Editor's Picks: Pencil It In

Once upon a time, when print products were ubiquitous—hint: they still are—it seemed like a distant thought to imagine digital devices replacing any type of print. However, fast forward 50 years, and most people still prefer to read on paper rather than screens, according the Pew Research Center. Whether it’s a notepad you carry in a bag, a sticky note on your fridge or a printed calendar hanging from your wall, paper still plays a major role in helping us to stay organized, remember small details and—at the very least—know what day it is.

With apps and software built into our phones and computers, the need for paper calendars or planners, at first glance, seems obsolete. But digital calendars become infiltrated with notifications, alerts and messages that are all competing for the user’s attention. Paper planning is simpler and more thoughtful, like keeping a journal, and that value hasn’t gone unnoticed among end users. Between 2014 and 2016, the sales of appointment books and planners grew 10 percent to $342.7 million, and decorative and other calendars increased by eight percent to $65 million during that time, according to The NPD Group. 

Print calendars have survived the digital age—and they are thriving. A 2010 study of calendar usage in the workplace, co-sponsored by PPAI and The Calendar Advertising Council, shows that 79 percent of respondents enjoy receiving calendars as a complimentary gift and that eight out of 10 respondents report having a printed calendar at work. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they use a wall calendar, while one-third prefer to use desk calendars. With one of the lowest costs per impressions in the industry, printed calendars are still very much up to date.

One of the reasons paper planning remains popular is because of the endless ability to personalize products. Unlike standard cellphone calendars, paper planners allow users to add accessories like pens with vivid ink colors and color-coded tabs, stickers and inserts. End users want a portable calendar that speaks to their individual style and reflects who they are, according to The NPD Group. Research shows Millennials are drawn to brighter and more colorful paper planners that allow them to add details, like their name. 

But Millennials aren’t just writing things down, they’ve taken paper planning a step further with the aesthetically pleasing bullet journaling method. Bullet journaling is an eye-appealing system that allows planners to customize lists, notes, tasks and events using different symbols, colors and fonts. On Pinterest, the hashtag #bujo shows how that generation embodies both self-knowledge and self-tracking. While bullet journaling seems like a distant cousin to The Franklin Planner, a paper time management system created by Hyrum W. Smith that grew popular in the mid-1980s, paper planning engages our tactile senses and offers a refreshing break from technology.

Despite the growth in paper organizers coming from newer, smaller and youth-focused companies, Moleskine, a classic luxury maker of planners and notebooks once beloved by Picasso and Hemingway, has skyrocketed in popularity, according to an NPD Group study. Moleskine reinvented itself by marketing the brand as having a philosophy of “culture, travel, memory, imagination and personal identity.” 

End users won’t shy away from higher price points when looking for paper planning products, the study also showed. End users want fashion-forward, higher-quality calendars and planners they can use regularly and keep year-round. Although the need for paper calendars hasn’t changed, the number of calendars consumers use simultaneously and where they keep them has changed. The number of printed calendars in households in 2011 was 3.12 compared to 3.98 in 1981, according to PPAI’s research. The kitchen remains the prime display location for calendars, with 75 percent of respondents saying they keep a calendar in their kitchens. The average number of printed calendars per business was 2.10, down from 2.56 in 1981.

When choosing a calendar for a client, keep in mind the most memorable images evoke feelings of peacefulness, joy, contentment, love, relaxation, comfort, security, oneness, rejuvenation, synchronization, immersion and pure tranquility, according to a Rider University professor. 


Custom Calendars Create More Value
For more than 120 years, supplier Tru Art Advertising Calendars has been providing advertising that customers actually ask for. That’s right, calendar advertising is a promotional product that customers request because once someone gets into the habit of using calendars, they want to continue using that product in the same fashion, year after year. This repetition builds loyalty to the brand.

We know you have an app for that. However, like reading physical books, print calendars help users retain more information when viewing the relationship between today and next Friday. Seeing the number of days remaining before a deadline on a wall or desk calendar helps us to better prioritize the work needed to meet our goals.

Custom calendars are valuable to your customers:

  • Custom calendars create specific, clear and meaningful messages to customers and prospects.
  • Calendar advertising is frequent, commanding advertising that is visible when buying decisions are being made with enough space to tell a more complete story.
  • The specific message, designed into the calendar, emphasizes the scope of the advertiser’s unique attributes of quality, service, innovation and value.
  • This useful tool, with attractive art, is viewed all year by the targeted recipient.
  • By coupling the calendar with direct mail, the calendar can be distributed to a precise recipient.

The information contained in a well-designed custom calendar answers important questions that are indispensable when making buying decisions. A custom calendar can illustrate products, educate users, emphasize brands and marketing themes, build store traffic, promote the launch of a new product or service, stir brand awareness, showcase product results, celebrate milestones, honor achievements and much more. The recipient knows they are truly appreciated when a unique calendar showcasing the advertiser’s products or services is created and personally presented.

 Custom calendars are more valuable to promotional product practitioners too.

  • Customers value your time and creativity in creating a distinctive product that is environmentally sound and USA-made.
  • The custom calendar you sell has a high return on investment, creating high buyer satisfaction.
  • It’s proven—when you write a client’s custom calendar order you will most likely get their additional promotional product purchases, too.
  • The sale of a high-quality calendar that’s valued by the buyer and end-user has a good chance of creating a reorder year after year.

One of our favorite Tru Art stories involves an end user who has used the same planner from the same advertiser since 1961. Think of the loyalty involved in getting this product and the appreciation for the company providing it. Through everyday use and throughout the year, the advertiser is recalled with appreciation. And we know the user still has all but one of the calendars. The relationship between the business and the customer has been reinforced daily for nearly 60 years while creating a solid bond with room for new opportunities to grow. Now that is a powerful promotional product.” –Stacy Clark, account executive, Tru Art Advertising Calendars


A Calendar Case History

For several years, distributor Bankers Advertising Company and regional bank MidWest One have worked together to develop a unique customer campaign. Using three pieces—a custom calendar, a set of notecards and a stock calendar—all created by supplier Tru Art Advertising Calendars.

