What My Chiropractor Taught Me About Swag

February 7th, 2013 by

I’m not sure why, but chiropractic services always seems to be one of those modern professions that is likened to snake-oil salesmen of the past.

People either seem to love it or hate it.

Now, I for one am a believer in chiropractic, but I usually ask my providers if they also get adjustments.

I suppose I want to know that they believe in their profession.

The same goes for most things, I suppose:

Does my doctor eat her vegetables?
Does my phone provider use their own service?

So, does RIGHTSLEEVE believe in the power of swag for our own marketing?

You bet we do.

And, I’m going to dissect our recent holiday campaign to show you how we approached it.
Read the rest of this entry »

5 Elements of a Successful Clothing Merchandise Program

January 24th, 2013 by

“What makes a successful Camp clothing & merchandise program,” you ask?

Well, thanks for asking. No, really! Thanks.

A lot of people assume they know what makes a good clothing program but they miss a few key elements. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pitfalls of being an Overeducated Consumer

January 10th, 2013 by
comparing apples to apples

photo credit: bschwehn

With access to information at all-time highs, consumers across the spectrum of buying are entering transactions more informed than ever before.

While such rampant access to data is empowering, buyers need to be cautious that this widespread access doesn’t accidentally lead to misinformation.

We’ve identified three areas where purchasers should exercise caution when jumping into transactions after having done research online.

Apples to Apples

I worked at RIGHTSLEEVE for all of 30 seconds when I first heard Mark Graham talk about “Apples to Apples” quoting in promotional products.

Apples to apples comparison shopping often breaks down to pricing and quality, so that’s what I’ll address.

There are a lot of different variables that affect the pricing of a t-shirt, and they usually align with the quality. Weight, cut, fabric type, fabric quality, and labor standards are a few of the things that you need to consider when comparing quotes.

Think of it this way: the average consumer wouldn’t walk into American Apparel and ask them to price match a shirt from the dollar store.

But, in the promotional products industry that happens on a daily basis.

So, instead of going straight for the price match, make sure all of the other specs align, then decide if you’re comparing apples to apples or apples to oranges.

Product Education

Picture it: A promo website. Early 21st century. You see a product that looks like a fit for your needs. You upload your logo via a fancy virtual proofing tool and it looks amazing. You place an order on-line then whoops, you get an email saying that the artwork you sent won’t work on the product that you chose.

Say what?

On-line tools are so robust nowadays that we expect there to be a computer program to automate practically everything. Virtual proofing software is an example of a tool that’s great in theory, but often falls short of expectations. I get why they’re out there, to streamline a process and provide efficiency. Unfortunately, they’re not sophisticated enough to handle the many products that our industry provides.

Printing on a shirt is different than printing on a mug is different than embroidering a sweatshirt is different than embossing a journal.

It’s a process that can’t always be simplified. That’s why we prefer to work directly with clients to determine the logistics of an order at the beginning of a transaction rather than at the end.

Seeing something work on-line, doesn’t always mean it will work on the production line.


trendwatching… Trendland… Cool Hunting… The Coolhunter… NotCot…

There’s a whole slew of websites devoted to keeping on top of trends nowadays.

And, while there is a mass of information about what’s hot in retail spaces there aren’t quite so many folks producing content on the latest B2B product marketing trends, so it can be hard for folks not immersed in the day-to-day industry of it to stay on top of things.

Engaging an industry professional in a consult can help your product marketing stay current, but can also be a double-check to ensure the products that you’re using to deliver your message are on-target.

Never turn down the additional exposure, experience, and extra brain power that comes with engaging a consult from someone within the industry.

Your marketing will be the better for it.

In the end, we’re firm believers in the power of knowledge, but we’re also firm believers in trusting the insight of experts. So, search and research to your heart’s content, but remember that Google doesn’t know everything. Yet.

RIGHTSLEEVE is a promotional products agency helping companies establish emotional connections to their brands through tangible, logoed merchandise. Please say hi on Twitter or Facebook.

Predictions for 2013

December 13th, 2012 by

Word on the street is that the Mayans have us slated for worldly destruction come next Friday.

In an effort to keep our wits about us, and to prevent massive hoarding of bread and eggs by employees, we decided to focus the troops on their promotional product predictions for 2013, should Bruce Willis save the world (again).

