5 Ways That Promo Pros Are Like Entrepreneurs

by Patrick McHargue on August 19, 2014

in Ramblings

5 Ways That Promo Pros Are Like Enterpreneurs 5 Ways That Promo Pros Are Like Enterpreneurs


How to Make Our Mark in the World of Social Media

by Patrick McHargue on August 12, 2014

in Ramblings

I love social media. I feel that it is both our present and our future. There are promotional product professionals (sales reps, distributors, suppliers, supplier reps, designers, printers and industry associations) doing good work on social media. However, there are a lot of people who really suck at it and badly need to 1) Learn how to make better use of this great opportunity or 2) Stop altogether because they are wasting their time and diluting the message of our industry.

Social media for B2C industries is super easy! If you can’t gain a following for your cupcake shop on Twitter or Instagram you’re an idiot.

Social media for B2B industries is not easy. However, it can be done.

  1. You have to find where you customer base hangs out, listen, learn, and engage with them in a way that’s native to that social platform. An example of this would be for a supplier rep to monitor promotional product LinkedIn groups and discussions happening on CommonSKU. If you sell stress balls you have to pounce on that opportunity. If people are talking about your product anywhere and you aren’t there to engage in that conversation, you are failing.
  1. Let’s get this out of the way. It may be painful to hear. No one cares about your product. Literally, no one cares. Very few of the people who are following you on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest give a crap that your acrylic tumbler is stronger or that your pricing 3% lower than the other guy’s. Yes we do have an amazing array of products in this industry. What people do care about is the moment that our products create. Show them the company picnic that was 100 times more fun because of the custom washer sets that you did for them. Show them the charity run where your shirts were worn. Show them the break room battle royal that breaks out when your food gifts arrive. People want to see emotions, results, and moment. They couldn’t care less about specs, imprint area, and SKUs.

Here’s CustomInk.com’s new commercial. It’s airing all over the place. They get it!

HootSuite Certified Professional


When Promotional Products Attack!

by Patrick McHargue on August 7, 2014

in Originals

You always have the best of intentions when ordering promotional products. You want everything to turn out awesome, but somewhere in the proofing process things take a wrong turn. Here are some epic examples of promotional product fails!

1) My favorite example is the nightmare that was Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Night at Yankee Stadium. Rivera, the greatest closing pitcher in Yankee history, was in the midst of his final season. Yankees fan were pumped to celebrate the career of their closer.  Crowds grew outside of the stadium in anticipation. Only one problem, the bobbleheads had not arrived. The truck bringing in the bobbleheads had broke down in New Jersey. After hours in lines and missing most of that night’s game, 18,000 fans did receive their plastic figurines.


LESSON: Make sure that you deliveries will arrive in plenty of time. Build buffer time into your schedule.

2) Here’s another baseball centered failure. This season the Colorado Rockies hosted a t-shirt giveaway night for their star player, Troy TulowiTzki. I’ve capitalized the second “t” for a reason. The Rockies omitted it on all 15,000 shirts that they gave out that night. After news of the typo hit Twitter, the Rockies had to apologize and re-run the promotion later in the season. Please spell your best player’s name correctly!

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LESSON: Proofread!!! Then proofread it again. Then have a co-worker/boss proofread it again!

 3) Urban Outfitters recently gave away promotional pens shaped like hypodermic needles with the imprint “I love Harroin”. Harroin is a hair salon in New York City. Everyone gets haircuts and everyone buys clothes. However, the heroin reference is where this promo went terribly wrong. It got a lot of media coverage (probably the chief goal), but it wasn’t positive attention by any means.

Read my thoughts on their promotion here


LESSON: Edgy promotions are fun and can garner a lot of publicity. Offensive promotions don’t get you the attention that you want and can often backfire.


Baltimore’s Preeminent Drug Dealer On Branding

by Patrick McHargue on August 4, 2014

in Originals

If you’ve never seen HBO’s “The Wire”, this post will change your life. Stop what you are doing and watch all 5 seasons. DO IT NOW! It’s an amazing show, many critics think that it’s better than “The Soprano’s”.


Click on the link below and start at about the 30 second mark. Wear headphones as it’s NSFW.  It contains a ton of swear words, but we’re all adults and it perfectly illustrates a critical point:

1. Protect your brand!!!


Marlo knows that his “name is his name”. What he’s really saying is that you only get one reputation. Once it’s tarnished it will never be pristine again. The internet gives us all the memory of an elephant.  If your company screws up, all it takes is a Google search for everyone to relive it.

Our clients depend on us to protect their brand.  It’s a serious responsibility.  After all your brand is your brand.



The Big Problem With Company T-Shirts

by Patrick McHargue on July 31, 2014

in Originals

I monitor Twitter (Hootsuite, I think I love you) for various phrases related to the promotional product business. Hands down the most discussed topic is “company t-shirt”. I like to see people who just got a shirt and are excited or who needs a company shirt and maybe I can help.

