Posts Tagged ‘rightsleeve’

Do you know your strengths?

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

If you haven’t taken a couple of minutes to watch our Good At video series, now’s your chance.

Your mood will thank you for it.

If you’re at Mesh today, please stop by and play a game of RIGHTSLEEVE Road Hockey.

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.

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.

Doing swag right: Dissecting the Mesh Conference merchandise strategy

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

We have been the merchandise sponsor of the Mesh conference since it started six years ago. It has been a wonderful partnership that we hope will continue for many years. We wanted to share some perspectives on the approach that was taken this year as it was particularly successful.

We have learned that a conference swag program is a success when you look around after the first day and have a “ditched to kept” swag ratio of 0 to 100. Believe me, I have been to my share of conferences where attendees conveniently “forget” their lackluster swag bag in the washroom, beside their seat, or in the hallway. Unfortunately, it’s the alarmingly high “ditched to kept” ratio at most conferences that give this industry a bad name.

Here’s what we did  to make this year’s program a success (in conjunction with the wonderful event planning firm MCC Planners and the brand aware Mesh founders).

1. Understand the target customer. We picked a bag that we knew attendees would actually use. As the target demographic was the technology community (geeky, picky, discerning swag aficionados) we knew that a bag that could serve as a grocery tote, laptop/tablet holder or even a purse for women would resonate with both genders.

2. It’s all about perceived value. The bag had high perceived value, validated by a retail price of around $50. Attendees of tech conferences are often inundated with cheap swag and many openly mock these gifts on blogs. We wanted to surprise attendees with a product they weren’t expecting.

3. Make it colourful. Most swag is produced in black or navy in an attempt to appeal to the masses. But when you aim for the middle, the results are often average at best. When people see colour, they get excited because it’s so unusual. We printed 50% of the bags in black and 50% in vibrant colours and within hours people were looking to trade their black bags for one of the coloured bags (yes, even the guys).

4. Don’t give away all the swag away at once. When delegates arrived, they were presented with their package (agenda, speaker bios, schedule, the bag) in addition to a printed voucher which entitled  them to a “limited edition” mesh T-shirt. This voucher was redeemable at a separate merchandise table (aka pop up store). People loved this because it gave them something to do and also extended the gift experience.

5. Cater to the women! We printed 7 different colours of shirts in a full size spectrum, ranging from ladies small to men’s xl. People loved the choice of colours, but the consistent comment was that “the shirts actually fit and weren’t cut to fit like a dress” or “wow, I will actually wear this shirt out tonight!” While a tshirt printed with a 1 colour logo is quite inexpensive, they were still a success due to the fact they fit, were stylishly printed and were not constructed from your typical cardboard-like cotton.

6. Merchandise like a retailer. Conference  swag doesn’t need to be squirreled away in tattered Made in China boxes when it can be nicely merchandised out in the open. Retail stores know this tactic as it’s an effective way to entice shoppers to buy. In a promotional setting where the goods are free, it’s just as important to create that sense of excitement by having a nice presentation. After all, you are asking recipients of your merchandise to walk around advertising your brand. This is all the more reason to make the experience exciting. We had access to a fantastic (and sharply dressed) volunteer team that helped merchandise and distribute the product at the merch booth. Little things like this count.

7. Engage the online community. A big part of the success of any merchandise program is gauging people’s reactions online. People increasingly turn to Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc to share their views with their friends. As most people like to receive free products, they usually talk about this online. Engaging with the Mesh community online about the swag was an important component of the program (examples here, here and here). One of the most powerful ways to extend a promotional products campaign is to keep it alive online. For some more thoughts on swag and social media, click here.

At the end of the day, we wanted to elevate the product and turn it into an experience. We accomplished this by creating a sense of excitement about receiving a limited edition shirt in a separate merch area as well as giving out a bag with high utility value. This was in contrast to doing swag for the sake of giving something out as people simply expect it (and often ordering it at the last minute because it wasn’t part of the initial marketing strategy).

When people get something they like, they talk about it and share stories with their friends. In the digital age, this is amplified via Twitter and Facebook, especially at a tech conference. When a promotion goes well, this translates into a great product marketing success story which attracts plenty of eyeballs – which is the whole point, isn’t it?

