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Clocks - Promos By The Numbers

By Josh Rhett Miller

What time is it? Time to take advantage of the desktop real estate-grabbing power and recognition value of clocks. But you'd better hurry. Time waits for no one ...

Whether we like to admit it or not, our desks are probably where we spend the majority of our days. And so do your clients and customers. We're all surrounded for at least eight hours daily by desk lamps, desk calendars, desktop computers - you name it. The desktop is one of the premiere places for promotional products. And that's where clocks put in some major face time.

From cubicle dwellers to execs with football-field-sized offices, people check the time while they're at their desks - anywhere from two to 20 times an hour. Americans are obsessed with time; deadlines constantly hover, and more and more business transactions are required each day. The clock becomes an invaluable tool. What time was that management meeting scheduled for again?

So Much Time, So Little Space
Primo real estate that it is, desktop space is usually limited. And counselor Eric Levin understands the importance of getting your ad message out to a prospective audience as many times a day as possible. "There are certain products people put on their desk - a mug, a clock, a pencil, paper clip dispenser, stapler - and people are going to look at it three times a day times two-hundred and something days a year. If it sits on a desk for a year or two, what was your average cost for the advertisement?"

Levin believes it's good business strategy to use logoed products that don't run out of ink, go out of style or simply land in the trash. "You start putting that into perspective with a magazine that gets read and thrown away and it's not even close," he says. "A clock is one of those products that, if you can actually get it to sit there, the average cost per impression goes down to pennies. That would be the number one reason why clocks are a great promotional product."

Common business sense, he suggests, would lead firms to not only target their audience, but where it spends its day. "There are certain industries that are geared to the desk," he says. "Accountants, for example. So if you wanted to sell something to an accountant, a clock would be a good product to give. It's not as good a product to give to someone in the construction industry or nursing."

Targeting an audience for a clock-based program isn't the difficult part, though; it's deciding what to spend on it. "Clocks are 100% across the board when it comes to [cost]," says Levin. "You can buy an 80-cent clock, an $80 clock or an $800 clock. The most popular right now, in the current economy, are less expensive. However, a clock has a much higher perceived value than its actual cost."

Promotional consultant Paul Smith also agrees: The audience determines the price. "You don't give $1.50 clocks to doctors if you're [trying to reach them]," he says "You give them $6 clocks that look like $60 clocks."

Trendy Faces?
There aren't many widespread trends among clocks right now, which is a good thing. The choice between digital and analog is chiefly a matter of the giver's personal taste. One thing that does appear to be remaining status quo is the continued preference for quartz movements; the more accurate the better.

"I'd say the trend right now is infatuation [with] accuracy," says counselor Daniel Humenick. "What people like [about quartz] is there's no maintenance on a quartz movement. There's no oiling, no adjustments to be made." He estimates that at least 75% of all timepieces he sells clients are those with quartz movements.

Mechanicals have their place too, but unless made very cheaply, tend to be costlier. "If it's quartz vs. mechanical, there's a big difference in price," says Humenick. "The difference is the sound. With quartz, the chimes are electronically reproduced; a mechanical clock's sound is produced with a hammer and a rod." Another thing to remember: As elegant as they can be, which is pretty elegant, mechanicals do require winding at least once a month, often more frequently.

Style-wise, there are clocks to meet anyone's taste. There are ultra-traditional shelf, mantel, wall and grandfather clocks. There are cutting-edge models, and there are in-between. They can be placed in tandem with, or can incorporate items as diverse as business-card holders, pen cups, picture frames, radios, pens, even puzzle cubes. Truth be told, they can fit almost anywhere.

"Everyone's always looking at a clock, all times of the day, no matter where you work," says a counselor. "They look nice on a desk. That's why they're great promotional products."

A Little Trivia
Virtually everyone has seen, heard or even owned one, but have you ever wondered why grandfather clocks are called grandfather clocks?

It began over a century ago in Piercebridge, North Yorkshire, England, at the George Hotel, a popular stop for horse coaches, officials and wealthy citizens. It was operated by two bachelor brothers named Jenkins.

A floor clock had stood in the George's for many years. It was considered unusual in that it kept extraordinarily accurate time in an era when many clocks weren't quite as precise.

Then one day, two things occurred: The younger Jenkins brother died unexpectedly, and the old clock began losing time. First, it was about 15 minutes a day. Even after several clocksmiths examined it, it eventually lost more than an hour daily.

The clock's incurable problem quickly became as well-known as its accuracy had been. So it wasn't completely shocking that, even though fully wound, it stopped completely when the other brother died.

Adding to the eeriness of the whole thing, the new George manager never had the clock repaired. He left it standing in the lobby with its hands resting in the same position they held when the last Jenkins' brother passed.

The legend might have remained local had not Henry Work, an American songwriter, chanced to stay at the George in 1875. He was told the clock's story, and decided to compose a song about it. When he published "My Grandfather's Clock" after returning to the states, it sold over a million copies of sheet music. The song's title was derived from its first line: "Oh my grandfather's clock was too tall for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floor …"

Until that time, tall freestanding oversized clocks such as the one in the George's lobby were called a variety of names. But since Work's song was published, they've been referred to as grandfather clocks.

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Joshua Rhett Miller is assistant editor of Imprint.

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