The Changing World…Is the Supply Chain Getting Better?

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As many of you know in the post-Covid landscape, it seems that most everything takes longer, is in shorter supply, and costs more.  So many factors have contributed to the ongoing supply chain crisis across the globe, but there are planning strategies to help keep the impact on your organization to a minimum.  Like most, the promotional products industry was hit hard with immediate shortages, rapidly changing stock numbers, and increased demand.  The new normal we must navigate as an industry is one of longer lead times for production and shipping along with more flexibility in ordering, budgeting, and product selection.

The good news is that although 2022 will not be back to pre-pandemic levels, there do seem to be signs of improvement. The backlog of container ships waiting to offload cargo at the LA and Long Beach ports is receding, overseas container capacity is available, and we expect that the enormous shipping costs will level out and improve with time as well.  The resilience of our blood centers has been on full display during the last two years, in so many ways. Your staff, your donors and your volunteers have risen to the occasion and have continued to let nothing stand in the way of saving lives.  As customers and partners, your continued understanding never ceases to amaze our team. There were many times where we found ourselves piecing together 5 different types/styles or colors of shirts to fill even a 100-piece order, and when we were challenged, you said yes without fail, and for that, for you, we are so grateful.

As we continue to navigate all of the moving parts and to help lessen the impact of these continued challenges on your organizations, we suggest a three-step approach:

#1        Place orders farther in advance than normal (weeks, even months in advance is ideal) – work with our team to develop an annual promotional plan, with target ordering dates and secure product/stock in advance.  We often begin planning in the Spring for the following year, so if this is something you would like to engage the FCI Brands team to do, now is the best time to start the process.

#2        Establish a Plan B, just in case – if you are open to additional colors/styles/designs or if you have an alternative in mind when an order is placed, this eases the stress if a specific product is backordered or unavailable.  We will work with you to determine this in advance or at the time an order is placed for back-up.

#3        Communicate potential substitutions to donors – our team suggests that for promotional purposes you always note that the featured product or design is subject to change based upon availability and that donors are aware that due to the current landscape there could be last minute changes to incentives, thank you gifts or recognition items.

While we cannot predict how or when things will level out or even what the new “normal” looks like, we want you to know that we are here for you as support, as strategic planning partners, and as a full-service promotional product supplier that can guide you through the challenges, whatever they may be, with proactive solutions and ideas to engage your donors.  We are here, we are ready to work together to ensure you have the pieces in place to recognize and reward those that support a safe and adequate blood supply for the communities you serve.

Ready and Refreshed!

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Our team just returned from the annual PPAI conferencewhere we learned about the new trends, items, and ideas that the new year brings. It is always exciting to see the latest and greatest ideas, in real life, so we can determine quality, durability, and variety.

As we walked around, we pointed out things that we knew would be of particular interest to our current customers. You see, when we work with you, we listen to what you want, we learn about your needs, and then creatively, as a team, we bring you the items or plans that help you reach those goals.

If you could have listened to the team as we walked around, you would have heard us speak about our customers as if they were our friends (they are!). We would see an item, suggest a tagline, try to outdo each other for best tagline, and someone would frantically note those ideas so they could be communicated later.

We are much more than a company that can order branded pens or shirts for you. Can we do that? Absolutely. We can get you all of the branded pens, cups, shirts, umbrellas, and coolers that you could ever want. If that is what you need, let us know!

But if you want a team to work with you on your annual promotional plan and incorporate messaging, taglines, items, and graphics, we are here for that too! We can help you get through the week, the month, or the year.

And to the customers we chatted about while we were at the conference…watch out! We can’t wait to share what we found for you.

How Social Are You?

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Marketing is an ever-changing target, is it not? We are all trying to figure out how to reach clients, what will catch their eye, what will make them attend our event, and what will make them talk about us.  

