Catching Conversation


Clever startup introduces throwable, brandable microphone to engage groups.

If you’ve ever waited to speak your mind at a conference event, only to miss the chance because time was up and it took too long for the mic to reach you, the makers of Catchbox had you in mind when they created the world’s first throwable microphone.

Catchbox is a plush cube that can be caught and tossed like a ball or flying disk, and it can be customized with a logo for a variety of branding opportunities. The creators of Catchbox—Mikelis Studers, Pyry Taanila and Timo Kauppila—were inspired after attending a conference in 2012 and believed a throwable mic would not only speed things up, but could also serve as a way to break the ice among attendees.

“The Catchbox design team went through over 100 iterations before arriving at a final design,” says Martins Vilums, head of marketing for Catchbox. “Soft foam was an obvious choice … more challenging was the shape. It was important to use a cube, rather than a ball. For one, balls can easily roll away. Another reason is that cubes can’t be thrown as far and are not as slippery.”

The cube shape was also ideal for logo placement, and it is a “neutral” shape—no one is an expert at throwing or catching a cube, says Vilums, “so it makes everyone in the audience equally ‘bad,’ regardless of how athletic they are.”

Catchbox’s technological features were an important design goal, Vilums adds. The cube includes an integrated accelerometer and gyroscope, which determine if the box is being held, thrown or dropped. “The sensors are very sophisticated. Shifting a Catchbox from one hand to the other won’t mute the microphone, but throwing it will.”

The creators envisioned Catchbox being used at medium-to-large conferences as well as at corporate events and university gatherings. “But as Catchbox has taken off, it’s now used in the office of the Prime Minister of the UK, the United Nations, the European Union, and more than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies—and most of the Ivy League universities,” Vilums says. “Over 20,000 units have been sold around the world so far.”

In addition to marketing Catchbox through its website,, the company sells through a network of conference and audiovisual technology resellers.

Vilums says anywhere people go to connect—churches, classrooms, town halls, expo centers—is a potential opportunity to use Catchbox. “Catchbox allows people to participate, not just listen.”


FIVE MINUTES WITH Frank Bornemann, Senior Manager, B2B Sales Promotion The Americas, Lufthansa Group

Flying High

Lufthansa looks for promotional gifts with atmospheric impact.

Over the next few months, “Five Minutes With” will feature Q&As with industry buyers to learn how they use promotional products and why. This month’s Q&A is with Frank Bornemann of Lufthansa Group, who works with Perry Wehrle, CAS, executive vice president of Straub Marketing (PPAI 103150) in Des Moines, Iowa.

PPB What were your impressions of how promotional products could be used before you began working with your promotional consultant?
Bornemann People enjoy getting anything for free, so it’s easy to assume that any item will do the job.

PPB What have you learned about the impact of items in delivering your message?
Bornemann It is true that people are more likely to remember you and your company when you leave something behind.  In our B2B world, we are talking to travel agents and corporate travel managers. It is not only important to get ‘real estate’ on their desks to keep your brand top of mind, but also provide items which can be useful or fun at home or in their own travels. Great promotional items can penetrate all parts of our lives and may even have more impact when used outside of work.  

PPB What have been some of your favorite products/programs, and why?
Our promotional company developed an online store for us where we house all our items and print material. Our marketing and sales staff can order items as needed for events and sales calls, and the store ensures that collateral items are always in stock, eliminates the need for storage in small offices, and saves money by ordering in larger volumes.

One of my favorite items we’ve done is a small, personalized desk calendar, which we send at the end of every year to our top travel agents in the U.S. The personalization makes all the difference; they love to see their name embedded in the image every month. We have been sending them out for several years and the agents are still clamoring for them.  

We also produced some items which promoted our new Premium Economy Class and played on the key benefits; for example, a two-piece luggage tag set, since passengers who fly in Premium Economy can check two pieces of luggage for free.

