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The “Dirty” Secret Behind Promotional Products

Printer | Antique Design IllustrationsIn recent blog posts, I’ve talked about one of the hottest promotional products on the market today, reusable tote bags.¬† But did you know that the “American father of promotional products” launched today’s multi-billion dollar industry with a reusable tote bag?¬†

In 1886, a newspaper owner in Coshocton, Ohio named Jasper Freemont Meek observed a young schoolboy as he dropped his books in the dirt on Main Street.¬† This sparked an idea.¬† Mr. Meek approached a fellow business owner and friend, Mr. Cantwell of Cantwell Shoes.¬† Meek pitched the idea of imprinting a burlap book bag with a simple, but direct advertising message:¬† “Buy Cantwell Shoes.”¬† Cantwell would give every child who came into his shoe store a free bag. The children would carry the bag as they walked to and from school so Cantwell’s name would be seen all over town. ¬†¬†Meek explained that this simple advertising promotion would build store traffic, increase name recognition and spike sales in Cantwell’s store.

Mr. Meek manufactured the book bag, imprinted the advertising slogan on his printing press, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Those dirty schoolbooks sparked the birth of the promotional products industry as we know it today.

After launching another successful promotional product (imprinted horse blankets, seen on virtually every horse in town), Meek realized that he could easily supplement his newspaper revenues by using his printing press to print a variety of promotional products in between weekly newspaper editions.  Meek officially started his own successful promotional products company, the Tuscarora Advertising Co., organizing a sales force that sold promotional items with practically no competition until 1889.

A rival local newspaperman became Meek’s first competitor.¬† Henry D. Beach followed Meek’s lead and soon the two were in stiff competition to be the first to create new promotional products by printing advertisements on anything that could be run through a printing press: cloth caps, aprons, hats for horses, Cobb pipes, marble bags, fly swatters, buggy whips, card cases, wooden rulers, calendars and fans, all imprinted with the messages of local merchants.¬† Both men then turned to printing on metal signs, opening up a new product line for metal advertising trays (like the now iconic collector’s items created for Coca-Cola and beer companies).¬† Soon the two companies would become world leaders in promotional products, attracting artists and skilled workers the U.S. and from Europe, all traveling to Coshocton, Ohio to gain work in illustration and other advertising mediums.

So what are the “dirty” little secrets Mr. Jasper Freemont Meek ¬†and his competitor Henry Beach taught us?¬†¬† The most effective advertising messages are the ones printed on useful, everyday items.¬†It’s easiest to capture your customers’ attention with promotional giveaways and novelty items.¬† And it’s smart to incorporate promotional products that correlate to your company’s core business-painter’s caps for a paint store, marble bags for a toy store, and reusable tote bags for a shoe store that makes its best profits selling a new pair of shoes to growing schoolchildren each year!

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Remembering Your
Reusable Tote Bags

act-reusable-grocery-bag-in-useIn my last blog post, I talked about why eco-friendly reusable grocery bags, promotional totes, and trade-show bags are one of the hottest (and greenest!) promotional products available today.  As governments and businesses seek ways to reduce plastic bag consumption, companies and organizations are looking to get reusable tote bags into the hands of their clients and prospects.

Not only are reusable promotional tote bags environmentally friendly, they are also marketing friendly.¬† With a custom printed tote bag, you gain loads of exposure from the residual effect by the bag’s reuse.¬† When people find a promotional product useful they will use it often, extending the advertising potential of the product indefinitely. Your logo or message on a reusable tote bag acts as a miniature walking billboard, providing multiple marketing impressions every time it’s used.

Because reusable promotional tote bags are useful and durable, and because they are an item that can be used in everyday activities like shopping, they are a great value in terms of cost per advertising impression.  But how do you make sure your prospects, customers, employees, and volunteers regularly use those bags?  Teach them how.  Here are some of the best ways to make sure your promotional tote bag product gets used at least 700 times (the average reusable bag has the lifespan of more than 700 disposable plastic bags):

Stock Up: There is strength in numbers.  Stock up on reusable tote bags and store them all together (inside one bag, for example).

Store Them in Smart Places:¬† Hang your reusable tote bags on the door knob so you’ll see them on the way out, or store them in the car. Keep reusable bags in the same place you store plastic bags (as a reminder to use reusable bags instead!). Keep a reusable bag inside your suitcase.¬† Fold up a reusable tote bag and put in your purse.¬† Even better, put your car keys inside a reusable bag-you’ll have to grab the bag to get to your keys!

Shop at Rewarding Stores:¬† CVS, Target, IKEA, and Whole Foods are just a few of the national retailers who reward customers who use reusable totes (rebates) and/or “punish” those who don’t (bag purchase required).¬† You’ll be more inclined to remember to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) if you shop in locations where you’ll save money for reusing your tote!

