Need a gift with your company's logo and you're flat out of ideas? The good news is that there have never been so many Web sites hawking promotional goods. Here are a few of the most popular, as checked out by our editors.
Promotional Product Sites
Since its launch in January 2000, Branders.com has prided itself on being a fast and convenient place for people to shop for promotional products. One of the largest interactive promotional products company, Branders.com offers thousands of exclusive products via an extensive e-network of promotional product, corporate gift, and apparel suppliers. The site claims it cuts shopping time by 60 percent, a figure recently confirmed by an Ernst and Young market study.
The company, a recent recipient of the Promotional Product Association's top industry Web site award, also has a large “customer care team,” consisting of sales representatives, order management specialists, graphic designers, and customer support personnel.
“We understand our customers — their goals, their deadlines, their budgets, their commitment to quality — and we deliver to their standards. We back our commitment with a 100 percent money-back guarantee,” says Keith Voigt, vice president of marketing.
This dot-com is a subsidiary of 4imprint Group plc, a leading direct marketing provider of imprinted promotional products. In the past 15 years, 4imprint has served more than 180,000 customers in the United States, Canada, the U.K., and Europe — including all of the Fortune 100 companies.
The site features full online ordering of more than 1,500 products, ranging from shirts, hats, and jackets to keychains and pens, plus access to more than 400,000 additional products. Online corporate customers include Mercedes-Benz, Visa, and KPMG.
An Omnicom Group company, PromoCity specializes in promotion planning, creative services, promotional merchandise selection, manufacturing, and distribution. The Web site was launched in 1997 and offers more than 500,000 promotional items.
PromoCity also offers Ariba custom Web sites that will combine automation, tracking, and purchasing with personalized service and premium procurements.
PromoCity.com manages online corporate catalogs for clients who use them for internal purchasing activity (such as cable network operator Encore Media Group), or as additional revenue streams, such as US Airways Company Store, which lets any visitor buy branded merchandise via a toll-free number.
Corporategear.com met its demise, as did so many dot-com companies, but David Verchere, the brain behind the business, picked up the pieces and created the Buttonwood Group.
Verchere and Buttonwood specialize in what he does best: technology. He will assess the technological needs of companies in the sales promotion industry, recommend a course of action, and help to implement a system.
American Identity launched IdentityNow.com to offer online services to small and medium-sized companies. American Identity's primary online focus remains the development and deployment of interactive “e-stores” for major corporate clients. (It currently manages 110, and 40 more are in development.) More than 30 percent of American Identity's corporate catalog sales are being transacted electronically, a threefold increase over the same sales period last year.
The www.halo.com site is an informational resource on HALO Branded Solutions' products and services. HALO Branded Solutions is an operating unit of HALO Industries.
HALO specializes in online stores, targeting clients who want to make custom-branded merchandise available to purchasing agents, employees, or consumers. It boasts more than 100 active online stores for companies such as PNC, Mitsubishi, and Siemens.
In May 2000, HALO Branded Solutions acquired Starbelly.com, expanding its technology as well as its salesforce and vendors.
Launched in September 1999, MadeToOrder.com evolved out of Austin James, a company that parlayed an exclusive licensing agreement with Sara Lee's Hanes apparel division into a personalized T-shirt software business in the early 1990s. Sara Lee pitches apparel from its Hanes, Champion, and Coach brands as premium incentives.
The company's main target is Fortune 1000 companies that can benefit from streamlined procurement systems, says Maurice Voce, vice president of marketing for the company. Clients include Palm, Cisco Systems, Intuit, Packard Bell, and Seagate.
Madetoorder.com services more than 80 national accounts and hundreds of smaller clients, Voce says.
Developed by the Advertising Specialty Institute and the Millstar Electronic Publishing Group, this site allows users to search an online promotional products mall with 140,000 products that can be imprinted with a company logo or message.
The products can be searched by a variety of criteria including line name, product category, keyword, price range, and production time.
On a “featured products” section of the site, visitors can view new and innovative products, and visitors can try their logo on dozens of products in the “virtual sample” section.
