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2018 Trends in the Promotional Products Industry

Earlier this month, we attended the 2018 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo. The PPAI Expo is North America’s largest promotional products trade show and was the perfect place to get a sneak peek at the 2018 trends in promotional products.

Here are four trends that caught our eye at this year’s expo:


Cork isn’t just for coasters and wine anymore, it’s seemingly everywhere these days and the promotional products industry is no different. There are the products where one would expect it to show up like drink ware, pencil pouches, journals, and pens. However, the sky is really the limit with cork. For instance, check out this tote and this baseball cap!


Heathering is the process of interweaving yarns of different shades of the same color to produce an alternate color. This creates a distinct, textured look in apparel. While this can be done with any color, gray is by far the most popular color. It’s been extremely popular in apparel for the past couple of years, but it’s now expanding into products like hats and bags. A trend within a trend that we saw at this year’s PPAI Expo was combining a heathered gray base with bright colors on the trim

Wireless Charging

Qi wireless charging has been a feature in Samsung and LG phones for a few years now, but without Apple supporting the feature, wireless chargers hadn’t really caught on in the industry. However, with Apple’s iPhone 8 and X now supporting the feature, wireless chargers have started to become a popular item within the promotional products industry and it shows with the variety of designs.

Powder Coat Finish

A powder coat finish provides a soft matte look and unique texture on drink ware and was everywhere at this year’s PPAI Expo. The finish allows your branding to pop out more because it absorbs light instead of reflecting it like more glossy finishes. Customers love powder coating because it’s a durable finish that shows less wear and tear and can take a beating. It also provides a unique feel that can’t be found in other finishes. 

Want to know how you can capitalize on one, or all, of these trends? Contact your account manager, send us an email, give us a call at 414-831-0184, or fill out our contact form today!

More from PPAI 2018

If you’re interested in what products we loved at the PPAI Expo, check out three blogs for each day of the show:

Great Additions for Your Corporate Apparel Program

Earlier this week we told you about everything we learned when Peerless Umbrella stopped by, and yesterday we switched gears to learn about new apparel options from Cutter & Buck. You may have heard of Cutter & Buck before, as they are a high-end retail brand offered in stores such as Nordstroms and many golf pro shops.

With their 2017 line having just been released last week, we saw some great new pieces that would be perfect additions to your next corporate apparel program. Check out some of our favorites from Cutter and Buck and their partner line, Clique, below:

Fine Twill Easy Care Dress Shirts

cb_lcw08394_als_mod_xl cutter-buck-mcw09180-mens-l-s-epic-easy-care-fine-twill_ACAB-1890-MCW09180_NyFifth

Choose easy care for a crisp, professional look. This wrinkle-resistant 60% cotton, 40% polyester twill provides the powerful style you desire. The button-down collar, coordinating logo buttons, double-back pleat, barrel cuffs with tonal C&B pennant embroidery, and chest patch pocket offer a strong appearance for men. The tailored-fit styles are cut closer to the body with higher armholes resulting in a trimmer silhouette. Ladies enjoy pin-tuck detailing on the collar and cuffs, coordinated logo buttons, piping on the inside back neck, eye-catching princess seams, and a tonal C&B embroidery pennant.

The Shaw


Incredible design goes hand-in-hand with sporty performance in the Shaw Hybrid Half-Zip. The mock neck protects against wind and sun while the ultra soft, 92% polyester and 8% spandex fabrication wicks moisture to keep you comfortable. The contrast piecing, C&B heat transfer at the back neck add a modern touch. Ladies’ include zip pocket at the sleeve for added storage.

Hamden Jacquard Polo/Half-Zip

images MCK09255_VL_MANN_HG











Light as a feather with an elegant tonal texture, the Men’s CB DryTec Hamden Jacquared is built to perform. The moisture-wicking 100% polyester jacquard fabrication with tonal stripes and side vents ensure all day comfort, while the silver piping at the neck, and C&B pennant embroidery at the back provide modern style elements. Look your best while you perform in comfort with the moisture-wicking Ladies’ CB DryTec Hamden Half-Zip. The 100% polyester and jacquard jersey fabrication with tonal stripes, and thumb holes on the cuff provide for a cozy start to those cool mornings.