PPB  How have the recipients of your products (as giveaways or thank-you gifts) responded?
Bornemann  Everyone likes to feel appreciated and even a small token easily achieves this. The travel agents and corporate travel managers we work with on a daily basis collect travel-related items and proudly display them on their desks. Our account managers are always proud to see one of our items on display in the agencies they visit. My all-time favorite feedback from a travel agent was: “You remembered me on my birthday, even when my husband didn’t!”

PPB  What advice would you give to another organization or business that’s considering working with a promotional consultant?
Bornemann  The more you bring your consultant into your industry’s world—explaining your goals, target audience, events, topics/themes of the year, competition, etc.—the better equipped they will be to help you find the perfect items to “wow” your customers. If the consultant understands your industry and feels like they are part of it, they will be able to actively brainstorm with you and learn to anticipate your needs. This type of relationship is much more valuable than simply having an order taker. 


Outward Bound

Improve your outbound marketing with these tools.

The ways to reach prospects and current clients are myriad; yet, email marketing remains a top contender among outbound marketing methods. According to Wordstream, email marketing is one of the most powerful digital tools for businesses, with email users predicted to grow by 254.7 million by 2020 and with a $44 return for every $1 spent on email marketing.

Here are a few tools you can use to pump up your outreach to attract more of the right kinds of customers for your business:

1. Uplead
Looking for a lead generation platform that helps you connect to decision makers? Uplead aims to do just that, with real-time data verification and a number of search variables such as industry, company size, technologies used and more. The verification feature ensures any email address you enter is checked for activity, so you can avoid bounced messages from invalid accounts.

2. DirectIQ
Automating email campaigns saves time and money and streamlines the process. DirectIQ supports automation with segmenting capabilities, contact list importing, and the ability to track successful deliveries in real time. The program is ideal for small and mid-sized businesses, offering templates to make email production simple, as well as the option to integrate social media channels.

If your team includes sales stars who can sell water to a fish, cold calling probably still works for you. Make it work better with, a CRM tool that optimizes the process through pre-recorded voicemails for prospects who don’t answer; funnel metrics and benchmarks; integrated messaging and complementary emails. 


In Praise Of Self-Governance

As more states legalize marijuana, an industry association proposes its own advertising rules.

Legalization of marijuana continues to grow across the U.S.—29 states allow medical marijuana, and nine states permit recreational use—but The National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB) isn’t waiting for state regulations to dictate how its medical products can be marketed to consumers, especially since those rules may vary widely from state to state. 

Taking a page from alcohol and tobacco, the group has proposed guidelines for medical marijuana marketing that it hopes will be adopted by businesses nationwide. Among the guidelines are these:

  • Advertisements cannot make unsubstantiated health claims
  • Ads must state that a product is only to be used by authorized patients
  • Ads must state that a product is only to be used by authorized patients
  • Ads cannot show excessive consumption or use marketing tactics designed to appeal to underage audiences (e.g. cartoons, toys, celebrities or mascots)

Doug Fischer, chief legal officer and head of national standards development at NACB, says, “As cannabis’s legitimacy increases, it becomes increasingly more important for the industry to be appropriate in the types of claims it is making. The increasing government interest certainly makes it more important to be very conscious of how the industry presents itself.”

The guidelines also suggest that digital, TV, radio and print ads only be placed where no more than 15 percent of the audience is under age 21. Cannabis websites should install an age-screening component, where users must submit their birthdate to prove they are old enough to access the content.

The proposed NACB guidelines were opened to public comment through May 25, and Fischer said he expected some changes to be made to the final set of rules.

“Because state regulation is so fragmented, there are a lot of approaches in different states,” Fischer said. “It’s important for the industry to express its view on the most effective way to regulate and to drive discussion at the state level now, and in the near future at the federal level. If you can come up with a set of best practices and ensure businesses are adhering to them wherever they operate, then government regulators will know they are legitimate.” 


Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB. 

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