Laurence Liss

Laurence Liss
Money Moves

THE WORKINGS OF the global economy are beyond ordinary levels of comprehension. The flow of money across international boundaries happens at the speed of light thousands of times a day. Conceptual currency, carried on cables, disappears from New York, appears in China, is split between branches in Beijing and Hong Kong, is converted and withdrawn. The whole system is held together by the even more abstract concepts of faith and agreement. People agree the green, paper rectangles have value, and they have faith the same agreement will be in place each day. As a testament to the strength of the consensus, financial institutions exist seemingly

Design in Mind

THE PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS industry is a hungry beast. It feeds on new ideas, designs and innovations. It is insatiable. One product enters the scene, only to be greedily consumed and fed to end-users in an endless attempt to set a logo apart from the crowd. This is hard work for suppliers of promotional products who must continue to fulfill a demand for products possessing nebulous adjectives, such as “new,” “hot” and the oft-cited “unique.” Many suppliers are left waiting to hear of new inventions, which can then be added to a line, but a few suppliers are taking a different approach. This rebel bunch goes

Holiday Time Flies

IN 1905 ALBERT Einstein published his theory of special relativity. The theory, which has since been proven correct by experiments, revealed one of the most startling truths about the way the world works: Time changes depending on who is observing it. It seems counter-intuitive when dwelled upon, but most people have experienced it in some way. Einstein himself described the phenomena to the masses with a quirky analogy. He said if a person touches something hot for a minute, it will seem like an hour, but if he or she sits with a lover for an hour, it will seem like a minute. “That’s


FOR MANY AMERICANS, work and personal life have become indistinguishable. Living according to the business motto, “it’s who you know,” has blended friends and colleagues together. Perhaps the biggest changes are the result of technology. Wireless communications enable people to work on the road or in a café just as easily as if they were in the office. All the needed resources and capabilities of modern working society now fit into a briefcase. Working from home is increasingly popular for employees of major corporations as well as for small business owners and the self-employed. Office and desk items are changing to keep up with the times.


WHAT MAKES A true fan? It seems to be more than simple enthusiasm. A dedicated fan will drive hundreds of miles and pay hundreds of dollars to see the source of his or her admiration. In a way, a dedicated fan is much like an adolescent in love. The fan is dedicated to the point of irrationality. No wrong can be perpetrated that will sway the fan’s feelings. No loss is great enough to make the fan lose hope; no foul is ever fairly called in the fan’s mind. It’s best not to inadvertently insult a fan. Luckily, most are easy to spot. Most fans


ACCORDING TO STATISTICS from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, there are 4,388 colleges and universities in the United States. For distributors looking to successfully sell imprinted apparel to this market, there is certainly no shortage of opportunities. The top schools and most recognized names probably have long-standing deals, but what about the 3,500 other schools of which most people have never heard? Each institution has proud students willing to promote their school and school teams on T-shirts, pants, sweatshirts and even underwear. “Students will spend money on anything that has [their school logo] on


IN MAY 2007, The New York Times published an article about schools on the cutting edge of the educational technological revolution. These institutions had instated programs through which each student had access to his or her own laptop computer. The students could do research easily through wireless networks and lesson plans could incorporate advanced graphics and tools. The schools scrapped the programs. As the article reported, the laptop-based lessons were constantly hindered by technical problems and inconsistencies. Students rarely used the computers for research, opting instead to play games, chat via instant messaging programs, watch videos on YouTube, cheat on tests and even view pornography.