The Telemark












Outsmart the wind, rain, and cold with this lightweight, high-performance softshell. Fashioned from duable 96% polyester, 4% spandex plain weave softshell fabric, the Telemark fabric is waterproof to 1,000mm, keeping you dry. The mock neck, microfleece lining, and elasticized cuffs keep you cozy, dry, and protected from adverse weather.

The Moss












Neither wind nor tight budgets stand a chance against this stylish 100% polyester windbreaker. Styled with elastic cuffs, convenient stow-away hood, and covered front pockets, the Moss is the perfect option for lightweight weather protection. it also includes an internal locker loop for easy storage when the elements are less inclement.

For More Information

Do any of these items seem like the perfect fit for your next round of corporate apparel? Just let us know and one of our Account Managers would be happy to share more information about these and other great Cutter & Buck items!

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring… and We’ve Got the Solution!

An umbrella makes a great promotional gift because everyone needs one, but who really wants to go out and buy one? You can also never have too many umbrellas – keep one in the car, one at the house, one at the office, and more!

A few weeks ago Peerless Umbrella, our go-to production partner for umbrellas, stopped by our office to tell us about what’s new and trending in umbrellas.

Read on to learn more about our favorite umbrellas!


The Rebel

The Rebel

What’s New – The Rebel

The newest addition to Peerless’ line is the most unique umbrella we’ve ever seen – the Rebel.

We’ve all been in the situation where it’s pouring rain as you’re running to your car, and you have to make a quick decision. Do I try to get my umbrella closed as I’m in the car and risk getting my car wet, or do I just get soaked and close it before I get in? The Rebel is the solution to your problem.

With an inverted design the Rebel closes away from you, keeping you dry as you get into your car or walk into a building.

Click the image to the right to see exactly how it works!


The Mojo

The Mojo

What’s Trending – Unique Use of Color

We all have seen the basic black umbrella or the standard two-tone umbrella, but are you looking for something that can make you stand out from the crowd?

We can help you do that! From a new twist on the two-tone umbrella to a black umbrella with full-color clouds on the interior, we have just what you need to make a unique statement for your brand.

Check out our favorite to the left – the Mojo comes in black or navy blue with accented internal hardware in a variety of colors.


A Custom Full Color Umbrella

A Custom Full Color Umbrella

What’s Trending – Full Color

Do you have a logo that’s too unique for a standard single-color print? How about a picture of a new building or location that you want to show off? We’ve got the solution – a full color umbrella!

Pick from folding, fashion or golf for the handle and frame, and an interior or exterior full color print. An added bonus? On some sizes and designs we’re able to print domestically, cutting almost two full months off of production time.

It is sure to make your stand out from the crowd on a rainy day!


For More Information

Would an umbrella be the perfect fit for a project you’re working on, or would you just like more information? Just let us know what you’re looking for, and we can present some options that will be the perfect accent for your next marketing campaign. We’re here to make your brand stand out from the crowd, rain or shine!

Creative Imprints Make a Statement

Are you looking for ways to make your logo standout on a coffee mug, water bottle, or glass? Check out these creative imprints to make a statement!

UCLA crest imprint on glass

Sample of a Mirror Imprint

Mirror Imprint

The interior portion of a glass or clear piece can be looked at through a reverse view, as shown in the UCLA glass above. We take the logo and provide a reflective image. Both logos are on one side of the piece, so you aren’t having to cancel out logos in two different locations. The UCLA blue logo is viewed across the opposite side of the glass in the left most part of the image.