Top Product Trend: Tech

With experts like Forrester predicting 375 million tablets being sold worldwide in 2016, it’s no surprise that we expect tech accessories to be a dominant trend in 2013. Even though I’m an android die-hard, overall, we look to requests for Apple-friendly accessories to drive the majority of requests.

source: Forrester

Keep an eye to our Must-Haves for a curated collection of promotional items for start-ups or the tech minded.

Time to Market

The retail to promo life cycle will shorten in 2013. Look for products introduced at retail to make it into brand-able options in ever shortening cycles.

Likewise, look to promo to introduce more products that filter to retail. Tech gloves are a great example of this type of flip-flop. We first introduced the smart-phone friendly gloves in 2010 and they didn’t hit retail until 2011.

In response to changing economics, design trends, and technology, promotional products companies are innovating in new ways that benefit end-users.

Quality over Quantity

Budgets are coming back, but marketers will remember the lessons they learned navigating the ups-and-downs that started in 2008.

We expect businesses to favor higher quality items with longer life over the tired throw-aways that have historically given promo a bad name.

As big players prove the power of swag by creating promo shopping experiences on site, other brands will follow suit with in-office swag “stores” or pop-up shops. In doing so, they will grow more protective over the statements their products make and will choose swag that reinforces their brand consciousness.

As Flux invades companies large and small, and the power of story continues to embed itself in our lives, 2013 will continue to bring change to the marketing landscape.

As long as the Mayans were wrong, that is.

RIGHTSLEEVE is a promotional products agency helping companies establish emotional connections to their brands through tangible, logoed merchandise. Please say hi on Twitter or Facebook.

What Facebook and Google can Teach You about Swag

November 29th, 2012 by

Something eye-opening happened last night when I was video Skyping long-distance with my parents.

About 30-seconds into the call, my mom unzipped the hoody she was wearing as an outer-layer and piped up with a comment.
Read the rest of this entry »

Turning a Retail Eye to Your Merchandise Line

November 15th, 2012 by

I caught up with Chantal Jackson from Cairn camps on the kind of day that makes you want to snuggle down into a soft hoody. After several weeks of back and forth via email and blackberry, the busy co-director of Cairn connected with me for a chat about their successful merchandise program.

Retail inspired print for Cairn Camps
Cairn first met CampRIGHTSLEEVE at the TriState CAMP Conference, a camp specific tradeshow held annually in Atlantic City, NJ. They left their former clothing provider and partnered with CampRIGHTSLEEVE largely because of the pricing and quality that CampRIGHTSLEEVE offers.

“You have talented people at CampRIGHTSLEEVE.”

Jackson and her co-director, Rebecca Jess, are both artistic individuals and look to trends and retail-inspired designs for their merchandise program. “We’re big on what’s in, what’s new, what’s current,” Jackson says. “We look for cool designs then give them our artistic spins. We want pieces the kids will wear at home.”

To help Cairn achieve their objectives, they work with CampRIGHTSLEEVE to follow a detailed production-flow from initial vision to final execution.

At the beginning of the process, Jackson will present their ideas to RIGHTSLEEVE via graphic or sketch “so you’re not trying to guess” the visual the camp is looking for. Our graphic designer will work with her suggestions to complete mock-ups for approval. After final decisions on design and placement are made, the RIGHTSLEEVE staff stays in constant contact with Jackson during the production process, even sending pictures of the first items that come off of the production line.

“Seeing pictures has been really helpful” Jackson says, “I also love the sales order sign-off system [CampRIGHTSLEEVE uses] for approvals.”

The formula has worked well for Cairn. In the past two years (the only two of which we spoke), they’ve either achieved or over-achieved their merchandise goals. Toward the end of our conversation Jackson breaks down her steps to a successful program:

  • Do your research and know what you want.
  • Present your vision in a clear and specific way.
  • Get proofs as necessary.
  • Look over your approvals and make sure you know what you’re ordering.
  • Build a strong relationship with your merchandise partner

We couldn’t have said it better.

About Cairn
Cairn is four Christian summer camp programs joined together by a mission and striving to develop amazing and nourishing camp experiences for children. More information about Cairn is available on their website: ilovecamp.org

CampRightsleeve is the youth-focused division of Right Sleeve Marketing Inc.  We are experts at helping camps and schools establish emotional connections to their brands through clothing & merchandise programs. Please say hi on twitter or facebook

Creating Great Artwork for Promotional Products

November 1st, 2012 by

Steve Jobs famously said, “Design is not how things look, but rather how things work.”

