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You Spin Me Right 'Round, Baby

May 25, 2017 1:16 pm Published by

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We’ve all seen them. They spin, they keep your hands busy, and they are extremely annoying when in the hands of a nine-year-old … It’s the spinner toy. For the record, the term “fidget spinner,” as they are often called, is already trademarked, and the trademarked item has nothing to do with the fidget toys that are currently flying off the shelves. But, just like the word “brainfreeze” is trademarked by 7-Eleven, we all know that people will keep using that term regardless.

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There seems to be an extensive trend right now – a cult following, if you will – regarding these ever popular toy spinners. Why these odd devices are running rampant, the world may never know. Anyway, there is apparently a debate as to whether or not these spinners are toys or meant to be therapeutic. Part of this confusion comes from mixed stories as to the origin of the spinner. If it was invented for relaxation purposes, especially for those with autism or anxiety disorders, then there is a definite cause for an uproar. But what if that isn’t exactly the case? There are a couple of stories floating around the internet pertaining to the development of the crazy pieces of rotating plastic. Let’s take a look…

Story 1:
Catherine Hettinger, inventor of the spinner, was attempting to create something that creates a soothing effect, after having an encounter in Israel where she watched young boys throwing rocks at police officers. However, once they hit the shelves, the fidget toys became a product that couldn’t be sold fast enough. Hettinger is apparently thrilled at the response for such a need – peace, control, and relief – despite the fact that she isn’t receiving any financial compensation since her original patent expired.

Story 2:
In 1993, Hettinger applied for a patent that she called a “spinning toy,” a circular item that spins between a person’s fingertips. She allowed her patent to expire in 2005; but in 2016, the now-popular spinners became extremely popular. Sure, they spin like Hettinger’s product but they are otherwise a completely different mechanism altogether. Of course, the public’s ability to post whatever they want on Wikipedia was the starting point of Hettinger receiving credit for the device. She has recognized and acknowledged the differences between the booming spins and her own toy, as well as stating that she doesn’t know who credited her on Wikipedia. Besides, seeing as the patent of her own toy would have expired in 2014 – even if she hadn’t let it lapse –  she still would have not received any royalties for the sales. While some blindly give her credit, the actual inventor of the toy has not been identified (based on searches for “spinning toy” patents).

Many schools are beginning to ban these because they’re distracting the students. However, parents seem to have a problem with this; some of the kids (like those with ADHD, for example) are being helped with their focus, anxiety, and productivity because of the spinners. Based on the second story of origin, these are nothing more than toys – but is the intended purpose truly important, even if it helps some people? Maybe school districts should take another look at it. I mean, if an antiseptic can become a popular mouthwash (yup, Listerine was first made to clean your cuts and scrapes), why can’t we be a little more open-minded on the benefits of spinners?

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For the record, despite my initial despise of this ridiculous toy, I had the opportunity to try one out. As a person that deals with severe anxiety, I surprisingly found it extremely helpful. It actually prevented me from having a panic attack the other night. I try my best to not fall into the traps of cultural obsessions but, well, I definitely keep this in my desk at work…

