PROMO: the nitty-gritty of promotional items (pt 1 of 2).

January 30, 2007

So, ladies and gents, have you tried the postcard route for a while? Are you getting bored of it? Well, don’t give up on them, because they’re definitely useful, but you can always supplement your promotion with other things.

A bit of a disclaimer though: sending these out is a bit different than sending postcards out. As they cost more to make and you want to make them look nice and presentable, you are not going to be mailing these suckers out to everyone on your mailing list. Rather, these are good for favorite clients and your dream clients. AKA, the people you love or would love to work with; not to be discriminatory, but if you send out 500 postcards, that’s one thing; but sending out 500 self-promo items is costly, and unless you’re rich, you want to scale it down a bit.

So, what do you do? This was one of the most fun things I learned in college; we first had a class assignment devoted to it and then I later put together my own independent study to explore self-promotion overall. The amazing thing about self-promotion is the limitless options– okay, well, there are limits, but things can be customized and combined so much you’ll barely notice. You could make a mini-folio of work; you could create a toy; you could make a calendar, stationery set, book, a button set, whatever. Pretty much, what do you think you could make that would hold a client’s interest enough to keep it? If you make something like a calendar or stationery, there is an added benefit that it’s functional. In college, I made a hand silkscreened envelope that contained a letter, an original silkscreen print, and a stuffed toy that resembled one of the motifs I was drawing at the time (either an arm or a little bubble ghost), both of which were drawn in the print.) Now looking back at it, the production value wasn’t perfect, but for a one week assignment (where I made 18 of them, with hand embroidery on each one), I understood how these things need to be thought of realistically. Some of my classmates at the time made food, or put together food items; but now that I think of that, I don’t think it’s wise. Why? For one, people might not trust food sent through the mail; someone could tamper with it. For two, say you have an art director living in the southwest? If the mailboxes are anything like mine here in AZ, they’re metal, and from March through October they heat up and melt anything that is left inside. So it’s just not practical; stick to items that say more about you and your work.

I’ll use a bit of self-reference here: I’m now going to be producing an item that I will use as a promo item. Namely? A notepad. To be more specific, a to-do list. To be honest, I’ll be selling some of them and using the rest as promotion items, but still the idea is there. This is my first time sending one out to art directors, and it’s a little nerve-inducing! I’ll keep you posted if I get any new clients from it though. Pretty much there will be a postcard included, packaged in an envelope with a specially designed label (I’m thinking about getting a custom stamp with my art and address, so I can mail out packages). I’m keeping it simple and clean; but of course you can go very elaborate, with fancy papers, envelopes, etc. Really, what you want to do is make it feel like it is yours, and not generic; so design it well, with your sensibilities, and don’t just scrawl in sharpie on a manila envelope half taped and crumpled.

If you’re concerned about whether your idea will be mailable (and you live in the US), you can talk to the post office (international illustrators; forgive me, I’m not sure. Your mail services might also have this though, so ask around). More specifically, there are Mailpiece Design Analysts throughout the country (this took me forever to remember the proper term!) who can assist you in figuring out the regulations and the mailability of your item. Especially when it comes to paper thickness, barcodes, all that stuff– it’s best to figure this out ahead of time. This link explains it better, and you can look up your local analyst at the same time.

So here’s the steps:

1) Go through your mailing list and figure out who you want to send something to. Cull it down to how many you can afford to mail out. For me, I probably will send about 20-30 notepads out, because I’m poor.

2) Start brainstorming with your budget in mind. What would you think would be neat to get? What do you want art directors to figure out from you? Do you want to make it functional or not? Some scrapped ideas I’ve had so far (more pushed to the back burner than scrapped, I guess) include a calendar, a small silkscreen print set, and a stuffed animal. (The last being more cute than tying into what my art is about.)

3) Find your supplies, and research the methods. Talk to fellow artists, go to paper boutiques, find good printers, etc. Research bookmaking, how to make an envelope, a new technique, whatever. Even if you don’t use everything you learn, you can always keep it in mind for a future project.

4) Make a dummy (a test product)! This might seem like a bit of a waste at first, but it’s good because you can work out the kinks that you might not have thought of in the brainstorming stage; like, did you measure an envelope right? Is something too thick? How do you put together a book? Etc.

5) Consult the mailpiece design analyst, and find out what you need to do to make it mailable.

6 ) Make them. Be sure that like a postcard, there is some way of them being able to know who you are, and how to get in touch. Maybe a postcard you already have mailed, maybe a page in the book (if you made a book), maybe a little note. Something that ties in and doesn’t look half-assed though.

7) Mail them.

eight) Wait!

And that’s all I’ve got for now. Thursday, I’ll talk about some of the companies you can look into for a few options for promo items.

PS: in the next month or so there will be some features of me interviewing different people in the industry, art directors, illustrators, reps and the like; I’ve already gotten two lined up, so if you are an art director or a rep or an illustrator who’d like to be profiled and help out the blog, please contact me! And if you have any questions you’d like me to ask them, please also drop me a line.


4 Responses to “PROMO: the nitty-gritty of promotional items (pt 1 of 2).”

  1. leif said

    kudos to you, meg – this is a fabulous thing you’re doing – sharing your ideas and experiences with the rest of us. Found you on SFG. I’ll be back to see what you have for us next. Hope you feel better soon!

    L 😉

  2. Music-Band said


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  3. Luigi Fulks said

    beautiful advice and sharing,I will buy one this great jeans for me .thanks

  4. Issacs Maez said

    beautiful advice and sharing,I will buy one this fantastic jeans for me .thanks

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