An Advertising Breakthrough
By Kenneth Hein

In this second annual awards program, Counselor found some of the coolest-looking and most functional products in the ad specialty industry.

Form and function. These are the hallmarks of a well-designed product and the most sought-after traits when clients are choosing just the right item for their promotional campaign.

So for the second year in a row, Counselor went in search of the best designed promotional products. Welcome to our Product Design Awards, where we name winners in 12 different product categories ranging from apparel, bags and calendars to desk accessories, electronics and watches. These are the products that most successfully combine an attractive look along with functionality that appeals to discerning promotional buyers. Whether it’s a unique calendar that makes a great desk item or a pair of rocks that act like magnets and simply can’t be put down by end-users, the products featured on the following pages are sure to please all audiences.

Want to find some items for client campaigns that are unique and highly functional? Look no further than our winners featured here. Congratulations to all of the winning suppliers.

How The Winners Were Chosen
Counselor first asked for nominations from both suppliers and distributors. Each could nominate as many of the products they thought were the best designed within 12 different categories. In all, we received 210 product nominations. A panel of Counselor editors then reviewed each product and arrived at a list of finalists for each of the categories. The list of finalists in all of the categories can be viewed on The finalists were then voted on by distributors to arrive at the winner in each category. Overall, more than 1,000 votes were cast.

Apparel Winner: All-Over Print Shirt
Supplier: In Your Face Apparel (asi/62494)
Doug Stayman, president of In Your Face Apparel, calls this the “fashion tee” because of how popular T-shirts are in retail right now. “In retail right now the T-shirts category is very hot and trendy and it’s created a new fashion category of tees,” says Stayman. The shirt is made from printing directly on the fabric with a water-based ink print process called watermation. This shirt, made for the National Rodeo Finals, has an additional rhinestone application. All shirts need to be cotton for this process to work, and Stayman says the average return time for a shirt like this is three to four weeks.

1. Recycled Jersey Fleece Hoodie from Vantage Apparel (asi/93390)
2. CompressT from AddVenture Products (asi/31940)

Awards Winner: 4.5-inch Mova Globe
Supplier: KTI Networks (asi/63776)
Scott Meng, marketing coordinator at KTI Networks, says the idea for the Mova Globe came from various sources: a spinning toy top, solar energy and a “ball-in-shell type toy,” similar to the fluid-filled compasses that can be mounted onto a car dashboard. The Mova Globe actually begins to move when touched by light, without batteries or any type of external power source. This is possible because of the unique motor and magnetic system inside the Globe that works with the Earth’s electromagnetic field and ambient light to spin the globe inside a liquid-filled sphere. Meng says research and prototypes of this product were in development for about five years.

1. Hand-Painted Sphere from Crystal D (asi/47759)
2. Etched Wine Bottle from A N E Designs (asi/30210)

Bags Winner: Yellow Ribbon Purse
Supplier: Source Abroad Inc. (asi/88242)
The idea for the “Handle with Care Bag” was a joint effort between Ellen Smith, vice president of sales at Source Abroad Inc., and client Dianne Bundrick of Geiger. “Dianne came up with the concept of using the breast cancer ribbon as a handle on a purse and had some rough sketches,” says Caro Krissman, president at Source Abroad. “Ellen fell in love with the idea and helped Dianne refine the designs and meld the concept to what it is today.” Smith devoted a good deal of her personal time managing the design and production of the purse, and was the one who came up with and trademarked the line name “Handle with Care Bags.” The total development and testing took a little over two months, during which there was a line extension into other fabrics and colored ribbons to support different causes.

1. KoolCarry Beach Bag from KoolBeach (asi/65597)
2. Suiter-Duffel Bag from Sandbar International (asi/84813)

Calendars Winner: Pidio
Supplier: Logomark Inc. (asi/67866)
The Pidio came to be because of client suggestions. “We’ve had a lot of clients looking for a lightweight calendar that could be mailed within an envelope,” says Damian Want, senior vice president at Logomark Inc. “So we started doing some different things around that concept.” The Pidio functions much like the classic wooden calendars found in the home, where the month is slid in and out and the dates are adjusted accordingly to the days for that particular month. The original idea was to make the Pidio from plastic, but Want says that they decided on aluminum after taking a page from the book of modern architecture and home design. The Pidio was in development for about two to three months, which is average time for most of Logomark’s products. Logomark was able to view a 3D prototype of the item before putting the calendar into production, a capability made possible by unique software the company uses.

1. MoMA Acrylic Calendar from International Merchandise Concepts (asi/62820)
2. Art Deco Clock/Calendar/Radio from Prime Line (asi/79530)

Desk Accessories Winner: EcoSphere
Supplier: EcoSphere Associates Inc. (asi/51660)
Michel Harmony, vice president of EcoSphere Associates, says the Ecosphere was originally a science experiment of sorts, and is a spin-off of NASA technology. The late Dr. Joe Hanson and the late Dr. Claire Folsome discovered the shrimp contained in the sphere and that they could live in a closed system. This interested NASA, as they were researching self-contained communities for humans in space. Their Jet Propulsion Laboratory began working on the sphere in the 1980s and EcoSphere obtained the technology transfer in 1984. They have been selling the product since 1986 and introduced it into the promotional industry in 2005. The EcoSphere is the world’s first totally enclosed ecosystem.

