SHRM Show Amusements

Guest post by Kathy Goodin-Mitchell, SPHR, PPAI Director, Human Resources

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) hosted more than 13,000 human resources professionals during its annual conference in Orlando, Florida last month. This year’s hot topics included human resources strategy and leadership, healthcare reform, workplace flexibility, national and California-specific employment regulation, social media recruiting; and much more.

HR professionals are one of the top users of promotional products within today’s business enterprise. A variety of promotional products are used as engagement tools for employee relations, training and education, wellness, motivation and incentives programs. And at this year’s SHRM Conference, promotional products were featured front and center—before, during and after the event. Here are a few of the stand out observations from this year’s SHRM event.

SHRM Best Of

The best use of promotional products was by CareerBuilder®, the largest online job site in the U.S. and a global leader in human capital solutions, which employed an integrated approach using experiential, direct marketing, digital, social, multimedia and promotional products to create the ultimate tradeshow environment, CareerBuilder World: Where recruiting dreams come true.

The CareerBuilder exhibit brought a magical amusement park experience to the thousands of SHRM attendees and featured everything you love about amusement parks – a claw game, a water gun game, a roller coaster photo op, a souvenir (promotional products) shop, traditional amusement park food and more to get visitors attention and keep it.

The engagement experience began before attendees arrived in the form of a paper lollipop mailed to homes, teasing a chance to win a pair of orange Chuck Taylor Converse when the prize code was scanned at the CareerBuilder booth. Regretfully, this attendee didn’t win!

It’s ok, though—the paper lollipops were quickly exchanged for the real thing, which had another promotional message. The booth was set up like an amusement park—we were a captive audience and many of us went back again and again.

Honorable Mentions

  • The must-have conference product was the brightly colored and well designed 4imprint® tote bag, a big winner with the female attendees, who made up 75 percent of the conference attendees.
  • The best use of a branded premium product was by the relocation firm who gave out GUND® plush toys.
  • There were lots of imprinted pens, bags, books, lens cleaners, mints, markers, first-aid kits, tech tools and munchies. Many were customized to highlight company brands, like the Papa John’s Pizza sticky notes.
  • VitalSmarts® had a great idea to distribute its New York Times bestselling books.
  • RecruitMilitary® distributed useful jump drives in the shape of a key, but missed an opportunity to share more information by leaving the drive blank.
  • Many mailed collateral to attendees’ homes prior to the event, but those that did not include a prize or gift incentive did not perform as well.

The parting themes for SHRM 2014…get engaged and be engaging!

L.E.A.D. Goes To Pennsylvania

Guest post by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

Last week in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, PPAI launched what will be the first of many Local Legislative Education and Action Day events. PPAI’s government relations team worked alongside members from the Commonwealth to reach out to state legislators and share the story of the promotional products industry.

Alongside the Three Rivers Advertising Specialty Association and the Philadelphia Area Promotional Products Association, PPAI staff and industry leaders spent a full day conducting 15 meetings with state representatives and senators. L.E.A.D. Local takes its cue from PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day held in Washington, D.C. each year; this single day spent in Harrisburg was dedicated to educating state officials about the scope of this industry within the state and in their own districts.

The elected officials with whom we met all expressed gratitude for being able to meet with industry members. As is typical among legislators who have never met promotional products professionals, most of the officials our group met in Harrisburg did not realize that this was an industry, let alone one that is responsible for generating $1.7 billion in their own back yard. Many legislators showed their eagerness to learn more about our industry and scheduled future factory visits and tours of regional trade shows scheduled within their districts.

The connections our members made in Harrisburg are integral to our industry’s legislative success in Pennsylvania. This event opened the door for the group to learn about a bill being drafted by a senator that would eliminate all forms of gifts given to state officials EXCEPT promotional products. The senator, Lisa Baker, said our presence in Harrisburg solidified her decision to exclude promotional products from the language.

It is PPAI’s goal to continue working with regional associations to conduct L.E.A.D. Local events nationwide over the next five years. It will then be up to the regional associations to continue taking members to their state houses each year. Maintaining relationships with state leaders is a key to success at this level. PPAI will continue to support this program in the coming years, but it is ultimately up to industry leaders to keep the conversation moving within the respective state.

It is important for our industry to stay involved with government leaders. PPAI has the resources to help you stay connected to your state officials. Follow the link below to look up your state officials contact information.

Who Represents You?

You can also send a letter to your state officials that introduces them to the industry presence in their district. Click here to send information about our industry.

For any questions about PPAI’s government relations work, contact Seth Barnett at sethb@PPAI.org

PPAI Responds to ABC Chicago’s Report on Government Spending on Promotional Products

Take Action: Tell your members of Congress that you support responsible spending and the effective use of promotional products to promote essential government programs – and urge them to do the same. Write your representatives now.