Tone on Tone Wrap Print with LinkedIn Logo

Tone on Tone Wrap Print with LinkedIn Logo

Matte / Glossy Tone on Tone Wrap Print Example

Matte / Glossy Tone on Tone Wrap Print Example

Tone on Tone Wrap Print

The wrap goes around the piece almost completely with a retail branding of a glossy finish on a matte piece. There will be a small gap, instead of it being a full 360 degree wrap. The gap allows you to place your logo vertically. In this form of design you can take an emblem/crest/part of the logo for the wrap as you can see in the LinkedIn sample. If there is something unique to the company, such as a tire tread, an arch, or just wording of what a company offers, it can be wrapped around the bottle for emphasis, as in the Yokohoma picture.

Glitz Print Decoration Method

Glitz Print Decoration Method

Glitz Print

This decoration allows a shiny contrast in a two color design or highlights a logo beautifully. If you want to add a sheen to a logo for vibrancy, then glitz print will be the perfect choice. The sample above has a beautiful, glittery effect!

One of our Projects

One design client of ours loves the matte black finish on their coffee mugs. Here’s an image of one mug that we recently created:

Tone on tone glossy imprint on matte black

Tone on tone glossy imprint on matte black

They sell these mugs on their online store with a choice of the tone on tone imprint or white & red imprint on matte black. Now if that doesn’t make a statement, then I don’t know what does! What is your favorite imprint method?

For More Information

There are multiple water bottles, travel mugs, ceramic mugs in a variety of finish types.  A few that we like include:

Need a specific idea? Just let us know what you’re looking for, and we’ll present options for you to review.

Related Links

Promotional Version of the S’well Bottle

New Promo Products of 2015 Photo Highlights, including Drinkware

Case Study: Western Racquet Club



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:

Summer Event Ideas

Summertime is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the many community events!
Many colleges participate in state or county fairs to promote their schools to the greater community. We commonly support schools in such efforts. Here is a photo collage of summer event ideas that we’ve created for clients:

promotional ideas for events

A community event is an opportunity to connect with an audience in a fun and exciting way. Having staff wear branded apparel and handing out a promotional item is a way to make your school memorable both during AND after the event.

At events promotional item can:

  • Help drive people to your display and activities
  • Serve as a reminder of the experience with your school after the event ends
  • Promote word of mouth marketing, whenever anyone sees your swag
  • Increase brand recall and recognition to support your school
  • Tie-in with social media accounts to increase your brand’s reach beyond the event

For these reasons, we highly recommend using your brand colors and logo across multiple items. As in the photo collage above, a tote bag is a visible canvas for your logo throughout the event. While we created that bag for the Tosa Farmer’s Market, a similar idea could be applied to any school’s presence. Whenever you’re giving people handouts, a tote bag, drawstring bag, or plastic bag with your logo on it provides a convenient, useful take-away.

Another example of a school that we support for community events is the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. The sunglasses and paw print fans pictured in the collage above were used for the Wisconsin State Fair. Temporary tattoos, visors in school colors, and yellow t-shirts were also used for their presence.

Social Media Tie-In Ideas

One strategy to bring the event to a wider audience is imprinting a hashtag or Twitter handle onto promotional items, just as UWM did one their t-shirt imprint last year.

UWM State Fair shirt design

UWM State Fair t-shirt Imprint tied in with social media.

To create buzz and excitement on Twitter, The University of Wisconsin – Madison used the custom #FutureBadger frame at campus visit days and UW-Homecoming. Such frames, school mascots or fun backdrops create an eye-catching photo-opp for event attendees. Photos are then often shared on social media to increase your exposure. Photo-opp attractions are an excellent way to create an interactive display and draw a crowd!

More Event Ideas

For more inspiration and ideas, see UWM’s promotional items in use at the fair  the links below:

Since promotional items serve as a reminder of a brand experience, it’s important to select items that reflect your brand identity.  We recommend advance planning with an experienced promotional consultant, who can discover the right ideas and share examples from other colleges and universities.  We are here to support your summer event planning needs – simply contact us to get started. Happy event planning and have a great summer!


