Archive for May, 2011

Good Design and Promo Products – Oxymoron?

May 24, 2011

Font Geek / Flickr mat_honan

I had a rare chance to read an old copy of the Sunday New York Times recently and was struck by an article on a t-shirt design contest at Oberlin College in Ohio. The article touched on something we’ve known all along – gone are the days of sticking your corporate/school logo on something and expecting someone to wear it. Rather than the college name emblazoned on the front of the shirts (boring), stylized and iconic symbols of life on campus are screened to perfection. Hallelujah.

So, what up with the promo product world? A lot of companies and non-profit organizations still seem to think their brand is enough to convince folks to pull their t-shirt over their head more often than all the others in the drawer (or grab their re-usable mug, their tote bag, you get the idea).

But, seriously, when was the last time you put on a t-shirt with something like Deloitte Consulting, Kaiser Permanante or Safeway on the front of it?  I can think of a few cool killers offhand & here is a short list:

1. Brand Police. We’re often presented with brand guidelines in advance of doing work with a client. By and by, the brand guidelines were designed for letterhead and AGM reports. They’re useful for getting the pantone right and for figuring out what the black & white version of a logo is really suppose to look like.  But too often they serve as the final word on creativity – thereby rendering the creative expression of a brand to it’s logo and nothing more. Brand guidelines are party poopers when you want to have a little fun.

2. No Time to Design. Last minute planning means folks aren’t empowered to drift from what they know their boss will approve without blinking. I can’t tell you the number of times we start a conversation rife with creativity only to default to the standard logo in the standard place because the time wasn’t there to get approvals and buy-in to designs that fall outside the box.

3. Lack of Clear Marketing Objectives/No specific audience. Too often purchasing  promotional products doesn’t come under the same rigor as other marketing spends. Without understanding your audience, intended outcome or call to action, the opportunity to align messaging with a clear outcome is lost. And understanding who your intended audience is can inform design.

In the case of t-shirts, the real challenge for companies is creating a true ‘wearable’ vs. another give-away t-shirt. All of us have a dozen (or more) shirts in our drawer, and all of us wear the same 3-4 over and over. So how do you get someone to pick yours as part of their favorite stash of tees?  You get them with design, people, you get them with design. Here are a few of our favorite and tips:

1. Secret Messages. Consider printing your core messages/logo/branding inside the t-shirt, under the flap of the messenger bag, ect (and use the main real estate for a cool graphic that has a chance of being work again and again). I’m sure the marketers are cringing, but imagine – it’s like a private conversation and reminder to your core customer that you love them every time they pull your shirt over their head. At a minimum, keep it subtle. Think left sleeve not front chest.

2. Be Cheeky. We did a run of t-shirts for a client called Pulse Energy who specialize in building management energy management software. Instead of a basic logo print on the shirts we printed ‘check my pulse’ on the front with a subtle logo hit on rear nape of the shirt.  Fun, especially when worn by their cute, fit staff.

3. Design first, Logo Second. Consider starting with a cool concept or design first and worry about incorporating your logo later. Here is a great execution of that concept by BC Based coffee roaster Saltspring Coffee. They printed a series of coffee molecules on their travel mugs for the true java junkie – their logo is a subtle link in the ‘chain’.

Pantone Mugs. Lovely. / Flickr elizabeth.graeber

There are very few brands cool enough to get away with just being themselves. Pantone is one of them. The “world’s authority on color”  goes so well with your morning coffee – their mugs get picked first, I’m sure of it. For the rest of us, think about design first, your logo second.

New Report Reveals Trends & Best Practices in Canadian Municipal Sustainable Purchasing and Ethical Sourcing

May 12, 2011

The following article has been re-posted with permission from our friends at Reeve Consulting and originally appeared on the Reeve Consulting blog.

Read on to learn about the current status of sustainable purchasing among Canadian municipalities. There’s also an introduction to an innovative project called the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing, a group of municipalities from across the country that are leveraging their collective experiences and resources to improve their sustainable purchasing practices.

Reeve Consulting and the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing recently released the first annual Trends and Best Practices in Canadian Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report, the most comprehensive discussion of municipal sustainable purchasing and ethical sourcing in Canada to date.

Beyond revealing key trends across the country and valuable best practices, the report offers a national snapshot of how Canadian municipalities are implementing sustainable purchasing programs.

Complete with a listing of common program barriers and recommended solutions, the report is a valuable resource for municipal decision-makers looking to implement impactful sustainable purchasing programming.

>> Download the Summary Report.

The full report is available from Reeve Consulting by request at or 604-763-6829.

Status of municipal sustainable purchasing in Canada

Sustainable purchasing has become a hot topic in the municipal sector. Few other internal sustainability initiatives can directly contribute to multiple civic agendas around zero waste, climate leadership, economic development, staff engagement, risk mitigation, improved operational efficiencies and cost reductions.

While comprehensive sustainable purchasing is still a relatively new field for local governments, municipalities are finding the support they require through the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP). Formed in 2010 as a pilot project, the MCSP is comprised of a group of Canadian municipalities that are leveraging their collective experiences, knowledge and resources to strengthen their respective sustainable purchasing programs.

The Trends and Best Practices in Canadian Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report documents the great wealth of expertise shared by these and other local governments, pulling from them practical insights for municipalities looking to advance their sustainable purchasing practices.

Emerging Trends in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing

Key findings of the study show that municipalities continue to give priority to environmental issues over social or ethical considerations. The study also found that achieving some noteworthy early returns on investment, particularly a strong financial return, is key for generating momentum and further senior support for the advancement of sustainable purchasing practices. Municipalities say that their efforts are focused on developing realistic annual action plans, implementing policies or guidelines and collaborating with others to share experiences and resources.

Best Practices in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing

Readers wanting to fast track their efforts will find great value in the report’s identification and description of the 10 Program Success Factors required to maximize the impacts and benefits of sustainable purchasing.

Among these elements are following a written action plan, defining a clear sustainable purchasing policy and product guidelines, developing supplier scorecards and Codes of Conduct that outline fair labour standards, providing adequate training for purchasing and staff and engaging directly with suppliers in sustainability conversations.

These and more best practices are discussed in detail in the summary and full report.

Municipalities team up to overcome the challenges

The release of the report also marks the first year of full-fledged programming for the MCSP, which through its collaboration and resource sharing programs will help participating municipalities address challenges and priorities raised in the 2010 Trends & Best Practices in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report. This includes seeking goods and services that conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize waste, as well as increasingly using scorecards and eco-labels to evaluate suppliers based on multiple social and environmental measures.

Key activities and tangible deliverables for the MCSP in 2011 include:

  • 4 best practices peer exchange teleconferences
  • 2 technical training webinars on focusing specific best practices
  • The 2011 Trends & Best Practices in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report
  • Individual customized action planning sessions for each municipality
  • Access to a helpful resource library

Fast Track your Municipal Sustainable Purchasing Program – join the MCSP

Local governments of all sizes are invited to participate in the MCSP. If you’re interested in joining the project, or would like more information, please contact Tim Reeve at or Kevin McCarty at or by phone at 604-763-6829.

The MCSP project is led by a steering committee comprised of the cities of Edmonton, Ottawa, London, Whitehorse and Victoria and is being facilitated by Reeve Consulting.

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