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Promotional Products — Broadening Portfolios

September 2006 By Kristen Monte
Associate Editor
LOOK AROUND your desk and you can see them everywhere. In your drawer, in your pencil holder, adorning your calendar. Promotional products and advertising specialties have become such a large part of our lives, we barely notice them. You go to the bank and get a pen with its name on it, or maybe it’s a free tote from the library or a stress ball from your doctor’s favorite pharmaceutical company.

According to legend, medieval armor-makers gifted knights with wooden pegs to hang the armor. Needless to say, the armor-maker’s name and mark were hand-carved on each peg. Although the first known promotional products in the United States can be traced back to commemorative buttons when George Washington was elected president, its official “birth” wasn’t until the latter part of the 19th century, expanding from items such as advertising calendars, wooden specialties and the Farmers’ Almanac.

But the roots of promotional products are also grounded in the printing industry, when a small Ohio newspaper owner utilized his printing press between editions to print burlap schoolbook bags with simple advertising messages for a local merchant. It was later that this printer started his own promotional products company to sell specialty items. Driven by competition from another news paper printer, he was soon creating advertisements on anything that could receive printing, from aprons and calendars to buggy whips.

Promotional Know-how
There are few printers who have offered promotional products since the days of buggy whips, one of which is WorkflowOne. The Dayton, OH-based company’s roots in promotional products and advertising incentives go back to 1866.

“Out of our parent company’s overall revenue (Workflow Management), approximately one-sixth comes from promotional products,” notes John Nicely, vice president of marketing.

WorkflowOne offers more than 650,000 products, from wearables and drinkware, to computer products and food gifts. The company also designs custom products for its clients through its in-house design department.

“For example, we design custom ‘bobble head’ figures that are based on photographs of actual people,” explains Nicely. “We can provide pretty much any type of product.”

Additionally, the company was recently selected by the Rita’s Water Ice franchise to aid in its expansion. WorkflowOne will deploy a Web-based order management system for Rita’s, allowing any of the 350-plus franchises the ability to order promotional items, signage, point-of-purchase, uniforms, as well as menus, franchisee manuals and packaging products.
 

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