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Jeff Nicholson standing in front of lockers covered with promotional stickers

Jeff Nicholson, owner of Freely Creative, Inc. attempts to write weekly about stickers... news, design tips, resources, common questions and small business marketing.





Archive for the ‘Interesting Sticker News’ Category

Whether Distributed as Art, Fun or Promotion – Stickers Have Power!

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The slogan for Freely Creative, Inc., the parent company for Websticker.com is “The Power Of Stickers”. I like the simplicity of this statement and wholeheartedly believe in its sentiment. I’m in the sticker business because I firmly believe that promotional stickers are one of the most cost effective marketing tools available. As I have often stated over the years, custom stickers build identity, advertise, support and enhance overall marketing programs, and can also make profitable stand alone products.

Mr. Brainwash

Recently I’ve been digging further into another side of stickers – their role as street art. This of course is also promotion, just of a different sort. Promoting individuals, ideas, causes or just prompting reactions from viewers. I just saw Exit Through The Gift Shop a documentary film produced by Banksy, a well known street artist. I do highly recommend this film as a peek into street artist’s lives, graffiti and an exploration of the question of what “art” is. Regardless of whether this is a true documentary or “Banksy prank”, it still is a great piece of art and entertainment.

My favorite quote in the film regarding stickers and delivered by Shepard Fairey is;
“Even though the Andre the Giant sticker was an inside joke and I was just having fun, I like the idea of the more stickers that are out there, the more important it seems… the more people wanna know what it is, the more they… (talk) and it gains real power from perceived power.”

I love it. Whether promoting something, making a joke or starting a worldwide movement, behold, the power of stickers.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

Cheap, Cheezy Bumper Sticker Book

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Jeff Nicholson with "everyone is entitled to my opinion" bumper sticker
Cheap and cheesy notebook sticker from
mis-named, Ultimate Bumper Sticker Book

My son received a gift for Christmas called “The Ultimate Bumper Sticker Book”. Great idea – 96 stickers with various sayings (mostly obnoxious) in a convenient tear-out book format. Though I don’t mind the content and I’m sure everyone could find something fun they might want to display (my wife especially liked; “TV Is Gooder Than Books”) I do have one big problem with this book. They aren’t bumper stickers!

To me a bumper sticker is a sticker that can go on, of all places, a bumper… a car… somewhere outside. These stickers are printed in China – on paper. The back of the book states, “put them in your office, in the kitchen, or anywhere you’d like to make a statement”. Well, hello… if it’s a “bumper sticker” I’d like to make a statement on my car – that’s what bumper stickers are for.

It’s cheap stickers like these that give true bumper stickers a bad name. This is why people still worry about taking paint off their car, leaving paper and residue behind when they try to remove them, or having the sticker fade and fall apart. Quality, screen printed bumper stickers have been available with removable adhesive for over 40 years but still there are misperceptions – mostly due to cheap over laminated paper stickers like the ones in this book.

Whether buying a bumper sticker to display or ordering custom bumper stickers for your own promotion or retail item make sure they are printed on vinyl with inks that won’t fade or chip. The outdoor durability of a sticker should be guaranteed for years. Screen printing is the best print method for a bumper sticker, laying down the thickest coating of ink, but other print methods using long lasting UV inks can work as well. Here at Websticker.com we offer screen printed bumper stickers on vinyl with 3-5 year outdoor durability. “Ultra removable” adhesive is now standard on all stock custom bumper stickers.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

Shepard Fairey And Sticker Promotion

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I just started reading (and attempting to digest the thousands of images) in a new book called Stickers, From Punk Rock To Contemporary Art.  There is an introduction by Shepard Fairey which I found of interest. Most of it is based on an essay you can read here. Any one with an interest in the history of stickers, stickers as art, street art or Shepard Fairey will find this of interest. I will get into more thoughts on the “Stickers” book by DB Burkeman in a later post, but for now, I’ll just point out some highlights from the Shepard Fairey intro/article/essay.

Shepard Fairey sticker that started it all

As a child Fairey “wanted stickers as badges of my culture” but later wanted to create his own stickers and… “ponder the sticker as a means of expression and communication for an individual, instead of just representing a band, company, or movement”. The ‘Andre the Giant has a posse’ stickers started the ball rolling for Fairey in Providence, RI. and “once the first domino fell, I was addicted and had my sights set on world domination with stickers” said Fairey. He hand screen printed and cut over a million stickers between 1989 and ’96 before he started using a professional printer.

Here are a few key quotes from Shepard Fairey on stickers relevant to sticker marketing:

“Repetition works, and stickers are a perfect medium to demonstrate the principle.”

