Many of you may know that I am a graphic designer for a snack foods company, before I come home and do my “real” work. My company often exhibits at food-centric trade shows, much like we do at comic cons, promoting our brands and drawing interest in the corporate programs we offer to schools, hospitals, and other foodservice venues. Much like we pass out business cards, bookmarks, or postcards, my company offers plenty of freebies for people to take home (not to mention, free food!). I spend a lot of time designing booth graphics and making 1-color versions of our brands’ logos for imprinting on promotional materials. Prepping for these yearly conferences, makes me think about how to better promote my comic with free, or cheap, fun items that’ll stand out against the stack of business cards that everyone else passes out. It’s one thing to get people to take a card…. It’s an entirely different feat to get them to A: NOT trash it, B: take it home, C: put it by their computer desk, and finally D: locate and type the URL in a browser and visit your website. Maybe the extra money will ensure at least A and B happen, and lead to more readership.
But WHAT types of items would work in this scenario? This is something I very much enjoy discussing ad nauseum, to anyone who would like to join me on my brainstorm excursion. Which are worth the cost? Which would you give away for free, and which would you charge maybe a $1 for? Are there items that work better for a comic convention, rather than a craft fair, or a book festival? If the goal is to get the items near a computer, what types of things would people toss in that general direction to use later? QR codes can help with that, yes, but only for items that are large enough to print it, and for those who have smartphones. All this thinking and anal-retentive detail seems excessive, but when you consider the minimum quantities these promo imprinting services offer, you’ll be spending a good chunk of cash…. So a little brainstorming might be beneficial.
Lets take a look at a service that will print your logo on a plethora of different types of giveaways and trade show items: over 650,000 different products to be exact. Quality Logo Products boasts a TON of products in all shapes and sizes, and “All Inclusive Pricing” means no extra fees for set-up, shipping or imprinting your own logo. Believe it or not, I have seen many services that hide the set-up fee (this means if you want your logo on the products– as opposed to just straight text you type in when you place the order–, there’s a set-up fee.) and once you see the final price tag, the initial cost per item is worthless. So, props to this company for making it easier for us to determine what we can afford without jumping through hoops. Nothing makes me more agitated than spending an hour picking out an item and getting my logo to look nice on it, to find out that there’s a $100 set-up fee right before I check-out. For those of you thinking of designing a T-shirt to sell along side your books at convention, this company also offers T-shirt printing, of which are a ton MORE options: mens, women’s, kids, long-sleeved shirts, bibs, boxers, even the new trendy “compressed” Tshirts in a holding box in many shapes. If a calendar of your comics to sell in your storefront was ever a thought, Quality Logo Products offers that as well. Like I said, this could be more than just a giveaway imprinting service, you can also order things that you would SELL at events, flushing out your merchandise and your table’s appearance. If you’re looking for a deal, check out the Clearance section to see what may be on sale.
But, What to Imprint.. What to Imprint….
Here’s the real brainstorm session of this article. Let’s take a look at some products Quality Logo Products offers, and weight the pros and cons of each. We are looking for these goals:
- DESIRABILITY: we want people to take home the freebies or want to buy the nick-nacks for $1-3.
- USABILITY: the item should prove itself useful to most people, and work, at least well enough to not be tossed.
- SUITABLE FOR THE DEMOGRAPHIC: we’re talking comic enthusiasts. An imprinted golf ball might not work too well.
- ENDS UP NEAR A COMPUTER: this is tricky, but something to keep in mind if the goal is to get people to your website.
- TIES INTO YOUR COMIC: It’s not 100% necessary, but an item that ties into your concept is clever and attracts your demographic!
- COST EFFECTIVE: no use in spending a ton to give it away for free. We do that enough with our webcomics.
Yes, of course, stickers. About as basic as you can get, yet everyone loves a sticker. Getting a roll of stickers like this and cutting them up into squares to pass out for the kids would be a great way to promote an all-ages comic or book.
PROS: Cheap. Super, super cheap. If actually used (stuck on something prominent like a bookbag or ipod case), provides advertising to anyone who sees it, business cards don’t do that.
CONS: Can be just as easily tossed as a business card. More geared towards kids than adults. If the goal is to get people to find/remember your URL, this depends on where it’s “stuck”.
If a sticker is just too simplistic, a magnet may be the next step up. More geared towards adults, who pin up a lot of stuff on their refrigerator.
PROS: Still relatively cheap, for a giveaway. Could use as a “freebie” if you buy a book. Most people will keep a magnet, as most can use it.
CONS: If the magnets ordered are on the cheaper end, they may not be able to hold up much on the fridge, and therefore be tossed. Kids probably wouldn’t care too much about a magnet. Also, typically the fridge isn’t anywhere near the computer desk, so getting new online readers from it may prove difficult.
This was my first dabbling with imprinting, to see what people would take and if it would be worth it. My thinking was that it would be POSSIBLE that someone would take home a pen and put it on their desk. I made Zorphbert & Fred pens, with a 1-color logo and URL. They looked pretty good, too.
