Client Perspective: The Fan Stand

April 11, 2011

It’s hard to believe that our relationship with the Hamilton Southeastern Fan Stand is going on three years.  It seems like only yesterday we were discussing the ideal webstore and fantasizing about how much money we could raise for the students at HSE.

Today, the Fan Stand – a student run school spirit shop – has turned into the kind of serious revenue generating business that many colleges would envy. They do almost $30,000 in online sales alone each year, and almost $200,000 in retail sales in their physical store, a converted concession stand within the school.

I asked Anna Stumpf – Fan Stand coordinator, teacher, partner, and fellow trouble-maker – to share some client perspective as we begin working on their orders for Fall 2011. In the coming weeks, we will feature stories from Mrs. Stumpf and her students to give some insight on how the process of creating a successful spiritwear program works.

Our first installment is from Mrs. Stumpf: The mastermind behind this program and whose ingenuity has made a business run by a bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds such a success. Many people have asked Anna, “How do you work with kids all day?” Her response below shows just how, and why, this program has become a success for both Hamilton Southeastern High School, and Print Resources.

Anna Stumpf and Students

Mrs. Stumpf working with some of her students.

 

How do you work with kids all day?

Anna Stumpf, teacher at Hamilton Southeastern High School

In my third year of running an SBE (school based enterprise) with senior business students, I have more of an appreciation for what our young people are capable of than I ever have before. In just fifty minutes a day these students collectively manage a successful business. It’s a class for them, just like math or English, and they are within a year of leaving the halls of this school forever, so why would they care about a spirit shop? I don’t know, but they do.

I’ve seen amazing dedication, creativity, heart and initiative out of fifteen seniors this year, and in years passed. The level at which these kids perform rivals that of most retail stores, especially when you take the amount of time they have to work at this SBE compared to a 40 hour a week employee.

The group I have right now worked for two weeks before school even started. You don’t do that for your social studies classes or your math teacher. They gave up time at football games their senior year to work, they worked on Saturdays and put in early mornings and time after school throughout the year. They held each other accountable and often times held each other up. Even the least effective student rises to the occasion in a crowd like this because if they don’t do it on their own, peer pressure will make them. What did all of this time and effort get them? A grade. Just like they get in all of their other classes. However, they also get to leave high school knowing that they are in a rare class of people.

How many college freshmen have designed apparel for 2700+ high school students? How many college freshmen worked to design, promote and execute a $10,000 one day event at a high school spirit shop? How many people on the planet can say that they were directly responsible for a $32,000 registration sales event that occurred before the school year officially started? How many students interviewing for an internship in college can pull out a portfolio full of designs that they helped create, market and sell to a high school? How many students can say they did sales forecasting for an e-store and a brick and mortar store for a full year and returned a 25% sales increase?

Let’s not forget the meetings with vendors, the cold calls and visits to sell website advertisements and the fact that ExactTarget, a world leader in marketing, has thoroughly trained these kids on how to execute a successful email marketing campaign. I mean these kids can sit you down and explain an effective call to action in an email and they can interpret a Google Analytics report! Experience has taught these kids far more than any internship, textbook or teacher ever could.

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Inspiring Hooligans

February 25, 2011

I couldn’t help but be encouraged by a story in the IBJ (Indianapolis Business Journal) a couple weeks ago.

A local business man, Ron Brumbarger, who runs Bitwise Solutions here in Indy, started a program for middle school students who are interested in learning about website development.  You can read the full story here.

The article struck a chord for me, personally, as I have been involved with youth development and leadership since my interning days in college.  Now that I’m an “adult” (by age only, mind you), I still teach middle and high school students as an instructor for a local marching band & color guard program.

If you don’t have kids of your own, or are not around kids of that age group, it can be easy to discredit them as naive, silly, spoiled, and (my favorite) lazy. But in my personal experience, many young people are much more motivated, creative, and aware than many adults may think.