1. Feng Shui Fountain from SnugZ USA (asi/88060)
2. Stapleless Stapler from DesignLab (asi/49328)

Electronics Winner: Zoom
Supplier: Tomax Enterprises (asi/91435)
Andrew Blue, director of marketing and development and creator of the Zoom, says that Tomax saw the demand for digital photo frames, but wanted to put a spin on it. “We wanted something unique and different that would stand out on a desk,” he says. It took between six and eight months to develop the Zoom, but the end result was worth the wait. It is a “digital photo orb” with multiple capabilities: it stores up to 52 pictures, features an alarm, thermometer, rechargeable battery, a voice recorder and can be ordered in custom colors for larger quantities.

1. Water Power Alarm Clock from Sweda Co. (asi/90305)
2. 7-inch Digital Picture Frame from KTI Networks (asi/63776)

Gift Cards Winner: Target Gift Card
Supplier: Target Retail Stores
This multifunction gift card attracted voters because of its usability and targeted nature. While it comes with stored value to any Target retail outlet, the card also has crayons attached. Parents can even give the card to kids to color on, as the card is laminated with a material that can show crayon markings. Perfect for any kid-related promotion or just for that special way for a bored kid to kill time while shopping with his parents.

1. Starbucks Gift Card
2. Barnes & Noble Gift Card

Housewares & Drinkware Winner: Snackmaster 12-volt Cooler/Warmer
Supplier: RoadPro (asi/82649)
The Snackmaster was developed with those on the road in mind. This holds 18 quarts and has the ability to keep food or drinks warm or cold; 40 degrees warmer or colder than the outside temperature. It plugs easily into the 12-volt accessory outlet in any car or boat. With the shelf removed it makes for a great wine cooler as well. The Snackmaster has been on the market since 2003 and is sold in travel centers all over the world.

1. Vegas Thermal Tumbler from ETS Express Inc. (asi/51197)
2. Hot and Cold Thermal Mug from K & R Precision Corp. (asi/63770)

Meeting Products Winner: Global Sonic Rocks
Supplier: PrimeLine (asi/79530)
The Global Sonic Rocks are a new-and-improved version of the original Sonic Rocks. Jeff Lederer, executive vice president of sales and customer service at PrimeLine, says the company had an “ah ha” moment with this product. “We came out with the etched global version because we wanted to back up a very good selling item with something we knew would be even better,” he says. Lederer says the development took only about a month. When these rocks, which are actually magnets, are thrown into the air, they are seeking their polar opposites in each other. Because of their smooth surface and the space that’s created between them they “sizzle” when they find their polar opposite.

1. Decorated House Key from RelKey (asi/81723)
2. GreenNotes Tri-Port Journal from Journalbooks (asi/91340)

Sporting Goods Winner: Tent Chair
Supplier: Fargason Outdoors (asi/53680)
Fargason, which began as primarily a hunting company, designed the tent chair from a full-blind hunting chair they have. On the hunting chair, the material reaches all the way to the ground and it’s decorated in a camouflage, polyester print. The loop at the top that makes the tent formation is a patented design. Karen Gunnells, director of marketing and sales at Fargason, says that because of the concerns people have with the damaging rays of the sun, Fargason began to develop the tent chair. It has the same foundation as the full-blind hunting chair, but the fabric doesn’t reach all the way to the ground, and it comes in red, yellow and blue polyester rather than camouflage.

1. Big Bobber Floating Cooler from Creative Sales Co. (asi/47194)
2. Collapsible Soccer Goal from Handy Products Line (asi/78206)

Watches & Jewlery Winner: Awareness Bracelet
Supplier: International Merchandise Concepts (asi/62820)
This bracelet displays the pink Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon on a heart-shaped charm. The heart wasn’t on the original bracelet, but Wendy Simons, vice president of sales and marketing at International Merchandise Concepts, said that they realized the importance of cause marketing, so they adapted it to be appropriate for that market. The bracelet can be customized with any color ribbon to support various causes, and they all come with a silver-tone finish and lobster clasp. “We wanted to have a very retail look and yet be able to support a great cause at the same time,” says Simons. A portion of the proceeds go to various breast cancer research facilities.

1. GUESS Women’s Glitz Bezel Watch from Castle Merchandising (asi/44315)
2. Alpine Swiss Rallye from Leed’s (asi/66887)

Writing Instruments Winner: Crayo Craze 6 Crayon Color Wheel
Supplier: Liqui-Mark Corp. (asi/67675)
Liqui-Mark developed the Crayo-Craze Six Color Crayon Wheel, which has six different color crayons ready for use, to stand out in the writing instrument market. Its compact design is great for the small hands of children and it has two sides for logo printing. Liqui-Mark recently developed a new and improved version of the Crayon Wheel, which features a larger imprint area and crayons with a chiseled edge, so that thick or thin lines can be achieved. The product was in development for several months before hitting the industry.

1. Groovy Grip Ballpoint from Sweda Co. (asi/90305)
2. Sharpie Ultra Fine Retractable Permanent Marker from Sanford Business-to-Business (asi/84833)

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