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Fax: (717) 399-4791

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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 ban.do 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 ban.do, 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 ban.do 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.

Is LinkedIns New Feature a Threat to the Traditional Business Card

In a Nutshell
  • • The simply titled "LinkedIn QR Code" debuted in recent weeks.
  • • It lets people quickly connect on the social media platform by scanning QR codes using the LinkedIn app.
Could the days of the traditional printed business card be numbered? That question is circulating in professional circles these days in the wake of the recent release of "LinkedIn QR Code."


The new LinkedIn QR Code feature. Photo courtesy of LinkedIn.

Available in LinkedIn's mobile app for iOS and Android, the new feature provides LinkedIn users with a personal QR code for their profile on the social networking platform. When another LinkedIn user scans your code – or vice versa – you instantly connect. LinkedIn says the service makes it easier than ever to capture vital business contact information anywhere – from industry conferences and networking happy hours, to sales meetings, tradeshows or other social gatherings. "Gone are the days of requesting a business card, asking the person to spell their name, or handing over your phone to make sure you found their profile," writes LinkedIn's Alice Xiong in a blog.

The new feature has been winning praise.



As you can see, folks were eagerly posting their profile QR codes on Twitter (and elsewhere online) in the hope of securing more connections.

Clearly, professionals across industries appreciate the practicality and ease-of-use of the new QR code feature. But for those in the print and promo industry who sell business cards, the offering can also represent a competitive threat. Will more people eschew buying business cards and just use digital mediums like this? We're inclined to say no – at least not for a while. Offerings like LinkedIn QR Code can complement/co-exist with traditional cards. We feel there's something tangible and validating in a printed business card that will help them stay relevant. But for how long? That's tougher to say. As LinkedIn QR Code and other digital information- exchange products populate the market, will the printed card ultimately be squeezed out? What do you think? Tweet us your thoughts.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already, do brush up on how to use the new LinkedIn QR Code feature. Tutorial from LinkedIn's blog below:
  1. Open your LinkedIn app on iOS or Android and tap the QR code icon in the search box found on the Home tab.
  2. From here you can scan someone else's LinkedIn QR code and you will be taken to their profile where you can check out mutual connections, common interests, and send a connection request. You can also upload a LinkedIn QR code image from your phone.
  3. To find your own LinkedIn QR code, tap on "My code." If you'd like to share your code through iMessage, email, or other apps you can do so directly from this page (available now on iOS and coming soon to Android). You can also save your code to your photos.

Trend Alert: Logoed Flip Flops & Sliders

In a Nutshell
  • • A leading supplier in the logoed footwear niche says sales of flip flops and sliders are increasing.
  • • The "logo sole" for flip flops is a unique offering that's growing in popularity.
Statement socks have been all the rage of late, but there's another category of wearable products for the feet that some promo pros say is picking up momentum in the branded merchandise world: flip flops and sliders.


Custom flip flops are a fast-growing product category for supplier Neet Feet (asi/79750).

The team at Neet Feet (asi/79750), which specializes in producing custom logoed footwear, says that soaring sales of flip flops and sliders have accelerated year-over-year order volume by 44%. The upward trend could, in part, be a result of the footwear increasingly being positioned as a lifestyle product that, proponents say, associates end-clients' brands with calm and good vibes amid stressful schedules.


Flip flops from Neet Feet featuring a die-cut logo sole, which leaves brand impressions in the sand.

"When you hear flip flops, you instantly think of summer," says Bob Strem, vice president at Neet Feet, which is part of The Pro Towels Family (asi/79750). "They're products that put a smile on your face. In today's fast-paced business atmosphere of constant stress, our flip flops and sliders literally have that positive effect on people's everyday life. Even going to work in flip flops relaxes the anticipation of stress."

Working through promo distributors, Neet Feet makes flip flops for end-buyers that feature custom parts, including straps and soles. For the soles on most of its flip flops, Neet Feet can produce a die-cut that leaves the imprint of a logo or other desired graphic in the sand, giving end-customers' brands ample additional exposure. Custom flip flops and sliders are beginning to garner more attention from end-buyers. "We have seen a trend towards custom footwear with a 60-day turnaround," says Strem. "The quick turnaround on our domestic production fits right into the everyday business that is required."


Flip flops featuring a die-cut logo sole.


The popularity of branded sliders is on the rise, Neet Feet says.

Naturally, flip flops and sliders are a great fit for summer-related promo campaigns. Distributors can pitch them as something special for the warm weather promotions. Still, the demand doesn't have to twilight with the coming of autumn. The collegiate and resort markets, for example, could prove fertile ground for sales of flip flops and sliders year-round. Just think of all the fraternities that could go for sliders with their crest on the strap – the sororities who might want their icon die-cut in a logo sole flip flop. Students sport flip flops and sliders year-round on campus, so why not capitalize and deliver logoed versions of the footwear for them? "Flip flops and sliders are a fun promotional product category that people really enjoy wearing," says Strem.

