Don’t Veer Too Far: choosing your SWAG


The most common question I get asked is “what’s the most popular product you sell” and I always catch myself trying to come up with something interesting to say – something that will WOW the person I am speaking with, or something perhaps they never could have imagined we can brand.

Well, I have had a little epiphany in my day.
The “WOW” factor is not always from the product alone. There are many aspects to branding merchandise, which help to create a resonating response with your clients; the fact that you are branding something to promote yourself in the first place IS the most important part of the “WOW”, so great start!

Let’s look at some key elements that should be a consideration when choosing promotional products

  • Try not to over think it

Even I get carried away when sourcing products for the clients I work with. There are SO many promotional items in our market so it’s easy to become overwhelmed! It’s important to remember your why. Why do you do what you do? What is it that you (your company) values and why do you want to share that with your consumers? Choosing an item that aligns with your brand, your strategy, or pairing it up with the theme of your event is vital to a successful promotion. Picking an item because it’s cool or trendy has a short-term lifespan. Investing in a product that has longevity, and can be utilized beyond your promotion helps maintain the strength of your brand.

  • You can’t force “unique”

Everybody and their mother wants something unique – something that nobody else is doing, and I get it. For 2 years, I was a small fish in a big, competitive sea of companies so setting myself apart was often a daily hurdle.

The common problems with wanting to be unique in your promotional purchases is one of the following: a) you have two weeks (or 2 days) before your event; b) you have a budget constraint that does not allow for a truly custom designed product; or c) a combination of the two.

Fortunately, your customers are not working with you because you gave them the coolest, brightest, crème de la crème item (is doesn’t hurt, of course). They choose to work with you because you’re already unique. You align with their beliefs, your pricing is right, and your customer service is top notch. Promotional products are a bonus to working with you and while they are always well received, they are not the make or break to your professional relationships. The key thing to remember is that you want to brand a product that will be useful to the person receiving it, and that your brand will stay in their minds well after you’ve left the room

  • Bring it back to basics

There’s a reason we receive, use, and often see branded SWAG in the following categories; it’s because they work:

Tote Bags
Writing Instruments
T-shirts & Hats

We’re not reinventing the wheel here. I have seen changes in trends through the years, for instance, now, mobile technology and accessories make up for a big chunk of our industry, but it’s a great expectation that your consumers want to attach your silicone wallet to the back of their $700 device.
T-shirts and hats are staple items; though it is important to know what people want to, or are willing to, wear. Gone are the days of the $3.00 t-shirts but with a couple more dollars put into that budget, opting for a nice fitting, retail style fabric (contact me here for more information) will make your investment worthwhile. According to research conducted by, tote bags generate the most impressions, at over 6,000 per unit. They are useful to the recipient, and if you’re thinking “oh, it’s just a tote bag”, the likelihood that it will be passed on to someone else, only increases your visibility.

  • Graphic Design and Messaging

Finally, in the pursuit of standing out, and possibly the most important part of branded merchandise, is creating the right look. I hate to think that my job is slapping a logo onto a mug, though sometimes it is. We’re seeing a high volume of requests to obtain a retail inspired look: think S’well bottles, LuLu Lemon Tote Bags, T-shirts with sayings like “But First, Coffee” or “GIRLBOSS” on them in fancy handwritten cursive. We can do this for you, too. First, let’s go back to #1 – does this resonate with your demographic? If so, how about we create something together! Adding a creative twist to your branding can be fun and engaging just make sure it’s versatile and not too far from your company messaging so as not to confuse your consumer. If you are a Canadian company, consider jumping on board with the Canada 150 celebrations this year. It’ a great way to get people using your branded SWAG and will certainly drive up the desire for it, and therefore brand awareness. We can help you create some great artwork that will grab the attention of your prospects while maintaining your brand integrity; just ask!

Subtle branding on higher-ticketed items is also effective. You do not always have to be “in your face” with branding. It’s very likely the consumer will know just where they received the product from if it is something they see value in.