I remember when social media first launched and the marketers in my community (San Antonio, TX) were all trying to keep up and change WITH the environment, instead of watching it just go by.  We were trying to find our place, both personally and professionally. And we were trying to figure out how our brand fit into these new spaces. There were so many questions: who was hanging out on those platforms, what were they doing there (just looking around, posting, or seeking information), and what did they expect out of our business?  

We certainly didn’t want to be the serious one, in the fun space. And we didn’t want to have too much fun, if others were there to be serious. There was a balance, and we had to find it. It wasn’t until I started to follow our local water company that it all started to click. Their tweets, their Facebook posts, and eventually their Instagram posts were brilliant. They talked about water and conservation –yet they were really funny and shareable and they made you want to check back for more. Their jokes, one-liners, or GIFs always left us (the followers) thinking about how to be smart with water and not wasteful—yet, we were laughing and having fun following along. Let me remind you, they were talking about water. They made water fun. Again, I will say it was brilliant. 

That was over 12 years ago, and I must say that some of the questions we had early on are still relevant. Except now we have more platforms to look at: TikTok, Snapchat, and others. And the reality is that we need to be there! All of us need to be there because that is where the people are.  

When we serve our clients, we work with them to create items and messages that will get their donors and clients talking and sharing. Social media is unique because it is a place where you can reach them to let them know your needs, AND it is a place where they can share what they have done with you (give blood, run a race, hit a milestone, or start a new job). Give them the thing that will make them proud of what they have done, but also, guess what? They will think about you every time they wear that shirt, sip out of that coffee mug, or stand their phone on their pop-socket, and chances are, that thing will probably make it onto their social media pages at some point. And when that happens, everyone wins. 

Talk to us about adding on a social media toolkit to your next campaign!   

It’s a Whole Vibe

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Most people start each day picking up their phone, scanning multiple sources of info for news, social updates and maybe their to-do list. If you are like us, you are also always looking for signs of ‘normal’ along with ways to inspire and share happiness.

Topping the list for most screenshotted and shared right now are brands stepping out of the norm to connect with their audience and we are here for all of it!

Look no further than pimento cheese t-shirts and custom garden gnomes in the Master’s legendary golf merch tent for examples. These highly sought-after items are a study in creating demand and attention for things we didn’t even know we wanted, but now totally need.

As you think through your next promotional campaign, we encourage you to remember much of branding is perception (internal and external) and it can be a huge positive boost to your marketing efforts. Here are five quick examples of scroll-stopping ideas to build loyalty:

  • What’s old is new again…embrace sentimentality and joy for years of the past with retro concert tees, tie dye bags and denim accessories
  • Regional vibes are a yes…from a hat that shouts Ya’ll to a custom tumbler whispering that thing everyone says, promoting what is unique about your city, state or region is always a win.
  • Make ‘em laugh…not one day passes where our team misses sharing a funny TikTok link or hilarious photo. When you embrace humor within your promotions, you are giving your supporters permission to have fun while connecting with you and that equals their attention for the long-term, not just for today.
  • Limited releases create demand… quickly gain traction and drive action from your already-established customer base while attracting new networks with on-trend ideas, like a collectible shirt series, bright socks or quirky puzzle.
  • Positive newsmakers are important…we can’t stress enough that people like to hear how they are making a difference for others, and when you reinforce this message by highlighting positivity, you are steps ahead. Consider bagging your t-shirt with an insert card featuring a personal story or ask your supporters to share their love of your organization by tagging you on social media for a chance to win a unique prize. Pairing emotional connections elevates your giveaways to much more.

And now, we remind you, If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of how to put a plan in place, you don’t need to go it alone. We are here to help…after all, we really like you.

Pantone Picks Two Colors of the Year for 2021

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Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are a marriage of color, conveying a message of strength and hopefulness.

(Excerpted from Pantone’s recent release)

A message of happiness supported by fortitude, the combination of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is aspirational and gives us hope. We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter – this is essential to the human spirit.