Blinded by the Light

February 10, 2017 12:10 pm Published by

Have you ever seen the stars during the day? If not, then be prepared to be amazed. This August, North America will have the opportunity to check out a total solar eclipse. While the following solar eclipse will be in South America on July 2, 2019, North America won’t see another one until 2024. There are definitely some great reasons to check this out, the first being that those of us in North America haven’t seen a solar eclipse since 1979. On August 21, everyone in the United States will see at least a partial eclipse. The path of the eclipse determines how much will be seen throughout the country. Here at our office in Dallas, Texas, we’ll have a 76% obscuration, meaning that 76% of the sun will be blocked by the moon. Augusta, Maine, however, will only have 57% obscuration. But for the best view, you need to be on the path of totality. This is the specific path that the sun and moon will take and will make a complete solar eclipse visible. One of the best places in the country to view this eclipse will likely be Hopkinsville, Kentucky  with 100% obscuration for 2 minutes and 40.2 seconds.
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Many people don’t realize that, as an eclipse is approaching, animals react as if nighttime is on its way. That makes sense, right? The sky will be darkening similarly to the sun setting. So, of course, diurnal animals – the ones that are awake during the day – start heading to bed. As an eclipse approaches, you can see the animals begin to gather their offspring and make their way towards their nests. At the same time, you’ll notice nocturnal animals slowly making their way out of hiding. You can take this chance to get a peek at some creatures that you may rarely get to see, unless maybe you work weird hours.
An important thing to remember about an eclipse is to not look directly at it until it’s in full totality. Of course, you should never stare the sun – eclipse or not. As Bruce Springsteen sings, “Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun.” Mama apparently knew what she was talking about. You should always be prepared, like having a pair of solar eclipse glasses to enjoy the show. (You can find them here: http://bit.ly/2htrDl6) Once it hits totality, though, take them off and marvel at the wonder!
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If you’re interested in celestial shows, you can also check out the spectacle that will be taking place tonight. We get a three-for-one: a full snow moon, a penumbral lunar eclipse, and a comet. The lunar eclipse – which, as the name suggests, is a block of the moon’s light – will begin around 4:30 PM CST and will be at its peak around 6:45 PM CST. Some may not see much of a change in the moon. But never fear… just grab a pair of binoculars and head outside around 9:00 PM CST to catch the comet! The light from the green comet with purple tail may be difficult to see without binoculars or a telescope; however, this is the closest that this comet has been to Earth in 30 years so you don’t want to miss out on this.

Finding Your Backbone

January 5, 2017 11:03 am Published by

I am generally terrible at being assertive. My lack of self-confidence makes it difficult to push myself outside of my comfort zone and toward other people. Because of this, it’s been difficult for me to ‘ring my own bell,’ so to speak. There is so much more I could be doing in this world – for myself, as well as others – if I would just push a little more.
First and most importantly, I am not talking about being aggressive. For those in the back… I am not talking about being aggressive. Many people (for whatever reason) cannot comprehend the difference between assertiveness and aggression. Let’s clear this up. Aggression is pushing past the boundaries of others. It consists of making people uncomfortable, being unnecessarily harsh or rude, and generally thriving on conflict. Assertiveness has to do with an attitude of confidence. It means standing up for yourself and others, being direct, making your voice heard, and still maintaining respect for others and yourself.
With that said, being assertive is such an important asset. It has plenty of benefits – not only in your life, but also for your mental and physical health! Assertiveness gives you a definite boost in your confidence, which opens up opportunities in life. How much easier would it be to land that huge project at work if you were able to directly tell your boss, “I can do this” – and you believe it? Being assertive is also great for reducing your anxiety levels (which tends to bring down the accompanying increased blood pressure and heart rate) and gives you a feeling of being calm and in control.
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By now you’re thinking, “This all sounds great but how on earth can I start this now? I’m set in my ways at this point in my life.” Well, no one ever said change was easy. In fact, if anyone has told you that, they lied. Change is definitely difficult but it’s not impossible. Here are a few pointers on becoming more assertive in your life from Randy Paterson, PhD, a registered psychologist and author of The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Your Relationships:
1)      Learn to say no. Saying no will help you build and maintain your boundaries. It’s healthy to say no; it helps you keep your priorities in check and not spread yourself too thin.
2)      A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Personally, my favorite part of assertiveness is being direct. People are not mind readers and without expressing your needs and desires, you will never get them. There’s no room for misinterpretation or uncertainty on anyone’s part as long as you are straight forward.
3)      Take baby steps. Practice a bit before jumping into the deep end. We all need to ease our way into new situations – especially if we want to increase our chances of success.
You can also find a lengthy list of books available on why assertiveness is important and how to build it, as well as contacting a clinical psychologist to help you figure out where to start. Go on, see where being assertive can take you!