I find and reply to all the positive posts, but the feed is usually filled to the brim with people complaining about, mocking or otherwise hating their company t-shirt. Seeing this was such a bummer. T-shirts are the most widely sold piece of apparel in our business and the people receiving them hate them. Company t-shirts should make you feel official, part of the team, and part of something important.

What’s going wrong?

I believe that the problem is that the shirts that we make for our customers are super (read: SUPER) boring! How can you feel like a part of a special team (your company) when you and millions of others have the same Gildan 2000 with a one-color screen print on the left chest?!?! These may be the shirts that your customers want, but they suck, are lame, and the recipients loath them.

Don’t we want people to love the shirts we make? Well, they don’t. So we need to change.

The only answer is to give your customer better (read: more creative) options. It will take you time to brainstorm a new concept and whip up a design, but it’s worth it. Anyone can provide the customer with what they think they want (hint: our customers, the buyers, rarely know that people hate their company shirts). Only a promo professional can show their customer something that they want, but didn’t know was possible.

That’s how you really surprise and delight your customers.


It’s Time For A Change

by Patrick McHargue on July 21, 2014

in Originals


More and more, I’m committing time, thought, and effort here. I love this blog. However, it represents a very small portion of my interests. In order to write with all of the passion inside of me, I need to make a change.

Moving forward this website will no longer focus fully on promotional products. It will expand to encompass all of my interests.

What’s in store?

The look of this site with change. The logo and branding of it will evolve.  New topics and themes will appear.  Social Media. Advertising. Branding. Business in general. A little bit of copy writing.

I’m very, very excited for this change.  It will take time, but I know it will be a positive one.

Please join me.


Stop with all the the “Thank you’s”!

I’m a very polite, affable, friendly guy.  I give blood.  I hold the door open for strangers when I’m running errands.  I help my less tech savvy (much less) co-workers save pictures of their grand kids to their desktop.  I like helping people and am grateful when they return the favor.

Despite my happy-go-lucky nature, I recently made the decision to stop thanking people.  I (like a ton of people) have had the generic “Thank you!” line above my email since I began my professional career in 2007.  The chief reason that I made this small, but critical change is because of people’s subconscious perception of value.

When you have a message of gratitude in your email signature what are you really saying?

You’re saying one of the following things:

  • Thanks for reading my email
  • Thanks for your response
  • Thanks for recognizing me

All of these sentiments greatly reduce the value of your brand, product, or service. You are degrading yourself for no good reason!

People should want to read your emails because you should write emails that people want to read. Recipients should respond because you should give them a compelling reason to. If you are providing a valuable and worthy service or product to your consumers that should be enough.  You don’t need to bow down or genuflect in order to be recognized.  You need to give the consumer so much value that they view you on the exact same level as they are.  Be a partner, not a peasant.

OK.  End of rant.

Gratitude has its place in business.  It should be deserved and not tossed around during every single interaction.  Your “Thank you” in your email is about as insincere and empty as any gesture can get.  Want to thank a long time customer for a big order?  Call them, ask about how they are doing and THANK THEM!  More social than that?  Leave an awesome review on their LinkedIn page. Between old technology and new technology, there are so many ways to give a genuine thank you that putting a generic “Thanks” in your email signature is the height of lameness.

Your strategy on saying “Thank you” is completely up to you.  Be sure to consider what you are really saying and what your customer is really hearing.


3 Questions You Need to Ask To Ensure Safe Promos

by Patrick McHargue on July 16, 2014

in Originals


Here are a few important questions that I want you to ask in order to ensure that your promotional products are SAFE.

Are you ordering youth or children size apparel?

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 requires all children’s products include permanent distinguishing marks, also known as tracking labels. This is

a tracking label that is printed directly onto the garment. This additional imprint does carry an additional cost that you need to be aware of when ordering sizes from Infant to Children’s size 14.

Are you ordering an item that you can you eat or drink out of?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began regulating food contact substances in 1958. Since, then the FDA has developed a wide‐ranging set of regulations covering most classes of food packaging materials. The FDA refers to these materials as food contact substances.

The products that fall under this regulation are drinkware, plates, utensils, napkins, serving platters, and lunch-to-go containers

  • All plastic items must be BPA free
  • Most standard food service items already have testing from the FDA that will be sufficient
  • Any item that comes in direct contact with food or the person during their consumption of food must have testing on both the item and the imprint
  • Ceramic Mugs must have testing on the imprint unless the imprint is etched or is part of the kiln fired design

Who is the intended audience or product recipient? Could the items be distributed to children?

Another result of the CPSIA is that all items must have an appropriate recommended age range labeled on either the product or packaging. Items that contain small pieces, sharp objects, or a 12 volt power source must be marked accordingly.

Want To See What a Product Safety Program Should Look Like?


