Beyond coffee mugs

John Citraro doesn’t want to take all the credit for bringing the NCAA Women’s Final Four championship to Cleveland in 2007, but he can rest on the fact that his promotional idea had the tournament’s selection committee members thinking about Cleveland as they drifted off to sleep.
Citraro’s company, Cannon Advertising Specialties, designed pillowcases with a city of Cleveland logo and artwork for all the pillows in the all the hotel rooms of the Final Four selection committee members. Hotel staff and cab drivers also wore buttons designed by Cannon welcoming the committee to the city.
“It’s a small thing, but it might have been that extra touch that none of the other cities thought of,” Citraro says. “So if we helped out there, then we did our jobs.”
Advertising specialty items such as coffee mugs, T-shirts, baseball caps and pens have been around for decades. The tradition started with a savvy printer who printed calendars with other companies’ logos on them. The idea was that not only would the company get a yearlong advertisement, but the printer would get a regular customer, as well.
Today, there are more than 711,000 promotional items that can be emblazoned with a company logo or promotional event design, says Ross Salupo, Cannon CEO.
If that sounds like a lot, you’ll believe it when you step into Cannon’s museum-like showroom, a converted Catholic elementary school on East 40th Street in Cleveland. The brick schoolhouse, built in 1906, features eight rooms, including a main classroom for crystal, watches and high-end items. A cloakroom holds clothes and other apparel, which make up about 30 percent of Cannon’s business.
There’s also a study hall for pens, paper goods and office products, and a lunchroom, which features aprons, lunch boxes, oven mitts and other kitchen gadgets.
“This is the only medium that keeps giving without charging,” Salupo says. “Let’s say a client packages a refrigerator magnet with a card talking about their services. The consumer uses the magnet to hold up picture of their grandchildren. Now every time that person goes to the refrigerator, it’s free, it’s no charge. This is the only medium that offers the residual benefit, additional impressions at no charge.”
Salupo is often faced with clients who are a little overwhelmed by their choices. In a panic, they often pick the most basic promotional item — a coffee mug or pen — which works effectively if those items meet the need. But really, how many mugs or pens have you already handed out?
Here are three basic questions to ask when deciding what kind of promotional item to use to advertise your company.

What’s your objective?

The specialty advertising item may be used to introduce a product, to introduce a new phone number, to encourage people to test drive a car or to motivate staff. It could be a way to reward a client base or of saying thank you to a business partner. What are you trying to accomplish?
Once you have an objective it can help focus your search among the dizzying array of items.

Who’s your market?

A windshield ice scraper might be a great idea for your clients in Northeast Ohio, but what do you send to those in Florida? As with any advertising, the target audience is important when considering a promotional gift.
The target could be as broadly defined as women ages 18 to 35, or it could be as narrow as workers who have been with your company 25 years or more.

What’s your budget?

The question that can best focus your search is, how much do you want to spend? Salupo has $12,000 Ebel watches and $2,000 Waterford crystal vases, but he also sells stickers that cost less than a penny each.
“You have your mainstays mugs, pens, but there are so many other items that might better fit into their marketing objectives,” Salupo says. “I think you’ll find that anything — anything — can be customized.”
How to reach: Cannon Advertising Specialties, (216) 431-1905
Morgan Lewis Jr. ([email protected]) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.