Special Events

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: GIFTS AND FAVORS FOR SPECIAL EVENTS

“GIFTS AND FAVORS keep the memory of the event alive,” says Karl Hein, president of Lake Worth, Fla.-based Airbears & Co. “At the event, {they} help to create atmosphere, especially if they tie in to the party's theme.”

Hein's company sells balloon creations — such as balloon animals and flower arrangements — via its Web site, and also creates balloon gifts as part of an interactive act. “When the guests either actively help in making the gifts or are able to watch their gifts being made, they are not only entertained,” he says, “but have something to take home that reminds them of their experience.”

Commemorating a memorable occasion is also an integral part of the designs of sculptor MK Shannon, president of Oakland, Calif.-based MK Shannon Awards & Rewards. “After 20 years, I've seen unique gifts and awards gain in importance,” Shannon notes. “It seems that people want more sophisticated and creative choices.” She designs unique jewelry and sculptures that are used by event and wedding planners, corporations and nonprofit organizations that are “seeking to give something more than the usual certificate, plaque or trinket,” Shannon says. One of her most popular sculptures is “Wedding Day,” which depicts two embracing figures framed by an abstract heart. Clients often use the sculpture as a topper on wedding cakes, and then remount it on a base to create a keepsake of their special day.

KEEP IT PERSONAL

“I see and hear that personalization is the rage with weddings, and now with other special events,” says Bob Grove, sales and public relations director of Speaking Roses, based in Bountiful, Utah. “Companies are crazy about seeing their logos splashed everywhere with conference themes and slogans.”

His company developed the technology to print detailed images — including photographs — on fresh flowers, which has been a hit with such clients as event and wedding planners, promotions and incentives distributors, and venues. A popular option for weddings is imprinting the date and names of the bride and groom on flowers, and the imprinted roses were recently used at the wedding of Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter from the reality television show “The Bachelorette.”

Personalization is also one of the selling points of the Digital Easel, a new portable photo booth system that was “designed specifically for party rentals and special events,” says Mike Kasbohm, president of Minneapolis-based S.T.I. Entertainment. The system features a choice of five different software/print packages, with the Foto-Fun-Strips — two sets of perforated strips that can include custom headers and tear-offs — as one of the more popular options, Kasbohm says. The software programs will soon feature image-capturing capabilities that will allow guests to go online after the event and order any images they like printed on keepsake items.

Ellen Motlin, CFO of Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based Chocolate by Design, which manufactures more than 400 different chocolate novelties and party favors, says that she has noticed that people today are not only asking for company logos imprinted on chocolate bars and coins, but for event-specific printing on the ribbons and boxes holding the treats. When helping people choose memorable items that will stand out, “We always try to advise our customers to pick colors and items to complement their event,” Motlin says. She cites the chocolate seashells with a candy “pearl” in the middle that the company made for the American Museum of Natural History's Pearl Exhibit as an example of how a well-chosen favor can enhance an event.

LIGHT MAKES RIGHT

When it comes to hot trends for favors, “anything that lights up the party and the people adds to the excitement,” notes Robby Levy, senior vice president of merchandising for Freeport, N.Y.-based Sherman Specialty Co., which sells dance floor giveaways, theme items and lighthearted accessories. She says that her company has witnessed a huge response to light-up items such as flashing LED necklaces, magnets and bracelets, as well as its new, glowing margarita cups.

Terry Hickey, vice president of sales and marketing for San Diego-based Litecubes LLC, agrees, noting that the “use of light-up products in all sorts of ways” addresses the “greater need to create atmosphere or work-specific themes” for today's special events. He manufactures Litecubes — plastic light-up ice cubes that were just used with great success at the Opening Night Party of this year's The Special Event trade show in Las Vegas. The Litecubes — which feature variable light modes and have a battery life of 30 hours — are available in seven colors to add a splash of fun to beverages from colas to cocktails.

Versatility is also something that customers should keep in mind, according to Jill Flynn, president and owner of San Mateo, Calif.-based Glimmers Inc. The company specializes in upscale, light-up exclusive designs such as twinkling heart and star place card holders, napkin rings and clip-on party favors. Flynn says that her most popular items are the clip-on stars: “They start out as a table decoration — you clip them to a glass, or to a napkin — and then people discover they can clip them to themselves, and they become a wonderful party favor.” She adds, “They take replaceable batteries, so you can use them again and again.”

Finally, when using gifts and favors to add a special touch to an event, “It is a great idea to {use favors to} accent stages of the party rather than doing it all at once,” Levy says. “Keep the surprises going to add to the excitement throughout the night.”

RESOURCES

Airbears & Co., 866/WE-TWIST (938-9478); Chocolate by Design, 800/536-3618; Glimmers Inc., 800/578-8276; Litecubes LLC, 858/539-3912; MK Shannon Awards & Rewards, 510/234-6765; Sherman Specialty Co., 516/867-4426; Speaking Roses, 866/400-ROSE (7673); S.T.I. Entertainment, 866/226-3082

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