PROS: Good moogley, there’s a slew of pen styles to debate over. Finding one that fits your comic’s “tone” is easy, then it comes down to the price. Even the cheap ones, like here, look nice. And in my experience, EVERYONE wanted a free pen. EVERYONE.
CONS: I have to say, after I went through 250 free pens at a comic con (they went fast), I didn’t see a huge influx of readership. That says very little about it, just from one order and one comic con. Plus, how many times have you lost a pen or gave it to someone else?
Pens can do a lot nowadays. they can light up, or contain cool things like puzzles or moving parts, or double as a flash light or keychain. The more useful, the more of an “imprint” you’ll leave with each person who gets one!
PROS: OOOOOoooooooooooo…. now there’s a pen you WON’T just give away or lose!
CONS: But look at that price tag. Pens can range from .10 cents to a couple dollars per, and it would probably take a pretty fancy pen to ensure someone hangs on to it. Might be best to use as a bribe to buy a book, or charge $1-3.
If you’re considering the general audience at comic con, specifically in Artist Alley, many are artists themselves. Something with the creative types in mind might be a cool way to connect.
PROS: Definitely something people would keep, and it may end up at a drafting table or a computer desk for sure. Many artists also read comics, and making the “fellow artist” connection is a good way to earn a new reader
CONS: It’s not to useful if the customer isn’t an artist, as most “regular” adults use pens, not pencils. Many webcomic creators find it hard to connect with NON creators (the true customers, who will BUY books, etc). Might be more beneficial to opt for a more universal item.
You’ve probably already seen many exhibitors who lure people to their table with free candy (myself included). My initial extension of this was to BRAND the candy! I had even found lollipops you could get for really cheap, with an imprinted stick- how neat! But there’s one BIG issue (below)
PROS: Cheap and extremely likable! Free candy puts customers in a GREAT mood.
CONS: Think. What do YOU do once you finish eating it? Throw away the wrapper. Unless there’s a very clever way of packaging the candy, that people would KEEP the package, this seems pretty worthless to me.
Now here’s something I think could be very effective. It’s fitting for many of the bullet points listed above, and definitely would wind up near a computer, or a smartphone. Most comic readers are also tech-geeks, so a brush or wipe for computer screens or other electronics may come in handy for them.
PROS: Definitely unique, useful, fitting for the demographic, and a memorable find.
CONS:Probably the only issue is the cost. .50 cents for a freebie is asking a lot. Again, consider something like this as a add-on to sweeten a book deal.
Much like the electronic brushes above, this would wind up near a computer. I mean, where else do you use a mousepad?
PROS: Something you could offer in your online storefront as well. If what you want is a daily reminder of your URL, this effectively does that.
CONS: When’s the last time you swapped out your mousepad? I’ve had the same one for years. This could just be me, but I wouldn’t swap my trusted mousepad for a freebie mousepad. Considering this option here is the cheapest offered on their website, you have to wonder about the quality and at .78 cents a pop, definitely not a freebie item anyway. If you get a mousepad, get a decent one and sell it in your store or as a cheap alternate item ($5) at a con.
Get Clever! Keychains that fit your content
There’s a lot of cool keychains on this site, and plenty more elsewhere too. Good advice for promo keychains: get one that has a purpose. Like, a beverage opener or a flashlight. I have one on my own keychain right now. If you make the purpose or the style fit your comic’s content, even better. Like Antoine did with his flash drives— a beverage opener keychain would work great for a comic that’s about drunken exploits, but not so much if you do an all-ages comic.
PROS: can be relatively cheap, and if you are clever enough, can make a great impression and spark up a conversation about similar subject matter and help you pitch your books/comics.
CONS: Lets just hope people bring their keys to their computer desk. Also, keychains are everywhere and they have to REALLY be pretty useful/impressive for people to add them to the jumbled mess that already IS their key ring.
WAY Outside the Box
If the other options I found just seem entirely too generic and boring, there are plenty of other products that you could slap your logo/URL on. Stress balls, as silly as they are, come in all shapes and sizes and people just love them regardless of any resemblance of usefulness. Maybe a pack of crayons if your comic is geared towards kids, or “kids at heart”. I once read that Jennie Breeden of Devils’ Panties would buy little hand sanitizer bottles in bulk and soak the lables off, and replace with her own. Brilliant thought, as you DO shake a lot of hands (on either side of the table) at conventions. Talk about immediately useful. There are so many offbeat products that would stand out; some may work, some may be too weird or awkward to do what they need to: Promote your comic. It’s a case-by-case type thing that’s usually only determined by testing it out… and that’s what makes the high minimum quantities so frustrating.
Brainstorm With Me…
Why not browse through the 650,000 products at Quality Logo Products (as, you know, us comic creators are just LOADED with spare time and all) and practice your business and marketing skills. Report back here, if you can, and let the rest of us know what you think would be an effective promotional item, for your comic, or for anyone else’s. It’s a fun exercise and it helps put you in your demographic’s shoes… something we need to do from time to time.
Dawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the sydication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.