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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?
 

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

Must Have Promotional Products For Startups (Everyone Else, Too)

October 17, 2014 1:01 pm Published by

startRecently we were asked to recommend the best promotional products for a business just starting out. A small, one man outfit without deep pockets or lots of staff who needed help getting the word out about his services. TV and radio were way too expensive. Print ads might be okay, but this new business owner was looking for a way to promote his business that was more effective, and frankly more affordable too.
Something that stuck around longer than an ad. Something that presented his new business int he best possible light.
There aren’t that many ways to get the word out on your business as effectively and efficiently as a promotional product does — which makes them a smart choice for any business (just starting out or been in the thick of things for a while). As our regular readers know, promotional products say a lot about your business, especially if they are useful, top quality and engage the senses.
Here are the suggestions we made…
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Why Writing By Hand Still Matters

September 18, 2013 10:45 am Published by

As we approach a season where there are many notes to write, invites to send and gifts to label, I’ve noticed some interesting discussions about handwriting. With so much being communicated these days using keyboard/pads, many people wonder if writing things longhand is obsolete… a lost art… scrawls that will be indecipherable to our grandchildren.
Not so fast technology. Handwriting has history, personality and staying power.
Handwriting is unique, a personal expression. It has more “soul” than the printed word will ever have. The fact that our technology includes so many styles of stylus says that straight out. What’s more, there’s a new digital pen (The Lernstift) designed by a pair of German entrepreneurs to help you write by hand more legibly. It’s in the final stages of development, so watch for it if you’re interested in improving that penmanship.
Schoolchildren still learn those cursive letters, copying them over and over just as we did, only today kids don’t fill notebooks and diaries with a careful script that can’t be deleted. They have options that didn’t exist for us. In fact, it wasn’t until sophomore year in high school that I learned to type (on a then state-of-the-art electric typewriter). My children all learned in elementary school… and it’s called keyboarding now, typing is… well, old-school.
Perhaps the best defense of the handwritten word is this, every great work of literature in our libraries today was once pen put to paper and finished with a signature.
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Mom's Know A Whole Lot About Good Customer Service

May 10, 2013 10:35 am Published by

When you think about it, no one knows more about customer service than mothers. Tending to different personalities each with unique (sometimes conflicting) needs, finding solutions to tough problems, listening with sympathy and generally going the extra mile to keep everyone happy, healthy and thriving is a mother’s lot on a daily (hourly) basis.
It’s really no surprise (to me anyway) that the best customer service rep I ever knew, Bill, credited his mother with teaching him the essential skills that made him so good at his job. You see, Bill was always jovial, smiling and helpful — his answer to any problem was a confident, “We’ll take care of it.” He remembered everything, the boring technical stuff and the funky little, personal things about our department. He routinely delivered what he promised when he promised, and, most important of all to hungry, overworked staffers, he brought each of us a coffee just the way we liked and a selection of donuts, bagels and muffins every time he came to the office.
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Lessons learned on summer vacation

August 3, 2012 10:31 am Published by

Experts agree that vacations are necessary for all of us. They give our minds (and bodies) chance to rest and recharge, and no matter what the notion conjures up for you, those precious vacation days are a chance to relax, refresh and reflect. Even a 24 hour break can be a huge help.
And if you’re like many Americans, that’s about all the vacation time you’re going to get.
So you may, as I did, find it beyond irritating to encounter bland, indifferent customer service during your time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Especially when you’ve paid a good, fair price for something or are a customer of long standing. Sadly, there are still businesses out there who routinely make some of the most obvious customer service mistakes. Mistakes like… (more…)