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Category: Culture

Promotional Product Nightmares

act-grim-reaperWe’ve all shivered, screamed, and hidden our eyes at scary Halloween movies, but promoting your business or organization shouldn’t be a scary.¬† What if your promotional product company turns out to be a real-life Halloween horror story?¬† Beware of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins out for your promotional gold! There are countless stories of promotional products gone awry, so you need to consider these spooktacularly bad scenarios before you place an order:

“Ghostly” Orders: There’s nothing worse than receiving a promotional product after you need it for a trade show or special event. Or never receiving it at all! You don’t want to be the empty house that everyone avoids….while your promotional products go bump in the night. Don’t fall prey to a company that will leave you hanging like out-of-season decorations at your next tradeshow or expo.¬† As for A Creative Touch, we’ve been in business for more than a decade, and we’ve never missed a deadline!

Terrifying Typos: Customization problems with products are an avoidable, but all-too-common error. The famous blog Cake Wrecks, for example, is devoted to bakery nightmares that will make you want to hum the “Monster Mash.” Errors like those can make your promotional products as scary as Frankenstein!¬† You can count on us to check, double check, and triple check your order.

Night of the Living Dead: You’ve received a stack of promotional products with frightening errors. Or you’re still waiting…so, you call the company and the line rings and rings. Is anyone home? Or will you be stuck with zombie-like customer service?¬† At A Creative Touch, you always speak to one of our team members, live and in real time!

Transylvania Style: There’s nothing worse than out-of-date merchandise that looks like it came from the last century. Beware of commercial retailers whose style and product advice is more Count Dracula than cutting edge, lest your promotional products end up in the graveyard.¬† We attend subscribe to multiple publications and personally attend several¬†industry events per year and stay on top of promotional product trends.

To be safe from the undead, call us at A Creative Touch¬†to help you with your promotional product needs! Don’t risk turning your dreams of success into a Nightmare on Elm Street.

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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!

Ribbon Awareness Lapel Pins

act-ribbon-awarenessPerhaps the most popular lapel pins available today are ribbon awareness lapel pins.¬† If you were around in the ’70s, then you must remember the huge Tony Orlando and Dawn hit, Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.¬† This is my earliest recollection of a ribbon awareness pin, but the tradition dates back much further than that.¬† ¬†

The origin of yellow ribbons as a token of remembrance goes back to the 19th century when women allegedly wore a yellow ribbon in their hair to signify their devotion to a husband or sweetheart serving in the U.S. Cavalry.

Of course, these days, yellow ribbons are joined with ribbons of every color of the rainbow.¬† Many groups, organizations and foundations have adopted ribbons to represent their causes.¬† Often, ribbons have multiple meanings or causes attached to them, making it difficult to create a comprehensive and fully accurate list.¬† But, we’ve attempted to identify some of the most common awareness lapel pins:

Pink ribbons are most commonly associated with breast cancer awareness and childhood cancer awareness.

Yellow ribbons signify support of our troops, but they can also serve as a symbol for MIA/POW, adoptive parents, amber alerts, bladder cancer, spina bifida, and endometriosis. A yellow ribbon with a heart is used to represent the survivors left behind after a suicide.

Red ribbons are most commonly affiliated with the fight against AIDS and HIV.  This ribbon color is also a symbol for heart disease, stroke, substance abuse, MADD, DARE, Epidermolysis Bullosa, and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.

A burgundy ribbon¬†represents brain aneurysms, Cesarean sections (worn upside down), headaches, hemangioma, vascular malformation, hospice care, multiple myeloma, William’s syndrome, Thrombophilia, Antiphospholid Antibody Syndrome, and adults with disabilities.

Purple ribbons are used for pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, domestic violence, ADD, alzheimer’s, religious tolerance, animal abuse, the victims of 9/11, Crohn’s disease and colitis, cystic fibrosis, lupus, leimyosarcoma, and fibromyalgia.

Blue ribbons are used to symbolize the fight against drunk driving, child abuse prevention, Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), the victims of hurricane Katrina, dystonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), alopecia, Education, Epstein-Barr Virus, Save the Music and many other causes. 

Dark blue ribbons symbolize arthritis, child abuse prevention, victim’s rights, free speech, water quality, and water safety.

A light blue ribbon is a symbol of childhood cancer (alternative color: pink), prostate cancer, Trisomy 18, and scleroderma.

Teal ribbons are used for ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancers as well as sexual assault, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and tsunami victims.

The color green (green ribbon) is a symbol of childhood depression, missing children, open records for adoptees, environmental concerns, kidney cancer, tissue/organ donation, homeopathy, and worker and driving safety.