As people look for ways to fortify themselves with energy, clarity, and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty, spirited and emboldening shades satisfy our quest for vitality. PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. The colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.

“The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit.”                 –Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Insititute

Emboldening the spirit, the pairing of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 highlights our innate need to be seen, to be visible, to be recognized, to have our voices heard. A combination of color whose ties to insight, innovation and intuition, and respect for wisdom, experience, and intelligence inspires regeneration, pressing us forward toward new ways of thinking and concepts.

ABOUT PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR

For over 20 years, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design.

The Pantone Color of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis. To arrive at the selection each year, Pantone’s color experts at Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films in production, traveling art collections and new artists, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles, and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures, and effects that impact color, relevant social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.

All Aboard for Donor Engagement!

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Everyone loves to make a good first (and second, and third) impression, and that is especially important when it involves donor engagement! The donation process shouldn’t just be about filling out paperwork and the medical process. It can also be a memorable experience for donors to realize the amazing, lifesaving difference they are making,

There are several easy ways you can take your thank you gift to the next level while connecting donors to your mission and encouraging more frequent donations. Consider kits!

Simple kits add value by including a variety of information pieces, practical items, and some fun things, too. Many centers provide new donors a small onboarding kit, while others focus kits on specific types or procedures (like apheresis donors.) Or, consider rewarding gallon levels or frequent donor milestones with a special gift box or bag. Lapsed donors could be invited to come back in with a simple “advance” thank you gift. Below are some steps to get started on maximizing your marketing and recruitment efforts with kits!

Step 1: Pinpoint Your Budget

You may be surprised to learn how combining a few low cost items with a powerful insert card featuring a blood recipient’s story can positively impact a donor’s experience. Reflect on what your ultimate goal is for the kits, who your intended audience is, and how you’re planning to use them. When you are calculating your budget, don’t forget to leave room for costs associated with assembly, packaging, and if applicable, shipping. Logoed gift sets are all about creative presentation. These don’t have to break the bank!

Step 2: Choose Your Items

This is our favorite part, and we are here to help you with popular choices!  We can recommend items that have real staying power, while promoting your important message. These can be multiple smaller products or just a few higher-end ones. For an even more cohesive kit, go with products that all fit a theme– for example, a picnic-themed kit could feature a tumbler, blanket, reusable cutlery set, sunscreen, etc.  – and focus on how donors give other families another chance to enjoy the summer. The possibilities are endless here!

Step 3: Decide on Presentation

When it comes to a branded kit, packaging is as key as the contents! The presentation of your giveaway is going to set the first impression for your brand (yes, even blood centers need a strong brand identity!), so it is important to not skip over this step. Here are a few ideas for unique, eye-catching packaging:

Custom-printed mailer box

Polybagged folded t-shirts and insert card promoting upcoming events and a thank you message

Branded tote bag

Logoed paper or plastic bags

Mailing tubes

Organizations big and small want to show appreciation and foster loyalty by recognizing the valuable contributions of their donors, volunteers and staff. The key to a great brand kit is curating several quality promotional products and then packaging them in a way that adds value and brings the whole set together cohesively.

If you can give your donor base a genuine feeling of belonging and connection with your mission, you will have a lifelong life saver AND brand ambassador.

Classic Blue Is Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year

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Our team has recently returned from the International Promotional Products Show, where we found amazing new items that we’ll be sharing throughout the year. With each show, the Pantone Color Institute selects a Color of the Year, and for 2020, it’s Classic Blue. According to the Ad Specialty Institute, ‘people are clamoring for comfort, calm, and constancy…and this straightforward hue is a refreshing return to timeless elegance.’

The process for selecting the color of the year is very involved. Experts look for color influences across the entertainment, art, fashion, and technology industries, and this is the 21st year an annual color has been named.

While at the Expo, we saw this color represented across several promotional categories, from drink ware to bags to electronic items. Classic Blue is lighter than royal, but a little darker than French Blue, and it particularly works well with apparel choices.