“People… seem unable to resist the urge to stick them on their belongings, car, stereo, skateboard, guitar, and the list goes on… they manage to make their way into every nook and cranny on the planet”

“stickers are the most effective promotional tool possible for the price”

The once separate worlds of ‘stickers for promotion’ and ‘stickers for expression and art’ are merging more than ever. This is not only the result of changing demographics and marketing techniques but also print technology. It is more affordable then ever to print stickers – even low quantities, full color and for long term outdoor use.

Have an idea (or need ideas) for stickers to help with your own “world domination” of an idea, a band, a company, a cause, or just a thought provoking piece of art?  Websticker.com can help or point you towards someone that can.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

Bumper Stickers – If You Can Read This, Review

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I just read an article about a lecture given by Yale Professor and Author Stephen Carter. The article was entitled “Books, Not Bumper Stickers”. Like many people, Mr. Carter can’t stand bumper stickers. His main issue seems to be with bumper stickers reducing complex issues into “cute little slogans” and damaging democracy. According to the article, “the bumper sticker phenomenon not only denied the complexity of issues, it denied that reasonable people might differ, and undermined serious debate. The real essence of democracy, he said, was not the right to vote, but the practice of deliberation and debate, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect.” What we need according to Stephen Carter is more books. What books offer that bumper stickers can not is “heft, weight… that you can hold in your hand… ideas need space”.
I agree that traditional bumper stickers are often oversimplified and advertise more about the person displaying them then they do about specific issues.  But, bumper stickers can encourage debate and more complex thoughts. And if books are the place to give ideas more space and spur deeper thought and discussion then a serious book on bumper stickers is just the place to dig in a bit deeper on bumper sticker philosophy and what particular bumper stickers say about the displayer, and the world.
I just finished reading If You Can Read This – The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers by Jack Bowen. As far as I know this is the only book written that thoroughly explores bumper sticker wisdom… and bumper sticker ignorance. Hopefully Jack has sent a copy of the book off to Stephen Carter so they can start a dialog. I highly recommend this book for bumper sticker lovers, haters, displayers and no-wayers – though for displayers you may discover your bumper sticker is screaming something to the world other than what you may have intended.
I think the back jacket of If You Can Read This sums the book up quite nicely, so I’ll repeat it here;
 Long before blogs and tweets, people were telling the world how they felt through bumper stickers. Even now, whether they’re political or religious, passionate or proud, controversial or corny, these brightly colored, boldly lettered mini manifestos are declarations of who we are, where we stand, and what we’d rather be doing. But as best selling author and noted philosopher Jack Bowen reveals, there’s much more to the pop-culture phenomenon than rolling one-liners—no less, in fact, than a wise, funny, poignant, contentious, and truthful discourse on the human condition.
Jack Bowen does not hold back from sharing his opinion, or the known facts regarding hundreds of popular bumper sticker slogans. He takes on Reality, The Self, Values, God and Religion, Ethics, Politics, and ultimately the Meaning Of Life. This is not a book to read in one sitting – I found it needed to be chewed on and swallowed in small portions for proper digestion. I’ve never taken a philosophy course but feel as though I just finished Philosophy 101 with this book, and it was an excellent introduction. As a producer of bumper stickers I’ve always enjoyed having a finger on the pulse of what is happening in our nation. Sometimes humorous, sometimes hopeful, sometimes downright scary, bumper stickers say a lot about the people that create them, buy them, and display them. After reading this book, apparently they say more about us than I ever realized.
As Jack points out in the Book introduction (and I’m sure author Stephen Carter would appreciate), “Like a picture, a good bumper sticker may also be worth at least a thousand words, but any important issue merits much more than that.” In today’s society the sticker you choose to put on your car can lead to tickets, being fired, rudely gestured at, and according to one controversial study may even make you more susceptible to road rage (you! not the other guy). May I suggest taking a deep breath, reading If You Can Read This, and engaging others in respectful discussions before sticking that cleverly tailored slogan/opinion on your bumper.
More: Here’s a good interview with Jack Bowen about his book.
By Jeff Nicholson

