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Promotional Product Decorating

Read about the tangible benefits of providing product decorating services for the promotional product industry on Unique Assembly's blog! Click to view.

Providing our product decorating services (most often pad printing and screen printing) for the promotional product industry has had some surprising benefits. Ad specialty orders are typically low volume and have short lead times. With this combination, these orders can difficult to process efficiently. Nonetheless, working with this industry has provided tangible benefits which have made us a better product decorating company. Pad printing, screen printing, industrial digital inkjet printing, hot stamping, or heat transfer decal decorating promotional items present challenges that keep us sharp as well as long term financial benefits.

Projects from this industry can come from promotional product distributors with printing needs outside the normal supply lines. Meaning, either the distributor has found or their customer wants a product not supplied by a traditional promotional product supplier. Typically, the manufacturer or the distributor of this product does not offer custom decorating. If not, this is where we come in. The distributor then contacts us to provide the product decorating. In this scenario, we have pad printed, amongst many other things, a wide range of high-end electronics such as various iPod products, music docking stations, cell phone charging stations, GPS units, digital cameras, and digital video cameras. We also pad printed some interesting corporate gifts such as TaylorMade driver and an expensive pool cue.

We have also provided our printing services directly for promotional product manufacturers with some challenging and interesting items. We have screen printed foam cheese heads, hot stamped and heat transfer decal decorated large polypropylene tackle boxes, and have used both pad printing and screen printing to decorate plastic half yard beer glasses with a combination of single color and multicolor images – all of which were used for NFL promotions.

All of these projects presented challenges regarding tooling. For every part that we print, a tool (also referred to as a fixture or jig) is built to hold the part during the printing process. Our success with imprint location repeatability and image registration is directly linked to the quality of our fixture. With the typical order size being very low, the customer cannot absorb a high tooling cost. So, in order to keep tooling cost down, our tooling department is challenged to make these tools quickly and efficiently without jeopardizing the quality the printed part.

Ink adhesion is another challenge when custom decorating promotional products. When products are not manufactured specifically for the promotional product industry, printability of the material is not often taken into consideration when making the part. If so, we are challenged to find an ink, a process, or a combination of both to provide acceptable ink adhesion. As a result, we are constantly researching new inks and trying new processes which make us a better product decorating company in general.

Working with the promotional products industry has also provided a surprising financial benefit. Having been in business for nearly 20 years, we have seen both ups and down in the economy. When the economy drags, so does manufacturing. So logically, when manufacturing slows down, so do our opportunities with manufacturing companies.
But, in hard economic times, we’ve always been able to count on business from the promotional product industry. For example, during the economic downturn of 2008, there were several months when the bulk of our orders were from the adverting specialty industry. With the low volume and short lead times typically associated with ad specialty orders, processing these orders can be a difficult way to make a profit. Nonetheless, we were happy to have them. Luckily, what Henry Ford had to say about advertising is true.

A man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time. – Henry Ford

So, despite the hard times and the natural tendency to cut adverting and marketing budgets, companies were still out advertising through promotional products.

In the end, while we do not always want the multicolor pad printing project for 10 iPhone docking stations or the one color pad printing project for 25 Flip cameras, we gladly take them on. By taking these orders, we continue to improve as a decorating company by working through the various challenge presented by these projects. Plus, we are hoping to solidify a long lasting relationship that will have long term financial benefits.