It’s a great, on-trend, choice to consider for some of your items this year!

5 Office Toys That Will Bring Joy to Your Brand

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Look around your office and you will probably find that your coworkers’ desktops are riddled with a variety of knick-knacks, toys, puzzles, and stress balls. Office toys are a great way to stay stress-free while knocking out a heavy workload. Products like fidget spinners and fidget cubes have exploded in popularity. That makes them a perfect canvas for your next branding experiment. Here are 5 office toys that make awesome promotional products.

1. Fidget Spinner

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Over the past couple of years, fidget spinners have spread through the world at an exponential rate. There’s something both calming and exciting about spinning something in your hands. Does the joy of fidget-spinners perhaps originate from the human longing to conquer this spinning earth? Or, in contrast, is it the human longing to mess around with something instead of responding to emails? Could be both. The only truth we know for sure is that placing your name on one of these bad boys gives you some serious face-time with your potential customers.

 

2. Spinning Top

 

It’s really hard to beat a classic, and there’s nothing quite as classic as a good old fashioned spinning top. Not only are they fun, but they are classy. Remember in the feature film Inception when Leonardo DiCaprio kept that spinning top to help remind him if he was in his reality or some other dreamscape? Well, with these spinning tops your brand will be associated with one of the most dreamy office toys of all time.

 

3. Fidget Cube

Fidget cubes are like an all you can eat buffet for both casual and hardcore fidgeters. With options to rub, spin, click, flick, and roll, there are enough options on a fidget cube to make this office toy a fan favorite. When people pick these up to give their fingers a fidget feast, you’ll want to make sure it’s your brand dishing out the fun.

 

4.  TrianglePeg Game

This strategy game has zapped away millions of hours for people waiting for their pancakes at Cracker Barrel. Don’t let the simple design fool you. This is a strategy game that requires the player to stare at this little triangle intently every time it is played. And your logo can be right there while they stare. Let’s get strategic!

 

5. Mazes

 

The hand maze is the go-to puzzle for someone who needs to find their way out of a conundrum. Now you can be there to help them out. Perhaps they will pick up the puzzle, make their way out of the maze, and in doing so muster the confidence and mental fortitude to solve their actual problem. And it’s all because you provided this maze. Wow! Thank you!

Looking for more office toy promotional products? We have plenty of ideas. Reach out to us and we can review these products and more.

9 Promotional Products for Tech Wizards

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Did you know that American consumers own, on average, at least three connected devices? Add your logo to these top tech accessories and your company will become a part of your customers’ daily lives.

Track It Key Finder

When you’re on the go, the last thing you need is to lose your keys or wallet. This handy tracker has a Bluetooth finder perfect for iOS and Android. Imagine the relief your customers will feel when they see your logo hidden between the couch cushions.

Video Greeting Card

With the advent of email and cellular communication, personalized mail is increasingly rare. Surprise your customers with a personalized video greeting for an impression that will last.

Metal Power Bank 

We use so many devices that require a daily charge that power banks have become ubiquitous. This superior quality metal design mixes a beautiful aesthetic with high functionality to make it the perfect gift for your best customers.

Leather Cord Wrap

Protect your electronic gear in a roll-up case built for travel. When it’s unrolled you have three cord slots and a pouch for power adaptors and thumb drives. Rolled up you’ll have a precision-sewn wrap tie bundle that fits comfortably inside any bag and especially well inside any of our satchels or totes.

Tech Travel Kit

This handy tech kit includes a rectangle zippered case that’s perfect for travel. Available in a variety of colors, this travel kit features a 2200mAh power bank, a USB car charger adapter, an oval wall charger adapter, and a pair of earbuds.

Light-Up USB Charger

Charge multiple devices at the same time with this light-up USB charger. This handy car charger has dual 2.1A USB ports and a blue LED ring that helps illuminate your logo in the dark. This charger is also compatible with most USB charging cables and fits into any 12V power port.