T-Shirts 101

by Patrick McHargue on July 3, 2014

in Originals

Apparel is the largest (and most confusing) segment in the world of promotional products.  Within that segment, no item is more popular or more varied than t-shirts.  T-shirts are the perfect promotional product.  They get a ton of impressions, state your message loud and proud, and come in a lot of customizable options.  Below is a quick map of the world of t-shirts.

Style & Fit

Adult/Tall – longer sleeves; relaxed fit throughout; tall styles are 2” longer than regular style in body and sleeve length


Young Men’s – this style is has shorter and trimmer sleeves; the body fit is slimmer as well

Young men

Ladies – generally have a longer sleeve length and a more relaxed fit


Juniors – this style has shorter and trimmer sleeves


Youth – this style is unisex; it has a longer sleeve length and relaxed fit


Girls – this style has shorter, feminine sleeves and is slimmer in the body



Cotton: a natural, soft fiber that is renewable, biodegradable and regulated by the USDA as a food crop. The US is the world’s third largest producer of cotton and the world’s largest exporter.

Organic Cotton: cotton grown without harsh pesticides or chemicals.

Jersey Knit: The consistent interloping of yarns in the jersey stitch to produce a fabric with a smooth, flat face and a more textured, but uniform back.

Performance: 100% polyester which wicks moisture away from the skin for cooler, drier wear

Polyester: A man-made, non-biodegradable fiber used to produce synthetic fabrics. It’s generally manufactured using petroleum-derived substances.


What do those weights for t-shirts mean? They are how much one square yard of that material weighs. The heavier the material, the thicker and more durable the shirt.

Heavyweight: 6 oz+

Midweight: 5-6 oz

Lightweight: 4-4.9 oz


I’m not going to delve into the hundreds of colors that t-shirts come in.  However, I will mention this quick guideline: Generally speaking the darker the color, the more expensive the shirt.  Dyes cost money and black shirts will always cost more than white.

Have any t-shirt questions? Post them below and I’ll answer them!


5 Books That Master Marketers Have Read

by Patrick McHargue on July 2, 2014

in Originals

What good book have you read lately?

If you’re like most people (no judgment) you don’t have a good answer to that question. I love to read, but even I can go through long periods of time without cracking a book. Opening a book is a big investment. You’re expecting yourself to finish it, to retain important information and to be able to apply its lessons to your life. That’s a lot of pressure.

Well, below is a list of the five best marketing books that I have ever read. These books have helped me to become more creative and focused on getting strong results for myself and my customers. I know that they will help you too!

My goal with this list is to take some of the pressure of. Don’t have time to read? No big deal. Hopefully, you can pick up some good tidbits from my analysis below.

Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing”


If you’ve never heard of Seth Godin, please, please, please go to SethGodin.com and sign up for his blog. Do it. Now, or you’ll forget.
Seth Godin is a genius. His take on marketing is fresh, unique and most of all very practical. For decades, marketers only goal has been to cram their brand message down people’s throats. Seth Godin turned this concept upside down by pointing out that people have so many choices today that they’re going to pick and choose what messages they want to hear. You must make your message attractive, important and likeable to your target audience. Then and only then, do you have a chance at getting their permission

Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail”


In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson points out the revenue value of niche products. He analyzes web-based purchasing habits (think Amazon or Netflix) and suggests that the lower volume, less popular items will become more and more important to bottom lines in all industries. A Blockbuster (may they rest in peace) can carry 8,000 movies. However, Netflix has 25,000 movies. Now Blockbuster carries the most popular 8,000, Netflix can find paying customers who value the less popular 17,000 movies that only they provide access to. This long tail can be very profitable.

Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made To Stick”


There have been a ton of books and articles written about brand story telling. These brothers have written by far the best! They looked at a large number of success marketing campaigns. Why did one campaign become known throughout the country and the others fail to resonate with customers? They discover the six elements that always play the most critical role in the “stickiness” of a campaign. If you want to create something that will stay with your customers for a long time read this book!

David Meerman Scott’s “The New Rules Of Marketing And PR”

If you are interested in the world of social media this book is a must read. Scott is laying out the first strong case for content marketing. It’s been updated many times over to reflect changes in the world of media. If you’re looking for the ultimate primer on social media, what it means and what it can do, this is the perfect book to bring you up to speed.

W. Chan Kim and Renee Maubrogne’s “Blue Ocean Strategy”


Blue Ocean Strategy is an eye-opening book. It makes you question the critical aspects of your product or service. What if you tweaked one part of your product? Could it make a big different to your business? The keys examples used are Cirque de Soleil’s evolution from the classic circus concept and the sales of Yellow Tail wine exploded because of the simple and straightforward fun that they brought to the overly complex wine industry. Could you make one or two changes and leave your competition in the dust? Or better yet, move into a competition-free blue ocean?