The Wide World of Awards: Have you considered selling this?

Copyright © 2014 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in May 2014, Volume 39, No. 11 of The Engravers Journal
Tiaras are used for a wide variety of occasions, from pageants to high school royal courts to county fairs and more. Photo courtesy of F & H Ribbon Co., Inc., Euless, TX.

   There’s been a push of late in our industry toward diversification. Businesses in the field of personalization are learning about the enormous benefits to be had by breaking away from selling just awards or just laser engraving or just sublimation and offering much more—in essence, becoming a one-stop shop for awards, gifts, personalized products and more.
   One way to start heading down the diversification path is to take a fresh look at your product line. What can you add to branch out a little bit more? What can you add to reach a new market(s)? If you take a look at the many products available from suppliers in our industry, you will see many specialized “niche” products that actually have a great deal of marketing potential. The interesting thing is that although these products appeal to somewhat specialized markets, all of them are very much in demand—in most cases throughout the year—and the potential customers for each is vast.
   Here are several product lines to consider adding to your offerings. One, or perhaps all, of these could be just what you need to diversify just a little more this year and make more sales.
Pageant Products
   Every queen needs a tiara, every king needs a crown. A scepter adds a ceremonial touch, and let’s not forget imprinted ribbon sashes. If you haven’t given it much thought, you will be amazed at how many events are held each year that utilize these types of pageant products.
Pageants are contests in which people compete based on appearance, talent, personality, poise, personal views and/or speaking ability—and there are many. Looking at beauty pageants alone, there are 100,000 held each year in the U.S. and 2.5 million girls compete in them. Pageants are held seasonally, locally, nationally and globally so there is plenty of opportunity to tap into this market. Top winners in pageants are typically awarded an elaborate crown, a sash and a scepter. Other winners receive small tiaras and sashes and, in some cases, all participants receive pageant pins.
   The beauty of pageant products, however, is that pageants are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to potential customers. Here’s a sampling:
• High schools and colleges have a tradition of selecting royal courts in celebration of their annual homecoming, winter dance and prom festivities, and tiaras, crowns, ribbon sashes and scepters are virtually always used to honor these individuals.

The pet memorial market is growing by leaps and bounds. This box from Johnson Plastics, Minneapolis, MN, can be used as a pet urn or a memorial gift.

County fairs often hold pageants to select a king and queen from the community. In many cases, several winners are often selected in each category, such as a 4-H king, queen, prince and princess.
• A common highlight of a rodeo is the crowning of a rodeo queen with a crown and sash, and she might also have attendants. Like many other events, rodeos take place on all levels, including local, state and national levels, and even in junior high and high schools.
• Have you ever considered how many festivals are held throughout the year? (Google it; you’ll be amazed). Festivals are held to celebrate just about everything and anything. They are an extremely common event in this country and, in many cases, a king and queen are crowned to add to the festivities. Just some festival categories include arts and crafts, beer, culture, food, film, theatre, holidays, music, religion, sports, science and seasons. Festivals are held in virtually every community, large and small. The small town of Harrietta, MI (population 143), for example, hosts an annual blueberry festival complete with a queen and king.
• Many pageant products are used as costume accessories and props in events such as recitals, plays and costume balls. A dance recital that features a fairy godmother can use a glittery tiara and a scepter, and a high school production of Hamlet certainly needs a crown or two.
• And don’t forget about pets and animals. Equestrian shows present neck ribbons to winning horses and cat shows have been known to give the winning cat a miniature crown.

EAG, Laconia, NH, sells ceremonial products, including chrome-plated shovels that can be personalized for groundbreaking events.

Celebrating Ceremonies
    Groundbreaking ceremonies and ribbon-cutting ceremonies are prestigious events in any community, so not just any old shovel from a garage or pair of scissors from a kitchen drawer is suitable for celebrating such an event. Instead, there are several prestigious items manufactured specifically for these occasions. By offering ceremonial items in your shop, you can participate in your community’s events and make a profit at the same time.
    Suppliers such as EAG, Laconia, NH, offer ceremonial products in addition to just about any ceremonial add-on product you can think of. Check out the websites for these products at
    Full-sized groundbreaking shovels are intended for actual use and can be personalized by engraving a message on a plate attached to the shaft, on the shaft itself or on the blade. These shovels are available with gold- or chrome-plated finishes and are available with other options as well, such as painted shafts and different styles of handles (D-handle vs. baseball style).
    Hard hats are often worn by participants during groundbreaking ceremonies and can be a great upsell item. Hard hats are available with gold- or silver-plated finishes, in addition to assorted colors (the latter style meets safety requirements). Custom printed vinyl decals for hard hats are also available.