I know what you’re thinking…. how on earth does this relate to promotional products?

Well, when I read this article, I couldn’t help but think of the countless times the students I come into contact with have inspired me to think differently about a promotion, a t-shirt design, or a campaign.

For example, the first place I saw a “silly band” was on the students that I teach.  They were crazy about them, and I knew it would only be a matter of time until the craze hit the promotional market.  A year or so later, and we just processed our first order of custom bands for ExactTarget.

ExactTarget Silly Bands

A twitter bird, cell phone, ExactTarget "X", and Subscribers Rule! Hand

ExactTarget Silly Bands Package

All wrapped up and ready to hand out!

I also love the creative and unique ideas the students from The Fan Stand at Hamilton Southeastern High School bring us.  They have no trouble telling me what is “cool” and “uncool”, which in my world translates to “sell” or “not sell”.  And they should know, as they sell about $200,000 worth of spiritwear and apparel every year.  Talk about motivated!

So the next time you need some creative inspiration, want a great test market, or just feel “promotionally” stuck, why not test out the younger generation for some help?  Ask your kids, or your neighbors’ kids, or those hooligans at your local Starbucks. Chances are they’d be more than willing to help, and you may just find the perfect design or product to put you a step ahead of the competition.

Please feel free to share your personal experiences in the comments section, and as a fun weekend activity, spend time reflecting on when you were totally cooler than your parents. Ahhh… those were the days.

Happy Friday!

The Proof is in the Package

January 27, 2011

I have a bad habit of getting on my computer when I get home from work and spending a good hour (or 2…or 4…) perusing the interwebs.  As if sitting in front of a computer during the day isn’t enough, I go home and Facebook stalk my friends instead of doing the laundry.  Productive!

On the other hand, I’ve found some pretty inspiring and motivational tidbits while “wasting time” on the internet, so maybe it’s not such a horrible thing that I’m down to my last pair of emergency socks?

The other night I came across Tuned Pale Ale.

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Falling into the “Why-Didn’t-I-Think-Of-That!” category, these guys actually combined beer, science, and music (okay… and great design) all into one genius product.  I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t wait to share it with the world.  Or get my hands on some… I’m already envisioning how awesome my Backyard Beer Bottle Band is going to be. (Our first piece will be “Beer Bottle Variations on a Theme of Hot Cross Buns”.  It will be epic.)

It got me thinking about promotional products and campaigns, and why they work (or don’t, in some cases).  I’m consistently asked, “What’s new? What haven’t we seen!? What can we hand out that is different from everyone else?”

I often have difficulty answering this question because, quite frankly… you’ve probably seen it.  Case in point; Erin and I attended a “New Products Showcase” last week, and out of the 30 or so supplier booths we passed, there wasn’t one thing that stood out as new or different to me.  It was a lot of the same stuff we’ve seen for the past few years, now available in Burnt Sienna!

How do we solve this dilemma of standing out in a sea of sameness?

I say, instead of starting out by trying to find a unique product, why not start with YOU? What is it that you or your company does that is unique, fun, new, or different?  How do you stand apart from the rest of your industry? What is the message you want to send?  Once you narrow this down, you might find that the best product to convey the message is something simple and ordinary in a creative package.

The guys who created Tuned Pale Ale didn’t create anything new. Micro-Brewing has been popular for a few years now, and everyone I know has blown across a bottle to make a sound. But they found a way to take something common and turn it into something unique and fun; just by adding some interesting packaging. And I bet it doesn’t have to win a taste contest to move some product.

Here’s an example from a client of ours, Ener1, who designs and manufactures advanced lithium-ion batteries for machines like… oh… electric cars.  Instead of handing out their wordy informational brochures in a folder, they decided to put them inside a static shielding bag similar to the bags in which their batteries ship.

Ener1 - Closed

Closed

Ener1-Open

Open

Nothing new or unique about what they are handing out, but they packaged it in a creative way that says something about who they are as a company.

