The story of Noah’s Ark is so captivating to me. Noah had an impenetrable belief system. He was pretty much the first person to get an informal degree in planning and project management. He had vision. And undeniable hope.

Yet, the story of Noah’s Ark is also disturbing. As a child, I remember having nightmares about the end of the world through a massive storm and flooding. Movies like Armageddon, Evan Almighty (with my Steve Carrell doppelgänger), Mad Max, I am Legend, The Road, Dr. Strangelove, Independence Day, and Planet of The Apes have also embedded a degree of fear into my psyche.

[By the way, I will take the lampooning Shaun of the Dead over every apocalyptic movie for its genius comedy, romance, action, and the best unrelenting zombies except when met head-on with a cricket bat.]

So, I have this sense of obligation to do my part to combat our pending doom. Where I play some iteration of Joseph Campbell’s hero in The Hero’s Journey. Yet, I am just a tiny and momentary hero, doing my small part by recycling and posting opinions on causes I stand for on the Book of Faces. Mostly, I just try and treat people with kindness and respect and hope those actions keep the trolls and zombies at bay.

The folklore of Noah’s story and these ominous movie thrillers got me thinking. If the apocalypse does come, what would I jam into an ark? My list started with Floyd, my family’s neutered dog. And then I kind of got thrown because of the whole neutering thing.

And I started to respect Noah’s hard work and swift action even more. Creating a life-affirming apocalyptic getaway plan was not an easy – or necessary – exercise for me. So, I reeled my thinking in a bit and began to consider the branded merchandise industry. “What type of SWAG (Serendipitous, Wondrous, Adventuresome Gifts) would I load onto Brand Fuel’s Ark?”  

Well, speaking of “serendipitousness,” my good friend and fellow marketer (who often wins my “tests of spontaneity”), Liz Ruf, visited our showroom the other day. Liz asked me one of my favorite questions and where my answer is never the same. She asked, “What is your favorite promotional product?”

And those things kind of align: my favorite branded gifts + what I’d put in an Ark before the great flood wiped out our earth.

Yes! We do have a bar in our showroom!

My answer took less than 2 minutes, which if you know me, is pretty much a miracle. There are so many amazing things in our industry and there is new merch coming at us all the time, so answering with one favorite product would be like you sharing what your favorite song was.

And Liz can corroborate my answer. I told her that at Brand Fuel, we try to focus on “Strategy First and Product Second.”

From a strategic standpoint, I responded with the following:

  1. Utilitarian Marketing. The best gifts are often useful gifts. Marketing’s goal is to make the recipient’s temporal lobe your friend. Associate your branded gift with positive memory recall with each use, again and again.
  2. Great Design. Make your giveaway less about you (with your big logo slapped on it) and more about the recipient. You can (and should) do this through beautiful, thoughtful design with secondary, discreet branding. This is a trend I’d like to see.
  3. Sustainability. This has become a buzzword, but I think that’s a good thing. If you give a recipient branded merch, it better last. The longer it lasts, the more impressions you have. Plus, less brandfill – your logo in the landfill.
  4. Return on Community ROC. While ROI (return on investment) is the holy grail of marketing, consider “Return on Community.” Imagine gifting something that is associated with helping the world. Classic cause-marketing with a percentage going back to a cause the recipient cares about is what I am talking about. Your merch as an instrument for good in this world.

Pair any of the above gift options with digital destinations to reinforce the item through Phygital Marketing and you will win!

With strategy in mind above, these are my favorite products du jour:

  1. Utilitarian Marketing: Kleen Kanteen
  2. Great Design: Full color printed bag and both sides of this Puffy Blanket
  3. Sustainability: Refresh Glass (our friend, Ray Delmuro, is on his way to rescuing 10 million wine bottles and repurposing them into beautiful drinkware that lasts!)
  4. Return on Community + Phygital Marketing: Check out these Kitted Candles, Soaps, and Coffee handcrafted by our nonprofit social enterprise friends, HHP Lift, who employ underserved communities through fair wage employment and workforce development

So, now that we have talked about zombies, doppelgängers, neutered dogs, and my friend Liz who wins my tests of spontaneity, I have to ask. What would you put in your ark?

Danny Rosin, co-President, Brand Fuel