Most Political Campaign Products Are Not Delivering Votes

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STOWE, Vt., March 20, 2010 – Do a search on-line for “political campaign products” and you’ll get thousands of results. But, open the door to any of these linked resources and take a closer look. You’ll find that most are selling the same products, showcasing the same layouts, and there isn’t a friendly face anywhere in sight to offer assistance. If winning elections and campaigns requires standing out from the crowd and communicating a unique message, then why do so many candidates and campaigns settle for bland, cookie-cutter graphics and products?
Heidi Scheurmann bumper sticker and other political bumper stickers made by Websticker
According to Jeff Nicholson, owner of Websticker.com the reason for the abundance of generic, outdated looking campaign products is twofold, “Most candidates and organizations don’t realize the true marketing potential of certain custom campaign products and if they do, they mistakenly believe that high level custom design and creative work are financially out of reach. Not all custom campaign products are created equal but at Websticker.com we help separate the good, the blah, and the totally awesome, and offer free design services to maximize effectiveness. It’s unfortunate that many candidates and campaigns are not capitalizing on the full exposure and advertising capabilities of professionally designed and produced promotional products.”
Nicholson adds, “Many people mistakenly still think advertising is all about the number of impressions. In politics, pure name recognition still definitely counts. But, Making a good impression and encouraging word-of-mouth, that’s what can really make the difference in a campaign”.
Marketing and advertising have changed tremendously over the last twenty years. Now, more than ever it is about standing out from the crowd and being talked (tweeted, blogged, commented…) about that creates buzz. People no longer have the patience or attention span to be force fed advertising from strangers. So, what does this mean for Political Campaign Products? How can candidates and campaigns stand out?
According to Nicholson, “Campaigns should focus on the main custom campaign products that generate word-of-mouth (are seen by a lot of people) and are viewed as testimonials, not paid ads. That means yard signs and, the most important, promotional stickers. I don’t say “bumper stickers” because I’d encourage people to think beyond the bumper – beyond the same layout, colors, shape and size as everyone else. Once your identity is established on these two essential products the design components can be utilized on other needed campaign products like banners, lapel stickers, buttons, door knob hangers and other custom political products dictated by what best fits the individual campaign. Give supporters the tools they need to spread the word.”
Websticker.com has a webpage showcasing recommended political campaign products but also recommends you contact them to go over personal goals and needs. They also share many design tips and ideas at their website which can be helpful when contemplating more powerful design layouts for your campaign products.
Freely Creative, Inc. was founded in 1991 and launched its online presence as Websticker.com in 1997. Websticker.com offers free consultations, free design work and top quality products for “When You Want Your Name To Stick”. 

 

Promotional Sticker Advertising – You Couldn’t Pay Me To Put That On My Car!

Posted on: 5 Comments
What if someone gave you a car? The only hitch, you’d need to drive it on certain routes, in certain cities, at certain times and it’s totally wrapped with blazing graphics. If you were paid $100. per month, what then would you be willing to display on your own car? Or, what if all your gas was paid for? There are many companies out there doing innovative things with mobile advertising and there’s probably plenty of room for more. But, is this the most cost effective use of stickers for marketing? Is this the future of marketing with custom stickers and vinyl graphics? I don’t think so. We don’t really need more locations for ads – we need more locations for referrals and more word-of-mouth advertising from Fans.
Promotional stickers are a very cost effective marketing medium but there is a huge difference between what someone chooses to display on their car and what one is paid to display on their car. Not only will the sizes and styles vary greatly but often one is viewed as a recommendation from a “fan” and fellow traveler and one is viewed… well, as just another in-your-face advertisement. I am fascinated by what people put (or are willing to put) for free on their cars as statements, decorations or for support for an organization, place, or lifestyle. And, where exactly is that line between a sticker advertisement and unsolicited recommendations from loyal, excited fans? How far can you push and encourage (perhaps even bribe a little) volunteers to turn a low cost promotional sticker into a mini-billboard driving sales, traffic, building identity and generating word-of-mouth advertising for your business?

heart in Vermont sticker made by Websticker.com

I’ve talked about this question a bit before in a Blog about promotional stickers on employee vehicles. Do all the employees in your company have a logo sticker on their car? What about friends and family? What minimum effort would it take for your company/organization to be getting this low-cost exposure?
I just read about a politician that asked a room full of people something to the effect of, “raise your hand if you would not put my bumper sticker on your car” when no hands were raised he sent his staff out to the parking lot to make sure every car got his political campaign bumper sticker. That’s a bit questionable and thank goodness for removable adhesive, but you get the idea. People (preferably fans) can certainly be encouraged and at a minimum asked to support you by displaying a sticker on their car.
There are many effective pieces to today’s marketing puzzle. Promotional stickers are just one piece encouraging consumers to naturally market to each other. Promotional stickers advertise, build identity, and support promotions. Are you maximizing the effectiveness of this low cost marketing tool? Websticker.com is here to help design and produce the most economical and effective stickers possible. The rest is up to you.
By Jeff Nicholson

What is the difference between a sticker and a decal?

