Thursday, June 19, 2014

About logos and promotional products...

Much has been written about logos. Their design.The use and significance of color. How they represent a company's identity. The role of the logo in branding a company. There are as many definitions of what a logo is as there are people writing about logos.

For this blog though I'm going to use a pretty simple definition: A logo is a graphic symbol that represents your brand.

Paul Wyatt at Creative Blog posted on June 14 a great piece titled "Logo design: 60 pro tips."
Although it's written for the graphic design folks it is worth your while if you are at all involved in branding your company or designing your company's logo.

For this post I'm going to talk about your logo and putting it on promotional products. I'm going to show you possible problems and how to anticipate them.

When a graphic design firm creates a logo they also create a "style book." The style book dictates everything about presenting the logo.  How it can be rendered, the colors, what background colors, etc.
Most often the style book deals with how the logo can be presented in print and on-line. Often it does not deal with how the logo can be used on a promotional item. If you are involved with the design of your logo you should have your graphics team address this.

What can go wrong?

Each promotional product will have a "maximum imprint area." This is the space on the item where your logo goes. (Many products will have more than one imprint area, they may not be the same size.)
Keep in mind that this is the maximum area for your logo.
Let's take a pen.
The imprint area might be on the barrel and it may be something like 1.5" L x .5" H. Your logo has to fit within that area..and keep its proportions. So the actual print of your logo may be smaller than that 1.5" x .5" area in order to keep the proportions and fit within the imprint area.

An overly long horizontal logo will have a problem.

Here's the primary logo of our client Cambridge Savings Bank

You can see where this might be a problem for an imprint area that's not geared for a long horizontal logo.

Anticipating this they created a "stacked" version of their logo.

With this version they can use a smaller or non horizontal space.

When you work with your design team you want them consider how your logo can be rendered on promotional items with various imprint areas.

Your promotional products vendor can easily get this information for you on any product.

Another potential problem comes up with logos that have tag lines and phone and web addresses. On smaller items, like a pen, when you attempt to squeeze all that information into a small space you end up with text that is too small to read. The open spaces in letters will fill in. Anticipate this and have a version that does not have all that information.

Interesting aside: A recent study on promotional products found that most recipients do not use the promotional item as a source for your contact information. If they want to contact you they'll google your name and find you that way. Putting your phone and web address on an item is not critical.

To sum up: Design your logo, or have it designed, with the kinds of promotional products you'll use in mind.
Any design can be reproduced accurately in print or on-line. Not so with promotional products.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Terms you should know...

If you are in any way involved in buying promo items for your company, here are some common terms. . Knowing what they mean or how they're used will make you more knowledgeable.

Decoration: Anytime you put your logo on an item, that's called decoration. Doesn't matter the method of imprinting, (silk screen, laser engraved, pad printing, etc.) they're all called decoration.

Column pricing. Here's a typical catalog page showing pricing. This is for a USB flash drive.

The top line shows quantities with 50 being the "first column." In this case 50 USB drives is this supplier's minimum quantity for an order. (This is also called the "catalog minimum."). You'll see that the price goes down as the  quantity goes up. This is called "quantity price breaks." So, between 50 and 99 pieces the price per USB drive is $6.81, between 100 and 249 pieces the price is $6.53...and so on.
2500 pieces is the "end column" price.

About "catalog minimum." Often, but not always, a supplier will take an order for less than the "catalog minimum." In most cases they will take an order for 1/2 of that minimum. This is called a "less-than-minimum" order or LTM. There will be a surcharge added to the order to produce LTM. It can range from $25 up to as much as $80 depending on the supplier.

About the "Price" row. The price is per item. The price includes the item and a 1 color, 1 location decoration.

Set-up. Set-up is what the supplier does to convert your logo (from a digital file) into the proper format for them to decorate your product. This could be silk screening, embroidery, laser engraving, etc. The supplier has to "set-up" their machines to decorate your item. The set-up is a separate charge.

Run Charge.Remember that I said that the price includes a 1 color decoration. What happens if your logo has more than 1 color? Printing a 2nd color (or more) is where you encounter the "run charge." It is the supplier's charge to put that 2nd color on your item. It is quoted as a per piece price. The run charge also applies to printing in a 2nd  location. Let's say that you have a 1 color logo going on the USB drive. That first imprint is included in the price. Now let's say you want your web address on the other side of the USB drive. Printing in that 2nd location will involve a run charge.

PMS color match.Most corporate logos have very specific colors. These colors are designated by their PMS numerical code. PMS 032 for instance is what you might call a "fire engine" or "crayon red."
PMS stands for Pantone Matching System and is the universal code for creating colors.
When you specify your PMS color the supplier will add a charge to mix up a batch of ink in your specific color.
Most suppliers have a selection of their "standard colors" for which there is no additional charge. You should have your distributor check those colors...a standard color might be close enough to your PMS color that it's an acceptable can save yourself the PMS color match charge.

Proof. A proof is the supplier's depiction of what your logo will look like on the product you're buying. Most proofs are PDFs and show the item in your color with your logo in your colors. That's the industry standard.. If you receive a proof that is B&W or just shows your logo without the product, I recommend that you insist on a color proof.

That covers the charges you will have for a typical promotional product order. Knowing these terms will make you a better buyer and will avoid surprises in your final invoice.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The origins myth...

The origins myth in the promotional products industry has it that the very first promo item was a seed bag printed with the name of the seed supplier.
Not to be outdone, another local seed supplier made his bags into book covers for the local school.

Who knows?

Now the vast majority of promotional items are made in Asia with most originating in China.

Here's how the industry is set up.

Factories in Asia produce items under contract from suppliers here in the US. Most of these factories are contracted but a few of the largest suppliers have their own factories.

The suppliers here in the US import the goods blank...with no logos.
The suppliers warehouse the blank items.
Distributors place their order with the supplier, providing the end-user's logo.

The suppliers put the end-user's logo on the items and ship the completed order to the end-user.

Distributors are the intermediaries between the end-user and the suppliers. They're the promotional products vendors that the end-user works with. Distributors coordinate the order flow, handle all the back and forth and ultimately make sure that the end-user gets the product they want on time.

So, what did we learn?

Factories in Asia (mostly China) manufacture blank promotional items.
They ship them in bulk to suppliers here in the US
The suppliers warehouse the blank items. They then imprint them when orders come in.
Distributors coordinate the order flow between the end-user and the supplier.