Case Study: Carthage College and the Tassel Topper

Learn more about our Custom Keyboard Stickers

Custom Mascot Promotional Ideas

Who wouldn’t love to receive a school’s mascot in a toy or stress reliever form? These are two custom mascot promotional ideas that we love!

Custom Toy Mascot

One of our favorite promotional items from the PPAI Expo was the custom building toy mascot, shown below as Flo from Progressive. Picture your school’s mascot as a toy figure. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

LEGO mascot sample

LEGO figure – a really fun promotional idea for a school mascot

Here is another example with the Iowa State mascot.

Iowa State Sample LEGO

Cy the Cardinal, looking rather cute.

In just about 90 days our vendor can create the likeness of your mascot in building toy form! Custom orders require a quantity of 15,000 pieces and an up front deposit of 50% of the total project cost. If that quantity sounds a bit high, consider working across campus departments to share the supply of figures. A mascot is a long lasting, enduring symbol of your school, so buying a large quantity of a popular item is a safe marketing investment. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us.

Stress Reliever Mascot

Similarly, a custom shaped stress reliever can be created in the shape of a mascot. Here are just a few stress reliever shapes that were showcased at one of our events.

stress balls in custom shapes

Custom shaped stress relievers include Vice President Biden and President Obama in the upper right corner.

To create your own custom stress reliever mascot, only 1000 pieces are needed to meet the minimum quantity.  Once a desired size is specified, our partner can provide a quote to create the custom mold. From start to finish, the turnaround time is about four to five months.

Custom Shape Mascots

Both of these custom mascot promotional products are very cool and are bound to be hits with anyone who is lucky enough to receive them.  With a little advance planning and working across departments if needed, you can create a customized and fun way to share your mascot and school with prospective students, current students, staff, and alumni.

A “Key” Way to Show School Spirit

We LOVE discovering new and creative ideas for our clients. In some cases, we even create a custom item to fit client’s needs.

This was the case for one recent project for the College of Engineering Alumni Office at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  This definitely was a unique application for a tiny, keyboard key sized sticker.  It is an affordable, fun, and one “key” way to promote school spirit and overall love for your alma mater at a workplace or home office.

keyboard sticker for your college

Jazz up your W key with this Wisconsin crest sticker!

We think this item will really catch on and have since created another one for the University of Minnesota Law School.

Minnesota Law School keyboard decal

Another keyboard sticker we recently created.

Suggested uses: handout at alumni events, direct mail, admitted student mailings

What do you think of the custom keyboard sticker?  Let us know in the comments below or contact us for more information!

View product details and pricing HERE.

For more sticker options, check out the posts below:

Collegiate Pennant Buying Guide

A pennant is perhaps the most iconic of ALL promotional items for colleges. Prospective and current students, alumni and staff will proudly display a pennant to show their loyalty, endorsement, and plain old LOVE for a school.

Common Uses

In addition to being popular, pennants are versatile, often being used to target prospective students, campus visitors, and high school counselors. Schools handout pennants to prospective students at campus tours or open house events. Some colleges include mini-pennants in an admitted student mailing.  High school counselors frequently display college pennants in their office or in a classroom. We pinned a few displays of pennants at schools in teacher classrooms on our “Products in Use” Pinterest Board.  When you see all types of pennants gathered together, it’s obvious that a lot of options and levels of quality are available to reflect your brand and budget.

Pennant Buying Guide

To make it easy to find the best pennant option, we have created several key areas to consider: material options, distribution, imprint options, sizes, and average turnaround time.

Felt Material Options

Depending on the main distribution method (hand deliver vs. mailing), select from two material types: Polyester felt or wool felt.

  1. Polyester Felt –  most basic, lowest cost pennant type, may CREASE when folded
  2. Wool Felt – higher end, best quality pennant type, will NOT crease when folded

The most affordable polyester felt option is the Felt Strip Pennant, as pictured below. Two colors can be imprinted on the solid background.  The fabric is the thinnest option, so it will crease if folded or rolled up for mailing.  Read on for more mail-friendly, higher quality pennant options.

Felt Strip Pennant

The Most Affordable option – Felt Strip Pennant


How will Pennants be Distributed?

It’s best to consider how the pennant will be delivered to its target audience to help narrow down material choices. Will the pennant primarily be handed out at events? Will the pennant be folded or rolled-up and mailed? While this isn’t always the first consideration that comes to mind with other promotional items, distribution is very important for pennants to make sure the correct material is ordered.

Lower-cost, polyester felt pennants can easily crease when folded and mailed, leading to unattractive results. If mailing is your primary distribution method, we recommend investing in a higher quality polyester or wool felt blend that will not crease.  Based on the desired design, all of the pennant options listed below are suitable for crease-free mailing.