Clever Promotional Product Mailings Help Land Dream Client

Michael Wolaver shared an interesting excerpt related to promotional products from a book he was reading called The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus with 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes. In the chapter called “The Nitty Gritty of Getting the Best Buyers,” the author talks about specific tactics used to land dream clients.

Through a multi-pronged, targeted direct mail campaign to the biggest OEM manufacturers, the sales team was able to schedule appointments with half of their top 100 dream prospects. These appointments were extremely successful with 100% testing the product and ultimately making a purchase.

How did they achieve such a successful campaign? The answer is simple – great marketing helped them gain attention and stand out from competitors.

Details on the Direct Mail Campaign

First, they sent out an offer letter that promoted free education and research – something that was valued among their prospects.

Two weeks later, a similar offer letter was sent, but this letter included a promotional item. A Rubik’s Cube with the headline: “This Rubik’s Cube has more than four billion possible combinations. Fortunately, there are only five that you need to worry about when it comes to being a successful manufacturer in the new millennium. Don’t be puzzled by the dangers facing manufacturers! Get our free education today!”Promotional Products Work

Follow up phone calls and role play to fine tune their script further enhanced the effectiveness of the mailing with the Rubik’s Cube.

Over the next five months, mailings with promotional items were sent to their dream prospects. Catchy headlines tie in with the products, such as:

  • Flashlight: “Don’t be in the dark about the five biggest dangers facing manufacturers.”
  • Compass: “Most companies are losing direction when it comes to manufacturing in today’s environment. Don’t be one of them. Get our report on the five biggest dangers facing manufacturers today.”
  • Tape Measure: “If you want to measure up to the highest manufacturing standards, get our free report on the five most dangerous trends facing manufacturers.”

Each promotional item and message tied in with the company’s theme and overall strategy. With repetition and follow up phone calls, the company’s brand and offer resonated with their audience, leading to half of the recipients to schedule meetings.

Isn’t that Costly?

Yes, it DOES cost more when you invest in 3D mailings that include promotional items. However, such an investment to a TARGETED group of top prospects was a worthwhile expenditure because it helped open the door and ultimately make sales for the sales people who conducted follow up calls. A promotional item is much more memorable than receiving a letter alone. Who could forget receiving a Rubik’s cube after all?!

As with any marketing cost, the bottom lined must be considered. In this case, if the mailers helped secure just ONE new client, which were the biggest companies the company would target, it would pay for the mailers for twenty years.

Clever, Targeted Marketing Works

The targeted direct mail campaign, follow-up calls, and appointments helped turn this company around from losing money to making $2 million dollars the following year. Investing in promotional items and unique mailings truly helped gain top prospects’ attention, build a positive brand image, and generate sales.

One huge client even said in a follow-up call

“Oh, yes, I am so glad you called. I just HAVE to have you come here and meet with me… Because I’ve been getting all those little gifts of yours and I just think your marketing is super.”

Consistent, creative, and targeted marketing can help you gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. For some ideas on how to enhance your direct mail efforts, read our blog post or contact us for an Idea-Storm session.

Attention Grabbing 3D Direct Mail Ideas

For direct mail that really stands out in the mail pile and grabs attention consider adding dimension, eye-catching colors, and a promotional item. According to industry research, investing in direct mail will help deliver a bigger bang for your buck.  Consider the following stats:

  • 4.4% is the average response rate of standard mail (Direct Marketing Association).
  • 3D mailings receive a 250% better response rate than standard mail (Direct Marketing Association)
  • A direct mail piece that includes a promotional item can increase response rates by 50% (Silver Marketing Group Study).

While a color imprint, unique shape or bright sticker may help draw more eyeballs to standard flat mail, 3D packaging provides a larger canvas for imprinting artwork and messaging. Here are a few 3D direct mail ideas that can enhance your next mail campaign:

Imprinted Mailing Pack

One sample that exemplifies this is the Poly Pak.