New Swag Collection Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Hocus Pocus

In a Nutshell
  • • Hocus Pocus is a family-friendly Halloween movie that has become a cult classic.
  • • Released by Disney, the merch collection gives fans a fun way to take new joy in the flick.
This merch will cast a spell on you. And it comes just in time for those summer-heat-weary folks (me) starting to crave cozy sweaters, carved pumpkins, and a little cool-weather autumn fun.

The branded merchandise in question is a new collection of promotional products from Disney celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus, a family-friendly Halloween flick. While the movie wasn't a box office hit when released in 1993, it has grown in stature over the years. Indeed, it's now widely watched during the fall in the lead-up to the annual Trick-or-Treat day. Tapping into the movie's latter-day popularity and the current pop penchant for all things 90s', Disney released the Hocus Pocus collection, which includes a journal, spirit jersey for women, T-Shirts, pin set, coffee mug, faux leather bag and more. Here's a look at the merch!


The Sanderson Sisters! Female fans of Hocus Pocus are going to dig this T-Shirt depicting the movie's entertaining antagonists – the witch sisters Winifred, Sarah and Mary. Image from ShopDisney.


This spookily attractive journal references the version of "I Put a Spell On You" that actress Bette Midler leads the singing of in her role as Winifred in a popular scene in Hocus Pocus. Image from ShopDisney.




The Hocus Pocus Spirit Jersey for women references the black candle that plays an important part in the film. "Hocus Pocus" is printed across the shoulders on the back. Image from ShopDisney.


You can start each morning with a little magic with this Hocus Pocus coffee mug. Image from ShopDisney.


The Hocus Pocus Faux Leather Bag is by Loungefly. Image from ShopDisney.


While much of the 25th anniversary merch is aimed at women, male fans weren't left out. This tee helps them express their Hocus Pocus fandom. Image from ShopDisney.


The official pin set. Image from ShopDisney.

Lastly, kudos of The Walt Disney Archives for preserving the below. The costumes are not part of the swag collection, of course, but they're a neat bit of pop culture history that just might put a smile on your face.

Child Prodigy Inspires T-Shirt Brand

From the tip of Walter Champion IV's pencil a hippo roars to vibrant life.

Walter Champion IV takes time to hand-sign cards that are sent out with each T-shirt order.

The quick strokes and strategic scribbles combine to form a drawing that's deft and detailed – an image that exudes the energy of the alpha animal it represents. The artwork becomes that much more impressive when you realize Walter was four when he drew it. Even more impressive still when you learn the hippo penciling was the inspiration for a T-Shirt brand that has Walter, now 6, installed as creative director.

Juvenile Virtuoso, as the nascent line is called, features Walter's hippo drawing on several styles of T-shirts. It's just the beginning of a tee collection Walter's parents say is aimed at revealing the hidden talents of child artists and supporting a worthy cause. The brand is also a testament to the power of imprinted T-shirts to convey powerful messages with layers of meanings.

"T-shirts are experiencing a renaissance," says Walter's mom Adepeju Champion, who started Juvenile Virtuoso in March with her husband, company president Walter III. "People are using them to display thoughts and feelings and affiliations with different ideas. We wanted to highlight the really beautiful things kids are capable of."

To that end, Juvenile Virtuoso expects to hold three or four new T-shirt releases annually. Child artists will create the graphics. Walter IV will play a lead role in selecting which designs make it onto T-shirts, and occasionally contribute additional designs of his own. A portion of sales will benefit Arts For Healing, a nonprofit organization that provides art therapies for individuals with disabilities. Children affiliated with Arts For Healing will be among the contributing artists. The next release is scheduled for August.

"We want to use T-shirts to do something bigger than just make money," says Walter III, who, like his wife, is a physician. "The whole concept is to encourage kids to pursue art, to show why that's important and what they can do with their abilities. Also, we have a child (Walter's brother William) on the autism spectrum, and we're passionate about supporting a charity like Arts For Healing."

For Walter IV, it's a thrill to see his art on T-shirts, and to view pictures of people wearing his tees on Instagram and Facebook. "He's just amazed that people like what he does," says Walter III. So much so, in fact, that Walter IV takes time to hand-sign cards that are sent out with each T-shirt order in a high-end gift box that also includes Juvenile Virtuoso merch, such as a branded pencil.

"Drawing is something he's used since preschool to calm down his nervous energy," says Adepeju. "All the positive reaction he's received has been a real confidence-builder." Walter IV draws every day at a table in the family home. Animals are his favorite subjects. "Drawing makes me happy," he says.

For now, Juvenile Virtuoso is in the startup stages. Nonetheless, the venture has garnered growing media attention, and Walter III said it's possible that partnerships with retailers and larger-scale production could be pursued. Whether or not that happens, though, the Champions will be happy if Juvenile Virtuoso does some good and inspires children – including their son – to use the potential they possess.

"My favorite part is seeing what our son is going to do next," says Walter III. "I just want to be part of his vision."

Photos
The young artist creates designs like these every day.

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