Editor's Picks: Time-Tested Promos

How many times have you unlocked your phone to do something specific, only to get totally distracted by all those apps? You could read the news or those two unread texts or—yikes—24 unread emails. Now, what was the original point of opening your phone? You forgot.

A Preference For Paper And Pen

Paper calendars are one of the original and oldest promotional products, first introduced to market in the 1800s, and their appeal has outlasted predictions of the demise of print. Despite the convenience of today’s digital devices, people still want paper calendars and other dated products such as planners, datebooks and journals. “There are a seemingly endless number of digital calendar and organization apps, but there aren’t many that contain everything people want in a planner,” says Carrie Lewis, marketing and communication manager for Clearwater, Florida-based supplier BIC Graphic North America.

Wendy Simons, vice president of sales for Celina, Ohio-based supplier Visions/Awardcraft, thinks paper calendars and journals can actually be more user-friendly than apps. “It’s very easy to flip to a page in a calendar and you can easily look back a couple of months and see where you were,” she adds. “No gremlin is going to attack your calendar like on a digital device. Personally, I like a paper calendar.”

Accessing paper calendars and planners can be a lot easier than entering your device’s passcode, finding the app and opening it to the appropriate date. “Paper planners and calendars collect everything you want in one place and are designed to do one thing—organize your schedule—and they do that well,” Lewis adds.

According to Amberlea Barnes, CEO of Stuttgart, Arkansas-based supplier Drum-Line, journals are trending because people want to unplug and disconnect from all the technology available today. Also, she says, studies have proven that writing notes leads to better retention. “Some companies require staffers to bring a pen and notepad to meetings and leave phones behind to eliminate distractions,” Barnes adds.

In-Demand Designs

What’s hot right now in time-related promotional products such as calendars, journals and the like? Customization is a trend in full play, Barnes says. “Customized calendars of all styles are on the rise, and classic wall calendars are being updated with custom photos on each month to tell an organization’s story.” 

Metallic colors are also popular for journals and planners this year. “Brushed gold, silver or graphite covers paired with metallic foil imprints are hot,” Barnes adds. “We are also seeing more minimalist tone-on-tone imprints. For example, gloss black foil ink on a matte black cover. Retail-inspired designs are also popular, such as a colorful pattern and motivational sayings paired with a discreet logo.”

“I think what’s hot right now in calendars and journals is anything with a twist,” says Visions/Awardcraft’s Simons. “This could include promotional products with dual functions, such as our perpetual calendar.”

“The practice using colorful pens, markers, washi tape, etc. to decorate journals has exploded in recent years,” says Lewis. “Searching the hashtag #planneraddict on Instagram returns more than 4.2 million posts filled with hand-drawn planners made from blank journals. This creates a lot of opportunity [for suppliers and distributors].”

Growing In Popularity

According to PPAI’s Annual Sales Volume Study, time-related promotional products comprise the eighth largest product category in terms of sales; $584.3 million was sold in this category in 2018. The reason? Demand. “More than 80 percent of homes and businesses have at least one printed calendar,” Barnes says. “People still have a need to reference dates quickly and write plans on paper. Paper calendars and notebooks are not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Indeed, calendars and other dated products are here to stay. The NPD Group, a consumer research firm, reports that dated products are ever-growing in popularity. At retail, sales of appointment books and planners grew 10 percent between 2015 and 2016 to $342.7 million and calendar sales increased by eight percent to $65 million that year. The firm also reports an 18 percent increase in sales of spiral, composition, graphing and other types of notebooks in 2018 compared to 2017.

Data from NPD also indicates that bullet journaling (see sidebar on page 38) is helping to drive sales of traditional products like notebooks and writing instruments. “Journaling has become a daily ritual for many people who want to keep track of appointments,” says Melissa Timko, advertising director for Clearfield, Pennsylvania-based supplier ModernLine. “It also helps them work through a problem by writing it down, or as a creative outlet. Consumers still want paper calendars and journals because they’re tangible.”

It may seem early to begin talking to your clients about calendars and planners for 2020, but consider the time it will take to design, produce and distribute the calendar. If your audience is education-based, schools get back in session as early as August. Also, some suppliers offer early order pricing discounts for orders placed in May and proofs approved in July so now is the time to start. And once you sell that initial calendar order, many times the reorders sell themselves.

A work surface is the perfect spot for a desk planner—and the LEDM Desk Planner offers plenty of attractive benefits for the user. Featuring a leatherette cover with square corners, this desk planner includes 14 months—December through January, or August through September for academia—and additional back pages make future planning a breeze. Also includes a handy area code and time zone map, and three-year reference calendar for long-range appeal.

ModernLine   /     PPAI 113978    /    www.modernline.com


Make an impression that sticks with the Calendar/Memo Magnet with Clip—a memo magnet that features a one-year calendar imprint, wet erasable pen with clip and an additional coupon/memo clip. This calendar magnet easily sticks to filing cabinets, refrigerators and other metal surfaces, making it a natural networking tool to keep your brand top of mind.