The centerpiece, the custom calendar, incorporates artwork from children in the local school district. Students, from kindergarten through sixth grade, enter their work into a competition the bank has been running for several decades. The bank has received hundreds of submissions over the years. Twenty-five submissions are chosen from among the selected ribbon-winning artwork to be included on the pages of the bank’s custom calendar, along with each student’s name, school and grade. A group photo of all the ribbon winners is included as well. Each artist receives a copy of the calendar and the remainder are distributed at MidWest One’s locations throughout the community. The bank then hosts a reception for students, parents and teachers to exhibit the original artwork. The artwork is used again on notecards, the second piece in the campaign. The set of 24 unique cards can be purchased by parents as a keepsake and they are also used by bank staff for thank-you notes. The final piece of the campaign is a stock calendar produced with custom options that is given to customers in more than three dozen branch locations. By combining these three pieces, the bank can reach its customers with a useful, relevant and attractive gift, while remaining plugged into the local community in a creative and memorable way.


This crocodile bullet journaling, lifestyle calendar can help end users plan their month well in advance. It also includes a weekly calendar and to-do lists to keep them organized and always on time. The high-end crocodile texture cover is irresistible and comes in red, blue, black or white. These USA-made calendars are crafted of FSC-certified paper with a 76-page count. The advertiser can customize the outside and encourage recipients to use it to customize their future. 

Jornik Manufacturing Corp.  /  PPAI 111065, S6  /  www.jornik.com


This large date 2-wheel calculator is perfect for end users working in manufacturing, contracting, architecture and engineering, or anyone who needs to look ahead. For example, this is a perfect choice for skydivers who need to remember to repack parachutes every three months. To use, line up the arrow to today’s date and look weeks ahead. Also available in a standard size, imprint space is available on the front and back of the larger wheel, as well as indicators for weeks and days. 

BUDGETCARD, Inc.  /  PPAI 110764, S7  /   www.budgetcard.com


Taking advantage of the DIY trend, you can customize this DIY projects spiral appointment calendar with an app. Simply download the Pixaction 2.0 app from the App Store and watch 12 easy-to-follow DIY project videos. For distributors looking for a more hands-on approach, with a few taps on your phone, you can make a calendar end users will want to keep for months. The design process also includes a digital drop ad imprint with up to four colors.

BIC Graphic NA  / PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.bicgraphic.com


Help clients stick to important deadlines and appointments. Unlike a magnet, this Press-N-Stick Standard Calendar and the accompanying Press-N-Stick vinyl headers allow end users to stick it to almost any surface. With the flexibility of the adhesive, no two clients will put it in the same place. This 14-month calendar runs from November to December and features the dates of moon phases.  

IMAGEN Brands  /  PPAI 114197, S10  /  www.imagenbrands.com 


Tech accessories are ever popular, and this adhesive mouse pad calendar is the perfect accessory to any computer desk. Using ColorVast Full-Color, your client’s message can really stand out. Choose calendar stock graphics or opt for a totally custom design. And this mouse pad is lightweight and economical, so it works great for mailings or inserts. It is a practical product that will get premium exposure for your brand whether it’s placed in a home or work office. 

Fey Promo  /  PPAI 113944, S8  /  www.feypromo.com


Magnetic calendars are useful and handy for home, school or work. Get your message placed prominently and viewed daily on a refrigerator, file cabinet, locker or on any other metal surfaces. Choose from stock graphics such as a house or create your own totally custom graphics to make your message stand out and stick around.

Fey Promo /  PPAI 113944, S8  / www.feypromo.com


This Vynex Peel&Place ultra-thin counter mat is a highly visible, inexpensive way to deliver clients’ messages using a calendar to countertops everywhere. Removable and repositionable, these low-profile mats are virtually flush with the countertop and are kept firmly in place by a special low-tac, removable adhesive. The advertiser’s brilliant color image is protected under a tough, scratch-resistant, Vynex textured matte surface. Calendar counter mats are great for use with scheduling at medical offices, veterinary practices, gyms, etc. Made in the USA.

CounterPoint  /  PPAI 227346, S7  /  www.doyoupop.com


Give your clients a three-in-one product. This MousePaper calendar mouse pad includes 12 to 24 pages and shows the advertiser’s message printed on each page combined with a monthly calendar. Built with 30-percent post-consumer recycled paper, these eco-friendly calendar mousepads are a promotional "triple-threat," with the full impact of a monthly calendar, notepad and mousepad. Start the calendar on any month, making it an effective calendar promo for any time of year. Made in the USA.

DIGISPEC  /  PPAI 180432, S7  /  www.digispec.com


This 13-month, spiral-bound American Scenic Wall Calendar is perfect for end users looking for tranquil scenes of nature. Dated from December to December, it features a 60-pound gloss text paper stock with a UV-coated cover. Choose from full-color options as well. 

Beacon Promotions, Inc.  /  PPAI 113702, S10  /  www.beaconpromotions.com


Perfect for jotting down notes, this soft touch hand planner opens to a month-at-a-glance view, offering plenty of space for meetings and appointments. This pocket-sized planner also includes references to major holidays, time zones, maps, and weight and measurement tables. Customize the front panel with a silver and gold imprint, keeping brands in clear view for 365 days of the year. 

Goldstar  /  PPAI 114031, S7  /  www.goldstarpens.com


Kristina Valdez is associate editor of PPB.


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