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Raising Awareness for Newborns

When is a T-shirt more than a T-shirt? When it builds awareness for a special cause. That's the role specially designed T-shirts play each year at an annual softball game to raise awareness for The Asher James Heart Disease & Thrombosis Foundation.

Jennifer DeBouver founded the foundation, which raises awareness about blood clots in small children, after losing a baby girl before childbirth, and then losing a boy, Asher, six weeks after he was born due to a congenital heart disease called Aortic Stenosis. "After he passed away, the doctor told us there weren't any foundations or much research to support blood clots in children," DeBouver says.

Since Asher passed away in October of 2012, DeBouver has partnered with Mended Little Hearts, an organization that supports families with children with congenital heart defects, and has held an annual softball game between the two organizations on Asher's birthday.

Prior to his birth, Asher had had a baseball-themed baby shower which inspired DeBouver to hold the softball game in his honor. Working with a distributor partner, DeBouver created the theme, "Lions, Giraffes, Softballs, Oh My!" and tested three different designs for the event's T-shirts on Facebook. All three designs included two little birds to represent the children DeBouver had lost. The Mended Hearts' T-shirt featured a lion, and the Asher James Foundation shirts featured a giraffe, which DeBouver has always associated with her son.

The winning design was featured on the T-shirt at the softball game (held in October at a park in Schaumburg, IL), and DeBouver said they were a big hit. The event raised hundreds of dollars for DeBouver's foundation, and, most importantly, continues to raise awareness for the cause. "If this little T-shirt can make one person aware of our foundation, I've done my job," DeBouver says.

The Psychology of Rewarding VIPs

Who are the real VIPs in your organization? The answer is simple: Your highest performing salespeople and those loyal customers who consistently buy your products. It makes sense to reward these contributors, but typical gifts aren't enough. To find what really works, you need to use VIP psychology. Take the advice featured here from two experts.

Rewarding Sales VIPs: Dr. Steven Hunt, a trained psychologist and VP of customer research at Success Factors, says that when rewarding top reps, it's important to make a distinction. "Your top salespeople sell up to 400% more product than anyone else, and they can make or break a quarter," says Hunt. "Think of it in sports terms: LeBron James isn't just a little bit better than other basketball players, he's a whole lot better."

Hunt advises dividing salespeople into three groups before forming reward systems: Group 1 consists of those salespeople to whom monetary rewards are the main motivators, though Hunt says that money isn't the only motivating factor. "Reward them by removing distractions that slow their output," Hunt says. For example, offer to have an assistant help them with paperwork, and allow them to team with other high performers.

Group 2 reps care deeply about customer success. "You've got to watch it with Group 2," Hunt says, "because they're so customer oriented, they may decide to follow an account by leaving your company." He suggests keeping them happy by rewarding them with more leeway in developing and maintaining customer relationships and breaking up existing sales structures to allow them more customer involvement and more autonomy.

Group 3 consists of salespeople who are product motivated. Reward this group by asking for their opinions and input on products and services, advises Hunt. You can provide them with additional high-level product information to help them sell.

Incentive product ideas for top reps:
Group 1 – Consider high tech incentives that make this group's life easier such as electronic planners or miniature video projectors that can be used to amplify sales demos.
Group 2 – Offer this group items branded with company logos that they can pass on to their best customers such as pen sets and desk accessories.
Group 3 – Product-related incentives, such as miniature product mockups or USB drives loaded with product info that they can pass on to customers, work for this group.

Rewarding Customer VIPs:  Julie Cottineau, founder and CEO of BrandTwist, says when it comes to the psychology of rewarding your most loyal customers, you need to use rewards that will make them want to come back to you again and again. "Today's customers are interested in more than just discount points," she says. "We're dealing with millennials now. To reward them, you need to shift the focus away from transactional rewards that can be easily duplicated by your competitors and move to a reward relationship that offers both access and recognition." 

One way to do this is to use social media to encourage top customers to tell the story of their relationship with you and your brand. That step alone is enough to promote good interactions with your most loyal customers. "You can deepen these relationships by offering special access rewards such as VIP treatment at a top restaurant or admission to an anticipated event," Cottineau says. "A big part of the customer reward process is acknowledgment. Rewards should tell the customer, 'I hear you, I appreciate you and I thank you.'"

Cottineau cites the following reward programs as examples: Urban Outfitters' loyal customers received reward points when they utilized an Urban Outfitters app to upload photos of their use of the store's merchandise. This program synced with users' social media networks, and customers were able to exchange points for unique rewards such as designing their own Urban Outfitters' outfit or holding their own fashion show at a local Urban Outfitters' store.

Foggy Bottom Grocery (FoBoGro) rewarded loyal customers by allowing them to invent their own sandwich and put it on the FoBoGro menu for a week. Cottineau notes that this program reached millennials by using Twitter as a key social media channel.

A Nike campaign encouraged customers to complete "Missions" such as running, skateboarding or attending a dance class.  They then shared their event photos on Facebook to earn points for each completed Mission. Points could be exchanged for access to sporting events or for Nike merchandise. Cottineau says the program did a good job of integrating the product into the customer loyalty experience.

Incentive product ideas for loyal customers:

  • Imprinted calendars with monthly coupons that can be used for unique customer rewards
  • Handy LED flashlights, umbrellas and first-aid kits emblazoned with company logos
  • Logoed power banks that can be used to power customers' cellphones

A Very Special Reunion Tee

Captain Michael Lee from the U.S. Army was trying to locate a company to produce a small order of T-shirts for the unit’s first-ever reunion. “When someone comes to us and requests a custom T-shirt, we seldom wonder about the story behind the shirt or the weight of the memory it reflects,” says Jamie Barrus, a co-owner of a promotional products firm.

But when Barrus came across Lee’s request for shirts for a military unit that served in Afghanistan, she became intrigued. Barrus asked some questions as to the backstory of the T-shirt, and decided she had to help.

As Captain Lee tells it, he was called back to active duty in 2006, reporting to Fort Bragg, where the Army quickly assembled a team of other recalled Army troops to serve an assignment in Afghanistan. “There was a lot of drama at the time, since many folks did not want to be there,” Lee remembers. “At the first muster formation, they did a roll call of everyone who had orders to report for mobilization, and less than half of the people showed up.”

After training, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was assigned to Farrah in West Afghanistan. The PRT’s main mission was to man a one-gun truck to assess nearby villages and schools and act as a liaison between local police. Because there was a severe manpower shortage at the time, Lee says, the Army had to borrow personnel from other branches of the military. “Our base was like a fort in the old Wild West,” Lee says of the small contingent of soldiers. As a result of their work together in such an isolated area, the crew bonded tightly.

Toward the end of deployment, Lee and his fellow troops were transported to an airfield in Afghanistan, where they received a team T-shirt for their efforts. The tees however proved to be a bit disappointing. “Unfortunately, the selection of designs was very limited,” Lee says.

For the unit’s reunion, he says, “we wanted to have an updated shirt that better reflects and improves heraldry.” The new shirts that Barrus’ company produced featured a bold logo that included a steely skull with swords and a rugged bandanna, along with the tagline “secure the victory.”

Finally, Captain Lee and his troops got the shirt that they really wanted for their reunion. “We were so happy to help,” says Barrus. “Sometimes a T-shirt is just a T-shirt. Other times, you realize it helps preserve a memory for the rest of people’s lives. That’s pretty neat.”

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