beyond.
5/14/2019 | Lisa Schofield, Product Feature for PromoCorner

The most anticipated of the four seasons, summer, is (almost) here! Even if you and your clients are in the nation’s great heartland, they can still indulge in water-themed promotions – it doesn’t have to be strictly “beach.”

And there are many opportunities – both obvious and not-so-obvious.

Although the most obvious opportunities are “beach” themed events/promotions or events that are held near the water, says Aaron Bradley, national sales manager, TerryTown, “we also deal with a lot of destination-type projects and gift ideas where a group of people are flying to a luxurious resort and the beach towel acts as a memento from their trip.”

Shawn Kanak, CAS, vice president of sales, Towel Specialties suggests that if you mention beach towels and the prospect or client hesitates, simply ask the person, “How long have you had your favorite beach towels at home?” His sales team began asking this question in 2001 and found that the top answer and most popular by average: 15-20 years.

Kanak relates that despite that, “we are often asked by distributors, ‘My client loved their towels and I don’t understand why I don’t sell more beach towels?’” Because, he emphasizes, many are also used as employee recognition gifts. “Because we only think of beach towels for off-site destination meetings near water. However, 80% of everything that we ship goes into the city…to a desk…into a cubicle, where we can make an employee feel special.”

Summer is the best season to target travelers, and adventure travel is on the rise, observes Carrie Lewis, marketing communications manager, BIC Graphic. “An imprinted Osprey® Slingpack makes for a great travel bag because you don’t have to remove it to access the contents, and it has features that keep the user’s back cool while wearing it,” she suggests.

Sunny seasonal campaigns, she adds, may include unique items that also extend the good times. For example, having music along for the party is always a good idea, therefore, a Bluetooth® speaker such as the Jamoji® LOL will work as an incentive or company store item, or a giveaway with a certain number or amount of purchase or service use.

In agreement is Gwen Brey of Beacon Promotions, who says, “While soaking up the sun, end-users can enjoy listening to music on our Bose, Jensen or Sony speakers, earbuds or headphones. Or, they can look really cool in a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. Don’t forget a Stanley cooler to pack beverages or a Stanley mug or tumbler that keeps drinks cold for about 9-13 hours or 40 hours iced. Grilling is also popular at the beach or pool – portable Weber grills are great products as well. While not everyone has a large budget for corporate gift items, bottle openers or reusable totes are inexpensive, but useful items at the beach and pool too.”

Summer-use items, she says, “are great items for companies that deal with outdoor living spaces – pool installation and cleaning companies, landscaping or decking companies. After finishing a project for a client, they can leave the item behind as a thank you. Casinos also use these corporate gift products as incentives for the members. They can also be used as door prizes at company picnics, grand openings or anniversary celebrations.”

Webb Company, says Jake Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing, offers a wide array of products that are perfect summer/beach/pool accessories. Although promotional sunscreens, for example, are the obvious, “what many distributors don’t know is we have a ‘Fun in The Sun’ bundle that makes a great gift, no matter where the end user relaxes.” This kit includes sunscreen, aloe vera gel, colored sunglasses, USA-Made lip balm and insect repellent, all packaged in a white, satin, mesh gift bag with a bow. And of course, “don’t forget the cooling towel and drinkware!”

Umbrellas are also an opportunity for beach adventures. According to Charity Gibson, national account coordinator at Peerless, “many people think of umbrellas as protection from the rain, but at Peerless we are about helping people play outside, and that means products that help keep you dry and provide shade. Beach umbrellas provide valuable protection from the sun and increase your ability to enjoy the great outdoors.” And to ensure you stay powered up while enjoying the surf and sand, there is the Solar USB Market umbrella that’s great for rentals, resorts and other outdoor events.

Every summer brings its trends – blockbuster summer movies, novelty pop songs or dances, new summer cocktails or foods. So think of products that help promote or reflect these trends that will become fun, fond memories of the “Summer of 2019.”

For example, according to Lewis, technology that can withstand the water and sand that often come along with fun in the sun are trending, “especially portable audio via compact and stylish Bluetooth® audio like Marley No bounds Portable Bluetooth Speaker®, which is IP67 rated and even floats.”