Photo credit (at top) Alexa Clark

Other photos, credit Kaz Ehara

RIGHTSLEEVE office space covered in The Globe & Mail

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

It’s an exciting day here at RIGHTSLEEVE as we woke up to a story on our office space in The Globe & Mail.

This is part of their Amazing Space series where they feature interesting office spaces across the country. When we spoke to the Globe, we felt it was very important to highlight how our brand, company philosophy and approach to working with clients (and each other) is inextricably linked to the design of the office.

Colour, Collaboration and Cubicle-less.

Thank you to Della Rollins and Katherine Scarrow for the great photography and reporting on this story.

When we took over the office space in 2008, things looked a little different before we started construction.

It’s the little things …

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

I believe that it’s the little things that count in business.

Unless you are Google or Facebook and have invented a brand new business model, most industries are defined by commoditization, noise, price pressure and utter dullness. This makes it harder to stand out more than ever these days. Offering “great service, prices and quality” no longer cuts it as a point of differentiation in today’s market. This is why the businesses that truly soar ahead of the competition have figured out that customer experience is often their secret weapon.

Let me give you an example.

I just ordered business cards from, a slick, webby operation that transacts exclusively online. While their site is what you would expect from a progressive, designed oriented startup, what really sets them apart is their packaging.

I ordered 50 cards as part of a promotion with (they offered to print 50 cards of my profile). I have ordered scores of business cards over the years and my decision often comes down to price simply because there are so many choices. Business card printing is even more commodity driven than the Tshirt business, something I know a lot about. :)

Sure, the cards were well printed, but the magic was in the packaging. This is what hooked me from the moment I opened the box. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t think it was possible to be excited about business cards. Take a look at the packaging below.

Here are some lessons I take away from this experience with moo

1. Invest in good design and copy. These are the tiny details that people remember. Successful companies like Groupon know all about the power of copywriting (see New York Times article).

2. Invest in packaging or hang tags. If you are selling a Tshirt, add a hangtag (well designed) that speaks to the customer. If you are selling business cards, do what did.

3. Make it emotional. I have not stopped talking about these business cards because I was excited to learn about the moo story. They came across as real people that really cared about my business. I want to do business with people that care about what my order means to them.

4. Have a good product. Above all, your product must be good. If your product quality stinks and your customer service is horrible, it doesn’t matter if you invest in 1-3. People will see through you pretty quickly.

There’s no question that the current business climate is demanding. Competition is particularly cutthroat in mature industries where the barriers to entry are very low. However, this also represents an incredible opportunity for businesses to introduce design-based thinking to connect with and inspire their customers. As is often the case in life, it’s usually the little things we remember.


ps. This post was inspired in part by my good friend Bobby Lehew’s article on Delight and Surprise.

20 Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

I was invited to speak at the ASI San Diego show this past week on low cost/low hanging fruit marketing tactics. It was a fast paced session, delivered in 60 minutes (yes, 60 divided by 20 = 3 minutes per topic). I enjoyed the format as it allowed me to set up the topic in a snappy “why/how much/where” type format.

A copy of the presentation can be found below

I am asked a lot about the presentation tool I use for my sessions. I switched over to Prezi from PowerPoint about 6 months ago and I have not looked back. Prezi is an acquired taste and, admittedly, is not the easiest platform to move to if you are a dyed-in-the-wool PowerPoint veteran (as I was for years). However, once you get the hang of it, Prezi is an elegant presentation tool that gives you much more flexibility than PowerPoint’s rigid templates.

Changing the pizza industry one tweet at a time

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

“If you’re not boring, people will talk about your stuff.”

These are the sage words of advice from Ramon DeLeon, one of the most charismatic SMB’s I have ever met (and definitely the most flamboyant pizza franchise owner out there). I heard Ramon speak at Toronto’s Mesh Marketing conference yesterday and I was struck by how this one man has created a thriving business within an industry that most people would define as commoditized and unexceptional. He has done this by using social media properly.

Ramon is the operating partner of a six store Domino’s franchise in Chicago. He arms himself with a video camera and smart phone so he can stay in touch with his customer base in real time via Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo. He responds to customer issues online and is quick to remedy the problem with a free pizza or an amusing video response. He takes liberties with his various promotions to drive business. He sends video messages to customers on Twitter thanking them for their business. Who does this sort of thing? This ain’t your normal pizza guy.

