Posts Tagged ‘swag’

Three Ways to Keep Your Swag Fresh

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Don’t worry, it happens to everyone at one point or another.

You don’t need to be ashamed.

Your swag just got a little boring. Really, it happens.

Fortunately, we know ways to fix it.

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.

Predictions for 2013

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

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

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.

Turning a Retail Eye to Your Merchandise Line

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

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:

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

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.

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.

Fall 2012 Trend Report

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Our daily hours of sunlight are shortening and we’re nearing the time when we’ll have to wave goodbye to cottages, camps, and vacations.  Summer of 2012 brought with it heaps of color, but it’s time to look forward to fall.  [break][break]

The good news?  Those great colors are here to stay.  [break][break]

Our fall 2012 trend report will bring you up to speed on our trend forecast for the rest of the year, and suggest how to apply what’s hot on the streets to your swag needs.


8 items to trick out your mobile office

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Today’s workforce has become increasingly mobile. From home to Starbucks to the car, sales staff can spend the majority of their day out in the field and away from their office-based rock ‘em sock ‘em productivity tools.

The RIGHTSLEEVE staff are no exception and are often out and about at client meetings, so I asked them for their favorite promo items to outfit their on-the-go office.

The RIGHTSLEEVE Top 8 List for Mobile Promo Items


Fuel Yourself
The first time the RIGHTSLEEVE staff saw the Metro Mug from SIGG, we all fell in love. Seriously.  The SIGG  brand is near and dear to our hearts and this travel mug is sexy and functional at the same time.  No BPA.  No taste residue. No leak.  No-brainer.
metro mug brandable thermos from SIGG
Fuel Your Gear
Now that your liquid energy is safely housed, make sure you don’t get caught with a dead phone, tablet, or laptop.   The Powertrip is an award winning mobile charger with up to 16GB of built-in storage.  Charge it via wall socket, usb port, or solar panel.  Patricia is a fan of the Powertrip.
Stay Organized
Life on the road can be hectic.   For the serious roadster a cargo box is the perfect promotional item to help you stay organized and sane.  Files, food, gadgets and more are all contained and can easily be moved into the office or your house at the end of the day.  Julia has had one of these in Gladys’  trunk for years.
Cargo Box
Give Yourself an Extra Hand
If the cargo box is a little too hardcore for you, the dashboard sticky pad is a good homebase on your dashboard for things like cell phones, sunglasses, and loose change.  It’s not as sexy as the SIGG mug, but it’ll have your back around tight turns and fast stops.  Brigitta gives this piece of promo a beautifully decorated thumbs up.
dashboard sticky pad
Sometimes you need to go old school.  Ahren voted in the Dovana journal because he loves the look and feel.  We hope that we’ll age as gracefully as the cover on this baby.
Dovana notebook
Keep it Together
I’m an admitted bag-a-holic and there are few I love more than a nice messenger.  My Timbuk2 has been with me in several countries, on various modes of transport and in all kinds of weather.   Perfect for when you have to stash your stuff and go.
Presenting Next-Gen Style
Tablets are becoming the go-to way of presenting on the road and this ipad case transforms from a mere cover into a presentation stand in a few flips.   The entire team voted this piece into the running.
brandable table presentation stand
Keep Covered
Our final item was another team favorite.  Umbrellas aren’t something you think about, until you need one and don’t have it.
branded umbrella
We love promo and advocate for our favorite products every day.
Except this guy, he only likes t-shirts.