Brand Education: One-man business helps companies understand value of advertising ‘that touches all five senses’

2009/10/08 at 15:49 Leave a comment

article contributed by Chris Piper, Brand Consultant via LinkedIn (Licensing, Branding & Merchandising Group)
By Andrew Moore / The Bulletin

Published: September 22. 2009 4:00AM PST

In early September 2008, Bend resident Chris Piper launched a new business, unaware, like most, that the economy was days away from drastic decline.

It was a risky move without considering the economy, but Piper felt passionate about what he wanted his business to do: Educate the business community about the value of branded merchandise.

Not just embroidered shirts and printed coffee mugs, but thoughtful consumer products that are unique or useful and effective in complementing a company’s message.

“The big weakness I saw was companies that didn’t understand the value of branded merchandise, other than having some branded pens on their desk or trade show booth,” said Piper. “The businesses that say, ‘I don’t know why I need it but I know I have to have it.’”

Piper, the founder of Breakout Strategic Merchandising, has survived his first year, and is aiming to take a bite of the nation’s $20 billion branded merchandise market. A big part of his efforts remain focused on education, including travel to business conferences and trade shows.

Sometimes those events yield new customers. Thanks to a speaking engagement with the Association of Luxury Suite Directors, Piper recently helped the Buffalo Bills put together a special commemorative edition of The New York Times for last month’s induction of Bills owner Ralph Wilson into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Piper created a 25-page newspaper filled with stories about the Bills from the last 50 years as they originally appeared in The New York Times.

With more than 5,000 product manufacturers he can work with, Piper is limited only by his imagination. For local company G5 Search Marketing, Piper put together a mailer that contained a branded stick of Chapstick. For another company, he created a pen-shaped tube of aerosolized hand sanitizer, capitalizing on the nation’s new focus on battling swine flu infections. For Nike, he had a 3-inch-wide commemorative coin minted that doubled as a ticket to a Nike Super Bowl party.

“Nontraditional advertising is growing, but you have to be methodical when you use it,” said Piper. “You’re not cannibalizing other mediums of advertising but adding value to it, finding other ways to engage your client’s customers.”

Piper, a native of Orinda, Calif., who graduated from the University of Oregon in 1989, moved to Bend roughly 4½ years ago. Like many professionals who relocate to Central Oregon, Piper initially worked from home for his then-employer, drawn to the region for its quality of life.

When the opportunity arose to start his own business and work for himself, Piper jumped at it. Though his company is still young, he is hopeful that he will one day be able to hire employees and grow what he hopes will be an expanding office.

Q: How is Breakout Strategic Merchandising doing?

A: We’re growing, We have clients nationally.

Q: How much of your business is focused on educating clients about the value of branded merchandise?

A: You get a passion for what you do when you are in an industry so long and the promotional products industry hadn’t been doing a good job of educating companies why to use (promotional products), so when I go out, I want people to understand the return on investment and how branded merchandise helps support your advertising campaign, but also gives you a three-dimensional medium that touches all five senses.

Q: What’s your company’s biggest challenge?

A: Getting people to realize the importance of branded merchandise … and keeping customers in the pipeline.

Q: Is it hard to do all that by yourself?

A: Yes, but I have strategic partners, and they become indirect salespeople in a way, and I think that’s a great way for people to grow a business.

Q: How difficult has it been to launch your business?

A: Logistically, getting to clients (outside the region) is difficult, but there is a wealth of people here who can help you with your business. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with my Opportunity Knocks (a local business support organization) group … but Bend, this community, everyone wants you to succeed.

Q: What advice do you have for others interested in starting their own business?

A: Make sure you have savings and be sure you are willing to go out and ask for help.

Andrew Moore can be reached at 541-617-7820 or amoore@bendbulletin.com.

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Entry filed under: branding, consumer goods, DNA, intellectual property, linkedin, marketing, replication.

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