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All Stickers Aren’t Created Equal

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In my latest coffee with the stars session, I was able to sit down with a partner in PromoShop, Kris Robinson.  PromoShop was founded in 1998 by Kris’s friend, Memo Kahan, in Los Angeles.  Kris has been a partner for 8.5 years and has 17 years experience in promotional advertising.

I wanted to share our conversation with all of the entrepreneurs, small and medium sized business owners out there that are looking for promotional material for their business.  Kris has some valuable information for companies looking into promotional vehicles.

When I went into PromoShop, the first thing I noticed was how barren it seemed but, as soon as I turned my head, I realized the store was packed with items.  They even had a Pac-Man arcade game in the corner but I didn’t get to play.  Shelves of items line the walls from Swiss Army Knives to plastic cups to t-shirts and hats.  Branded books, games, even a Google neon light can be found.  It would have made a great hidden picture puzzle.  With all of these items hanging around, I had to ask if Kris gets a lot of stuff for free.

“I tend to wear a lot of things that are non-logo’d or branded.  I have a lot of white t-shirts.  I do get lots of free stuff, my kids love it.”

Kris and I started to discuss walking advertising, movable promotion material.  Kris says, “Our industry is walking billboards.  If somebody opens up a page of the paper and they see the ad then that’s great but what if they don’t buy that paper?  There’s a term out there called free frequency.  Let’s say you have a mug and it sets on a desk.  Free frequency is how many people come by your cubicle or office and they see that mug with the logo or advertisement on there and you don’t know how many people that’s going to reach.”

So, sure a billboard will be seen by the same 1,000 people every day but how many of those will be interested in what the sign is offering?  If your market spends a lot of time at coffee shops, it makes more sense to advertise on a coffee mug.  When someone is interested in a hobby, they are automatically drawn to see what the other guy has.  I like to call it the ‘Cool Kid’ syndrome.  One guy says, “Hey, that’s a cool bag/hat/mug/shirt!  Where’d you get it?”  The other guy says, “Oh, at that super cool convention that came through town.  Did you go?”  Mental notepaper starts flying and calendars get marked for the next year.  This type of advertising works.  I mean, I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Hey, cool refrigerator magnet of that attorney you’ve got there.”

Society is changing and we’re not pulling out our latest issue of the yellow pages anymore.  We’re texting Google, looking it up on our iPad, and even using our smart phones to read bar codes to learn more about products or companies.  Naturally, an advertisement medium that has stuck around has been stickers.  I asked Kris about stickers and I got some interesting information that I hadn’t previously thought much about.

All stickers aren’t created equal. There are some stickers that start to peel because of the sun or water washes them off because they’re made out of paper instead of vinyl.  They may cost 10 or 15 cents less but it’s very important to know that there are stickers or decals that are UVB protected and water proof.  They may cost a few cents more but the value is going to stick around a lot longer than the paper based.”

Kris even gave me some great information about pens that I felt should be shared.  “Same thing goes with a writing instrument.  One may be 15 or 20 cents less and they may look the same.  The seller should be telling the buyer the difference and why they should be spending a little more money.  A Bic has an ink cartridge that writes for over one mile; an import could have a lot less.  You don’t know if they’ve been sitting on a dock somewhere or on a ship or if there’re air bubbles in it.  It’s up to the person selling the promotional vehicle to educate their clients.  It doesn’t come down to price on everything.”

Kris says companies should base their decision to do business with a promotional company on three variables:

Price, must stay competitive
Quality of product
Service for the company

The price aspect of those variables is pretty straight forward but what about quality of product?  If you’re a businessman, salesman, or even executive assistant, how are you going to know if you’re getting quality of product?  I talked to Kris about what sorts of things should be big red flags when shopping for promotional materials for your company.

Above anything else, Kris said compliancy should be the biggest flag.  He related a story of how DreamWorks and McDonalds chose a manufacturer to produce Shrek drinking glasses when launching a movie.  After 12 million pieces of glassware had been shipped out, the drink ware was tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and found to contain cadmium, a carcinogen linked to the weakening of bone structure and kidney problems.  McDonald’s stated on their web site that, in an abundance of caution, a voluntary recall was necessary.  This is the second time McDonalds had to recall Shrek promotional items.

“In todays day and age, it all comes down to compliance.  Having a healthy product, no lead based inks on drink ware all the way down to the factories and whether or not they’re using child labor and things like that.  Our world is changing; it’s evolving into a more streamlined process of keeping people safer when they’re buying products.  I use a factory that only uses soy based inks so it’s all natural and I educate my clients on that.  If they don’t know what compliancy is or they’re not telling you why you should be buying a certain product over another, that’s a big red flag.  The manufacturer doesn’t get bad press, it’s the company putting out the product.”

Kris’s business partners call him the tree hugger because he’s very conscientious about the environment.  He said the whole idea for an eco-friendly distributorship was because one day, 6 or 7 years ago, his son asked him to refill an old water bottle so it wouldn’t go to the landfill.  That made him start thinking and made him start a movement that allowed the creation of the first eco friendly distributorship; its called

The promotional materials industry is a $20 billion dollar industry and a lot of it gets thrown away.  PromoShop offers a multitude of eco-friendly options including recycled bamboo t-shirts, recycled plastic t-shirts, even t-shirts made out of recycled X-ray film.

“When someone comes in and asks for a t-shirt, I say, ‘Would you like bamboo or organic cotton?’”

Kris says he educates his customers on the options because the 100% cotton is the most detrimental to our environment due largely to all of the pesticides used to grow the cotton.  “You think pesticides just get washed out when they’re on there?  They’re part of the woven material; you put those on your kids.  It goes back to the growing process; pesticides going into the soil, getting in to the water table and the rivers and the food.  It goes on and on and on.”

After Kris put his soap box away, we discussed passion and motivation for what you do in life and how that reflects on you as a sales person or a business.  Buying promotional material for your company shouldn’t be just shopping, it should be much more than that.

“If I go to a restaurant and I had great service, I’m going to come back there again but if I had terrible service, why would I want to go back?  They’re just providing food; I want to go for an experience.”

“That goes with life in general.  If you know someone that is buying promotional materials now and not getting an experience, please give them my email and phone number because it’s just like anything else: somebody needs to bring ideas to the table.”  And Kris aptly refers to himself as an idea man.

A Little Bit About PromoShop:

PromoShop is a promotional and branded merchandise agency and is in the top 40 out of 24,000 in the United States alone.  They are primarily located on the West coast and headquartered in Los Angeles.  PromoShop can also be found in Boise, Seattle, San Diego, New York City, Dallas, Miami, and Encino California.  They now have a Canada and Detroit office open.

When PromoShop first opened, 58% of the business they did was in entertainment.  They started out as a surprising 3.5 million dollar company and are currently a 29 million dollar company.  With the financial stresses on the United States economy, they did see a slight downturn in their sales with 2008 seeing them as a 32 million dollar company.  They say things are slowly getting better.

PromoShop’s biggest client is Frito-Lay but they have several other notable clients.  They are in charge of the Dreamworks catalogue program and campus store.  They have the notoriety of being one of three distributors across the country that are Disney certified and a preferred vendor.  They also do business with Club Med, Sandals, and the Seattle Mariners.

January 26, 2011 by Staff Writer Lacy Sereduk. All rights reserved 2011

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