Seriously, Yes, Seriously This Low

I have been in the promotional product business for almost nine years now.  There are few products that I have to say, “really, are you serious?”.  This is one of those products.

I was at the PPAI show in Vegas last January and visited the Ash City booth, one of our valued apparel partners.  Through my experience I have seen the rise of the 100% polyester, moisture wicking polo shirts in the industry.  They have risen in popularity because they are lightweight, comfortable, easy care and breathable.  They certainly are not the polyester shirts of the 1970’s.  The pricing on the 100% polyester polos has continued to drop but we have seen a pricing floor and the inexpensive options are usually not comfortable and feel cheap.

Origin Core365 Men's Performance Pique Polo Well that pricing floor has been broken in 2013.  At the PPAI show Ash City introduced a new line of apparel called Core365.  These products (polos, activewear, outerwear, soft shell jackets) are value priced while not sacrificing quality. The polo option is incredibly low priced but you would not know it from the feel and look of it.  It is made from a lightweight 100% polyester material and has a smooth finish on the inside, so it is comfortable to wear.  The polos come in a wide variety of colors so they should work with most colleges. The shirts wash well, are easy care and of course come in ladies sizing and styling.

To give an idea on pricing, for only 12 pieces, they run less than $15 each.  To boot, this includes up to 10,000 stitches on one location.  We have other polos in this price range, but none that I like as much as this one.

This polo is an outstanding option for student and professional staffs, golf outings, gifts to friends of the university, fundraisers and to sell to alumni.

To learn more, see the colors and pricing, click HERE.

Contact us to learn more, see a sample and be wowed by this polo shirt!

Branding Lessons From Harley Guru Ken Schmidt

I had the opportunity to hear Ken Schmidt speak on branding at the PPAIbio-pic (Promotional Product Association International) show in January.  He worked in marketing when the company almost went bankrupt and was the director of Harley’s corporate and financial communications when they made their incredible comeback.  The Harley brand is legendary and he told an interesting story of how the company is successful.  With our company located in Milwaukee, we get to see firsthand the power of the Harley brand, especially this summer with the 110th anniversary celebration coming to town.

Below are five insights that I took from Ken Schmidt’s speech that I want to share.

1. What is your story? This is a theme that Ken Schmidt kept coming back to.  If no one shares with others that they worked with you, it might as well as never happened.  You might have had a transaction, but the long term value is the testimonials and experiences being told by others.  If you have no story to tell yourself, then you fail to differentiate and your clients/students/donors/prospects will see no difference between you and your competition.  Brands are built person by person through experiences, marketing and personal testimonials.   Have a story, tell it and create positive experiences where it will be retold.

2. Brain = Pain – Ken Schmidt described the sin Best Buy commits with how they sell flat screen TVs.   You see a row of twenty 56″ flat screen TV’s from different brands and all of them look good.  When the Sony is $1000 more expensive than the rest, you need to go to the specs in order to learn why.  This requires the consumer to engage their brain and when they do that, they have pain.  So when faced with pain, the consumer will often take the easy way out and go for a less expensive model.  He then transitioned to Harley vs. Honda. If you compare specs, looks and dependability, they are extremely similar (and admitted the Honda is better is some ways).  Then you look at the cost, and the Harley is significantly more expensive.  So why do people overwhelmingly purchase a bike that is so much more expensive than a comparable product?  Harley learned to stay away from the brain and not compare specs of their bikes, but engage the emotion of owning a Harley.

3. Personal Engagement is Key – One lesson Harley learned in the dark days was the value of asking potential/current customers what they thought of their motorcycles.  They allowed test drives (never been done before with bikes) and then openly engaged with their riders to get feedback.  Through this they received valuable information on how the riders would change the bikes and learned what custom features they would like to have. Most importantly, this gave them a chance to actively engage with their disciples (Ken calls their clients disciples, not customers).  Harley did not grow to be the number one motorcycle company because of great marketing.  You cannot charge that much more than your competition and expect to dominate the market through innovative marketing.  Ken Schmidt said they are successful because how the company engages with their riders.  He talked about their employees, going to events with Harley/non-Harley riders and how they interact with the crowd.  This interaction creates personal stories and valuable opportunities to engage with their riders.

4. Attraction – Humans are attracted to energy and then mimic that behavior energy.  When someone is excited, it is not hard to be excited with them.  When someone is energized, the people around them are often energized.  The lesson here is make sure your brand agents (your staff) send off the right signals.  Be excited about your company, products an services and others will mimic that excitement.  How your staff engages with potential and current disciples is the easiest to positively or negatively affect your brand.

5. Differentiation – When in a competitive marketplace, you have to be different in order to survive.  Ken Schmidt talked about how Harley would do the opposite of whatever their competition did with their marketing.  If the competition had a black theme, they would go with bright colors.  When their competition switched to bright, they would go black.  Do not get lumped in with your competition, follow them at your own peril.  Go your own way, be different and become memorable.

So here is a quick summation in two sentences: Have a unique story based on emotion, engage your prospects/clients/community with passion and individual attention.  Do that and you will separate your company/school/department/service and you will build a strong brand.