Travel Mouse

This standard size mouse folds into a compact design, perfect for travelers! The mouse features optical tracking for accuracy and responsiveness. The convenient wireless connectivity reduces cable clutter and the Bluetooth wireless technology makes it easy to use with a laptop.

PopSocket Phone Stand

A PopSockets Grip sticks flat to the back of your phone, tablet, or case with its reusable, repositionable gel. Once extended, the PopSockets Grip becomes a media stand for any device. You can take a photo or send a text with its easy grip, or you can lower the stand for a video chat. The back of a phone is prime real estate for any promotion, and the best part is that PopSockets Grips can be used on any brand of phone.

Laptop Bag

Protect important data and tech gadgets while on the go with this stylish computer messenger bag. The padded back computer pocket fits a 15.4″ laptop. The front zippered pocket features an earphone outlet for any MP3 player. The side mesh pocket has a place for your water bottle. There’s a multi-function organizer located under front flap. And last, but not least, the front zippered pocket can fit up to a 10″ tablet with a case.

With these tech accessories, your customers and employees will be thanking you for providing useful products that they can use daily. Need more inspiration? Contact us today and we’ll work with you to find the best products for your campaign.

4 Steps to #Winning Social Media

Main social networks - Brands of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn

Social media is one of the fastest growing and ever-changing media platforms in existence. What began as an online community for the younger generations, now encompasses billions of people across the world. It is for this reason that social media has become not only a viable channel for businesses to reach their audience but a necessary one. However, managing social media for your business is much different than managing your personal social presence. Follow these guidelines to succeed in the social business world.

Connect with your followers

Social media provides an informal environment where you can really interact with your audience. These people are following you by choice because they are interested in what you have to say, so by all means – say something relevant! One way to grow your social following is by providing a benefit exclusively for your social media followers. What are they getting out of following you or liking your page? Reward them with special offers, discounts, and useful tips so they will look forward to seeing (and sharing) your posts.

Social media content ideas:

  • Identify and alleviate your audience’s pain points
  • Humorous, inspiring, or motivational quotes
  • Behind-the-scenes photos and videos
  • Interesting statistics or data
  • Polls, or ask for testimonials or other feedback
  • Post “a day in the life” of your staff members
  • Share random tips
  • Re-post fan photos – they’ll love seeing your acknowledgment and it will encourage them to continue to support you
  • Link to useful industry articles
  • Contests and special offers exclusively for your social media followers

Build a relationship

Social media provides an informal environment where you can really interact with your audience. These people are following you by choice because they are interested in what you have to say, so by all means – say something relevant! One way to grow your social following is by providing a benefit exclusively for your social media followers. What are they getting out of following you or liking your page? Reward them with special offers, discounts, and useful tips so they will look forward to seeing (and sharing) your posts.

Mix it up

Better content means more visibility. Use multimedia, such as attention-grabbing photos, videos, and infographics, to attract people and make your posts more share-worthy. Recent studies show Facebook posts containing images garner as much as 120 percent more engagement than posts of any other kind. Infographics are also extremely effective tools to engage with your audience because they display complex information in a simple, aesthetically pleasing way.

Break the rules

A quick Google search will come up with hundreds of rules for succeeding on social media, such as the most effective number of characters for a Twitter post, but when it comes down to it, it’s really all about the meaning of your message to your specific audience. Try a few strategies and measure your results to see what kinds of posts get the most engagement. Soon, you’ll learn what your followers respond best to and can post similar content.

Remember, social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for yours. It takes some trial and error to find the right strategy for your business, but the important thing is that you’re working toward growing your social presence and engaging your audience.

Take a moment to think about what posts have worked for your company and what kinds were flops. Whenever you feel like you’re at your wit’s end, refer to this article for tips and tricks how to #win at social media.