These are just a few considerations to keep in mind when you’re on the hunt for your next giveaway, incentive, premium, wearable or other. Think about how you want your consumer to view you. Ask what they do in their spare time and we will show you how you can you be a part of that. Think about the message you want to send, and try not to deviate too far from what’s been proven. Fads are fads, there will be a new, next great thing after well after the fidget spinner, so if you’re truly considering promotional products, let’s talk about investing your marketing dollars into products that work.

Kari Watson


Essentially… On the Fence

So, you’re on the fence.

Another network marketing company. Another “party” to host. Another product that sits on your shelf, for eternity.

Yeah. I know what you mean.

I’d like to preface this blog with an introduction on me. My name is Kari. I come from a background first in the paramedic field, and then sales; but I’m not here to sell you – and I’m definitely not here to hold your c-spine. I love animals (often more than people), spending time with family (who often behave like animals), being on the water, and sitting in the sunshine; I’ve recently been more conscious of all things me: what I eat, what I use on my skin, how I want to live.

I started dabbling in essential oils over 2 years ago. I had a wretched cold that beat me up, hung on by a thread, and came back to kick my butt for four months straight. I was determined that I wasn’t going to go to the doctor for an antibiotic that I would have to build myself back up from. I was also travelling to the Caribbean for a destination wedding and dreading having to be in the sun with the sniffles – so, reluctantly, I opted for the drugs.

While on vacation, I went for a massage. The spa attendant heard me sniffing and sneezing and brought me a cotton swab soaked with the most delicious scent. It instantly helped to clean my sinuses and relieved the pressure in my head. It was eucalyptus oil. I stopped the antibiotic that day, and I went back to her every morning for a fresh swab. The cold never returned.

Later that summer, I thought I’d like to get some of that oil – it was clean and fresh smelling and it might be nice to have around the house. Little did I know then, what I know now.

We can get essential oils just about anywhere – natural health food stores being a common source. However, buyer beware, when you’re buying a bottle of “100% pure and natural oil” as seen on the label.

Often times these oils are mixed with a carrier, filler, or other substance creating an oil blend. One of my “essential oils” tells me to contact a poison control centre if accidentally ingested. Which poses the question – if this is 100% pure plant based, properly extracted, why am I worrying about poison?

Essential oils should be extracted from plants in primarily one of two ways: steam distillation or expression. As the consumer, you have the right to know where your products have come from.  There are other ways, of course, that involve toxins and chemicals. Certainly not something being advertised, not even talked about.

The moral of my story is that if you’re interested in essential oils, it’s so important to be informed. As with anything you intend on breathing, applying or ingesting, you should know where it’s coming from, and any safety considerations that you should me mindful of.
I’m not here to sell you.
I’m here to answer your questions, let you experience the oils first hand, and see if they can improve an area of your life that you might be working on. If you have any questions, Like my Facebook Page and don’t hesitate to reach out on Messenger, follow me on Instagram @apotheKari_living or e-mail More to come!


Lesson Number 2: Move Forward, Fast

We’ve all been there. Dwelling on the situation at hand, something so completely out of control yet demanding every drop of attention.

Fortunately, I haven’t lost any sleep over the past month.

I have beat myself up for being so naïve. I have eaten like garbage because by the time I realize I’m even hungry, my stomach is already eating itself. I have dropped all motivation to be active. I have coasted, because in all of this I was just depleted.

Daylight savings couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Did anyone else notice the case of the Monday’s effect wasn’t as powerful this week, or was that just me? With a new opportunity at my feet, I have the desire to reclaim what has been lost and break past my own personal ceilings. The ceilings that developed during a time when I felt I couldn’t move forward.

This week has been a lot of organizing, planning and goal setting. One thing I have implemented is working with an accountability team. A great way to brainstorm ideas, share challenges, and set both personal and professional goals. It’s a fantastic method to develop a plan and communicate it beyond your organization. The idea being that your accountability partner, or, in our case, team, can be a support system to encourage you to fulfil your tasks, and conversely you can be the same for them. This week’s goals were plenty, and it’s always one day at a time, but for now the blueprint is drawn.