The lesson?  If you’re looking for a great new way to promote your company, the best way to make yourself stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily the product.  Sometimes, it’s the package.

So, the next time you are searching for a way to make your promotions stand out from the crowd, give this approach a try and see how it works for you.  And if you need some help… well… you know who to call. 😉

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some browsing… er… laundry to do.

You heard it here first!

January 13, 2011

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” recently did a segment covering San Fransisco’s happy meal toy ban.  Hmmm…. Didn’t someone we know tell you all about that recently?

Check out the clip, and then feel free to go back and read/comment on my blog post about it!

The Daily Show

P.S. Sorry, I tried to post the clip in here instead of rerouting you, but WordPress does not allow Flash videos.  Wahhh wahhhhh…..

P.P.S. Two posts in two days = one patting of myself on the back.

Happy New Year!

January 12, 2011

It’s 2011!  Okay… admittedly, it’s been 2011 for 12 days now, but between traveling, shopping, gifting, exchanging, visiting, decorating, un-decorating…. I am just now getting around to my work resolution. If you never started then you can’t break it, right?

Things got pretty busy for us at the end of the year, which was great, but it didn’t leave me much time to share any promotional news with you. I’m going to try to be better for two reasons: 1) Maybe there are a few people out there who really do enjoy reading this? and 2) My mother asked me about 5 times over the holidays when I was going to write another blog.

Okay Mom, I’ll do my homework now.  😉

As far as new reports in the Promo world, the big news is the rise in the price of cotton.  Unfortunately for all of us t-shirt lovers out there, this means your favorite apparel item is also going to come with a higher price tag.  This price increase is effecting the retail markets as well as wholesale, so just keep this in mind if you are looking to order t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies or any of your other favorite cotton items.

A tip from the pros: If the color of the ink you are printing is lighter than the fabric you are printing on, we must print an “underlay” of white to make the colors pop.  Think of it like a base-coat of paint on the wall – without it, you’d see the fabric color through the ink (or the previous owners lovely giraffe pattern wall “art”).

Giraffe Wall

I guess it could double as "tortoise shell" or "large rock mural" or "ugly"

The “underlay” adds an additional color charge, which can really add up, especially when you are printing a small quantity of shirts.  So to get a better price, try going with a lighter shirt color, dark ink colors, and limit your design to one or two colors.

And if you need help, our artists can help you convert a colorful design into something MUCH less expensive to print!

Here’s a great example of a design we converted, compliments of the daughter of one of our favorite clients:

Before and After Design

Before and After!

Well I just looked outside and the snow continues to fall, so before I have to shovel my way to my car, I think I’ll wrap it up. I’ll be doing my best to update you more frequently throughout the year with tips, tricks, news, and anything else I can think of that you might enjoy putting off work to read.

Happy New Year!

San Fran Toy Ban

November 4, 2010

Hello Readers!  Well… former readers… since I haven’t really been writing.  My sincere apologies, as I’m sure there has been an empty space in your heart since my last post.  😉

But, alas, things are finally balancing out and leaving me enough time to get to share some of the Promo World with you!

Big news out of San Fransisco earlier this week, when the Board of Supervisors voted to ban toys from unhealthy fast food kid’s meals.  Read the story here.

Big win for our overweight kids, or big loss for fast-food restaurants?

Personally, I can’t imagine getting a Happy Meal without a toy.  Isn’t that the happiest part?  Unless of course, it’s some stupid matchbox car or something.  Boys are so gross.

 

No Matchbox!

Maybe if it was pink...

