Posts Tagged ‘promotional products’

What My Chiropractor Taught Me About Swag

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

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.

What Facebook and Google can Teach You about Swag

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

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.

Creating Great Artwork for Promotional Products

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

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.

Ideas for Corporate Gift Giving

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

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

Thursday, September 20th, 2012


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

There is No Bad Swag

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

When I worked in the cable TV industry, there was one really big lesson I learned: Everyone hates the cable company.

I’ve been in the promo industry for five years now, still a newbie by some measures, but I’ve also learned a valuable lesson about this industry. This recent post by Hubspot on the good, bad and ugly of swag got me thinking about whether there is such a thing as bad promo when you consider all of the different audiences. While we agree with many of their points, we also know that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Or to quote one of my colleagues from the industry:

There is no bad swag, only badly chosen – Heidi Thorne, @heidithorne

Rather than looking at the items themselves, we try to look at how giveaways will resonate with recipients. We think it’s great that the attendees of HubSpot’s conferences are all digitally connected, but my first-gen Motorola Xoom (<—-street cred implied there) is wi-fi only, so when I went to Cloudforce earlier this year and all of the wi-fi was password protected I was totally bummed. But then I could take notes with the kickin’ RIGHTSLEEVE branded red flair pen stashed in my bag…and yes, it was next to my Moleskin (<—–hipster implied there).

Oh, and we think the folks at ScribbleLIVE have our backs: They love their combo highlighter pens so much, they Instagrammed them:

scribble live logoed pen

It’s not a matter of good or bad. It’s about choosing swag smartly. -Patricia Keays

In doing an informal key chain survey around the office, I discovered a couple of things.

  1. A lot of people have branded key chains.
  2. People are passionate about their branded key chains (as they are about a lot of swag).

Katie Anderson, loves her Camp Kandalore key chain. She hasn’t worked at the camp in over 7 years, but she still carries it around with her and smiles from ear to ear when telling me about getting it. But, let’s set her feelings aside for a minute and crunch some numbers. If Katie has used her keys twice a day (once when leaving home and once when coming home) every day for the last 7 years, that adds up to over 2500 times that Katie has looked at her Kandalore key chain.

At less than one cent, that’s the type of cost per impression that marketers dream about!

Would a Camp Kandalore Key chain have the same effect on me? Nope. But, I’ve had the Roxy keychain below for close to ten years. I got it on a trip to Hawaii for my brother’s wedding so the sentimental value of that keychain is through the roof for me. I actually dove to the bottom of a dumpster and fished that key chain out of a puddle of trashed-filled water one time.

logoed keychains

Pictured above starting at 12:00: Rob Montebelli, from the RIGHTSLEEVE spin-off company commonsku, carried his soccer key chain with him when he moved from Italy. Julia Corcoran loves the Heineken key chain she got in Amsterdam.  I went dumpster-diving to save my Roxy key chain, and Katie Anderson still carries her Camp Kandalore keychain long after leaving camp.

Bottom line: Keychains resonate with recipients when chosen well and distributed appropriately.

Rule #1 for trade show promo: make sure the product matches the needs of the audience. -Mark Graham in 7 Ways Social Media can Transform Your Next Swag Campaign

Bottomer line: All swag resonates when chosen well and distributed properly.

HubSpot and I could argue back and forth all day on what specific pieces of swag we like the best, and that’s okay…we do that exact thing in the RIGHTSLEEVE office too. What HubSpot thinks is cool swag isn’t going to be what the next company thinks is cool…the commenters on HubSpot’s original post prove that point. That’s why we emphasize the importance of matching your swag to your audience.

So, next time you’re planning for a tradeshow or a giveaway or an award or any other piece of branded merchandise you’re giving out, think about your recipients first and the items second.

Neon Summer

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

It feels like only last year I heard groans and digs about that thing the 80′s called fashion.  Now, when I look at the fashionistas and fashionmistas (see, it’s totally a word. Thank you Urban Dictionary) on the street, I Just Wanna Have Fun with color. With Neon hues a major trend for this summer we wanted to take a spin through the variety of ways dayglow colors are making appearances this year.

For the man who’s secure in his masculinity, Coleman brand cables have him covered with a collection of outdoor extension cords in colors like hot pink and fluorescent green.

Brightly Colored Cables

No self-respecting RIGHTSLEEVER would be caught outside on a sunny day without our favorite brandable sunglasses.

