Name tags are compulsory in customer service positions and at corporate events, helping to bridge the divide between employees and clients, and between colleagues who may not know each other. But gone are the days of unimaginative badges that leave unsightly pin holes in the wearer’s shirt. Today’s businesses demand name tag options that go beyond strict functionality to extend their brand, emote style and are even saved as souvenirs of an event or experience.

Melissa Cannon, customer service and product safety specialist at supplier Ads on Magnets (PPAI 491494), says that name badges continue to be popular in the promotional products industry, and that customers are searching for unique products. “Whether that means different shapes or badges with added function, we try to keep up with the requests of our customers and their clients by thinking of new and creative name badges,” she says.

“Magnetic name badges are popular since they do not puncture the clothing and are easy to put on and remove,” adds Cannon. “Different industries need badges that match their field and their intended promotional message, so that may mean an elegant metal badge for restaurants or banks, and an eyeglasses-holder badge for a gym or dental office. Multipurpose is appealing in any product, but making a name badge this way allows companies to have many different options that are also functional.”

Lanyards that hold a name badge or key card have long been popular due to the ease of employees wearing them around their necks. They also allow the potential addition of heavier items, like keys, and guarantee a uniform look among wearers—because who hasn’t wondered if the tag goes on the left or the right? 

Businesses often favor lanyards because they offer more opportunity for branding and ingenuity. Even Lady Gaga is getting in on the action—the lanyards attached to her recent tour’s VIP passes were pink imprinted iPhone charging cables, much to the delight of her fans.

Diane Katzman, owner of supplier Diane Katzman Design (PPAI 396045), says, “Distributors and clients are increasingly looking at lanyards as keepsakes rather than just badge holders. It’s a great way to keep a brand fresh and a logo vibrant in a memorable and beautiful way. That’s why we’re asked to design retail-inspired, beaded lanyards that someone will wear after the event or conference. It’s a promotional product that is functional during the function—and for years afterwards.”

#If The Badge Fits

Josh Robbins, co-owner of supplier Vault Promotions (PPAI 547406), explains the “crazy badge” campaign that stole the show at The PPAI Expo 2018.

One of the challenges we have as a manufacturer of name badges and name plates is to garner attention at shows. On a show floor filled with amazing items, it’s easy to see small rectangles hanging in a booth and walk on by. Coupled with the associated stigma of selling name badges (lots of work/invoicing for generally smaller orders), it motivated us to do something unique that would help people enjoy the item, along with raising more awareness of our company. We’re a relatively new supplier, so name recognition is critical for us. We needed a solution that would not only drive traffic and business but also help our name to be remembered and associated with name badges.

We’ve had great success showcasing our humor, lightheartedness and overall ease of doing business, so we decided to use this same approach to create memorable badges that people would enjoy. The idea was to come up with a number of funny, unique, borderline-offensive titles that we would print on the badges. Armed with a pad of paper, several beers and a one-sided football game in the background, we started brainstorming. We needed enough creative, relatable titles so that once people started looking through them, they would find badges that fit personalities and people they knew. They had to be funny enough to stop people in their tracks and make them continue to dig to see what other outrageous titles they could find, hopefully creating a crowd. 

Although we would have been satisfied with people grabbing handfuls and dispersing them to their entire office staff back home (hopefully to include sales reps and inside reps that couldn’t attend the show), we wanted to also incorporate a way to tie it in online and back to our booth where we could have a more in-depth conversation about our company and the ways we use technology to overcome the hurdles of selling badges. We added a social media campaign to encourage people to come by our booth to register, or to post an image online wearing their badges. 

The badges were a huge hit. People were cracking up at the ridiculous titles and showing them to coworkers, exclaiming who at their office fits the bill. We had so many positive comments at the booth from distributors, suppliers and show personnel. Many took to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with photos of them with their badges. Images ranged from people putting them in various places around Vegas, to dressing up in full costume, to placing them on their dogs’ collars at home. The online entries were unique and just another opportunity for us to connect with new people online, start a dialogue and hopefully establish partnerships. Those with the most creative entries received a $100 gift card for their participation. 

The post-show response has been incredible as well. We’ve received numerous calls from people we never had the opportunity to meet at the show looking for badges and personalized items simply because a badge was sitting on their desk or given to them. We’ve also had many conversations with people about them running a similar promotion for their events and using funny badges as conversation starters.

We’ve enjoyed many conversations about our company, numerous quotes and quite a few orders in the immediate aftermath. I’m sure there will be many more of these opportunities in the future as we strive to become a common name in the badge industry. Never underestimate the power of humor. — JR

Name Game

Over the years, there has been pushback over the merits of wearing name tags. Forbes reports that a handful of five-star boutique hotels are experimenting with the absence of name tags. The theory is that name tags create an artificial barrier between employees and customers, reducing the likelihood of genuine engagement between the two groups. By eliminating name tags, the hope is that guests will feel more at home, as if they are conversing with a friend or neighbor.

However, most people readily acknowledge that they have trouble remembering names and thus appreciate the usefulness of name tags, particularly in group settings. According to Psychology Today, one reason human beings fail at name recall is that names are different than ordinary words: they don’t necessarily signify anything about a person, and they are normally low-frequency words that are not top of mind. 

An article in The Atlantic also cites the “next in line” effect, which occurs when someone is introduced to a large number of people at once. Essentially, the brain goes on overload and focuses strictly on the individual’s own speech and mannerisms, not the hard work of remembering names. 

Human failings aside, name tags also offer practical benefits such as differentiating employees from fellow customers, ensuring accountability of (and, on the flip side, giving credit to) employees for their actions, and acting as a simple tool of introduction and conversation.   

Case Studies

Show Your True Colors
A health care non-profit was looking for a badge holder to promote its message during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. The purple retractable badge holder matched the national awareness color, and the eye-catching departure from the organization’s everyday badges drew extra attention to its message.
Source: BIC Graphic

A Solid Security Solution
A large metropolitan hospital was seeking a solution to the following problem: it had many employees who needed to be in the building around the clock; however, some were not authorized to be in all areas of the building. For the safety of the employees and patients, each employee was issued a laminated photo identification badge with a bar code that was scanned when entering and exiting authorized areas. The hospital also utilized the Badge Warehouse Release Program (an online program that allows badges to be reordered as employees are hired, with no minimums.)
Source: Beacon Promotions

Personalized Perfection
A chain of nursing homes, all with different location names, needed employee badges that would be highly visible to elderly patients and would show each employee’s position and length of service. Digitally imprinted badges met all these requirements, since the information could be customized for each person. The Badge Warehouse Release Program (an online program that allows badges to be reordered as employees are hired, with no minimums) was used to handle small quantity orders from the various locations.
Source: Permark, Inc.

The Elephant In The Room
When the city of Cleveland, Ohio, won the bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC), organizers had the daunting task of issuing identity credential badges for over 26,000 delegates, VIPs, members of the media and additional guests for all the onsite and offsite events, venues and suites.The client chose durable, waterproof badges with unique designs for each event and venue. The badges were color coded with a valid date and, in some cases, the event time frame. At the distributor’s suggestion, the organizer also provided matching parking hang tags to event attendees. 
Source: Printing Concepts

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.