The Demise of Your New Year's Resolutions

December 6, 2016 11:04 am Published by

As the new year approaches, people are starting to prepare for the annual tradition: let’s make a new year’s resolution! Personally, I do something a little different for resolutions but I’ll get to that later. Most people have an idea of what they would like to change or do to better themselves. It’s something that they plan to start on January 1st and try to continue throughout the year – or until they meet their goal. Some people decide that they want to quit smoking, some want to lose weight, and others are determined to spend more time with their family. Whatever you choose to shoot for during the new year, the biggest challenge is to actually follow through on it. Did you know that, according to a study by professor John Norcoss from the University of Scranton and colleagues, almost 60% of people abandon their resolution within six months? It’s always apparent to me that gym memberships skyrocket in the month of January but attendance is down by March. People sign up for courses that they quickly drop. Trust me, I know; I barely made it to April. Folks have this idea of what they want to do but eventually give up. Why is this? Well, there’s a few reasons…
First, people tend to set unattainable goals. “I’m going to travel the world this year.” Okay, that’s awesome. It’s extremely ambitious, anyway. But is it plausible for you? For some, it might be feasible. However, if you’re trying to achieve this while working 40+ hours a week and taking care of a four-person household, it would probably be extremely difficult. Perhaps an easier goal may be to see a new city once a month. You’ll be traveling, making memories, and experiencing plenty of excitement. You’ll also be avoiding disappointment if you’re simply unable to travel the world in one year. Another problem is not making a plan. Sure, learning a new language can be a great experience. But how can you get it done? Nothing gets done through wishful thinking, so figure out how you can do it! This can be signing up for classes or befriending a native speaker. Finally, one of the biggest deterrents is creating a resolution for someone else. So you want to quit smoking? Fantastic! … but why? If you want to quit smoking so that other people will shut up about it, your reasoning will never be good enough for you to stay on top of it. If your heart isn’t in it, you will slack off. Set your sights on something that you want, choose something reasonable that won’t set you up for failure, and make a plan.
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I’m terrible at sticking to a year-long goal. I get sidetracked and I eventually stop caring about it. My resolutions are slightly different: I start the year by making a goal for each month… not for the entire year. They are usually pretty simple, but they are things that I feel would enrich my life or help me achieve some of my long term goals. Plus, it’s easier to start some fabulous habits this way. Once I get in the groove of something easy for a month, I find it easier to continue while adding my new goal for the following month. Feel free to steal this idea if it works for you. Here’s my 2017 resolutions:
January: work 40 hours a week – no more, no less!
February: meditate for 30 minutes a day
March: work out twice a week
April: read daily – anything! a book, newspaper, a random magazine article
May: create weekly meal plans …since trying to figure out what to eat while I’m starving is a horrible idea
June: journal once a week
July: prepare for my daughter to start kindergarten (register for school, buy supplies, stock up on wine for me…)
August: drink 16 oz of water a day
September: sleep 7 hours a night – at least!
October: do a random act of kindness daily
November: actively do my personal poetry blog
December: find a pen pal – because why not?
So what are you going to work toward?
 

