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Ceramics as Promotional Products

Thought all there was to know about promotional ceramic products was coffee mugs? Oh, no. The old standbys are now more design-conscious and colorful, and the graphics downright dynamic.

My senior year in college, my roommates and I found some mugs left by the apartment’s previous inhabitants. One was a speckled gray with “Liz” in black script on the side. Though we’d no idea who Liz was, her mug got plenty of use. The roommate who had the best time at the party the night before got to use it for her sobering morning cup of coffee. The mug became a symbol of good times.

Most of us probably own a symbolic mug. Maybe you used it at your first job or “borrowed” it from a favorite restaurant. An integral part of our daily routine, mugs immediately come to mind when you think of ceramic products. These days, however, you’re not limited to white C-handle mugs with one-color imprints, unless that’s what you want. In fact, promotional ceramics are hardly limited to mugs anymore.

There are ceramic products in hundreds of different styles and colors that fit a wide range of promotion and marketing needs. With the help of your counselor, you’ll find something that can solve your marketing problem and generate multiple impressions.

The Cost Of Ceramics
Some peoples’ eyes tend to glaze over when they hear “mug” as a promotional product suggestion. They shouldn’t. Mugs are available in a huge spectrum of shapes, sizes and hues. Many can bear four-color graphics and other special imprinting. Beyond mugs, there are ceramic desk sets, coasters, canisters, bowls, wine coolers, vases, picture frames and even mousepads.

Ceramics can actually be fashionable. Notice, for example, that several TV talk-show hosts drink coffee out of bright, eye-catching mugs. Or the attractive ceramic products sold at retailers such as Pottery Barn.

The first thing to keep in mind with mugs is the cost-per-impression (CPI). According to a study done by Delahaye Medialink, mugs that stay on desks two years or more can generate 750 to 2,500 impressions a year, assuming they get somewhere between 15 and 50 impressions in a standard five-day workweek. For a $5 mug, that’s a CPI of between $.006 and $.001.

“The cost per impression is really low,” says Mike Crespi, a promotional consultant.“That’s why we make sure the color, the detail, etc. make it so the mug is going to be on a desk for two years or more.”

But while low CPI can matter with mugs, for other types of ceramics it may not enter the equation at all. One example: Hand-painted, ceramic bowls, vases, picture frames, etc., that can be customized for promotional use. These are suitable when you want an upscale, prestigious look. Counselor Gary Topper recalls one client that wanted to spend no more than $10 for ceramic bowls as employee Christmas gifts, but happened, by chance, to see the hand-painted items and suddenly agreed to pay $30 for them because “they were so taken by ... how they were going to be received.”

Mug Mandate
A mug can have a lot of competition for attention on a desk. That’s why there must be meaning behind it.

Handles are good places to incorporate different shapes. A light bulb-shape can convey a great idea. A phone-shaped handle can reflect a sales or customer service-oriented promotion. There are also mugs with two and three handles to tie in messages about mergers or teamwork. Ceramic frames and banks can be used in tandem with mugs in continuity programs.

Though color should be an important decision, don’t forget that you can also get multi-color imprints, sublimation and temperature-reactive products that change color to reveal a message when filled with hot liquid. Says counselor John Wasylenko, “With something that’s three-, four-, five-color or four-color process, you’ve basically taken a commodity product and taken it out of that category.”

There are also color-change mugs. A special material is sprayed on the entire mug. When heat-activated, the coating fades, revealing the decoration underneath. “The important thing about color-change is the impression it makes,” says promotional consultant Barry Chase. It’s more valuable to the giver because the recipient is more impressed.”

Brand-Building, Beyond
Today, even the smallest firms have full-color logos.

Developing a corporate image is a huge investment for many firms. There’s one series of mugs that represent the eight most popular colors in corporate America, determined through research. As the colors are frequently used for logos and other corporate identity, the mugs can help raise visibility of a firm’s overall corporate image.

Another way to support a brand is to reproduce sophisticated graphics on mugs. Art can be created, or the image can tie into print advertising or another promotional piece, creating continuity. Consider a mug used recently by Lockheed Martin. “If you look at Lockheed Martin’s little star (on its logo), what does that mean?” Crespi says. “But the minute you add ‘Human Exploration of Space,’ and do the reinforcement with the space imagery … There’s no doubt what it’s about.”

If you’ve ever watched Regis Live and noticed the mugs the hosts drink from, you’ve seen promotional mugs used effectively. They’re even offered for sale on the show’s Web site. Mugs and other ceramic are a natural to include in print catalogs and company store programs.

Many counselors admit to following retail trends. “This year it’s really a color thing” says promotional consultant Anna Ramos. “The new colors that came out this year were purple, lime green and orange. Next year’s colors should be in the blues.”

Several counselors have also seen a trend toward large mugs. It can be effective, when warranted, to use mug styles the public recognizes as trendy, says Wasylenko. Variations on latte and java mugs, introduced some years back, continue to emerge.

Points To Remember
If you’re considering mugs as part of your promotional campaign, a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Pick products demographically. Different mugs appeal to different markets. Bigger and bolder mugs with big handles are good for young men because their hands are larger. Young women prefer products with style. Older people may want something with a solid base that won’t tip over easily.

    Ceramic products like bowls, vases and frames can appeal to a wide cross-section of consumers, says Topper. For example, Harley-Davidson Inc. took salespeople to Africa and gave them ceramic bowls embellished with African scenes.

  2. Made in USA vs. Elsewhere. Many U.S. manufacturers can develop custom pieces. Imported mugs may be reasonably priced and can be nicely decorated, but many counselors feel colors are still somewhat limited.

  3. Custom work can add value to the product and your image. Topper believes in products specially designed for each client. “In my opinion, the giver is being seen as someone who has taken the time to do something unique for the recipient,” he says.

    A custom piece “belongs” to the giver, Counselor Tammy Minot adds. Another plus: Custom work can become collector’s items. The potential drawback: A custom piece may require a four to six-week lead time. However, stock art can sometimes perform just as well. It’s OK to let stock styles masquerade as custom. We won’t tell if you don’t.

  4. Strategies and details can drive a promotion. A unique-shaped handle, new imprinting or etching process, special packaging, and soon can also help a firm gain attention. Ramos did a mug for Volkswagen with a unique handle that reflected the shape of one of its car models. VW buyers got a mug with purchase and another each time they brought the car in for service, or they could buy them outright.

  5. Ask to see a sample. Actually holding a sample is the best way to understand the dimensions or depth of imprinting.

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.

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