Full Color Printing – Premium Felt Pennant

One step above the Felt Strip Pennant, is the Premium Felt Pennant (pictured below) with a full color design, making it truly standout from other options with just one or two color imprints. The full color, dye sublimated digital imprinting delivers excellent image and color quality on a higher quality 100% polyester felt material that can be rolled and folded without creasing.

mid range option - premium felt pennant

One Step Up – Premium Felt Pennant

Thickest Material – Wool Felt Pennant

As another step above the premium pennant, the wool felt pennant shown below is made of the thickest material.  One color direct printing is available.

The thickest material - wool felt direct print pennant

The thickest material – wool felt direct print pennant

As an alternative to direct printing, full embroidery is also an option on a wool felt pennant, giving the pennant a premium, classic look shown here in a mini, 6″x15″ size.

Best quality, embroidered wool felt pennant

The thickest, crease-free wool felt embroidered pennant

Popular Sizes

The most popular sizes for pennants are 8×18 inches and 9×24 inches.

Additional sizes available include: 4×10 inches, 5×12 inches, 12×30 inches, or the largest size 17×40 inches.

Average Turnaround Time

Once artwork is finalized, pennants can be produced in as few as 5 business days, depending on printing and material types. Allow for more lead time for mid-range to best pennant options as noted below:

  • 5 – 10 days for more affordable, felt strip pennants
  • 20 – 30 days for thicker wool-felt options
  • Up to 90 days for embroidery on pennants

Final Details

If mailing is going to be the primary distribution method, make sure an appropriate envelope or mailing tube is available.  This 2×9 inch mailing tube will fit the most popular sizes and would work well with any roll-able, non-creasing pennant.

Mailing Tube for Pennants

2×9 inch Mailing Tube for Pennants

It’s easy to find the ideal pennant to help promote your college after considering the material type, distribution method, printing method, size options, and production time frame. As mentioned in the introduction, a pennant represents and reflects your school’s brand, so we recommend choosing an option that fits your desired level of quality and budget.

Check out our pennant listing for a complete listing of all items. Let us know if you have any additional questions about pennant options. We are happy to be a resource for you!

Ripon College Class of 2017 Water Bottle Photo Contest

After researching, presenting, and helping our clients select the best promotional items for their projects, we really enjoy receiving feedback on the item and the results of our client’s overall program.  It is truly rewarding to know that we have played a part in an organization’s efforts to meet their goals.  This positive feedback is what makes our jobs fun and exciting each and every day!

Side view of Ripon College water bottle with mascotSide view of Ripon College water bottle

When we reconnected with our friends at Ripon College, we were thrilled to hear about their Class of 2017 Water Bottle Photo Contest program.  This was the first time they incorporated promotional items in their strategy to encourage newly admitted and deposited students to interact with the Class of 2017 Facebook page.  They mailed students a stainless steel water bottle packaged in a red mailing tube, so it would definitely stand out.

This contest was successful in creating engagement with the new class, leading to new interactions and conversations in the social media space.

water bottle mailing tube


Want to learn more about the contest and featured water bottle?  Click on our link below to read our case study:

Ripon College Class of 2017 Water Bottle Photo Contest


Product Highlights: Tide to Go pen, Chocolate, Coaster Stones

As a follow up to Highlights of the 2013 Product Showcase post, we’ll be featuring a series of videos from the industry-leading suppliers who joined us at Dave & Buster’s for a great customer event. This will give you a chance to feel like you WERE there, as we share video and information about exciting new products.

In the first Product Highlight post, we shared a video featuring gel pens, unique custom drinkware, infuser tumblers, and a folding golf umbrella.

In the second Product Highlight post, we featured new trends in performance polo shirts that are snag-resistant and moisture-wicking, while still being more affordable than ever.

In the third Product Highlight post, we discussed the 1960’s neo retro trend in messenger bags and the Bobble Water Bottle.

In the fourth Product Highlight post, we learned more about new technology items and food storage containers.

For our final installment of the Product Highlight series, we will hear from Jack Witte, who will share more information about Tide to Go and WD-40 pens, chocolate, coaster stones, and a hooded sweatshirt with a unique imprint area.


New Promotional Ideas for Events
If you’re looking for a new item to give away at events, consider some of the options that Jack shared: Tide to Go pen or WD-40 pen, or the ever popular chocolate.  We were fortunate enough to receive some of Jack’s leftover chocolate covered cookies, and they did NOT last long in our office – nor would they at an event or as a small appreciation gift.