Starbucks Did It Again

November 7, 2016 9:57 am Published by

Each year, Starbucks comes out with a special holiday cup. Last year, the company’s choice of design for their seasonal cups struck up controversy and they’re apparently not disappointing in doing the same this year – whether intentional or not. A green holiday cup (as opposed to their previously red holiday cups) has been described by Starbucks as a “unity” cup, displaying a drawing of several people of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Starbucks wanted to show that, during this divided and chaotic time, we are still all humans and all one people.
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So why the uproar? Many customers seem to feel that the cups being green instead of red is an utter lack of respect or acknowledgment for what Christians believe to be the meaning of Christmas. Apparently, those who are causing a commotion over a cup have no thoughts that perhaps we need a little hope this holiday season and a reminder that people are just people. Or maybe they don’t remember that Starbucks does not claim to be a Christian company. If Chick-Fil-A had done something like this, I might understand the confusion…even extreme upset. Chick-Fil-A proudly advertises that they are a religious company, even closing on Sundays to recognize the importance of this day of rest and worship for Christians. But Starbucks does not affiliate with any religion.
There has also been a bit of an uproar from the other side. Those that truly don’t care about the color of the cup are making their voices heard as well: essentially, they’re all saying, “Shut up! It’s just a cup!” Twitter particularly has been taken over with #starbuckschristmas, including the annoyance of those who are tired of hearing people complain about the color green.
Interestingly, there is rumor that this is not the official holiday cup of Starbucks this year. A photo was leaked that the holiday cups are supposed to be revealed on November 10th. Guys, today is only November 7th. So what will happen on this upcoming Thursday? Maybe the company will reveal a line of spiritual-based cups – possibly based on the beliefs of several religions. Maybe they will laugh and say, “Ha! The green cups really are the official holiday cups!” Maybe they will announce that they will discontinue the holiday cup tradition altogether, since people can’t seem to handle it. No matter what they decide to unveil on Thursday, it’s sure to stir up the controversy pot since that is apparently what people are most concerned about these days. Didn’t you know that the color of a cup that’s holding a $6 coffee is a vital part of society and a defining piece of the individual drinking from it?!
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What was Starbucks thinking when making this crucial decision about their holiday cups? Honestly, after the outrage from last year about a simple red cup – lacking anything other than their logo – you would think that they realized that this reaction was definitely a possibility. But maybe they did think about this. The 2015 Starbucks pandemonium kept the company’s name on the tongues of everyone throughout the entire holiday season. For better or worse, people were talking about Starbucks. As they say, there is no good or bad publicity – just publicity.

Promotions for Parents

October 24, 2016 2:45 pm Published by

I am the mother of a gorgeous four-year-old little girl. And yes, she really is gorgeous. I swear I’m not bias. Anyway, as a mom, I am bombarded with promotional products for companies that sell different “mom needs.” In the last four years, I have received coupons for diapers, samples of formulas, email blasts about gymnastics for kids, and 20% off of a massage – which I still haven’t been able to use, in case anyone wants to babysit…
One of my biggest complaints as a consumer is when I get a promotion that I can’t use. If it’s unnecessary for me, don’t even bother. A massage is extremely necessary. A bottle of wine is also a good idea. Throw in some yoga pants and I’m a customer for life. But if you try to give me a stress ball with your company logo on it, consider it useless. Of course I’m stressed but my daughter will end up stealing it from me so Barbie can have a soccer ball. Then she will tear it shreds, leaving me to clean up the pieces – and trust me, I won’t be able to read your catchy tagline through demolished foam rubber.
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The entire point of a promotional product is to get consumers to notice and remember you. Ideally, they should remember you in a positive light; you shouldn’t have someone see your product on a shelf and think, “Oh yeah, that’s the jerk that caused foam rubber to grow mold in my couch cushions.” If your target audience is parents, you need to think about how their children are going to affect if you get business.
Here are five tips on getting promotional products to parents that they will keep:

  1. Anything to get the kids out of a parent’s hair – toys are great, but nothing that talks, flashes annoying strobe lights, sings, or leaves too much of a mess.
  2. Parents don’t get enough relaxation time (again, see “I need a massage”).
  3. Essentials are fantastic. There’s no such thing as too many diapers, wipes, sippy cups, or adult-sized earplugs.
  4. Moms often forget that they have a name other than “Mommy.” If you can remind her that she is also a real, living, breathing human being with interests and ambitions, you might be on to something.
  5. Try out any sort of clean up tool: tissues, microfiber cloths, or car cleaning products. Kids are extremely messy and cleaning up is exhausting. Remember the destroyed stress ball under the couch cushions? That probably wasn’t cleaned up until two weeks later.