This is relevant for me every day as the in-house graphic designer for RIGHTSLEEVE & CampRIGHTSLEEVE, because we work in such a huge variety of media, from apparel to hard goods to printed material and web graphics. I rely daily on my knowledge of design theory, software, aesthetics and my eye for detail, but more importantly, I need a technical knowledge of manufacturing processes before design even begins.  Great design is useless if it doesn’t work.

A RIGHTSLEEVE primer on creating great artwork for promotional products

Know your medium

Screen-printing, embroidery, flocking and knitting are all methods of decorating apparel, but they all require purpose-built artwork because the manufacturing process is vastly different for each. A design that works on the computer will not always work on a t-shirt.

For example, gradient fades look fantastic on the monitor, but they are difficult and expensive to screen print. Screen-printing involves placing single areas of colour on an item in a paint-by-numbers style. Each colour requires a separate screen, so fading seamlessly from one colour to another is difficult to achieve.

Embroidery, flocking and knitting are entirely different beasts again, each requiring its own artwork designed specifically for its method. Knowing the medium will help you create better artwork. Luckily our reps all have an understanding of these methods, so if you’re not sure, just ask.

How light affects colour

If you look at the same colour in shadow vs. artificial light vs. sunlight, it will look like three different colours. Colours on a computer monitor look very different from colours on printed goods, and even on printed goods, colours can look different.

Pictures of the exact same T-shirt in various degrees of light and shade, aligned next to each other below, show how different a single colour can be depending on the light it’s seen in.

color swatches from the same shirt photographed in different light

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) identifies colours by a universally recognised alpha-numerical code, ensuring that designers, printers and clients all reference the exact same color. When you want to match a specific colour, picking from a PMS library is the best way.  Pantone libraries are identified by their suffixes. If you’re interested in learning more, this is a great resource otherwise, just ask a RIGHTSLEEVE rep.

The DL on resolution

Resolution is another key to designing art for promotional products. Your Dots Per Inch (DPI) or Points Per Inch (PPI) are the number of dots, or pixels, of colour per inch in your artwork, and it’s the difference between artwork that looks fuzzy, blurry or mushy vs. crisp, clean high quality art.

Computer monitors use only 72 dots per inch, while vector art can be upwards of 800 PPI. The difference in the resolution is why artwork that looks great on your computer won’t always look good printed, or why images from the internet don’t print well.

Generally speaking, 300 DPI and above is considered high res artwork, while anything below that is considered low res and is only used for web graphics or television. When your rep asks you for “vector” artwork, it’s because vector art can be scaled up or down infinitely without losing resolution, making it the easiest to work with across all decorating methods.

low res vs high res artwork

Low Resolution vs. High Resolution Artwork
(click for larger version)

Hopefully with this brief summary of some design basics, you begin to see why good design isn’t just about how things look. Good design is a careful equation of form, function, aesthetics and manufacturing. When all of these things are in symmetry, what you get is a beautiful image that works invisibly.

And you can trust that RIGHTSLEEVE and CampRIGHTSLEEVE will always create artwork that works!

RIGHTSLEEVE is a promotional products agency helping companies establish emotional connections to their brands through tangible, branded merchandise. Please say hi on Twitter or Facebook.

Hey, Sexy Promo

October 18th, 2012 by

Not long ago I promised someone that I’d cut-back on using the word “sexy” in blog posts.  In this case, however, I claim an exemption.  With Gangnam Style fever taking over the world (except, oddly, for Japan, according to this article from TIME),  we had to jump on the bandwagon and show you how to Gangnam-Style your logoed merch.


The Look

The Party Bus

The Awkward Scenes

Gangnam Style Screenshot

custom sunglasses
White Sunglasses
knotted scarf

Party Bus

Disco Ball

glow stick

Gangnam Elevator Scene

glowing pendant

cowboy hat


colorful sand timer

RIGHTSLEEVE is a promotional products agency that specializes in helping companies establish emotional connections to their brands through creative merchandise collections. Please say hi on twitter or facebook

Ideas for Corporate Gift Giving

October 4th, 2012 by

October means lots of things. Burning leaves, cozy sweaters, and costume ideas to name a few.

It also means time to start thinking about your end of the year gifts.

Here are some ideas to jump-start your holiday brainstorming.

Calendars are not dead!

Really. An industry survey showed that more people reference wall calendars over calendars on their computers each day. They’re also more likely to think favourably about your company and refer your company to other people.   (psst, this was a surprise to the researchers too!)

