Office Location

1567 W. South Airport Rd, Suite 3 Traverse City, MI 49686
Phone: (231) 932-0688
Fax: (231) 932-1740

Office Location

1567 W. South Airport Rd, Suite 3 Traverse City, MI 49686
Phone: (231) 932-0688
Fax: (231) 932-1740




Gritty: Marketing Gold or Short-Term Stunt

The Philadelphia Flyers new mascot is a viral sensation, but can his appeal last? We hope so, because he’s awesome.

The Philadelphia Flyers took over the Internet Monday when they debuted their new mascot, Gritty. One look at Gritty tells you why:

As you can see, Gritty’s appearance suggests he deserves to be at the forefront of a dubious pantheon of homicidal maniacs that includes characters like the clown from It and everyone’s favorite murderous doll Chucky. But as some experts see it, Gritty is genius marketing on the part of the Flyers. Over a 24-hour span early this week, Gritty was the top searched term on Google. Social media exploded with commentary. Press across the U.S. and Canada covered the new face of the Flyers. By midday Tuesday, Gritty had 40,700 Twitter followers. In fact, Gritty was trending so wildly that there was already a beer being brewed up in his honor. To put it succinctly, Gritty is the definition of a digital age viral phenomenon.

Sure, a lot of the buzz around Gritty is replete with negative comments. But that’s not a big a deal, says Ken Wisnefski, a social media marketing expert and founder/owner of digital marketing agency WebiMax. Wisnefski believes the Flyers knew exactly what they were doing with Gritty. A blasé mascot wasn’t going to generate much buzz. However, a towering orange behemoth with meth amphetamine eyes who looks like he killed every other character on Sesame Street was always going to get a lot of attention (our words, not Wisnefski’s…)

The upshot, says Wisnefski, is that Gritty has put the Flyers – and the upcoming hockey season – in the national spotlight at a time when football season is in full swing and baseball is nearing its playoffs. “Not since IHOP tricked people into believing that they changed their name to IHOb (International House of Burgers) have more people taken to social media to share their opinion on a marketing tactic,” says Wisnefski. “A generic mascot was not going to get people talking. Ultimately, if the Phillie Phanatic debuted today, he would be blasted across social media, too. However, he would connect with kids and accomplish the goal of getting people talking.”

Not everyone necessarily agrees with the point about connecting with children:

Jokes aside, Wisnefski says the Flyers are in a strong position to capitalize on Gritty’s appeal if they play their cards right. “It’s vital for the Flyers to get creative with how they position Gritty moving forward in order to take advantage of his popularity,” says Wisnefski. Certainly, we could see a lot of novelty Gritty T-Shirts and hats selling this season around the City of Brotherly Love and its suburban counties. Gameday merch could include Gritty bobbleheads, toys, youth caps, pennants, pins, water bottles and the like. We could see a lot of that swag appealing to adults keen for quirky novelties, just as much as it would kids. Admittedly, we’d be terrified to wake up at night to find a Gritty bobblehead staring at us from the shelf or mantelpiece, but this would not prevent us from desiring such an item.

While the jury remains out on how Gritty will do in the long-term, he is most certainly the marketing win of the moment. Kudos to the Flyers. We look forward to seeing how Gritty is leveraged through promotional products and branded merchandise. And now, more from social media:

Some celebrities couldn’t escape Gritty comparisons:

Gritty had his fans too:

And for those who were critical, Gritty just bid them a good day and got on with things:

Stranger Things Merch Stars in Halloween Horror Nights Swag

The new promotional products support Universal Studios’ special Halloween event. The collection also includes Michael Myers merch and more. Universal Studios’ annual spine-tingling Halloween extravaganza, Halloween Horror Nights, begins Friday, Sept. 14. Fortunately, branded merchandise for the event is now available – and fans of Stranger Things, the Halloween movies, psycho doll Chucky, and spooky fun in general are already howling at the moon with delight. Loving the merch from @HorrorNightsORL @HorrorNights this year! Who’s with me?! @HNNightmares @HHNCrypt @HHNYearbook #HHN28 #hhn2018 — FirstClassHorror (@class_horror) August 26, 2018 Stranger Things swag created for Horror Nights 2018 includes T-Shirts, hoodies, drinkware, phone cases, a light-up pin, lanyards, and more. It’s all really cool, IMHO. Check out some samples available from The Universal Store: Light-up pin. Those who get a thrill from Michael Myers and the Halloween flicks will probably want to add this tee to their merch collection. Meanwhile, Chucky aficionados had tees and a poster with which to bolster their swag horde. There is also Horror Nights merch co-branded with characters from Stranger Things, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Poltergeist, and Trick ‘r Treat. Items include a hoodie and a drawstring backpack. Also eye-catching is this tee for annual passholders: With the Halloween event season poised to launch throughout the U.S., it’s still not too late for promo pros to provide promotional products for local events. Draw a little inspiration from the Halloween Horror Nights merchandise and get cracking today on contacting prospects. They can include entities that range from farms that do “agritainment” with haunted hayrides to community theater groups that offer haunted houses and performances, to bars and nightclubs with Halloween-themed events. Still here? Check out the sneak peek from Horror Nights below. And, be sure to leave the lights on. Here's your FIRST LOOK inside the maze based on @netflix's @Stranger_Things at this year's Halloween Horror Nights! Who's ready to enter the Upside Down? #UniversalHHN — Horror Nights (@HorrorNights) September 5, 2018

Instagram Testing Video Tagging Feature

Depending on how things go, it could be a boon for brands, marketers and social media influencers.

Heads-up, marketers: Instagram is beta-testing a new feature that would allow users to tag friends in their video posts – a development that, if fully rolled out, could help extend the reach and views of posts on the visually-driven social platform.

Currently, Instagrammers can only tag friends in photos. TechCrunch reported that the video tagging feature being tested works similarly to photo tagging, but with a twist. With photos, clicking an icon at the bottom left prompts a list of tagged names to appear over the image. But with videos, clicking the icon will take users to a list of tagged people.

TechCrunch spotted this example of video tagging on the Instagram account @cablegirlsrd.

As of now, video tagging is only available on Instagram’s mobile platform, not the web version. Only users who opted in to the beta test can access the feature. Unlike with photos, videos do not currently appear in the profiles of tagged Instagrammers. Still, that could change as Instagram refines the feature.

As TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez noted, video tagging opens up some potentially exciting possibilities for brands. “The feature could also make way for shoppable videos, not just photos, and allow Instagram influencers to post videos of their favorite products and places, while pointing fans to those brands’ own Instagram accounts in a more structured fashion than is possible today,” Perez wrote.

Trend Alert: College Football Merch

College football is back, and we’re pumped.

Viewing the new season through a swag lens, here’s a quick look at five product categories of branded merchandise – outside traditional top-sellers like hats, hoodies, polos, and T-Shirts -- that are trending hot with collegiate football fans right now.

We’re in the digital age, so it’s no surprise that schools of all sizes are offering everything from tech accessories to actual technology items. We loved the Oregon Ducks’ tech swag, which included this bamboo iPhone case and Bluetooth speaker.

Oregon Ducks Logo Bamboo iPhone 7 Case

Oregon Ducks Bluetooth Speaker

Logoed footwear is growing in popularity with college football fans – and the collegiate market in general. That’s in line with broader trends in the promotional products marketplace, including rising interest in statement socks and flip flops/sliders. We felt the USC Trojans’ branded footwear collection was full of color, verve and style.

[At left-top] Men's Nike Black/Cardinal USC Trojans Free TR V8 Shoes; [At left-bottom] Men's ISlide White USC Trojans Logo Slide Sandals; [At right] Women's Cardinal USC Trojans Logo Sketch Crew Socks

Golf accessories are a hit with alums and boosters. If you do business in the college market and you’re not selling such products, start doing so now. Your bottom line – and client – will benefit. Divot tools, club head covers, ball markers, and even golf bags are among the desired items.

North Carolina Tar Heels Mascot Headcover. Designed to fit most 460cc drivers.

Kansas Jayhawks Switchfix Divot Tool and Poker Chip Ball Marker Set

You already know that car magnets and car flags are beloved among the college football faithful. But hitch covers have gained a lot of traction in recent years, too. The Clemson Tigers and Texas Longhorns’ offerings bear testimony to that.