Also, she adds, “It may be hard to believe, but fanny packs are back! Try one with an attached Koozie® can kooler for an attention-grabbing promo. There are also more sophisticated options now like the Jaxon Fanny Pack with leatherette accents.”

Iconic fun, such as frisbees and beach balls will be highly appreciated. BIC Graphic’s Beach Ball is an obvious summer promo, Lewis says, “but it can be a fun addition to more than just beach campaigns. Summer festivals, concerts, and even tailgate parties before these shows are a great place for brands to be seen bouncing through the crowd on a fun takeaway.”

Bradley points out that Terrytown’s Subli-Plush Beach Towel, is a popular item because it’s the only dye-sublimated towel in the industry that’s offered with different colors of cotton on the back side (other than white),which, he states, compliments the full-color imprinting on the front side.

“Another key item for us right now is our Premium Velour Beach Towel in 19 colors. With the large color selection of this beach towel, it’s a universal beach/pool/summer item.  The most popular industries for this towel are beverage, insurance, technology, healthcare, home services and hospitality,” he comments.

Summer means swimming and other water activities, catching some sun rays while also catching up on summer reads, playing games, hammock napping, hiking, picnics and barbeques, and summertime festivals or all-day events. Any kind of business can participate and would be viewed favorably by their customers.


Gwen Brey of Beacon Promotions: “A grocery store was holding an anniversary sale.  For one week, each purchase was bagged in an environmentally friendly non-woven tote (#BGNW4300). Because of the sturdy construction and big bag capacity, they see their customers re-using it at the park, sporting events, a trip to the beach, etc.  The grocery store is pleased with the additional advertising they get every time their customers re-use the tote.  As an incentive to keep reusing the tote, a $.10 discount is given each time they bring the bag back to the store to use.

Aaron Bradley, national sales manager, TerryTown: “Recently a geotechnical high-rise construction company utilized one of our dye-sublimated beach towels to convey exactly what it is that they do.  They printed a beautiful full color design showing an underground look at a city mixed with the construction that’s being built on top of it.  The company has used these towels at a few different occasions. Two of the most recent were to the invitees to their open house for their recent new office location that opened in Arizona. They were also given away to VIP attendees for a celebration party for winning a design award.

“A new hotel in downtown Chicago was opening up in the dead of winter but was very close to Lake Michigan and wanted to give out something unique that showed off the building’s distinctive architecture. They opted for one of our dye-sublimated full-color beach towels printed with a photograph of the entire building.  People were very surprised to receive a beach towel in the middle of winter, which is exactly what the client wanted.”

Carrie Lewis, marketing/communications manager, BIC Graphic: “In response to declining sales, an amusement park secured a beverage company sponsorship to help develop special promotions for season ticket holders who renewed for the following year. Each season ticket holder who renewed received the Big Chill Cooler (#AP7600) imprinted with the amusement park logo. Inside was a commemorative, reusable cup imprinted with the beverage company logo. Ticket holders were entitled to bring their cups throughout the following year for free refills during visits. The cooler recipients loved the promotion as they encouraged families to bring lunch into the park, and they could also save on beverages for the entire year. Season ticket renewals remained flat in the first year the park began the promotion, so they continued the campaign in the following years with new colors and designs. The park saw a steady increase in overall season ticket sales over three years and the coolers quickly became “collectibles” to park goers.”

Shawn Kanak, CAS, vice president of sales, Towel Specialties: “New customers at a credit union received Towel Specialties’ beach towels as an appreciation gift for every account opened with a minimum of $500. We shipped 60,000 towels in February to 10 different cities. The client response – ‘this was the most effective promotional product we’ve ever done and they were well within our budget!’”

“A software giant built brand awareness with Towel Specialties 40” x 70” Turkish beach towels at a charity event in the Midwest. It provided 2800 towels for employees and their family members to take home as a thank-you for their dedication. The client response was highly interesting, ‘we are tired of getting tech promo items!’”

How to Stand Out in the Promotional Golf Product Game

Hannah Abrams for Promo Marketing