I mean, in my day, they didn’t even have a choice of a “girl” toy or a “boy” toy.  They just had toys, and you got it, and you were happy with it because you got to go to MCDONALD’S!!!!!  Actually, back in my day we had birthday parties where we stacked Styrofoam Big Mac boxes to see who could make the highest stack. I guess we learned a lot in the last 20 years…

So here’s my opinion: Do we really think that kids are so enticed by awesome toys and odd clowns and purple blobs (what is Grimmace anyway?!) that they would eat food that is bad for them over healthy alternatives with slim to zero marketing tricks and that tastes like vegetables?  YES! Yes we do.

But kids like lots of things that aren’t good for them, and quite frankly, they aren’t the ones buying the Happy Meals. How many 5-year-olds do you know with a debit card and a sweet SUV to carry around all those plastic Barbie Dolls? Zero.

It’s the parents’ hard earned cash that is paying for all those Happy Meals, so I guess I’m just not really sure how taking the toy out is going to help motivate change? Unless, maybe, the San Fransisco Board figures kids will beg and beg to eat arugula salad because it comes with a My Little Pony figurine. Personally, my 5-year-old self would prefer the cheeseburger and no toy. Actually… my almost-30-year-old self would prefer that as well…

Carrot Man

It's just not the same...

(Darnit… Maybe I just proved the point…. )

What do you think? Should the government be dictating how businesses market their product, whether to kids or adults? What about the other players here… the toy manufacturers (okay, they are probably in China, but still…), the distributors (like us!), the franchise businesses owners, parents, children, etc?  Weigh in below!

Creative Calendars

August 29, 2010

Well…hello PromoAGogo fans! I know it’s been way too long since I last posted.  I have tons to catch you up on, including coverage of our trip to the ASI Convention in Chicago.  The good news is that I’ve been behind because we are so busy with successful school programs, corporate deliverables, and more. Unfortunately, all the work has left me little time to blog. But updates are coming soon!

Until then, please enjoy these really creative calendar designs. 🙂

Promo a NoNo

July 6, 2010

Some products come into our lives and, although we may be skeptical at first, in time we say, “How could we have ever lived without you!”

Snuggie

The world was dark, and then you came along...

When new, interesting and buzz-worthy products come along, I often find myself wondering, “How soon will someone put a logo on this?” Other times, I find myself thinking, “I hope that no one ever puts a logo on this.”

I give you, TV Hat™.

Carb Day 2010

June 8, 2010

If you’ve never experienced the month of May in Indianapolis, you surely do not know what you are missing.  It seems even those that are most uninterested in IndyCar racing the other 11 months of the year can’t help but catch a bit of 500 fever.

Print Resources celebrates every year by holding our company picnic at one of the biggest events at the track: Carb Day. Unfortunately for carbohydrate lovers like me, it is not exactly a day to pig-out on bread… although the consumption of Barley based alcohol might qualify.  It’s the last day of practice for the race teams (historically Carburetion Day), and a day to work on the first sunburn of the year for the fans.

I thought I’d share some pictures of the day, and our own promotional product success story.

As you can see in the pictures, we had our own t-shirts made for the day, featuring our 2010 ZZ-Top/Race Fan on the back.  We design a new character each year, and this year played off the featured band performer of the day.

The t-shirts garnered quite a bit of attention with a local news reporter who was covering the “infield” festivities. Our company was featured on the evening news, which resulted in free exposure to thousands of households in our target market. I’d say that’s definitely worth the money we spent on the shirts, and made up for closing the offices for a Morale Building day!

Enjoy some photos of our crazy company on our favorite day in May.

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Indie Band :: Promo Win!

May 30, 2010

If you’re not already a fan of the band OK Go, you’ve probably at least seen one of their YouTube sensation videos.

Ok Go recently dropped their record label and decided to start their own, independent label.  In doing so, they had to come up with creative new ways to make money. One way was to sell albums via USB drives at concerts, which proved to outsell CDs.  They even re-purposed props and uniforms from their creative, low-budget music videos.

Read all about it here.

Have you ever had to get creative when competing with the “labels” in your industry? In what ways have you incorporated a new or different technology in order to be more accessible to your fans/clients?