Set Your Sights On Style:  Everybody loves to carry a well-designed, stylish bag that carries a creative message.  At A Creative Touch, our promotional products selection includes nearly 1800 reusable tote bags that come in many styles, shapes, colors, and price points.

Send Yourself a Reminder:¬† Make sure “Bring Reusable Tote Bags” is the first item on top of every shopping list.¬† If you use a smart phone for your shopping lists, you can set this as an automatic reminder.¬† Hang a “Got Bags?” reminder on your front door.¬† Or, put a sticky note on your car dashboard to prompt you to bring your reusable bags inside.

Stick With It:¬† If you get to the store and realize you have forgotten your bags, go back to the car to get them.¬† After a few extra trips (which make for great exercise), you’ll be more likely to remember.¬† Finally, make it a habit to put your reusable tote bags back in the car as soon as you unload them.

Share these helpful hints when you distribute your next reusuable bag at a trade show, conference, or event and you’ll be sure to see a return on your promotional products purchase!

Recycle, Reuse, and Reap
the Rewards of Reusable Tote Bags

act-reusable-grocery-bagWith the increased focus on protecting our environment, reusable tote bags have replaced t-shirts as the most popular promotional give-away. Reusable bags come in all sorts of stylish shapes and prints, making them a fun and functional collectible item. Not only do they make shopping trips a little more fun, they make the user feel like a responsible citizen.

Consider these frightening facts about paper and plastic shopping bags and you will see why:

The United States cuts down 14 million trees per year simply to supply the demand for paper shopping bags. Chemically processed at high temperatures, paper bag production releases toxins into the atmosphere at the same rate as plastic production, yet paper bags weigh nearly ten times more than their plastic counterparts, requiring more fuel to ship them to stores. And, despite being highly recyclable, only 20% of paper bags actually get recycled.

When it comes to plastic bags, the statistics are even more dire:

  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, close to 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year, costing retailers around $4 billion annually.
  • The average person uses 350-500 plastic bags per year. And we are not alone. It is estimated that 500 billion to 1 trillion non-degradable plastic bags are used worldwide each year.
  • It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce approximately 100 billion new plastic bags.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that only 1% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide. The cost to recycle plastic bags so outweighs their value that most recycling facilities will not take them.
  • The other 99% of plastic bags are sent to landfills where it can take anywhere from 15 to 1000 years for a plastic bag to decompose. Yet because they are so lightweight, plastic bags are the debris most likely to fly away, settling instead in trees, storm drains, beaches, and the ocean.
  • Plastic is the largest source of ocean litter, with plastic bags making up over 10% of washed-up debris polluting the US coastline. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, each year an estimated one million sea birds and 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and other marine animals die of starvation after ingesting discarded plastic bags which block their digestive tracks.

That’s why, in some places, government is stepping in. In the recent years, more than a dozen countries have banned or put a tax on disposable bags. In 2002, Ireland was the first European country to impose a tax on plastic bags. At that time, it is estimated that nearly 1.2 billion free plastic bags were being distributed by retailers per year. Since the tax, Ireland has decreased plastic shopping bag consumption by 90%, reducing overall plastic bag usage by 1.08 billion.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban conventional plastic grocery bags. In 2010, Los Angeles County followed suit: shoppers can either bring their own reusable bags or pay 25 cents for a paper or biodegradable bag. Nationwide, some retailers haven taken initiative, offering discounts as an incentive to customers who bring their own! CVS Pharmacy and Target began offering incentives to their customers to switch to using reusable shopping bags. CVS gives loyalty card shoppers a $1 reward for every four times they leave the store without taking a plastic bag. Target’s program offers shoppers a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag. Whole Foods gives cusomters a 10-cent discount for each reusable bag.¬† IKEA stores charge 5 cents per plastic bag. Proceeds go to American Forests, the nation’s oldest non-profit citizen’s conservation organization. Even Wal-Mart has introduced a pilot program in Northern California that require shoppers to either bring their own bags or pay 15 cents for a reusable bag at checkout, or $.50 for a plus-size bag.

Not only are reusable tote bags a necessary tool for all future shoppers, they are also a great advertising vehicle. In addition to creating brand awareness for your company or organization, they relay a message that you are part of a growing global ecological movement. After all, reusable bags save trees, water, gas and oil, while helping to reduce air and ocean pollution.

In fact, the average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags. Over a lifetime, just one person using reusable tote bags saves over 22,000 plastic bags! If your company or organization hasn’t created a custom-branded tote bag, it’s time to call the Queen of Promotional Products now!

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