The memorial market is an area in the industry that appears to be growing. This porcelain plaque was customized with digital ceramic printing. Photo courtesy of Digital Ceramic Technologies, Phoenix, AZ.

    Ribbon-cutting scissors are used for cutting ribbon at the opening of a new building, business or important event, such as a festival or a fair. Ceremonial scissors range in size from 91/2" to oversized 36" long, and are available with gold- or chrome-plated blades and/or handles. Like groundbreaking shovels, ceremonial scissors can be engraved on the blades to commemorate the event.
    Of course, ceremonial ribbon goes hand in hand with ribbon-cutting scissors. A large band of ribbon is typically stretched across an entrance and then cut to symbolize the opening of a building, business or event. Several styles of ceremonial ribbon are available including wide (4"-6") ribbon in various colors with stock or custom printing.
    Another popular ceremonial product is a hammer. Ceremonial hammers with gold- or chrome-plated heads are often presented to a new building’s contractor, owner, builders or the foreman of the construction crew.
    Have you ever been to a local parade or other event during which someone notable is presented with a key to the city? Ceremonial keys are often bestowed upon Santa during an annual holiday parade, a newly elected mayor or an individual who has made a significant contribution to the community.
    Miniature versions of all of these ceremonial products are available as either commemorative awards/mementos on their own or for use on other products. For example, miniature shovels, hard hats and ribbon-cutting scissors can be used on a plaque or inside an acrylic embedment. Other ceremonial products include lapel pins, key chains, business card holders, display cases and stands, stanchions, red ceremonial carpet, banners, pennants and flags—even chocolate in the shape of a shovel, scissors or hard hat.

Marco Awards Group, South Windsor, CT, offers an elegant line of art glass in various sizes and colors, each mounted on a black crystal base.

     Like many niche markets, the beauty of this one is that there are plenty of opportunities to sell ceremonial items. Potential customers include any organization involved in a construction project or special event, such as universities, government, construction firms, nonprofit organizations, fair boards, downtown developers, schools and businesses. Chances are there are construction projects or new buildings being planned in your town. In addition, there might be special events that require a ribbon-cutting ceremony, such as the opening of a business, a fair or a festival. Take a look around your community to see what’s happening, and be sure to take note of “opening soon” signs in store windows and watch for new business announcements in the local paper.
Acrylic Embedments
     An acrylic embedment consists of an item suspended in solid, transparent acrylic. There are several companies that specialize in manufacturing acrylic embedments, a process that involves layering a liquid acrylic resin in a mold to encase the item. The beauty of acrylic embedments is that they can be truly custom products that are unique to the customer while still fitting in many budgets.
     Embedments can be formed in many sizes and shapes, such as triangles, cubes, rectangles, pyramids, octagons, circles, shapes of states, animals, even automobiles and motorcycles. A huge variety of items can be embedded, including items made of metal, plastic, paper, wood, ceramic, cloth and rubber. Just some examples of embeddable items include medallions, coins, business cards, invitations and actual products (e.g. a can of beer or a CD).
     The uniqueness of acrylic embedments makes them suitable for many different uses which means there are many different customers for these products. Acrylic embedments are commonly used for awards, promotional items, to commemorate special events and as a way to display memorabilia. Embedments are also commonly used as sales tools or promotional products to introduce a new product, create product awareness or promote an event.
     For example, a customer might have his first dollar or check earned embedded, or a business card or a mission statement printed on acetate to commemorate the opening of a new business. Groundbreaking ceremonies can be celebrated with a miniature shovel and a handful of the site’s soil embedded in acrylic. For ribbon-cutting events, embedding a pair of ceremonial scissors and a piece of the ribbon creates a nice memento.
     In one case, a manufacturer of handgun cartridges needed a unique and eye-catching way to display its range of cartridges and related information at an upcoming trade show. The solution was to embed the cartridges in blocks of acrylic along with text identifying what each part was.

These gold-plated scissors from EAG are 20" long and can be personalized for a lasting memento of a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Imprinted ribbon sashes are popular pageant products for a wide variety of events. Photo courtesy of Tower Ribbons, Topeka, IN.