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Question mark on top of many stickers, decals and labels. What's the difference?

I just got an e-mail asking what the difference is between a sticker and a decal. We often get this question at Websticker.com and I thought it was about time I tried to address it. There is no absolute answer as different people will often use the terms interchangeably to describe similar products.

Looking for a definitive answer over at Yahoo Answers won’t help clarify differences: “decal is a more professional word for sticker”… No; I would think of a sticker as say a white label and a decal as clear”… No; “Usually a sticker is paper, example an Avery label and not durable and a decal has a permanent adhesive and is more durable”…  No, no, no!

Let’s go to the New Oxford Dictionary and try to break it down. Then, I’ll let you know how we at Websticker.com (seller of custom stickers, decals, and labels) tend to define these product categories.

sticker n. an adhesive label or notice, generally printed or illustrated.

label n. a small piece of paper, fabric, plastic, or similar material attached to an object and giving information about it.

decal n. a design prepared on special paper for transfer onto another surface such as glass, porcelain, or metal.

As you can see, it’s fairly obvious why we also get asked the question; “what is the difference between a label and a sticker?” A sticker can be a type of label… and labels with an adhesive are also stickers. At Websticker.com we use the term “sticker”, as in “bumper sticker”, “die cut sticker”, “window sticker”, etc., to define more heavy-duty labels/stickers that can be used outdoors and hold up to the elements over an extended period of time. These are printed on a vinyl or polyester material with durable outdoor inks.

We generally use the term “label” to describe adhesive products printed on papers or foils with inks not suitable for outdoors. “Address labels”, “shipping labels”, “lapel labels”, “foil seals”, etc., these tend to be supplied on rolls or sheets for use (indoors) on packaging, paperwork, clothing, products, etc.

The term, “decals” on the other hand, is often used interchangeably with other outdoor sticker products. But, as you can see in the New Oxford definition, “decals” are more associated with a “transfer” from one medium to another. “Decal” is short for “decalcomania” and usually is a more decorative type design. Thus “slide-on transfer decals” in the model building world, or water-slide ceramic decals (Transfers) for tile and ceramic uses are an accurate use of the decal term.

Where the decal-or-sticker confusion usually lies stems from vinyl cut lettering and graphics. These are for long term outdoor use and are supplied with a pre-masking sheet, so upon application are transferred from one sheet/medium to another. Unlike a traditional “sticker” which is removed from it’s backing paper and stuck where-ever, these vinyl decals are being transferred (often in multiple pieces) from the masking sheet to a smooth surface. So, at Websticker (and many other companies) vinyl cut lettering and graphics are referred to as “decals” and all other one-piece, outdoor printed vinyl or clear polyester as “stickers”. Decals are a type of sticker, however, so you’ll hear and see the term “vinyl cut stickers” as well (like in this informative video on how vinyl cut decals are made).

I hope that drawn out answer helps. It is always best, regardless of the terms you use, to tell a manufacturer exactly what you are trying to accomplish with this sticky medium and where you want the sticker/decal ultimately to be applied/stuck. What ever you are trying to label, decorate, or promote, if you want your name (or message, or graphic) to stick, Websticker.com can help clarify and design the best custom product to meet your needs.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

A Land With No Bumper Stickers

Posted on: 5 Comments

In my travels I have noted that other countries and cultures do not have the same tendencies as Americans to advertise their opinions, affiliations and product preferences on their cars. What I didn’t realize was there are places with no car bumper stickers, no car window stickers, no car magnets and no promotional stickers at all. Zero.

I just got back from a weekend in Venice, Italy. There are absolutely no bumper stickers in this city of 63,000 people because there are no bumpers – no cars at all. There are vinyl cut graphics and lettering for boats and for shop windows but that is as far as you’re going to get with vinyl and adhesives used for promotional and marking purposes.

I loved the city of Venice! I also love bumper stickers as a low cost, high impact promotional tool. But, businesses use the tools they have at their disposal and can make the biggest impact for the best price. And for individuals wishing to share their opinions, interests, and affiliations with the world – you use the mediums available. Car bumpers are not available in Venice and that may mean more flyers and handouts, more art, more local partnerships, more sandwich boards, etc. One uses the tools at their disposal. I certainly saw a lot of graffiti in Venice.

