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The Promo Industry from a Designer’s Perspective

Everyday my inbox is flooded with product e-blasts… the latest pen with a light up message! ….the hottest gadget for your next trade show! …a notebook that smells like apples because the pages are made by using apple pulp!

There is a massive amount of innovation coming every day, but the products that catch my eye are those that have tons of potential for a great design or marketing message! We constantly ask ourselves, ‘how can we take an everyday item and turn it into something interesting?’ We start with a simple item, strive to morph it into a relevant marketing message; like a box of band-aids that a client might keep in a desk drawer becomes a box of “BRAND-AIDS.” Now that simple box of band-aids becomes a novelty, all while sending a message about your brand. If you can figure out how to harness that kind of creativity, then you have a product AND a message that can peak someone’s interest!

I recently worked on a project for one of our clients, Paula Deen. She is well known for using lots and lots of yummy butter in her recipes. I mean, everyone has heard her in her southern drawl say, “just add buuuuddder!”? It has become part of her brand. So naturally, when I got the opportunity to design a lip moisturizer for her and the flavor was butter, I thought “Okay, this is really smart! I mean when I go to one of Paula Deen’s giftshops, I would definitely buy a butter flavored lip moisturizer, JUST BECAUSE IT IS BUTTER FLAVORED! Genius!”

You don’t have to think too far outside of the brand to come up with an outside of the box way to tie your marketing and promotional items into your brand. You might think, yeah. That all sounds good. But the title of this blog post is about the designer’s perspective. Well, the truth of the matter is that design and marketing go hand in hand. Have you ever gone to the grocery store and picked up something in a sea of somethings, simply because the design looked good? We trust brands that have good design. Good design gives us confidence.

So at City Paper, that’s where I come in. Our team of designers has a vested interest in our client’s brands. We want to present you with promo that looks beautiful, has been tested and approved, and enhances the user experience. We want the most space to put our stamp on- so we look for merchandise that can hold a full color wrap, or all-over digital print! Be still my beating heart!! When the normal person sees a mug they probably just see a mug… but I see a canvas of possibilities and I think, “How can I decorate this item so that it becomes something that our client wants to keep, give away or sell?”

The first way to do that is to see as many products as possible. To touch, feel and use products for ourselves allow us to have a user experience so that we can pass along that same experience to you! City Paper Co. invests a lot of resources to continue education in our industry. We are constantly restocking our self-promo supply, and these are items that peak OUR interest! We attend trade shows and spend hours walking the floor. And let’s face it, it’s just like the scenario at the grocery store- the merch with the best design or the best design potential is what catches our eye!

The next time you have a giveaway, trade show or employee gift you need to buy for, consider design for a moment. Don’t just buy the pen that lights up with your logo on it… think about a message too, “we have bright ideas!” might work!!

Amy Clark,




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