The History of Promotional Merchandise pt. 1

The History of Promotional Merchandise pt. 1


George Washington ButtonWe shall start with the foundation that the world of promotional merchandise was built on. Promotional products originate from 18th century USA. The year was 1789 and the United States of America was going through vast transformations. The war for independence against Britain had ended only 6 years before, and the great commander in chief George Washington had since retired to Mount Vernon Virginia. But this retirement was short lived when persuaded to attend the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia. It was here that he was elected president of the convention, which thus led him to be the President of the United States of America.

People started to redesign their clothing buttons to show their support for their president, displaying his initials with slogans such as “Long Live the President.” It is these items of support that gave birth to the idea of promotional merchandise. George Washington was a highly respected and supported individual and people would like to show their support with him through these badges showing the first evidence of what we know now as brand allegiance, which is a very big issue when it comes to promotional merchandise.

Antique Rulers

This idea then took off, businesses started realising the real value that these simple buttons had, and created the term Novelty items. In the early 18th century some companies started to distribute basic novelty items, such as calendars, rulers and other forms of stationary, this was on a very small scale.

It wasn’t until the late 18th century that this small distribution of novelty items took off on a larger scale becoming an industry. From this point on the only way was up for promotional merchandise. Companies really started to see the benefits of promotional merchandise, in a world without television and radio advertising; promotional merchandise strategies really did seem the perfect way to advertise their company.
At first these items were distributed to customers, to gain and keep customer loyalty. But when these customers were seen by other members of the public with their promotional items, this exposed the company to potential customers. What started as just a small customer distribution soon grew swiftly.

 With the continuous growth of this industry, incorporating new advancements in technology, companies were able to start getting creative with their promotional merchandise. No longer were they just a small novelty item, companies were now able to build whole promotional products incorporating their whole identity. Businesses around the world were catching on and producing great eye catching promotional items. 

Social Augmented Reality in 2017 with Update from F8

Social Augmented Reality in 2017 with Update from F8

Virtual RealityWhen it comes to knowing the future technological trends, yes there is an element of educated guesswork and judgment, but the majority of the information is gained from field and digital research. For example when I was compiling information on what technological trends would be successful this year, I based my information on news stories, marketing data, articles, and one massive source was conferences and exhibitions from the largest global technology companies. It is conferences like the F8 conference hosted by Mark Zuckerberg himself which took place earlier this week, that gives you a flavour of what tech companies are up to in the following months. The great thing about conferences and exhibitions in April is they are a great indicator as to whether or not trends determined at the end of last year or earlier this year are actually being worked on, because chances are if the largest corporations aren’t investing in those trends, the possibility of them hitting the mass market is significantly diminished.

Augmented Camera

One of the biggest things coming out of F8 is that Facebook are placing a significant amount of interest into the world of augmented reality. As described in my technological trends piece, augmented reality started gaining wide attention last year with the introduction of one of the most popular mobile games ever made, which had an augmented reality element. Facebook's F8 conference’s big message this year was that your mobile device camera is destined for so much more than just taking pictures. What Facebook are aiming to achieve is a secondary augmented layer that, using your camera, is overlaid when looking at your smartphone screen. An example of this could be holding your camera up to the front of a restaurant and you are able to see other people’s reviews, access to the menu and book a table at the click of a button.

Coffee CupSo why are we so bothered about augmented reality, the truth is at the moment at least, augmented reality needs a visual trigger in order for the augmented layer to kick in, now this visual trigger can be anything, a painting, a magazine, a screen print…. You can see where we are going with this, we are in the printing and branding business if our products can be used as triggers for augmented reality not only does that work fantastically for the world of augmented reality, but if gives promotional products another layer of depth. The example Mark used when talking about augmented reality involved coffee mugs, now imagine if these coffee mugs were branded, you are taking a simple affordable promotional product, and using it in a technological revolution. 

BTC Group presents to you our brand new Octopus 2

BTC Group presents to you our brand new Octopus 2

BTC Group presents to you our brand new Octopus 2 smart device charger, providing you with the ability to charge 99% of smart devices with just one item!  The new and exciting addition to the already innovative design of the original octopus is the introduction of the USB Type C charging connector.

Octopus 2If you haven’t seen what USB type C is yet we have a great article regarding the how we think this is going to be a trend in technology this year you can see this here. Just to give you a brief idea USB Type C is a new connection standard introduced to theoretically replace all over connections. It’s new reversible design (can be inserted front to back and back to front) can be used in the traditional way USB was used before as a communication cable between devices, or as a charging cable for smart devices. This cable does all this plus more, it is also able to transmit visual information, thus replacing HDMI cables, audio information, replacing AUX cables and its power carrying ability is scalable up to 100 watts so will be able to power items like laptops, computers, televisions etc.

This all seems great, but why include it on our new and updated octopus charger, USB Type C seems to be past early adoption phase, and a great percentage of flagship phones will come with this port as standard this coming year, with some early adopters releasing it last year. The USB type C is also the new charging port on the latest Apple Mac books, so at the moment or at least in the very near future, there will be a gradual uplift in the want and need for USB type C chargers!