    In another example, a manufacturer of video games had the original CD of a new video game embedded in acrylic which was given to the group of employees who had successfully completed the one-year project. The gift was such a hit that the company decided to give out acrylic embedments to commemorate each new game launch.
    The market for embedments is large and encompasses many different areas. Selling embedments can be highly profitable for recognition and identification retailers, especially when dealing with those customers who want something “different” and “unique.”
Art Glass
    If you want to do business in the corporate awards market, art glass is definitely an award line to consider. Art glass is a step up from many traditional awards in terms of artistic craftsmanship and detailing. These pieces are made of mouth-blown glass and/or crystal and often feature clear glass with swirls and accents of colored glass in a sculpture design. These sculptures are often mounted on a crystal or marble base that can be engraved or sandblasted with an award message. What differentiates art glass from other types of awards is that they are considered “works of art” and each is handcrafted so even two of the same design will be different from one another.

The appeal of art glass is that, in addition to an award, the piece is a true work of art. Photo courtesy of R.S. Owens, Chicago, IL.

     Art glass is available in many different shapes, sizes and patterns, and in a range of prices, allowing you to meet the needs of both high-end customers who have more generous budgets as well as those customers seeking high-end awards on a low-end budget. Because of their high-end nature, art glass awards are an excellent option for corporate award customers wanting to recognize achievement, leadership, safety, service, retirement, top sales, etc.
     There are many beautiful stock options available in art glass but custom awards are an option as well—and one that could add significantly to your profits. For example, R.S. Owens, Chicago, IL, was commissioned to design a piece for a conservatory that was to be presented to the local mayor for helping to secure funding for an expansion. They wanted something that symbolized the natural beauty of the conservatory and that was as much art as recognition. R.S. Owens designed a custom art glass award featuring glass layers and chips of green colored glass fused together to create a flourishing tree. The result was a one-of-a-kind award that the recipient would be proud to display.
     Crystal Sensations, a manufacturer of high-end awards located in Markham, Ontario, Canada, has designed art glass awards for Fortune 500 companies and individuals who want to commemorate and celebrate important achievements and milestones. In 2012, for example, Crystal Sensations was the awards supplier for the TransAm Racing Series and created unique mouth-blown glass sculptures which they made into trophies of various sizes.

Acrylic embedments make unique, custom awards that can be used for a variety of purposes. Photo courtesy of Clear Image, Inc., Glendale, AZ.

Memorials & Memorial Gifts
    The memorial market is a significant—and growing—niche market in the personalized products industry and one that you could easily tap into. There are a wide variety of items available that can be personalized and used as memorials and memorial gifts. For example, porcelain photo portrait ovals and rectangles for monuments and headstones are available that can be personalized with a photo through laser engraving or ceramic imprinting. Other memorial products that can be personalized with these processes include urns, garden stones, garden stakes and wall plaques.
    In addition to actual memorial products, there is a nearly limitless array of items that can be used as memorial gifts. For example, consider offering plaques, keepsake boxes, holiday ornaments, photo frames, photo albums, jewelry, key chains, candle votives, embroidered throws, flag cases and more. Adding a photo, name and/or sentimental message will turn any of these products into treasured memorial keepsakes.
    Customers for memorials and memorial gifts include the family and friends of the loved one, but also include local businesses, civic organizations, church congregations and the military. The key to marketing these products is to make sure customers and potential customers know that you offer personalized memorial products and gifts. You might consider working with local funeral homes, monument makers and flower shops to advertise your memorial products. Putting the word out to churches, civic organizations, veterans organizations, etc., is another way to show the community what you have to offer. If you have a website, be sure to highlight the products there as well in addition to a nice display if you have a storefront.
    There is also a growing demand for pet memorials and memorial gifts, including urns, garden stones, jewelry, photo frames, etc. Here again, a good marketing strategy is to partner with pet-related businesses and organizations, such as pet crematoriums, groomers, veterinarians, organizers of pet shows, etc., to get the word out about your memorial products for pets. People are willing to spend big bucks on their pets—in fact, the pet market in general is one of the hottest niche markets for personalized products today.

Every king needs a crown. Tower Ribbons offers several styles to choose from. Scepters, such as these from Tower Ribbons, add a ceremonial touch to many events.

    Diversifying your business by offering different types of products is a great way to increase your customer base. Plus, consider the fact that you will be setting up your business in a prime position for multiple sales and repeat business. The customer who purchases ceremonial products for a ribbon-cutting ceremony will also see that you offer memorial products and gifts, and will likely think of those products (and your business) when a loved one or pet passes away. The corporate customer who purchases art glass from you may have a need for something different and will remember that you also offer acrylic embedments.
    These are just some of the niche products available in the industry that could open up a whole new world of marketing opportunities—there are no doubt many more. Make it a priority to add something new this year—and see where it takes your business.




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