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Ceramics: Get A Handle On It!

By Charlotte Thomas

Ceramics have been around for ages and they're truly an industry staple. Who couldn't use another coffee mug to go with their decidedly eclectic kitchen collection? And these days, the ceramics category covers all kinds of products, including home décor pieces.

If you think death and taxes are the only things you can count on, you're wrong. Add coffee mugs to the list. Supposedly, they've been around since the Phoenicians. No wonder mugs occupy the biggest part of the ceramics category in the promotional products industry - which also includes bowls, home décor pieces, cookie and candy jars and numerous other items. Those old standbys are still staples, even in this age of electronic wizardry and high-tech wonder.

It makes sense when you think about it: They're practical, relatively inexpensive, gender neutral, used daily and have a lot of imprint space. Admit it - you've probably got a whole kitchen cupboard full of mugs. But most important to the promotional industry, they get left on desks. They get carried around. They sit on the dashboard. "Sixty to 80 times a day, that advertising message on the mug is seen," says Stan Breckenridge, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Moderne Glass Company Inc.

Although these items have been around for ages, that doesn't mean suppliers aren't still coming up with new styles, colors and shapes. "Right now, we're seeing a real renaissance of fashion in coffee mugs," says Evan Thomas, sales manager at Sabina. "We're seeing a lot more styling for those 'foo-foo' drinks - coffee is a trendy area of our business." Specifically, Thomas is talking about bigger handles; different shaped handles; hip colors; different colors on the inside and outside; and flared, 14- and 16-oz. bistro mugs that taper on the bottom. The list goes on. "We're moving into mugs that are square on the bottom and round on top," notes Anna Ramos, vice president of sales and marketing at Berney-Karp Inc.

One good reason ceramics are getting snazzier by the minute is that improved imprinting technology is enabling more options - from four-color process to five-spot colors to thermo-chromatic paint that reacts to heat. "We can make images appear, disappear and change color," says John Wasylenko, vice president of sales and marketing at Numo Manufacturing. "This changes a commodity product into unique advertising.

"If anything, colors are becoming brighter. According to David Keith, sales promotion manager at World Wide Art Studios, one of their most popular ceramic items is a mug that comes in eight of the most popular corporate colors. "Many companies want to use their color as an identity, whether on a coffee mug or something else," he says.

When you get into 3-D relief imprinting with a deep-etch process (which is first printed and then glazed), that's a far cry from the white mug with a logo plastered on the side. Suppliers are even offering limited editions of mugs - each in a different color - and people are waiting to see what comes next so they can add it to their collection.

And if you thought mugs were just for drinking, you've misjudged what a little creativity can do: Make it look like a terracotta flowerpot with a handle on it. Or fill it with ground coffee for a delivery company introducing a new "ground" service. Printed on the outside of the heat-sensitive mug was the question: "For fresh ground goodness, what makes you think of us?" When coffee was poured into the mug, the company's logo appeared.

Aside from mugs, there are ceramic desk sets, coasters, canisters, bowls, wine coolers, vases, picture frames and even mousepads - some with bold, beautiful designs that would look at home on the shelves of an art gallery or upscale gift shop and would certainly complement the recipient's home décor.

Suppliers offer many custom options, such as custom cookie jars from Berney-Karp. Want one shaped like a golf bag? Or how about the promotion done for a toothpaste? To finish it off, the cookie jar was filled with Dentine gum breath fresheners. Sabina also does custom candy jars with stylized tops and handles.

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Charlotte Thomas is a frequent contributor to Strategic Promotional ADvantages.

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