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Category Archives: AV Industry

Just Say No To Bad Swag

I recently received a letter from a well-known “automobile association”, thanking me for being a member for the past twenty years.  Just to be clear, the only reason I continue to be a member is this: about once a year, I need a jump-start, or I lock my keys in my car and need a locksmith, or I need a tow, or a friend needs a jump-start, locksmith or a tow. (Pro tip: you can utilize your membership benefits, even if its not your car, as long as you are a passenger in the vehicle.)  The membership pays for itself with the money that I save.

The letter also informed me that, in appreciation for my 20 years of loyalty, I should stop by the nearest office and pick up my free license plate frame, informing every driver that is behind me that I was a 20 year+ member of the association. Ummmm, no thank you.  What good does this license plate frame do for me? Is an attractive woman going to ask me out me on a date when they see it?  Will it get me out of a speeding ticket?   No, its just more marketing for the company. Consider this my first example of “bad swag”.

Swag“can mean a lot of things; in this blog post, it means promotional merchandise.

Second example: I received junk mail from an automobile insurance company (notice a trend here?) looking for me to switch my current automobile coverage to theirs.  The envelope included a bumper sticker that plainly stated “PLEASE DON’T HIT ME! I am not 100% sure about my coverage”.  To their credit, I was amused by the bumper sticker campaign, but did this company really expect me to put this ugly sticker on my bumper?

Many people in the AV industry think of trade shows when they hear the word “swag”. Most booths offer some form of it: pens, reusable grocery bags, magnets, t-shirts, candy, paperweights, key chains, flashlights, headlamps, miniature screwdrivers, and plenty of those little foam things that you are supposed to squeeze when you are stressed.  I remember one booth had flying monkey toys that you could launch across the room. 99%  of these promotional items have a company logo and/or marketing tagline printed on them.  Some items become “gifts” for the kids once the attendee gets home from the trip.

Aside from the pens and reusable grocery bags, most of the swag you get is garbage.  I keep a few of the foam-stress-relief-thingees around my desk, and squeeze them periodically to exercise my hands and fingers, helping to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  I don’t ever remember being stressed out, squeezing one for a minute, and then feeling less stressed.

What blows my mind is how much money is wasted on this bad swag!  Not to mention the hours spent by marketing departments and/or company owners to “design” this crap: the t-shirts in awful colors chosen to match the company’s logo, covered in industry-related marketing taglines, or sometimes even images of the products.  Who on earth would wear these outside of mowing the lawn, changing your oil, or sealing the driveway?  There is one group who is happy to get these shirts: homeless people.  I love it when I see a homeless person wearing a promotional t-shirt, because it means the shirt is being used, not just thrown away.  Probably not what the marketing team had in mind, but hey, at least the catchy tagline created by the marketing guru is actually being read by someone, right?

hobos

Original image courtesy of Rapgenius on Amazon Web Services

As much as I am a sucker for free stuff, I do my best to avoid accepting this bad swag; although sometimes, I can’t say no, because its mailed directly to me (“Enjoy your lapel pin…”.) As a waste-conscious citizen, I seriously don’t know if I should toss it, recycle it, donate it, or spend the money to ship it back to them, with a note saying, “WTF were you thinking?  You just wasted time and money on something no one will ever use!”

Occasionally, someone gets it right.  For example, one manufacturer’s rep I know quietly hands out $10 Starbucks gift cards to people who engage her at the trade show booth.  These gift cards have no tag lines, no logos (other than the Starbucks logo).  I have not seen her in years, only because I have not attended those same trade shows.  And yet I specifically remember her giving me that gift card, as well as the company she represents.

Other companies have sponsored outings like dinner cruises, baseball games, even paintball.  Those were very fun, very memorable times, and I was able to share the experience with coworkers and loved ones.  And just like the Starbucks card, I remember exactly what company sponsored those events, as well as the people representing them.

So please, marketing gurus, take note:  the next time you are about to “pull the trigger” on your latest sky-blue or lime-green t-shirt, the one with your latest tagline on the front and your logo on the sleeve, think to yourself:  Would I actually wear this?  Would anyone I know actually wear this?  What is this costing my company?  And would we be better off just handing out gift cards, or even the cash equivalent?  Now THAT would be memorable!

 

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AV Personality Types: Are you an A, B, C, or D?

What Personality Type Makes For A Good Audiovisual Design Company?