[At left] Texas Longhorns Domed Logo Plastic Hitch Cover; [At right] Clemson Tigers Light Up Hitch Cover

Cornhole, camping chairs – yep, they continue to trend in this category beloved of tailgaters. Interestingly, some colleges are branching out with more backyard/patio items, such as fire pits. We could sure picture celebrating a Penn State win on a cool October evening around the flames of this particular product.

Penn State Nittany Lions Fire Pit

HBO Offers Game of Thrones Back to School Swag

Fans pining for the return of the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens must wait until 2019 for HBO’s final season of Game of Thrones, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the “Back to School” branded merchandise now available for the hit show. Retailing in the HBO Shop, the collection features everything from a House Stark Stationery Kit to a Night King Black Mug. Here’s a sampling of the wares from Westeros.

The Winter is Coming Stark sigil vacuum bottle features double-wall stainless steel construction, and holds 17oz. of fluid. If the toughest of medieval warriors were to suddenly reanimate and start drinking from travel tumblers, we feel this would be their container of choice. It’s that bada*s-looking.

Of course, we could be wrong about the Stark sigil vacuum bottle. Perhaps the medieval warriors would prefer This Fire and Blood Targaryen sigil 17oz. water bottle, which is equally fierce.

When you see the Night King (here depicted), you know for sure that “Winter is Here.” Good thing, then, that you’ll have this trusty mug to fill with warming tea, coffee or hot cocoa to keep you warm.

You can feel the cold winter winds blowing in over The Wall and withering away the last of the autumn in the starkly beautiful design on this House Stark Stationery Set. It includes much of what you’d need to communicate in the pre-iPhone days of Westeros, including a wax stamp, two wax sticks, envelopes, paperweight, writing paper and display box – all bearing the Stark sigil. Now, all you’ll need is a raven or a rider to carry your message.

Tyrion Lannister’s famous phrase adorns this T-Shirt, which is 100% cotton and printed in California.

Popular character Hodor’s name gets the neon treatment in this new shirt, which is 100% cotton and printed in Michigan.

This hat features the sigil of House Targaryen -- a three-headed dragon. Admittedly, we’re intimidated…

With winter upon Westeros, this 46" x 60" 100% polyester double layer fleece throw blanket featuring character Jon Snow will come in handy. Curl up beneath it and sip from your Night King mug.

Winter is (nearly) Here. Gear up for the final season of GOT!

Starbucks Releases Autumn-Inspired Merch

Starbucks and teamed up to collaborate on the promotional products collection, which features double-wall travel tumblers, notebooks, a mug and more.

With Labor Day in the rearview, autumn’s pumpkin spice season is officially underway. Starbucks is capitalizing not only with its panoply of pumpkin-spiced goodies, but also with a new fall-inspired branded merchandise collection.

Selections from Starbucks new fall-inspired swag line. Image from Starbucks.

Created in collaboration with lifestyle brand, Starbucks just released the collection today (Sept. 5). It entails two 24-oz. Starbucks cold cups, two Starbucks double-wall travel tumblers, a ceramic mug, two notebooks and a pencil pouch. The Starbucks-branded swag features images of boots, scarves, umbrellas, flannel shirts, acorns and other items that herald the autumn. Some products also bear a “midnight floral” design.

Image from Starbucks.

The “Midnight Floral” items are available at Target. Image from Starbucks.

Starbucks has previously partnered with on merch, but the collections were only available in Asia. This time, the swag has come stateside and to Canada. To pick some up, however, you’ll have to go to a Starbucks that’s inside another retailer. The “Midnight Floral” designs are only available at Target.

While the collection was being heralded as cozy and fun by some, others felt the collaboration missed the mark a bit when it came to conveying a true autumn vibe.

Nonetheless, for promotional products pros, the collection is notable on a number of levels. It provides another example of a fast-growing trend – namely, brands collaborating on limited-edition merchandise collections, often at key points in their respective business calendars. (We especially liked the recent Ziploc/BEAMS team-up.) Furthermore, the collection is a creative way to potentially increase foot traffic at Starbucks and partner retail locations. Perhaps more brands in the retail space can take a cue and use limited-edition branded merchandise, available in-store only, to motivate consumers to get out from behind the keyboard and shop brick-and-mortar. At the least, it’s an idea promo pros can consider suggesting to retail clients.

Image from Starbucks.
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