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Marketing is all about knowing your audience. If you don’t know your audience, you have no way to appeal to them. Find people you know that fall into your target audience. Discover what they want and need, and make that work for you. People are more than willing to share what they need – and perhaps you can make that happen!

Why I Still Have This Pen…

September 28, 2016 8:42 am Published by

What makes a consumer fall in love with a product? So many aspects of a promotional item can not only draw in customers, but also encourage them to keep it – which, in the long run, increases the likelihood of business. If you know what these key things are, you can practically ensure that your promotional product is utilized for all of its intended purposes. According to a research study done in 2011 by PPAI (Promotional Products Association International) Research, there is one key attribute that will determine how long a consumer will keep merchandise: usefulness. Personally, I have received a paperweight from a company as a promotional item – unfortunately (for the company), I didn’t have a desk at that time. Why would I need a paperweight? I do, however, still have a pen that I got ages ago at a bridal tradeshow. How this pen still has ink, I’m not sure. But I have no reason to get rid of it until it runs dry.
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Making sure that a consumer views an object as useful will greatly depend on your target audience. Does a stay-at-home mom have much use for a paperweight? Probably not. However, if you’re trying to draw in a swarm of CPAs, paperweights might be a good idea. That, or a calculator. It’s all about knowing who you’re selling to.
Based on PPAI’s research, the top three attributes that contribute to the quality of a product – increasing the likelihood of product retention – are usefulness, attractiveness, and quality. Uniqueness was also high on the list. In other words, choose something that can be utilized regularly, make it look good, and don’t sell/give anything that will break, tear, or fall apart after a few months. And for bonus points, think outside of the box. Figure out how you can make your brand stand out from the other 1,000 products that are similar to it.
PPAI gives several reasons why a promotion can fail. Ultimately, it boils down to a company not paying attention to the consumers’ needs. A few of the reasons are:

  • The product is the same as others that the person has received in large quantities
  • The recipient has no need for any promotional product at all
  • The presentation of the goods leaves the recipient feeling undervalued

With this in mind, you can avoid the promotion turning into a bust by knowing your audience. What is your goal behind the promotion? What would your target customers honestly consider useful?
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Put some genuine thought into your merchandise before trying to convince someone as to why they need it. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to convince a consumer that they need the product; it should speak for itself. Ask yourself, “If I were a [insert target demographic here], would I need and use this myself?” Secondly, take some time to really brainstorm. Your first idea shouldn’t be your last. Finally, discover the best way to present the items. Don’t try to shove it in someone’s face. People don’t like that. Make sure that the consumer will feel valued and appreciated. Otherwise, they will have no desire to return to you. You want a potential customer to not only come to you for their first order, but also keep coming back for every order in the future.
Use your product to show why someone should choose you – it may be your only opportunity!
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“High End, Low End: Which Promotional Products Work Best? A Study of Consumer and Buyer Reactions”
PPAI (Promotional Products Association International) Research, © 2011