Any good company has to have a good mix of people in order to balance the work load.  By matching the personality type of with the job opening, employers can benefit from certain traits that may be inherent in some individuals, and not others.  Combining the different strengths (and often weakness) of individuals into a working recipe for success may take some trial and error as a company grows into maturity.

Below is a hypothesis I have been working on regarding consulting firms and integrators in the AV industry, specifically smaller firms.  My theory is that any good AV integrator or consultant should have one person who fits the following descriptions. Oftentimes, a person fits more than one, but the theory is that you need all four personalities to be ultimately successful, not matter how many team members you have:

AV Personality Type A

This is the Architect of the team; the Artist.  Someone who is an AV Type A is most concerned with the quality of the Audio, the Angles of the loudspeakers, what Amp to use, and the Aesthetics of the video system.  There is another word that starts with the letter A that may describe them…

AV Personality Type B

(or just AVB…? lol) The AV Type B is all about Business. They handle the Brochures and proposals and generate the workflow.  To the clients, they are a Buddy. They often love Bourbon, Buffets, and hand out of a lot Business Cards.  Type B may also handle the day to day business of invoicing, while keeping an eye on the project Budget.

AV Personality Type C

Type C excels in Communication with Client and the other people in the Company.  Type C may be a “jack of all trades, master of none” which makes them ideal Consultants and/or good at Coordination meetings.  Type C likes to talk about Control Systems, Cables, Connectors and Conduits. Custom is this person’s middle name.

AV Personality Type D

In the end, its all about the Deliverables, and the AV Type D is the one who gets it Done.  Computer-aided Drafting?  Done.  Documentation needed before a DeadlineDone.  Double mocha latte with whipped cream?  Buy them one, they probably Deserve it.

The Answer Is: All Of The Above

By mixing and matching each of the above AV personalities, you will find a certain synergy will develop in your firm.  Slow days will be less common as more business develops and projects get done more efficiently.  You can get by without one or two of the above personalities, but not for long, as you need the right balance of folks when things get busy, and when business is slow.

I Miss Music On Hold

We’re sorry.  Your call is very important to us.  Please remain on the line, and the next available customer service representative will be with you shortly.

Sound familiar?  Well, it should, as many telephone systems have similar recordings that usually repeat every 30 seconds while you wait on hold for 3 minutes… or 30 minutes… it really depends on who you are, and reason you are “on hold”.

If I am ordering a pizza, for instance, and I get put on hold for more than 5 minutes, I know they are busy, and I will often just hang up and dial another establishment.  But if I am trying to reach my credit card company or cable provider, I usually have a reason that I need to call them in particular, not someone else.  Oftentimes, it does not matter when I call, I will be put on hold.

In the old days, you would be put on hold and hear nothing. Silence. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But I guess some people did not know if they were still on hold after hearing silence for a few minutes, so someone invented “music on hold”.  The music source could be a service like Muzak but usually, it was just a short loop recording of classical music that would repeat.

Then one day, someone (let’s call him or her The Devil) got the bright idea to add the “We’re sorry.  Your call is very important to us…” and made it REPEAT OVER AND OVER.  Does this really help anyone?  Seriously, I swear, it was The Devil, Bobby Boucher, The Devil!

The last time I was put on hold, it was even worse: in between the verbal lashings of digitally remastered sarcasm mentioned above, they had inter-weaved advertisements for their services!  It was at that moment that I realized we need a revolution.  If We, The People, have to be put on hold, we demand respect; I personally think we should be educated and/or entertained while on hold.  Here is what I think should happen:

You have been put on hold and you are listening to an automated telephone system. I will try to make it as painless as possible by speaking to you in a polite, personal tone.

First, push 1 to mute me at anytime; push 1 to un-mute me.

You will be on hold for approximately 10 minutes. That is a estimate, and I will try to keep you updated if that amount of time changes significantly.  You can press 2 at any time to find out the estimated time you will still be on hold. 

Now for some entertainment, if you are in the mood for it…

Press 3 for local news, sports, traffic, and weather forecasts

Press 4 to listen to light classical music

Press 5 for jazz, funk, and r&b music

Press 6 for rock or indie music

Press 7 for rap and hip hop music

Press 8 for country music

Press 9 to hear these options again

Otherwise, I will leave you to wait in silence, ok?  Just speak up if you need something.  Sorry about putting you on hold. I know its really rude, but we do it to keep our internal expenses to a minimum, which in the end, should mean cheaper prices for you. Thanks for waiting. 

-pk