Orange is the ribbon color used to represent leukemia, hunger, cultural diversity, humane treatment of animals, and self-injury awareness.

White ribbons honor victims of terrorism, violence against women, peace, right to life, bone cancer, adoptees, and retinal blastoma.

A pearl ribbon is a symbol for emphysema, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and multiple sclerosis.

 Black ribbons represent mourning, melanoma, and gang prevention.

Brown ribbons are an anti-tobacco symbol.

Grey ribbons stand for diabetes, asthma, and brain cancer.

Silver ribbons are used to represent children with disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, and mental illnesses such as severe depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Gold ribbons are a symbol for childhood cancer.

If you’ve ever seen a ribbon made of fabric that resembles a jigsaw puzzle, you are looking at a symbol for autism.¬† See our blog post, Pinning it Forward.

Rainbow ribbons represent gay pride and support for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender community and their quest for equal rights.

Lace ribbons are a symbol for osteoporosis.

Pink and blue ribbons represent miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death due to SIDS or other causes.

Flag ribbons are a symbol for both the victims and heros of the 9/11 attacks. They also symbolize patriotism and support of our troops.  Appropriately, flag ribbons are also a symbol of fireworks safety.

No matter which lapel pin ribbon color you choose to represent awareness for a meaningful cause, we hope you will not only wear it with pride, but use it as a way to start conversations that lead to prevention, cures, and hope.

Recognizing “Sweet” Clients and Volunteers with “Heart”


Heart-Shaped Jar Opener

Heart-Shaped Jar Opener

For years, corporations and organizations have followed a tradition of sending holiday cards and gifts to their clients, vendors and volunteers. The end of the year is recognized as a good time to acknowledge relationships and reflect on the past year. But because so many companies honor this practice, recipients are flooded with cards and the gesture loses some of its impact.

Consequently, in recent decades, companies started sending Thanksgiving cards and gifts in lieu of Christmas or New Year greetings.¬† After all, Thanksgiving is a holiday devoted to giving thanks for the good things in life, and that includes our clients, vendors and volunteers.¬† Furthermore, the Thanksgiving holiday is¬†not associated with any specific religious faith.¬† As a result, Thanksgiving now brings a¬†¬†lot of client appreciation “traffic”.

Heart-Shaped Magnetized Power Clip

Heart-Shaped Magnetized Power Clip

¬†Have you ever considered sending Valentine’s Day gifts to your customers and volunteers?¬† If you want to stand out from your competition and be recognized and remembered by the people who make your business run, this is a great time to¬†express your affection for¬†them.¬†¬† It’s also a¬†creative¬†way to remind your clients that you are here for them, and bump up your “middle-of-winter” sales.

It’s the thought that counts, so Valentine gifts and goodies for customers, vendors (and even employees)¬†do not have to be costly to make an impact; tokens of appreciation will work just fine.¬† Cookies, brownies, chocolate¬†and other sweets are a timeless representation of the holiday. You can buy them in the individual boxes,¬†attaching your business card or a branded postcard with a ribbon.¬†¬†¬†Send a card in an envelope and you can even include an extra -a small, flat promotional item like a magnet with your company logo.

Heart-Shaped Sponge

Heart-Shaped Sponge

¬†If you don’t want to¬†send boxed chocolates or sweets, coffee mugs are a great vehicle for candies, individual packets of coffee, or gift cards.¬† Here’s a great idea– include a printed “coupon” for coffee with you. This gives you an opportunity to follow up and set coffee dates, giving you some one-on-one time with your most valued customers.

And don’t forget things that are¬†shaped like hearts!¬† Did you know that A Creative Touch has more than 4,800 heart-themed promotional products?¬† Here are just a few of the heart-themed products we offer:¬† aprons, auto accessories, baggage tags, blankets, books, calculators, cameras, clipboards, coasters, coin purses, compact discs, cookie jars, dishes, flashlights, picture frames, highlighters, ice scrapers, jewelry boxes, key holders, key chains, magnets, heart-shaped measuring spoons, mouse pads, notepads, playing cards, salt and pepper shakers, scarves, shopping bags, soaps, spa products, sponges, stress relievers, stuffed animals, tape measures, and tote bags!

But, if I had to choose my favorite heart-inspired gift, it would be a customized book such as the one I created for my customers.¬† It’s called:¬† The Heart of a Volunteer.¬† Click here to read more about it.