Ramon is a purple cow, to use a term coined by Seth Godin. Ramon stands out amongst a sea of unexceptional businesses in his industry. When is the last time you went to your local chain pizza shop and really cared about the experience? Sure, there are always exceptions, but I suspect most people would count their relationship with their pizza shop as fairly standard. Ramon’s use of social media is brilliant because he has used the medium to connect on a personal level with his constituents. This drives loyalty, referrals and repeat business (even blog posts like this).

We know a lot about being in an industry (promotional products) that largely competes on price. When starting RIGHTSLEEVE, we viewed this as an opportunity to do something different and borrow from the playbooks of companies like Zappos that placed a premium on customer experience vs competing solely on price. We are inspired by entrepreneurs like Ramon as he’s paving the way for other businesses in competitive, commoditized spaces to stand out using tools that did not exist 5 years ago.

What do you think? What businesses do you know that are making waves using social media today? What do you think of Ramon’s tactics?

ps. next time you’re in Chicago, tweet Ramon and he’ll set you up with a free pizza (tell him I sent you)!

Ben Lucier wins $500 worth of swag

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Congrats to Ben Lucier of Tucows for winning the “What Product is it Anyway?” contest! As our grand prize winner, Ben gets $500 off his next swag order. Congrats Ben!

Here’s some background. People who responded to this video teaser were sent a mystery product and were asked to submit a video or photo of what they thought it was. Extra points were given for creativity.

Here was Ben’s winning video:

We also had two runner-ups:  our friends at Paul Davis Restoration and Centre Camp. For 2nd and 3rd place, you will receive $100 in free swag. A big thanks for your photos :)

Paul Davis Restoration

Centre Camp

4 Misconceptions about Social Media (an entrepreneur’s take)

Monday, June 7th, 2010

I have been fortunate to give a number of talks on social media and web marketing over the past 2 years. My audiences range from internet peers to business people from private industry to colleagues in the promotional products industry. While most people are pretty receptive to change, I have found that some people are downright hostile/scared about this freight train called the internet (and I might as well use the word “internet” and “change” interchangeably).

This post reviews some of the objections I have come across while presenting about social media, along with my typical responses.

1. Twitter is stupid. Why should I care that someone is in line for their Starbucks coffee?

Point taken. However, my view on Twitter (and Facebook, for that matter) is that “you are who you follow”. If you follow people who tweet about stupid and vacuous things, the easiest way to deal with this is to unfollow/unfriend them. Like the internet itself, there is plenty of noise on Twitter, but the magic is finding the gems.

Twitter is full of fascinating tidbits that keep me in the know on a range of topics (a memorable example of this was the Amazon purchase of Zappos).  Twitter is full of links to articles that are highly relevant to my interests (again, see point above). Twitter beats any newspaper as a news source as it’s reported in real time vs having to wait for the paper to be delivered to my doorstep in the morning.

From a business perspective, I get all sorts of insights into my customers (who I follow) as well as potential customers (who I spend time cultivating relationships with). To understand what makes your customers tick just makes good business sense. Tapping into the Twitterverse to gain real time insights into your customers’ daily lives has made us a much more nimble organization. Conversely, people who sell me things always get preferential treatment if they can demonstrate they have done their homework and know a thing or two about RIGHTSLEEVE.

For a longer analysis of Twitter, you can refer to My Take on Twitter

2. Why do customers turn to the internet when they need something, versus just contacting their preferred supplier?

This comment was made at a session I gave to a group of promotional products professionals, an industry undergoing massive change as it relates to how buyers research product information. Here was the tweet that prompted the remark:

“Have spent day on phone with vendors. Looking 4unique event ideas 4 female audience – forget cooking and wine tasting. Need smthg different”

This example sparked a lot of discussion, most of it hostile. The prevailing view was that if a distributor was doing its job correctly, then this person would not have had to tweet their request. True, but only to a point.

In this day of instant feedback, it’s in the customer’s best interest to reach out to their network (before social media, you can bet they called around on the phone asking the same question). Posting such a comment online is valuable as it may generate a flood of relevant responses from peers who have gone through the same thing before. In my position as a vendor, I follow this person and was able to reach out with some suggestions relating to the promotion. We got the order.