Corporate Gift Sites
Created last summer as a result of the great demand it experienced for corporate gifts, CorporateGiftShowcase is a spin-off of AcreativeGift.com. Business has been so brisk that the company is creating three Web sites this year: corporategiftsandflowers.com, corporategiftpromotions.com, and acreativegift.ccc.
Flooz.com was co-founded in December 1998 by Robert Levitan, who had previously co-founded iVillage.com, the successful Web site for and about women.
Flooz has had a high profile since its launch partly because actress Whoopi Goldberg has been the company's celebrity spokeswoman.
Flooz is online gift currency that you send by e-mail; recipients spend it just like money at participating Web stores (including Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, and Toys R Us). A personalized greeting card can be included in the e-mail that notifies the recipient of your gift.
Corporate clients have included Bell Atlantic, Eastman Kodak, Sun Microsystems, and Cisco Systems.
This site features original gift certificates from more than 700 stores, airlines, hotels, spas, and premier restaurants as well as its own SuperCertificate for use in corporate incentive, promotion, and reward programs. Features include customization with a personal message and company logo and delivery by mail or e-mail.
After intensive research and development, In Marketing Group Inc. produced its first online incentive program in July 1998. “Our long-term objectives are to consistently advance our knowledge and technological capabilities and become the recognized authority in online incentive and recognition solutions,” says David J. Weiss, president and co-founder. The company provides a market-basket approach to point redemption in addition to an extensive online merchandise catalog and group or individual travel packages.
GiveAnything.com started two years ago; the site markets a universal gift certificate that can be redeemed directly at more than 2,000 participating online merchants. “We are 100 percent Internet-based, and we feel this allows us to offer more cost efficiency in our programs than traditional off-line fulfillment options like catalogs,” says Edward Brookshire, CEO.
Founded in 1970, Hinda is a family-owned business that has evolved with its second-generation owner, Michael Arkes, from a consumer electronics distributor to a full-service incentive company. Hinda claims to offer the most current merchandise award catalog in the marketplace. The company experienced growth of more than 40 percent in sales in its last fiscal year and, based on program renewals and new customer program launches, anticipates this growth will continue in 2002.
SalesDriver began in March 2000 with only two customers; today it has more than 400, including Autodesk, Thomas Cook, Intel, and Lexmark. Its growth spurt is due to sales managers' need for effective and efficient ways to help motivate their sales force, according to Dan Berger, SalesDriver president and CEO.
The site offers a reward catalog of 1,500 items that participants can claim online, ranging from DVDs to a flight over Moscow air space in a jet fighter.
SalesDriver's services include the building, running, and rewarding of an incentive program. The process can be completed totally online; however, SalesDriver also offers account management support and 800-number customer service support. The Web site also offers program management tools that help customers update results, manage, collect data, and reward their participants.
Webcertificate is an innovation of Ecount, a company that develops and supports “next generation” stored value products, virtual accounts, and electronic payment solutions. Launched in 1998, Webcertificates are virtual gift certificates that allow clients to shop anywhere online.
The certificates are sent instantly (or at a designated date) to the recipients via e-mail. Clients merely select a card from the Web site's design library, provide the recipient's name and e-mail address (the recipient must have a valid e-mail address), indicate the date to send, enter a gift value, and pay via credit card. Clients can customize the card with a personal message.
Once the Webcertificate is claimed, the recipient can instantly spend the funds at any online merchant that accepts MasterCard. Ecount also offers a plastic Webcertificate Shopping Card for offline use.
Founded in June 2000, Silvercarrot.com specializes in programs that can be integrated into a company's Web site or used as stand-alone redemption centers. Once a redemption center is established, clients interact directly with your Web site and your branded gift site. Clients can select from more than 1,000 brand-name, quality products.
Silvercarrot manages and executes the entire process, from hosting the Web site to providing security and an authorization process. It also handles inventory management, customer service, database acquisition, merchandising, and redemption/fulfillment.
A good resource of online information about promotional items and programs is the Incentive Marketing Association's Online Incentive Council, a collective group of companies that provide online performance improvement solutions to corporate America. For more information, call (630) 369-7780 or go to www.use onlineincentives.org.
Peter Breen is editor of PROMO magazine (www.industryclick.com) a sister Intertec/PRIMEDIA publication based in Stamford, Conn. Andrea Graham is a contributing editor to CMI.