5 Ways to Use Promotional Products in Your Social Media Marketing

Like it or not, social media is here to stay.  Corporations of all sizes now have Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube videos and blogs in addition to their company website.  These social media forums have changed the way companies interact with consumers and the way they distribute promotional products to clients, prospects and fans.

If you’re a regular (like me)¬†on social media websites, you know that creating a presence is not enough.¬† Successful social marketing happens when you drive people to your social pages to become “fans” or “friends”.¬† Here are some low-cost, yet effective ways to use promotional items to maximize your social media marketing:

act-social-media-button1.  Include Your Social Media Info on Promotional Items

Promotional products, particularly ones designed for the office like mouse pads, sticky notes, pens, mugs, stress balls and calendars, should not only list your web address, but also direct people to your Facebook and Twitter pages.¬† This will increase the likelihood that recipients will visit your social pages and follow your business.¬† You can even offer an additional incentive (think 15% off their first order) if they become a “fan” or “follower”.

2.¬† Say “Thanks” with a Promotional Product

Social media ‘thank you’ prizes are another great way to utilize promotional products.¬† When someone becomes your fan, follower, or friend, send them a ‘thank you’ message with an offer to send a small token of your appreciation via snail mail.¬† This strategy helps to build a relationship with your new fan while building your mailing list too!¬† And remember, not all promotional products have to be physical items. You could send your new social media “fans” ringtones, mp3 downloads, screensavers, or electronic greeting cards via email.

The initial excitement surrounding “getting free stuff” will never go away, but thatact-social-media-button1 excitement can now be extended throughout social networks to generate even greater marketing impact.¬† Social media provides your clients, prospects and fans with a ready-made outlet to express their appreciation for the items you give them and rave about your company’s products and services.¬† Since they’re already on social media, they are more likely to use these forums to brag to all of their friends about the cool “free stuff” you gave them.¬† This means everybody wins–your new “fan” is delighted and (s)he is generating “free” publicity for you and your brand.

3.  Turn Your Promotional Product into a Contest

When distributing promotional products at trade shows, expos, conferences and events, take your give-away one step further by adding a social media incentive.¬† For example, let’s imagine that you are giving away beach towels at a trade show.¬† Wrap a paper band around the towel that says:¬† “Be one of the first 10 people to post a photo of this beach towel in action on Twitter or Facebook, and you’ll win a beach cooler stocked with cool prizes for more summer fun!”¬† Don’t forget to include your social media contact info or designated #hashtag.¬† A contest of this sort encourages creativity and interaction between your company and its followers.¬† It generates interest and traffic on your social media site and gives you an opportunity to double your exposure for your beach towel give-away with another great give-away for a select subgroup of fans.

4.  Use High-End Promotional Products for a Membership Campaign

act-social-media-fbWhen executed correctly, social media campaigns (or contests) can generate a significant return on investment.¬† You can use social media contest software create a contest on your social media page.¬† There are two ways to approach these contests:¬† a grand prize for one big winner or a modest prize for a number of winners.¬† Whether you choose: “Like us on Facebook, and you’ll be automatically entered to win a trip for 2 to Las Vegas and 2 travel suitcases (with your corporate logo, of course)!” or “Like of on Facebook, and you could be one of 25 people to win a Coffee Lover’s Gift Basket valued at $200!”, your contest operates the same way.¬† The media contest software walks you through setting the parameters of the contest (i.e., prize will be awarded when we reach 5,000 followers or December 31st, whichever comes first); the software does the rest.¬† It captures fan information and even selects a winner at random.

Remember that the goal spreading the message virally.¬† Wherever you post contest details (webpage, blog, Facebook, etc.), visitors should have the ability to quickly and easily share with friends.¬† Provide them with toolbars, buttons, plug ins and other ways to spread the news at the click of button.¬† Then, imagine the powerful exposure for your brand as your current followers “share” and “retweet” a chance to win to all of their friends and followers.

5.  Get Your Fans, Followers and Friends Involved

Social networks are perfect for engaging your prospects and customers.¬† Use these forums to solicit their feedback and input.¬† Ask them questions:¬† “What’s the best promotional product you’ve ever received?”; “What is the must-have item this holiday season?”;¬† “If we send you a calendar, would you use it?”; “Where would you like to go on a dream vacation?”; “Would you rather give up coffee or chocolate?”.¬† Then, use that feedback to order your next promotional item or create a grand prize for your next social media contest.

Looking for more creative ways to pair promotional products with your social media communication?  Then give me a call!  Promotional items continue to have a lower cost per impression and a higher return on investment than other forms of marketing.  And, because they are tangible and longer-lasting, promotional items are a perfect complement to the fast-paced, virtual world of social media.