Brandable Neon Sunglasses

Colored denim is back. Turn ‘em into cutoffs for the company picnic and they’re fierce! Found via Pinterest.  (Pst, Have you visited the RS Pinterest Page?)

Neon Denim Shorts

If you follow us on Facebook (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll remember this shot of the ladies of RIGHTSLEEVE displaying their neon summer nails in full force.  Go bright or don’t go to the salon.

The ladies of RIGHTSLEEVE showing off their summer neon nails

Neon slap-watch.  Can’t touch that.


7 Beach Bag Must-Haves

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

’tis the season for barbecues, company picnics, long-weekends, and all manner of summer outings. Next time you’re heading toward the water, pack these items along with your sunscreen for a perfect beach kit.

Stake out your spot and create home base with our Pix-Mix Outdoor Blanket. Blanket folds into a handled cover for grab-and-go ease.
Pic-Mix Outdoor Blanket

If you’re going to the beach, you need a towel. This one rocks. ‘Nuff said.
Costa Verde Beach Towel

Protect your sun-sensitive companions with with our UV protective Sun Shelter. Perfect for catching an out-of-the-sun snooze.

For your battery charging emergencies.

Hydrate responsibly.

Our all-in-one game-pack will keep the whole gang entertained.

Finally, a shout out to one of our campaigns.  Throw in this clip-on mosquito repellent from OFF!®  for protection you don’t have to apply to your skin.

OFF! Clip-On

A SWAG 2.0 Event Debrief – How to Use Promotional Products for a Killer Event

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

It’s taken me a couple of days but I’ve almost recovered from our annual client party. All day this year, I kept comparing our event to a wedding. You spend months arranging details like food, guest lists, venue etc. and the day of the event comes and goes in such a whirlwind of activity that you look back on it and wonder if parts of it were a dream.

With a name like SWAG2.0, our use of product marketing should be top notch. Our goal this year was to infuse our entire event with promotional products and do it in such a way that we highlighted some of the many ways you can use swag well.

Say Hello
They say there’s no second chance to make a first impression and that’s why we like to hand out a nice gift as soon as guests arrive to our party. This year, we chose the chromo journal because they’re a quality piece of stationary and the chrome trim makes them a real eye-catcher.

Chromo Journals

Chromo Journals

In the early days of SWAG2.0 we went back and forth on the use of name tags; after all we know our clients! But, then we realized that our clients don’t necessarily know each other and name tags make introductions a lot easier. We still like to to keep the name tag thing kinda casual so we encourage guests to write their own and add a spark of creativity if they like.

Name Tags

Name Tags

One of my favorite things about product marketing is that you can use a normal product in a unique way and give it an entirely different life. Anyone remember when we used a post-it wall as our sign-in book? Well, this year, we took a unique product and made it even more special.

Animal Poppers

Animal Poppers

Our animal poppers have been a big hit as employee gifts as most people appreciate their ability to relieve stress and cause a few laughs. We decided to give our poppers even more of a personality by making them the focal point in a game we called “Popper Pong”. In addition to showing how our products can be given new life with a different application, Popper Pong was a great talking point, an ice breaker, and a way for our clients to engage with each other.

Playing Popper Pong

Playing Popper Pong

The idea of Popper Pong was to have fun, so we made sure that everyone got a prize for playing. Manufacturing a one-inch button on the spot if you scored was also a way to introduce an offline, viral component to the event. Seeing players proudly displaying their red, blue, or yellow pins was a great way to let word-of-mouth do our jobs and direct new players back to the game.

Swag2.0 is all about interaction and engagement.

We already had our ice-breaker with Popper Pong, but we wanted something else to drive interaction with our products and also put to good use our love of social media.

QR Coded Stress Toy

QR Coded Stress Toy

QR codes are a great way to link offline products with online activities so we decided to run a QR code contest. When guests scanned the QR codes on their free stress toy they were taken to one of two videos which indicated if they won or lost. Winners were then directed to the RIGHTSLEEVE booth to pick up either a Sigg waterbottle or a slap-watch as their prize.