Vermont is one of only four states in the US that doesn’t allow billboards on its roadways. At the same time there are many, many bumper stickers on cars in Vermont? I think this is a great thing – less force fed “advertising”, more individual expression and art. The idea of a well-done promotional sticker isn’t to add to advertising clutter and noise, the idea is to encourage word-of-mouth and make a small impression via average people that care. Identities, movements, campaigns, slogans, companies and ideas are built and promoted with steady and continuous impressions not from paid salespeople and billboards but from fans, friends, enthusiasts, members, etc. – people that know and appreciate you and/or your product and can offer referrals and testimonials.

In Venice, bumper stickers aren’t an option. In much of the rest of Italy and Europe I’d say bumper stickers and promotional stickers are a very underutilized marketing tool. I’ll be looking into this further in the coming weeks. I’d love any feedback people might have of other cities and towns without cars (I want to go there) and the propensity to display things on personal vehicles in other countries and cultures.

By Jeff Nicholson

 

Political Bumper Stickers On Cars Equal More Votes

Posted on: 3 Comments

At Websticker.com we’re always on the look out for actual data on the promotional power of stickers. Solid research and studies are hard to find. One can assume hundreds and thousands of impressions are made from large vinyl graphics on the sides of vehicles, bumper stickers on the backs of cars, and even small die cut stickers on helmets, bikes, notebooks, etc.. But depending on where the sticker is applied, the size and design of the sticker, and the travel routes and visibility of the sticker, there are just too many variables to get any accurate data on visibility and influence.

So, a short video interview caught my eye today of Kevin Ambler, state representative from Florida, who visited The ASI Show in Orlando. In the video Kevin mentions, as an elected official, political bumper stickers are his favorite promotional product. He further states;

“The bumper sticker – based on the research that we have shows that if you put [a sticker] on the car of one of your constituents, it is worth between three and six votes.”

That’s incredible! I’m not sure what “research” he based that statement on, but there it is. If accurate, even if you paid people to put your political or promotional bumper sticker on their car it would be more economical than any other advertising medium.
The key, of course, is getting a high percentage of your political bumper stickers applied to vehicles out making impressions (or earning “votes”). To optimize that promotional power you need the optimum size, optimum product, and optimum design at the best price. That’s where Websticker.com excels. We are all about design, service, and optimization. When You Want Your Name to Stick – Websticker.com.
By Jeff Nicholson

How Do I Protect My Great Sticker Idea?

Posted on: 3 Comments

Here at Websticker.com we sometimes get contacted by people with a “great idea” for a sticker product. They don’t want to tell us what the idea is as, I guess, we may be overly tempted to steal it, begin production immediately, and make a million dollars. Though, we are certainly willing to sign a non-disclosure form, it isn’t necessary – we don’t have any interest at all in launching a new business or product based on other peoples ideas. We (and most creative companies) have our businesses to focus on and pile of great ideas we’d pursue if we needed to go a new direction or had the time.

Think you have a great sticker idea or t-shirt idea? Check out the TypeTees section over at Threadless. Hundreds of tee shirt ideas (that could be fitting for stickers as well) are submitted and voted on every day at Threadless. Submitting ideas and getting feedback can be an eye opener.

Currently, there is no shortage of people with ideas. But, there will always be a shortage of people who care. Everyone thinks they have great ideas – I’ve had at least 3 great ones today. Executing the idea… distributing the idea… profiting from the idea – that is the tricky part. If you’ve got a great idea for a sticker product Websticker.com would love to help flesh it out into the best copy, design and product it can be (at a great price). But we can’t help sell or distribute that product for you. Spreading the idea (product) is your job.
Don’t worry about sharing ideas or protecting them. Share the idea, flush it out, and if it seems to resonate with people, get help making it the best it can be.
In a recent blog post Seth Godin (marketing guru) stated:
“So, how to protect your ideas in a world where ideas spread?
Don’t.
Instead, spread them. Build a reputation as someone who creates great ideas, sometimes on demand. Or as someone who can manipulate or build on your ideas better than a copycat can. Or use your ideas to earn a permission asset so you can build a relationship with people who are interested. Focus on being the best tailor with the sharpest scissors, not the litigant who sues any tailor who deigns to use a pair of scissors.”

I recommend you read Seth’s whole post, How To Protect Your Ideas In The Digital Age
as it has some good information to think about regarding trademarks and copyrights.
We cover some more information about protecting (or not protecting) your ideas and possibly selling/distributing sticker products in the questions section of our website: I’ve got a great idea for a sticker! How do I protect it, sell it, or make them and distribute them for profit?
So, share your ideas freely, get feedback, do your homework on similar ideas or products, and if you decide to start a small business based on your idea be prepared to do the work.
By Jeff Nicholson