As I dissociated myself from the company that I created, I couldn’t help but feel the loss, personally. Not in the sense of failure or defeat, but loss. Like I was about to mourn the death of a mission I had set out on. In addition to this, there were many emotions I felt surrounding the experience. Some anger, mostly frustration, but ultimately my responsibility to the clients I work with overcame what I was personally dealing with. It was my goal to maintain some sense of stability and I was not about to let down anyone who supported me, especially during a time that was completely out of control.

Between the termination of a business and joining on with an established company, I had a quick stint of sole-proprietorship. The beginnings of a new brand, and a new company – I’d have the chance to do it all over again… which is exactly the moment I hit the wall, hard. Atop of the 100th time I was explaining what was going on with my former employment, redeeming the personal credibility that sunk with the ship, the paperwork piling up, and an overwhelming fog rising in my brain, staying focused proved to be impossible.

In the best interests of the clients I work with and in order to foster my personal growth in business, I made the decision to join a company of grand credibility. You guessed it, integrity is everything. So what now?

Moving forward is progress. I am evolving through this major life lesson. I am still breathing, and the fresh air continues to clear the fog. Some lessons are learned the hard way, I prefer to call it the scenic route.

I’m Working On It.

It’s a funny feeling, sort of, when you think you’ve overcome your biggest obstacle of the day by 9:30 am, only to realize that your “biggest obstacle”, was really just the calm before the storm.

Today, I went through a roller coaster of emotions ranging from elation to anger back to laughter and then back to a low, all before I had my afternoon tea.

I keep thinking back to all of the amazing coping mechanisms that have been shared with me from friends like Louise Aspden (The Positive Coach) or Jen CB (Believe in your Dream) but all of these feelings flooded me so quickly, I think my so called acquired coping mechanisms actually drowned themselves. So what have I learned from today:

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me

This is one of the first things we learn after a hard days’ work, in grade 1. I don’t know if I knew how important that would be – there were less tears then. It proved truthful today.

I like to think I have built enough character and trust with those I work with – afterall I have some pretty deep rooted core values. I believe in honesty & transparency – if you have a question, you’re probably going to get the most candid answer from me. My personal integrity is worth more to me than any paycheque could bring. A close second to integrity, is accountability. If you show me where I’ve made the mistake, I’m happy to learn from it, apologize, accept that I, too, am not perfect, and move on. That’s the journey of life and business. So what could have possibly gone so wrong.

Well, first and foremost, I made a mistake. I didn’t do my due diligence and I started in a venture that I could have never predicted how it would end. What’s worse, I over-trusted someone and I let them use my name to be the face of the project while everything else was being “taken care of”. I trusted that if I provided A, then B would simply follow. I was sold a bill of goods. I mentioned it before, but I am HUGE on accountability, and so I put myself in a position to be accountable for something  that I had no control over. The personal toll this took on me has affected more than what you see on the surface.

So today, after speaking with so many people that I have had the pleasure working with, some of whom have supported me since day one, I was relieved to know most of them hadn’t wavered when my credibitlity and character were called into question and personally attacked. In light of being transparent, I answered any and all questions, hopefully put to rest their concerns, and some I was able to share a laugh with.

Side note: I haven’t been great at keeping up with the 7 horoscope Apps I have on my phone, but over the past two days I’ve taken some time for some quick and harmless reading. Today was rather inspiring:
“You’re feeling quite confused about something that seems bigger than it really is and your best bet is almost certainly to just chill out and let it proceed however it’s going to proceed. Act later.”
I can’t control what someone says or thinks about me, but I can control how I react and respond. I have never been so graceful in my life.

As of October 18th, 2016, I resigned my positions with the company I named, created, marketed and charmed into the world of specialty advertising. They say you never forget your first – I certainly won’t.
Tomorrow I embark on a new journey in the same industry, with a familiar team and a brand that even I can’t bring down (see, we’re already making jokes about it). I think being on my own taught me a lot – too much to write about in one post. Importantly, I learned that I could be alone, I just don’t want to be.

Looking forward to a new chapter, and stepping through the door that never closed behind me two years ago.