Poly Pak imprinted packaging

Full color promotional mailing packet gives you more messaging space for your brand.

Imprint in full color on both sides of the packaging to showcase your company.  This would be one way to spruce up mailing envelopes used for sending literature.

The Greeting Cube

For smaller packages with more durability, the Greeting Cube is an ideal option. Saint Louis University used this packaging to mail USB drives to prospective students for the John Cook School of Business. Imagine what your school, business or organization could create for each of the panels by looking at the Saint Louis University images below:

Greeting Cube assembled

The Greeting Cube is 2 3/8″ – a very cute package!

Pricing includes the cube assembly, product insertion, and shrink-wrapping. Additional personalization is available through variable printing, so individual names could be imprinted for an additional charge.

Outer side of the Greeting Cube

Flat outside of the Greeting Cube includes assembly instructions and pre-affixed adhesive.

Inside of the Greeting Cube

Inside design of Saint Louis University’s Greeting Cube


Another 3D packaging mailing option is BookWear, a shrink wrapped book-shaped package that contains a promotional item. As indicated in the recruiting college students information, BookWear has a high open rate and conversion rate due to its novel appeal. Here is one collegiate sample of a compressed t-shirt inside of BookWear:


Front cover of BookWear

Front cover of BookWear – shrink wrapped to enclose neatly folded, compressed t-shirt

BookWear Back cover

Artwork wraps around back cover and binding.

The standard print area for BookWear is 9 inches wide by 4.5 inches high, though custom sizes are available. See our BookWear Showroom for more details. You can also view this YouTube video to see other samples of BookWear items.


3D Direct Mail Case Study

Last but not least, we recently helped law firm DeWitt Ross & Stevens with a 3D mailing that included an imprinted phone stand promotional item and informational insert. This was a very creative and successful branding initiative for the firm. Learn more about how we helped recommend the right promotional item and more specific details of their prospecting mail campaign in our 3D Direct Mail Case Study.

3D direct mail case study images

Imprinted box, phone holder with card inserted

3D or lumpy mail is a worthwhile investment for helping increase response rates and overall effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns.  For more ideas, peruse our direct mail showroom, or contact us for more information.

New Promo Products of 2015 – Photo Highlights

Michael Wolaver and Pat Conley descended upon Las Vegas earlier this month to attend the PPAI Expo.  While we compile and organize a few top 10 lists of new promotional products we love, we wanted to share some photo highlights from their trip.

bright colors, office and kitchen swag

Bright colors, office & kitchen items

From top left:

  • Fun, new shimmer ink imprint on cloth bags.
  • Bright colored trucker hats
  • Reflective safety bands
  • Fluorescent desk accessories
  • Trivet or Growler coaster
  • Collapsible measuring cups
  • Pizza cutter and server
So many drinkware options

So many drinkware options

From top left:

  • Extra large fruit basket infuser
  • Stainless steel and matte black travel mug
  • Snacker – holds a snack on top of your drink
  • Colorful tumblers
  • A way to “spritz” yourself to cool off
  • Growler insulator / cooler
  • Juicer bottle
  • Mugs with flocked imprint
Technology related items

Technology related items

From top left:

  • Tech Tattoos – decals
  • LokSak Waterproof bag for your phone
  • Tablet stand and holder that rotates landscape to letter orietation
  • Full color phone holders
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • Device chargers
  • Elastik phone cases
  • Cell Mate phone wallet and stand
  • Cleaning kit
Team spirit ideas

Team spirit ideas, Pat Conley showing off #1 Hand

From top left:

  • Fun spirit socks
  • Chrome domes large signs
  • Techno Skinz Decals for laptops and other devices
  • Poms with imprinted handle
  • #1 Ultimate Hand

Which pictures and products stand out most? Here was our top new promo products post from 2014.  Stay tuned for the 2015 lists!