Flag Day T-Shirt

 Happy Flag Day!  June 14th commemorates the day in 1777 when the Second Constitutional Congress adopted the thirteen-stripes-and-thirteen-stars American flag.

As the legend goes, it was George Washington and two other members of the Continental Congress who asked Betsy Ross to sew the first American flag sometime in the late spring of 1776.¬† The young widow was only in her early 20’s when she completed the first flag with thirteen stars arranged in a circle.¬† A year later, the Continental Congress officially adopted the design for the national flag, and our beloved Stars and Stripes became the most recognized symbol of the United States around the world.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 “Flag Day.”¬† Thirty-five years later (in1949), Congress passed legislation asking the president to issue an annual proclamation calling for the observance of the holiday.

act-flag-shirtThis week, millions¬†of Americans will observe Flag Day by waving Old Glory outside their homes and businesses. Veteran’s groups and¬†certain communities also arrange events and special ceremonies in honor of Flag Day.¬† But, there is another way to show your patriotism–promotional products.

My favorite patriotic promotional products is this tie-dyed American flag T-shirt.¬† For me, it’s an item that puts a fresh, modern twist on the traditional Old Glory.¬† Available in sizes S to XL, the shirt includes your own 1-color imprint (front or back).¬† A client recently ordered this T-shirt with a custom imprint, and the results were fantastic!

Whether you enjoy a traditional approach to Flag Day or a modern spin on celebrating the Stars and Strips, you’re sure to enjoy these fun facts about our flag:

Who cut the American flag into pieces and was honored for doing it?

Robert Peary, who left pieces of the flag scattered at the North Pole

Is it ever appropriate to fly the flag upside down?

Yes, but only in an emergency. It means “Help Me! It’s an emergency! Call the police! I am in dire trouble and need immediate help!”

What is done with worn or outdated flags?

Flags are used until they are worn out and then they are destroyed, preferably by burning.

The American flag first flew over a foreign fort in what country?

Libya – over Fort Derne, on the shores of Tripoli.

A vexillologist is an expert in what?

The history of flags.

Promotional Products & The Royal Wedding

On the eve of the royal wedding, I couldn’t help but share the role promotional products have played in the festivities.¬† From beer to pizzas to underwear to tea, the royal nuptials have shown us that there is no limit to the creativity of promotional products.¬† The Telegraph newspaper reports the sale of royal wedding merchandise could top $42.5 million.¬† Now, there’s something to celebrate!

The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI)¬†said that¬†manufacturers are churning out mugs, plates, commemorative pens, compacts, ashtrays, shot glasses, book marks, reusable bags and car flags–all with a Will & Kate Royal Wedding theme.¬† Irreverent promotional products such as branded paper crowns and a commemorative plate reading “Thanks for the free day off” are also in high demand.¬†

Why are people buying promotional products?¬† Mostly to incorporate into personal and corporate events being hosted as a part of the celebration.¬† In fact, promotional products companies in the¬†United Kingdom¬†say that Will and Kate’s Royal Wedding has been¬†the biggest occasion for promotional product consumer sales since the New Year’s Eve¬†millennium in 2000.


Ford and Their Lapel Pins

act-ford-pinWhile surfing the net one day, I stumbled across a wonderful story about a promise and a lapel pin.¬† It’s an excellent example of the power of marketing with lapel pins.¬†

But it’s more than that.¬† It’s about having a face for your brand, about delivering what you promise, and about staying true to old-fashioned¬†grassroots efforts like word of mouth¬†marketing (everything old is new again!)¬†to grow your business.¬†

The story involves an exchange between two people: Robbin Phillips, president of Brains on Fire and author of the original blog post; and Scott Monty, the head of social media at Ford, celebrated for his work in word-of-mouth marketing.  When Robin met Scott Monty for the first time, they had a brief conversation where she asked for a Ford pin that Scott was wearing on his lapel. He took her card and took a minute to discuss cars with her.

When the¬†pin arrived in the mail (with a note from Scott), Robin was so impressed she talked about it and she wrote a blog post about it.¬† Perhaps one day, she’ll even buy a Ford!¬†¬† All because of a lapel pin….

How to Make a Lapel Pin

Ever wonder how custom lapel pins are made?¬† You’ll be surprised at all of the work (much of it done by hand!)¬†that goes into making these miniature pieces of wearable art….


Tell us all about your special lapel pin story! Fill in our Online Form or print out a Paper Form and mail it to us.

Click here to email your lapel pin photo.

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