If you'd like to order an Octopus 2 for your next promotional campaign please call us on 020 8569 2250 or e-mail us on sales@btcgroup.co.uk


Bringing your Conference into the 21st Century, Episode 4: Smarter Technology

Bringing your Conference into the 21st Century, Episode 4: Smarter Technology


Smarter TechnologyIf you haven’t heard about the internet of things, it simply is a new age network being created, not between people, but between objects, how they output and share information to devices, and even to the larger World Wide Web. Smarter technology is definitely a concept that is more understandable after an example as the possibilities of future applications are pretty much endless. The example I will be giving is that from the point of view of an attendee, experiencing smarter technology being integrated into attended conference.

You sign up to attend a technology related conference, 2 weeks prior to the event you receive an automated e-mail asking what time you’ll be arriving, dietary requirements and car licence plate details. 3 days before the event you will receive in the post to your preferred address your conference event name badge and lanyard, with built in RFID access to building, restricted to the hours of the conference.

On day of conference your phone has already detected from the information sent to your phone that you have to leave at 7:30am as the conference is an hour away and there is half an hour of traffic, once you attend, you gain automatic entry to the carpark, as the security system auto reads your licence plate on authorised list, and gain easy access into building by scanning the, RFID in-built, name tag on reader to open door. As you walk through the doors you receive location based notification to your phone asking if you would like to download the conference app, which has details of the itinerary and app also is required for augmented reality aspect of conference.

Smart Conference RoomThe time for the conference has begun and automatically the lighting in the conference room dims and the AV system is ready for the first speaker. During the conference a person asks a question requiring a specific numerical answer, for example “what percentage of smart phone sales were android OS last year” rather than the speaker finding the details, the conference rooms auto assistant has already found the answer and delivers this through text to speech software.

After the conference is over, the next day you will receive an automated e-mail from the conference intelligence hub containing the filmed videos that were automatically created and uploaded of the seminars, these videos will also be sent to those who couldn’t attend for any reason.


Hopefully by combining the knowledge of the ‘Internet of Things’ explained in the last white paper, and with this example, you have a abundant knowledge of how smarter technology can work in the conference environment, and even see and theorise other applications of how it could work in the future. The introduction of Amazon Echo into the consumer market really has kick-started the demand for an always connected smart assistant, in the home and in the workplace. If these assistants can be branded and customised on a software and external level, they would make a fantastic addition to any promotional campaign and conference.

Bringing your Conference into the 21st Century, Episode 3: Augmented Reality

Bringing your Conference into the 21st Century, Episode 3: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality DevicesBack in 1994 an artist called Julie Martin conceptualised and brought to stage the world’s first augmented reality dance production called “dancing in cyberspace.” During the production the dancers would dance and interact with full life sized virtual objects. From the viewers perspective the dancers were fully immersed in the virtual environment, creating a full augmented experience.

When it comes to conferences, not too dissimilar to theatre performances, there is a stage or a viewing platform where the audience’s attention is centralised around, and a budding audience that needs to have their attention retained for the entirety of the performance, for anyone that’s ever been to a conference or seminar, where the topic is somewhat mundane, not to the fault of the speaker, it can be difficult retaining the attention of the crowd. This situation worsened with the introduction of smartphones, people either checking their e-mails, WhatsApp, snapchat etc.

Bringing Augmented Reality into the world of conferences can really change this; augmented reality brings flat images and ideas to life through the use of an overlaying device. In the same way that virtual reality can transport you to another place, augmented reality can transport things to you! Back to the Mount Everest example, using augmented reality you can show the audience an obviously scaled down 3d rendering of Mount Everest with a computer animation of the path you took, you 3D Rendering of Everestcan also compare the size of Everest with other real world examples, which just wouldn’t be possible to imagine without visual representation. Now this is all great in theory, but what about execution? Remember those VR headsets we distributed in the 360 video topic? These can double up as augmented reality headsets as long as the VR viewer has a camera panel, (which most do!)

If you have already paid enough for Augmented Reality content and do have budget for, or simply do not want to distribute VR headsets, there is a solution for this too! Almost everyone at that conference will already have a tool that can view augmented reality, yes that pesky smartphone that previously at conferences would provide a distraction, can be turned on its head and be used as the viewing tool for AR devices. All you need to do is distribute material with an AR trigger built into an image, when the person aims their smart device at the image, with the correct app loaded up, they will see a live rendering of whatever you want the image to trigger, this could be a video, or a 3d rendered model, if you’d like to know more about augmented reality, check out my previous blog series! What we have seen done in the past, is for companies to incorporate an augmented reality strategy, with their promotional product strategy essentially fulfilling too needs with one deed, you are getting your brand awareness by printing your imagery on a product, but at the same time, that imagery would contain triggers that would work in the world of augmented reality.

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