The question people need to concern themselves with is NOT why people are using the internet to conduct research, but rather HOW to respond to their queries in a way a that is respectful and relevant to the customer. The customer, not the vendor, is now firmly in control.

3. Social media is for anti-social geeks. The web has ruined personal selling.

I half expect this comment to come from an over-the-hill sales curmudgeon straight out of Glengarry Glen Ross. Needless to say, I disagree with this claim.

People who use social media well are among the most social people I have ever met. Sure you have some exceptions, but any “social media type” I have ever met in the offline world, has been incredibly friendly with a penchant to share a lot of information. I personally use social media to engage with a wide range of people, and when the time is appropriate to meet, I have a wealth of information to talk about. The intersection of the online and offline worlds has made business easier, not harder.  Personal selling, in many ways, has now become more personal.

I can accurately make this claim given that I had run my business for 7 years prior to the advent of social media, and 5 years since. There is no question that a critical part of my business is still “face to face”, but these in person relationships have only been enhanced via social media. In several instances, I would not have even made it in the door had it not been for social media.

4. Who has time for social media? Do I now need to work 24 hrs a day to keep up?

No. I will draw from personal experience when it comes to how I spend my “selling” time at the office. Think of my day as a pie. In the “old days” before social media, I spent 1/2 of my time on the phone/email and 1/2 my time in front of clients. Now, the distribution of the pie is different, not larger. 1/3 of my time is now spent on the phone/email, 1/3 is in front of clients and 1/3 is using the internet/social media. I made this switch as it was in response to the new market reality.  Some customers will now only communicate by Twitter Direct Message!

When email was introduced to the mainstream in the mid 90s, people started emailing more, talking on the phone less and faxing even less. Same pie.

The bottom line?

I understand why there is hostility out there. The internet (and specifically social media) has changed the way we buy, completely disrupting traditional business models. There is a great quote in Ken Auletta’s recent book on Google when the head of Viacom blasts Google’s founders for “fucking with the magic” after learning about their mathematical approach to advertising. The “magic” he refers to is the smoke and mirrors of traditional advertising.

Similarly, social media is impacting traditional business relationships. Relationships that were once forged on the golf course are now being cultivated online and cemented offline. Most people these days don’t have time for a day on the golf course, as their time has now migrated online. Balancing these two worlds is the challenge that the modern business person must rise to.

This blog is only as good as the readers who weigh in. Your comments are, as always, welcome.

Why I Blog

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I was recently interviewed by a promotional industry publication on why I blog.

I started blogging in early 2006 as I wanted to experiment with a new medium as well as connect with people on a different level. So, 5 years later, I reflect on the what, why and how.

Why do you blog? How do you get the most out of your blog for the purposes you intend it to serve?

I have always enjoyed writing. Blogging gives me a creative outlet as well as platform to express ideas I have about the industry and business in general.

I use the blog to write about my philosophies as they relate to our business, RIGHTSLEEVE. I have found this to be a more genuine way to express an opinion as it comes across as more authentic than publishing a marketing brochure (there is room for this as well, it just serves a different purpose). Clients and prospects read our blog to learn about the human side of our company.

What advice would you give to companies looking to start a blog of their own?

(i) Have Fun

(ii) Be Human

(iii) Write it yourself

What is your overall impression of your blogging experience? Have you found it to be a successful marketing tool? Why or why not?

I have really enjoyed blogging because it has given me a way to connect with people on a whole new level. It is not a direct sales platform, rather it is a conversational platform as people will weigh in on what you write about and this starts a dialogue. I have met a number of new and interesting people via blogging (and other web 2.0 properties like Facebook, Twitter, etc). As with all solid relationships, a level of trust is established which can often lead to sales. As a result, blogging can be a wonderful, albeit indirect, sales tool. 

It has been a very successful marketing tool as it puts us into a smaller group of distributors that have taken the time to maintain a blog. I would guess that 5-10% of the promotional industry has a good blog and it’s always nice to be competing against a smaller number of people who are blogging than the majority that aren’t.

We also operate within a very competitive and commoditized industry with little to differentiate distributors from one another. The standard complaint about our industry is that “you can buy the same products from any distributor.” However, a blog is something that is unique to a company, something that can’t be shopped like a product SKU from a supplier catalog. Anything that is unique like this is a good thing in the industry as it helps sets you apart.