RIGHTSLEEVE Branded Sigg Bottles & Slap Watches

RIGHTSLEEVE Branded Sigg Bottles & Slap Watches

I must admit that sending folks to our RIGHTSLEEVE booth to pick up their prize wasn’t on accident. We sent guests there to

  • get the full tour of our event
  • interact with some of our great staff
  • showcase work we’ve done with other great companies

Leave ‘em with More
Okay, so the phrase is “leave them wanting more,” but in this case we wanted to send our clients on their way with a great swag bag of useful, eye-catching items. As guests departed the event, we handed them their final dose of product. We stuffed our sling and ella coolers with a variety of gear

  1. a branded cookie to provide sustenance on the trip home
  2. a torino tumbler to use for favorite summer beverages
  3. a custom-shaped RIGHTSLEEVE keychain to remind everyone of their favorite swag event of the year!

SWAG Bags with our Torino Tumbler peeking out

We put on SWAG2.0 every year because we love our clients and want to show them a great time. Using swag to entertain and delight is just the icing on our proverbial wedding cake. If you came to the event we all hope you had a blast and that you learned a new thing or two about creative ways to use promotional products.

To see more pictures from the event, check out our Facebook album.

For some great ideas on product marketing you don’t have to wait until next year, give us a call (1.877.975.3383) or subscribe to the SWAG2.0 blog.


We leave you with one cookie to rule them all.

Cookie photo courtesy Carolyn Van.

The Trouble with Jargon

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


Every industry has jargon. When used well it makes communication clearer and quicker. When compiled into flashcards, it makes for a fun office game.

But, jargon can also be a barrier. It can make communicating across departments difficult in large organizations. When computer-troubleshooting with my parents, jargon can make everyone want to chuck the computer out the window and go back to carrier pigeons. At RIGHTSLEEVE, we work with a variety of industries that have their own forms of jargon, so it can be confusing when we’re using the same words but with different meaning.

Here are five jargon hotspots that often flare up into misunderstandings.  Hopefully reading how RIGHTSLEEVE uses these terms might help bridge some communication barriers of your own.

Purchase Orders  (aka POs) at RIGHTSLEEVE are used to communicate with vendors outside of our offices. They tie together an exterior supply chain rather than an interior spend. However, in large companies, POs are usually internal documents that are sent between various departments and their finance team.  They are often used to approve large spends. Once approved, the PO number must be placed on all bills so finance knows to tie it back to the initial approval.

Samples fall into three main categories.

  • Blank samples are an undecorated product that is pulled and shipped so a client may examine the construction and function of an item.
  • Decorated samples are usally decorated with another company’s logo. Often these are pulled from over-runs and used so that customers can see the decoration quality of an object.
  • Pre-production samples are a “first off the press” item usually pulled from the full stock of a confirmed order and produced before the large run is placed on the line.  Pre-pro samples are done so a customer can see how the products in their order will look and feel. Depending on the amount of time and cost pre-pros can be done via photo and approved immediately or shipped for review and approval after receipt.   Pre-pros that are shipped to a customer for approval usually take longer and may have a higher cost associated with them because machines have to be set-up an extra time.

Proofs are often confused with samples. A proof is a graphical representaion of a logo on the item being purchased. The item can be a line-drawing with the logo added or a picture with the logo super-imposed (sometimes also called virtual proofs). Proofs are generally used to ensure proper placement and logo use. They are often sent as pdfs and viewed on computers. To allow for color display differences on monitors, many proofs will be done in black and white renderings with color noted as the appropriate pantone color.

LogoColor and color theory are topics with a level of complexity beyond my comprehension and one of the biggest misunderstandings between our designers and our customers.  A customer might come to us thinking the logo to the left is a two-color logo – blue and red. At first glance I see a 5 color logo – 3 different blues, red, and white. My designer would probably see five colors plus several gradients. Differences this big afffect not only how this logo can reproduce on the variety of products that we offer, but can also change the costing in a big way.

Digital Artwork is akin to color theory in its ability to confuse.  Put plainly, artwork needs to be vector to re-size and reproduce well on the majority of our products. To really understand vector, take your favorite graphic artist out for a coffee and an coax the details out of them. For an abbreviated version from a non-graphic person (that’s me!) read on. 

Vector Artwork  is an image created in a vector-based software such as Adobe Illustrator (.ai file extension).  The canvas for creating vector artwork is a grid. The lines of the image are defined by their relationship to points on that grid. Because vector graphics are created on this grid-like system,  you can make the grid larger or smaller and the relationship between items stays the same with no loss of quality.  By comparison,  a .jpg file is not a vector image and therefore becomes pixelated or “muddy” when the size is adjusted.

People often say the same thing in different words,  now I also keep an ear out for people saying different things with the same words.  Hopefully that will help to keep the tower of jargon from collapsing around us.