Color Me Informed: The Use of Colors in Advertising

August 15, 2016 10:27 am Published by

When you’re looking at an advertisement, what are the first few things you notice? A good advertisement will strike your interest, usually by a logo or tagline. An excellent advertisement is recognizable and memorable. It draws our attention and we instantly relate the logo to said product or company. A perfect example is that of the following logos. Can you name these brands?
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McDonald’s and Facebook both utilize a simple letter in their logos. Starbucks is one the most recognized brands in the country from their famous siren. Target uses the iconic target symbol, and even tends to plaster their cute mascot on everything! One of the most noticeable things about each logo, though, is their color scheme. After all, when my four-year-old gets hungry on a road trip, I tell her to look for “the golden arches” – and she notices them every time.
The first thing that we experience in anything is the visual aspect. In other words, characteristics such as fonts, symbols, and colors are the first things that we notice. Color sets a mood; studies have even shown that painting the walls of a student’s bedroom can help influence how well they study. So it’s no wonder that the color of your advertising can have such a huge impact on whether or not a prospective costumer will use your product or service. In fact, there is an entire field of research devoted to “color psychology.” It’s basically a bunch of people who sat around and figured out how color affects a person’s emotions, including things such as impulse control, how long a person will browse in a store, and triggers of hunger. Check out this chart for a simple way to see how colors can affect an individual’s purchasing decisions.
Color gives power to an advertisement, giving subtle suggestions to customers. Red portrays energy and quickly catches the eye. Blue displays emotion and connection. Green typically represents an eco-friendly product or company. By focusing on what your company stands for and the ideas that it wants to exude, you can choose the best colors to use in your marketing.
Simple is usually best. If you want to project professionalism while letting clients know that you’re still a driven company, a sleek product with a pop of color may be the best way for you to go.
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Figure out what works best for you. Discover the vibe of your company, utilize your resources, and draw in your customers. Do this and you will always make an impression!

Back to School

August 1, 2016 11:43 am Published by

As summer quickly comes to an end, we are all anticipating the back to school hustle and bustle. Teachers are finalizing lesson plans, kids are trying to get in their last few weeks of freedom, and parents are anxiously awaiting the day for the kids to get out of their hair again.
Back to School CalendarsOther than lesson plans, teachers have plenty more to think about and prepare. How will they use their creative juices to keep their students engaged? How will they decorate their classrooms? And what will make them memorable as a teacher? Educators also tend to think about how they can promote not only education, but their schools. Everyone has seen the “My kid is the best student ever at Such-and-Such Middle School.” Of course, there’s also banners for high school football championships, t-shirts for field day, and table covers for PTA meetings. Many times, a school district has what is called a Purchasing Department to fulfill the role of the getting these done. Just like any other company, they take bids from vendors and make sure that their budget allows for whatever they need. On the other hand, teachers usually have to provide their own supplies for their classrooms. This means not only things for the bulletin boards and posters for the room, but anything that helps distinguish the teacher and the school. Often times, teachers will pay out of their own pockets to buy T-shirts for their students to go on a field trip. PTAs also tend to order an outrageous amount of products displaying the school logo, name, etc. They sell these at fundraisers, do giveaways, and may even use them to promote future events.
So why are these so important to our school systems? In some cases, it’s simply related to school spirit. Students who express school spirit become better students. They perform better academically and are more active in school issues, as well as civil matters. More involvement and commitment to their education results in lower dropout rates. Many schools and districts will also use these items to boost enrollment. Colleges, in particular, try to boost their enrollment by passing out all sorts of pens, stickers, hats, etc., at college fairs. What better way to rack in more students – and more money – than by having a high schooler stare at a pen for eight hours a day, all while this pen is etched with your college’s name?
It is well known that teachers don’t get paid nearly enough (especially what they have to put up with) and school budgets are constantly strained. This is why affordable promotional products are so important. While big businesses can be a consistent customer and winning solution for your company, who wants to turn down business? Schools and teachers can be turned away from companies providing promotional items simply due to cost.
As a former educator, I know how important it can be to stamp your name on everything. Whether it’s your own name, your school’s name, or even your students’ names, putting it out there can help not only the students, but it can also help the teacher!
It’s nice to have reminders that the job you are doing is worth it every day.

Adult Coloring Books Let Us Unplug, Unwind, Create.

January 27, 2016 11:01 am Published by

4F48F2A0-811C-4407-9A60-5DAC6A833192There’s a prediction from ASI this week that the next big thing in promotional products will be adult coloring books. Yes, you read that right. Coloring books with amazingly intricate patterns intended for adults. The kind that call for fine tipped markers or colored pencils.
Maybe you’ve noticed them yourself. Over the holidays, stores reported them as a popular gift. Five of Amazon’s current top 15 best selling books are adult coloring books. A recent Fortune article points out that adult coloring books are one of the biggest contributors to the boost in print book sales.
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