For a get-down-to-work option, we like a mailable monthly-view desk calendar.

If sleek design is your thing, go for this beautiful perpetual calendar from MoMA.

Food, Delicous Food

C’mon you may not want to admit it, but the constant availability of chocolate in December is something to look forward to.  Most companies give edibles as gifts this time of year, but too many miss out on a great branding opportunity by waiting until the last minute and purchasing at retail.  This year, move your ordering deadline forward and order something delicious and branded.

Think promo food isn’t as good as the stuff at retail?  We offer options from Lindt, Jelly Belly, and Godiva.

People are still talking about the delicious branded cookies we did at our event earlier this year.

Made in North America

From food to hard goods, more consumers are looking for items sourced closer to home.  If made in North America matters to you or your users, we have an entire category of Made in Canada or Made in the USA  products on our website.

Our favourite locally made products are from our custom knitwear line.

For other ideas check out our website for a special page of  holiday and winter product ideas.

RIGHTSLEEVE is a promotional products agency that specializes in helping companies establish emotional connections to their brands through creative merchandise collections. Please say hi on twitter or facebook

Putting the Cool into School Gear

September 20th, 2012 by


It is a question we are asked every year from our school clients as they get their stores and merchandise ready for the year.

Can school swag be cool?

A lot of these schools are celebrated educational establishments with reputations, history, and an image to uphold. Unfortunately, they are often strong-armed into thinking that their school clothing and merchandise must have the same rigid look as military academies.

Our Answer: Yes! School swag can be cool.

We try to approach our school clients in a similar fashion to our camp clients – after all, they both deal with kids who want to have fun and be themselves. We try to show schools that they can keep their history and reputations intact. But by adding a touch of trendy design, they can also branch out to include fun, youth-inspired clothing and merchandise that students will be proud to wear at school, and even better, at home and on the weekends!

5 Ways to Make your School Swag Cool

      1. Keep It Simple, But Trendy 
        Sometimes the simplest things in fashion or design have the most longevity. That’s why logos endure, they are often the simplest representation of your brand. But, finding new ways to present your logo or crest will help keep your school merchandise on trend. So, instead of doing screen printing year after year, try a different decoration technique such as flocking. The softer, somewhat fuzzy, application is big in retail and also lends a hint of vintage to your brand – keeping your school on trend and turning your swag into an instant must-have.

An Example of Flocking

      1. Cater to Their Needs
        If your school uses laptops, offer laptop cases or accessories in your shop. If you promote environmental stewardship, make sure you offer a variety of re-usable waterbottles or ecofriendly notebooks.
      2. Give Options
        Kids hate being told that there is only one way to do something or only one choice available. How can we expect everyone to like the exact same waterbottle or expect everyone to like the colour green?We’re not suggesting that you offer your merchandise in every color available, but give your students a little choice. For example, present a standard indestructible Nalgene waterbottle as well as a sleek stainless steel waterbottle. If you give them a few options they are more likely to find something that suits them and that they’ll use. And, by paying attention to what flies off of the shelves faster, you’ll get a better idea for tastes…knowledge that will be handy on future orders.
      3. Step into new territory
        RIGHTSLEEVE and CampRightsleeve are known for building great design into merchandise campaigns.  Let us present a fun piece for your school shop that steps slightly away from your traditional crest or logo. We will hold true to the integrity of your branding, but sometimes a slight departure from the norm is all it takes for students to want to grab some new school clothing.
      4. Have Fun with It
        Kids are kids. They are funny, messy, energetic little people. Encourage them to have fun with their school swag. Keep them in mind with all designs and offerings – your merchandise can stretch beyond the traditional pen and journal. Try a stuffed animal wearing a school shirt. Try fun sunglasses with your school name on them. Try offering a backpack that comes in bright neon colours!

Final Thoughts

You can call it whatever you want – products, gear, swag, merch – but the bottom line is this: What you are giving away or selling should create an emotional connection with your audience. Swag that resonates with parents will not be the same swag that resonates with their kids. (That one parent with Bieber-fever doesn’t count!) So, when you are ordering for your students, consider some fun, youth inspired pieces.

CampRightsleeve is the youth-focused division of Right Sleeve Marketing Inc.  We are experts at helping camps and schools establish emotional connections to their brands through clothing & merchandise programs. Please say hi on twitter or facebook