Beyond Koozies: Outside-The-Box Promotional Items

From koozies to pens, branded promotional items are everywhere. Most businesses have them, but they’re often ineffective.

Think about the number of times you’ve received t-shirts with poorly designed logos and desk calendars full of stock photos. It’s probably a lot. And I’d bet most of them have wound up in the donation pile or are currently languishing on a shelf somewhere.

We’re offered so many promotional items because we’re predisposed to take free things. The problem is, most items aren’t useful or desirable. A USB phone charger? I look forward to speaking with you about your business once my phone is 40% juiced three hours from now.

Promotional items should be useful and/or desirable. And they should be well designed and reinforce what the business stands for.

What could this look like around the Buffalo area? I have a few ideas. Feel free to take notes in that branded spiral-bound you have yet to crack open. I’m sure there’s a pen somewhere.

GObike Buffalo: Branded Helmets

I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until eighth grade. That didn’t stop me from becoming a brand coordinator, but it did stop me from using a bike helmet. If I had, I would have wanted it to be one with a cause.

Enter GObike Buffalo, a bicycling advocacy group that facilitates positive change in our community. Whether they’re providing us with alternative transportation options or volunteering to repaint our bike lanes, they’re a true vehicle for Buffalo’s urban development. That sounds like a cause to me. It also sounds like an opportunity for promotion. You know where this is going.

A series of blue, on-brand helmets would promote GObike’s overall mission while also furthering a sense of community. A city of blue helmets and safe bicyclists? Sign me up. Also feel free to take a moment and imagine the opportunity for user-generated content: a video of a child – or even an eighth-grader – learning how to ride a bike while wearing one of these helmets? There are tears in my eyes.

My Cuzin Vintage: Life-Used Clothing Cards

My adolescent life can be characterized by an affinity for collecting sports gear and memorabilia. But if you asked my parents, they’d probably replace affinity with obsession. I was absolutely hooked.

I loved cards in particular. Occasionally, I’d open a fresh pack and one would have a piece of an athlete’s jersey built into it. Finding one always made me feel like an insider.

My Cuzin Vintage understands that. As a vintage, mostly-sports-based clothing store, they recognize the importance of the relationship between the sports and clothing industries and apply it to a local business model. Which is why a series of trading cards that not only highlight vintage clothing pieces by way of well-shot photographs and quirky lifetime statistics but also give you a piece of said unique clothing, would work well as a promotional item…

Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), The Riviera (right panel), c.1926

Burchfield Penney Art Center: Audio-Filled iPods and MP3 players

Going to school away from Buffalo has perks, but it mostly has downfalls. To me, the worst is an inability to consistently experience the local arts. That’s why I’d often visit, among other institutes, the Burchfield during my breaks.

During one break, I ended up in the art center’s theatre where a group of actors and actresses were performing imagined stories based on Charles E. Burchfield’s paintings. I didn’t know it when I walked in, but it was exactly what I needed to see to write this blog post. Jokes aside, it actually left me feeling pretty inspired. But how could this idea be applied as an effective-yet-tangible promotion?

As explorers of what’s next, Burchfield Penney could take old-but-on-brand iPods, fill them with audiobooks, audio-plays and local-artist-made music that speak to current exhibits and place them in small businesses. Imagine sitting at Remedy House, picking up an iPod and listening to an .mp3 file that corresponds to this. There’s your sonic motivation to finish whatever were just doing as well as your digital invitation to see what’s being described. Did I mention you could keep it?

Forest Lawn Cemetery: Gravestone Paper Weights

Imagine watching The Chappelle Show for the first time only to find out that Rick James is buried in your backyard. That’s what happened to me my sophomore year of high school. And yes, I took a photo next to the gravestone. That doesn’t happen in most cities. But here? There’s something about culturally significant figures being buried nearby that gives us a super freaky sense of pride.

I know you’re probably thinking that paperweights fall into the realm of being only vaguely useful. But these wouldn’t be regular paperweights. They’d be commemorative pieces of art performing a similar function to Forest Lawn itself: bringing history to life through sculptural masterpieces.

When I think about it, I’m reminded of the Sabres’ reign as a perennial playoff team—you know, before we lost our two captains in free agency. Between the full-page player profiles in the Buffalo News and gas stations, corner stores and grocery stores giving out pins and token-medals of the players, there’s enough evidence to support the idea of Buffalonians being excited to collect locally relevant miniature gravestone, much less Seymore H. Knox II’s.

Jim’s SteakOut: Antacid Tablets

This one is half serious. But the antacid and Stinger combination should be common knowledge. Thanks, Jim’s.

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