The Magnet Group  /  PPAI 338534   /   www.themagnetgroup.com


The rise of bullet journaling (#bujo) has fueled a new demand for planners that can also be used as journals—and the Slide Journal offers a fresh take on a classic. Featuring a slim design that lies flat, this journal includes undated calendar pages in the back, so recipients can start journaling at any time of the year. This multi-tasking journal is a great solution for those who don’t want to carry both a journal and a calendar.

The Book Company   /   PPAI 218850   /   www.thebookco.com


Putting a unique twist on the typical calendar, the Three Months at a Glance Wall Calendar offers a quick three-month snapshot. Perfect for long-range planning, this quarterly calendar also features a modern design and includes monthly tabs at the bottom of each sheet for easy reference.

Drum-Line, Inc.  /  PPAI 102565   /   www.drum-line.com


A productivity staple of the construction industry, the contractor calendar has become a favorite in many industries for project planning. This 360 Wall Calendar features unique working-day “julians” for computing a project’s completion date, including the days elapsed and those remaining in the year, work days remaining without weekends and work days remaining without Sundays. It features a large, lined, daily memo space in each daily box.

ModernLine  /  PPAI 113978   /   www.modernline.com


For businesses that want to show they care about supporting charities and causes, the Awareness Ribbon Desk Calendar makes a great corporate giveaway. A cause marketer’s favorite calendar, this 12-month easel calendar is also a great giveaway for medical/health care facilities, schools, clubs and nonprofits. Ribbon and background colors are customizable, with a full-color imprint on the front and back. Its specialized design promotes public awareness for the cause and brand awareness for your client.

Ad-A-Day Co., Inc.  /  PPAI 111105  /  www.ad-a-day.com


A Calendar With Timeless Appeal

A local assisted-living facility sought a good will gift for prospective clients and families who visited the facility. Because the budget was tight, the facility wanted a promotional product that would be long lasting, thus providing a great return on investment. They found exactly what they were looking for in the American Illustrator Wall Calendar---a budget-friendly calendar featuring 13 nostalgic paintings by American artist Norman Rockwell. Thanks to its timeless appeal, clients and their families displayed the calendar like wall art---which served as a constant reminder of the facility.


Source: Beacon Promotions


The Puzzle Perpetual Calendar is the perfect promo for people who like to do something with their hands (and brains) while they’re on the phone or in a meeting. This modular calendar made of ABS plastic never expires, so it doesn’t get thrown away. Instead, it stays on the desk and remains a conversation piece possibly forever. For the kid at heart, it’s way more fun than checking a calendar on a computer or on paper. To get you started, this puzzle calendar comes with instructions for seven different examples of how you can put it together—but the creative possibilities are as endless as your client’s advertising exposure.

Visions/Awardcraft  /  PPAI 110751  /  www.visionsawardcraft.com


Brighten someone’s desk with the fun and colorful Flower Desk Calendar. Stick the calendar to any flat surface and rotate the brightly-colored flowers to reveal the calendar months. The set includes one calendar flower per month, plus one flower printed with the year. Great for employee recognition and reward programs.

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


Inspire creativity and innovation with the Puzzle Block Calendar, a promotional product that combines a much-loved childhood toy with a practical monthly calendar. Ideal for do-it-yourselfers and creative types who have extra time or want to keep hands busy, this colorful build-it calendar comes with interchangeable blocks for days of the month, plus special ones for birthdays, travel and holidays.

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


This sleek, all-in-one Time Frame combines a digital clock with an alarm, calendar and picture frame along with a temperature display. The frame is both high-tech and high-touch—its metallic silver finish with glass cover offers modern styling while it memorializes cherished moments in time. Hang it on the wall or display on a desk with the built-in desk stand.

All-In-One   /   PPAI 111343   /    www.allinoneline.com


Stick To It

A landscape company found an ideal new-client gift for its lawn care customers with the Stick Up Grid, a portable calendar that sticks wherever you put it. At a new client’s initial appointment, the landscaper marked the upcoming dates of service on the calendar and then gave it to the client as a reminder. The imprint included the company’s contact details and basic lawn care tips such as the best times to water a lawn. Customers appreciated the informational tool that kept the company’s contact info handy while the company liked that it encouraged employees to schedule additional services.  

Source: BIC Graphic NA



A Quick Guide To Bullet Journaling

You may have heard the term, but what is it? Bullet journaling combines to-do lists, a planner and a diary all in one. The main idea behind the bullet journal is to jot down quick notes instead of writing long sentences. This is accomplished through “rapid logging”—a shorthand system of symbols to journal, note-take and plan. Use the symbols below to mark your entries.

When you’re jotting down quick notes, you’ll use a few different symbols to mark them. Be sure to keep a key or index at the front of your journal or planner to help you remember what the symbols mean.

Tasks: Use the bullet symbol next to things you have to do.

Notes: Use a dash for things you don’t want to forget.

◯ Events: Draw an open circle for noteworthy moments in time.

Task Complete: Write an “x” over bulleted tasks to mark to-dos that are now complete.

< Task Scheduled: Write the less-than symbol over the bullet to show the task has been scheduled in a future log.

> Task Migrated: Write the greater-than symbol over it to show the task has been migrated (you didn’t finish it today, so you moved it to another day).


Brittany Glenn is a Plano, Texas-based writer and a former associate editor of PPB.

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