INTERNATIONAL CHESS MASTER Gary Kasparov’s loss to the computer Deep Blue in 1997 was a benchmark for computing. It was the first time a computer beat a reigning human world chess champion. At the time, Deep Blue was the 259th most powerful computer on earth. Today, the raw computing power of Deep Blue can be matched in almost any off-the-shelf personal computer. Computer technology may be the most quickly advancing market, which means the wealth of computer-related promotional items is ever increasing. For consumers and end-users, processing speed and capacity aren’t the only factors driving demand. Style and design come sharply into play. Consider the iPod

What Women Want

WOMEN’S APPAREL IN the promotional products industry is a single creature with two contrasting personalities. The Dr. Jekyll of promotional apparel is the side of the industry focused on office workers and business-casual attire. After hours, Ms. Hyde likes to come out wearing tank-tops and scoop-neck T-shirts in flashy colors. Both sides of the promotional business are trailing behind the younger, crazy sister known as the retail market. Dean Vuong, vice president of Kavio, Commerce, Calif., said it is a “good thing” that promotional apparel is “one step behind” retail. “We know that if you can modify from [retail] to the promotional, then you will

Liquid Success

TO GET AN idea of how much coffee is consumed by Americans, consider the case of researchers in the Seattle area. Thinking they could trace the flow of pollutants in the Puget Sound and the currents that carried them, scientists began taking caffeine samples. Unfortunately, the amount of caffeine proved so great it made the data unusable. According to an Associated Press article, caffeine was found in more than 160 of 216 samples in water as deep as 640 feet. Where did all the caffeine come from? Human bladders and coffee spilled on the street. Meanwhile, the Web site reports “The National Coffee Association

Blast Off

WHEN THE FEDERAL government created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, people were looking to venture into the most remote locations imaginable. The thirst for discovery was demanding and required vast sums of capital to invest in new technologies, inventions and enhancements. NASA contracted many businesses and manufacturing plants to create tools that would meet the needs of space travel. Once the new technology was in place, these companies had the building blocks to manufacture space-age products on a large scale and reduce prices, making them accessible to average consumers. NASA can be thanked for home smoke detectors, cordless drills and

Leashables Unleashed

Anyone who has been to a few recent promotional products trade shows has probably come across Parker, Colorado-based Leashables. Even distributors that have no interest in selling personal care or hygiene products find the Leashables booth mesmerizing. Perhaps it is the televisions playing a reel of skiing stunts or commercials made to look like 50s-era filmstrips, albeit more edgy, that attract show-goers. Though, the appeal could equally be the obvious excitement of the Leashables staff, most notably the company’s founding brothers, Jeff and Brady Anderton. Any reports of the promotional marketing business getting younger should cite the Andertons. But their youth does not cause

Making Green with Green

IN RESEARCHING ORGANIC apparel, one supplier asked why anyone would need an organically produced shirt. “You’re not going to eat it,” he said. When it was explained that the term “organic,” when applied to clothing, meant it was produced without pesticides or harmful fertilizers, the supplier still saw no purpose and asked what difference it would make to the shirt. It was a bad way to begin delving into a major trend in the promotional products industry, but it touched upon wide-spread misconceptions about the terminology. It also cast some light upon industry practices and viewpoints, which do have far-reaching implications. The consequences

Products Fore Promotions

IT IS DIFFICULT to think of a game as uncomplicated as golf: hit a ball into a hole with a stick. But simple rules do not an easy game make. Due to its international renown, the techniques of the game have been studied as a science. Even without the fast pace expected by a generation raised on MTV, golf's popularity is unfaltering. And, while the Super Bowl and NBA Finals promote some of the most highly paid athletes in the world, the number one earner is still Tiger Woods, a golfer. Nearly any suburban town with enough green space will have a green. On

Mail This!

Anyone who has attended one of the large trade shows knows the scene well: A long aisle of carpet covering a concrete floor; booths flooded with distributors and suffering a drought of people to answer questions; and little hand carts, blocking every turn and tripping attendees. The “beeping” sound of scanners creates a strange techno-music soundtrack on the show floor as distributors are scanned at each booth for catalogs to be mailed later. These are the trials and tribulations of trade shows in the promotional products industry. In a recent e-mail newsletter, the editors of Promotional Marketing addressed a concern voiced by some suppliers. Many