Promotional Item for your Car
The coaster stone fits in a cup holder and absorbs liquids, making it a unique promotional item for your staff, alumni, or students.


Thanks for following our Product Highlights from our Annual Product Showcase! We will continue to bring you promotional marketing tips and ideas throughout the year on our blog. For any questions regarding any of these products, please feel free to comment or contact us directly.


Product Highlights: New Polo Shirts

As a follow up to Highlights of the 2013 Product Showcase post, we’ll be featuring a series of videos from the industry-leading suppliers who joined us at Dave & Buster’s for a great customer event. This will give you a chance to feel like you WERE there, as we share video and information about exciting new products.

In our first Product Highlight post, we shared a video featuring gel pens, unique custom drinkware, infuser tumblers, and a folding golf umbrella.

For our second installment in our Product Highlight Series, Chuck Cayo from Sanmar will talk about trends in apparel including a new snag resistant 100% polyester polo shirt that comes in 16 colors and bright and bold Nike Dri-FIT Golf shirts.

In a recent post about New Products, Michael discussed the increasing popularity of the 100% polyester, moisture wicking polo shirts.  They have risen in popularity because they are lightweight, comfortable, easy care, and breathable.  Recently prices have dropped, so a good quality performance polo shirt is more affordable than ever.

New Polo Shirts
Two performance polo shirts we frequently recommend are:
  1. Core 365 Performance polo shirt

These comfortable polo shirts are ideal for both student workers and professional employees – especially during warmer weather outdoor events.  Campus tour guides, golf outing participants, or outdoor sports fans can stay cool and stylish in these performance polos. Consider using them for gift-giving, fundraisers, or alumni programs to keep promoting your collegiate brand with a shirt that will be worn again and again.

See for yourself how spectacular these polo shirts are!  Contact us to learn more and request a sample.

First Step to Branding a Collegiate Department

Branding is a hot topic on college campuses.  Colleges are working to create identities and differentiate themselves from other higher education institutions. However the difficulty of creating a unified brand across a university is that there are many factors that can control how one feels, experiences and learns about the brand.

Branding is the culmination of experiences that one has with the department, college, program or service.  A brand is intangible; it exists separately with each individual.  Thus everyone has their own thoughts on how they feel about the brand.

So university wide, a school’s brand can be defined by academics, athletics, staff, incidents or the many other ways individuals learn about/experience the college.

So is it worth branding an individual department or school on a campus?

The simple answer is yes.  While the Chancellor’s office works to achieve a consistent university wide brand, an individual school or department cannot control how one feels about the entire school’s brand.  So the goal as a department is to control what you can control.  With my experience working with so many universities, we know campuses are often decentralized.  While operating under the university umbrella, the departments have their own budgets, staff structures and missions.  The feel and leadership styles can vary greatly from school to school, program to program, across the campus.  The feel of the School of Arts is often (and should be) different than the feel of the School of Business.  The Career Services office has a vastly different mission and role than Student Affairs.

The schools, departments and programs need to speak comfortably and authentically with their users.

This decentralization allows the individual schools, programs and departments to create their own brands. So where do we go from here?

Well the first step to branding a department is to learn what individuals think about the brand.  To do this, it is necessary to interview/survey all the users who come in contact with the brand. So talk with students, faculty, staff, deans, the chancellor’s office, parents, businesses…, anyone that uses or comes in contact with the department/school/program.  For example the School of Engineering can even talk to individuals in the School of Education and other academic on how they perceive the school and what brand signals are being sent out.

Each school/department/service has been sending out brand signals, whether on purpose or not, and in order to shape future signals, it is best to understand what signals have been shaping the brand.

To learn where a brand stands, send/e-mail our surveys, meet with people in small focus groups or meet one on one.  I always feel the best way to accomplish this is to get out of the office and meet with individuals in person, especially the ones that you value their opinions the most.  To really get to best understanding of how your brand is perceived, nothing beats the give and take in personal conversations.  The goal is to put together a sketch of how the brand is perceived and learn how effective the department has been in branding itself.

I once received a survey from a college. There were about eighty questions, many of them rating how I felt the college prepared its students for the working world.  However what I thought the most important aspect that they should be teaching was not even included in the survey.  So instead of filling out the survey, I spoke individually with the person in charge of the survey and explained my thoughts.  This way I was able to much better articulate my feelings on their performance than through a survey.  So instead of sending a long survey, I think the school would have learned a lot more about how they are doing by having twenty to thirty conversations, either on the phone or in person.

So before putting together a brand strategy for a department, the first step is to learn where the brand currently stands.  Since the brands exist in other’s minds, it is necessary to do the homework and learn what brand signals the department has been sending out.