 

Last week, ABC affiliate WLS-TV Channel 7 aired an investigative report, “I-Team Treasure Hunt Turns Up Millions In Taxpayer Funded Trinkets,” on wasteful government spending on promotional products, which targeted a local PPAI member.

PPAI answered the report with a response, which ABC 7 agreed to post on their website, supporting responsible spending and the effective use of promotional products to promote essential government programs. Thus, allowing viewers to consider the facts for themselves.

I encourage you to write your representatives to share how extensive industry research demonstrates that promotional products deliver the highest rate of reach, recall and response making them one of the most effective advertising and marketing media for all advertisers, including federal, state and local governments.

Thank you for your support.

Paul

A First Quarter 2014 Update

“The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” – Mark Twain

Dear Colleague,

As you may know, I send a quarterly update to a small group of industry professionals offering an informal review of happenings over the most recent quarter and giving some highlights of what’s to come. If you or a colleague would like to be included in the quarterly email, send me a note to paulb@ppai.org and I will get you on the distribution list.

It’s About Protecting And Growing Our Industry
Next week, nearly 70 industry members and I will head to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the power of promotional products among end buyers (advertisers and marketers) and the general public. All of us will share our stories with members of Congress and their staffs during Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). These meetings—more than 250 in all—are designed to ensure that representatives for every U.S. state hear those stories.

Don’t feel left out that you are not making the trip—we have a simple way for you to participate without even leaving your desk. Please join us in reaching out to senators and representatives by participating in the L.E.A.D. virtual fly-in; send an email to your member of Congress in support of the industry–click here to connect with Capitol Hill.

During the week I will also be meeting with staff and counsel from the Direct Marketing Association, The Advertising Coalition, American Advertising Federation and the American Apparel & Footwear Association. We share common issues and opportunities with each of these organizations, ranging from import regulations to deductibility of advertising  dollars. Meetings with the advertising/marketing organizations will also focus on recognition of promotional products as a proven and cost effective advertising medium and to grow our share of advertising spend.

Promotional Products Work! Week
You can also advocate for your business and the industry on a local level by participating in Promotional Products Work! Week, April 21-25. This weeklong event is an invaluable opportunity to share what promotional products can do for local businesses, organizations, municipal agencies, schools and more. Your businesses are an integral part of your communities, so please participate in PPW!Week by hosting open houses and tours, speaking at group meetings and presenting to college classes. Check in with what companies have done in the past, and learn more about how you can be part of this great event, at http://www.promotionalproductswork.org/week.

Ever Been In The Right Place At The Wrong Time?
A key message delivered at The PPAI Expo 2014 was the date shift for The PPAI Expo 2015 to a Sunday-Thursday schedule. By now you’ve seen the clever ads and videos announcing the day shift of The PPAI Expo. If not, check them out here.

The shift from a Wednesday-Friday trade show to a Tuesday-Thursday pattern is one of cooperation and of strategy.  Our long-time partners at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center approached us about the shift based on some scheduling opportunities they saw on their end.  After researching it from both supplier and distributor perspectives, we found distributors were neutral to positive on the shift and that supplier exhibitors would largely benefit from the shift with at least 80 percent seeing a reduction in the costs of material handling and labor. Visit here for more information on the 2015 Expo.

We’ve tried to anticipate every potential opportunity and obstacle to make the date change as valuable as possible for exhibitors and attendees, but I encourage you to contact me directly if there’s anything about this change that might keep you from having the most successful show ever.

You Were Certainly At The Right Place At The Right Time
Looking back at this year’s show, it is evident that you, our biggest fans and most engaged members, made The PPAI Expo 2014 a success. Our numbers are confirmed and we had just shy of 1,400 exhibiting companies in roughly 3,250 booths on the show floor and more than 11,500 industry distributor attendees from around the country and abroad.

The Feedback page in the March and April issues of PPB features a few comments from satisfied supplier and distributor attendees. I was pleased to read the note from Josh Gerak, president of Adventure Trading, who wrote: “Thank you for hosting yet another great trade show in Las Vegas. We Found the PPAI Expo to be another awesome venue for my company to meet promotional distributors. We have exhibited at the Expo for the past six years and it seems to keep having tremendous impact for us.”

Thank you to Josh and to all that shared their thoughts and ideas. Not everyone had a perfect show, but I work with a team of trade-show professionals who work all year long to make The PPAI Expo the most valuable, respected and cost-effective business-building event in the industry. Expo is the crown jewel of the Association and if you have any ideas on how to make it even better let me know. 

Be Prepared To Be At The Right Place With New Opportunities At A Different Time
As you’ve likely heard, changes are also in store for Expo East, which in 2015 will co-locate with the Imprinted Sportswear Show (ISS) at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The show also will shift calendar dates, moving from May to March 12-15, 2015.

This co-location with ISS will allow our attendees to take advantage of the same quality education and trade-show floor they have come to expect from Expo East and experience the best the decorated apparel industry has to offer in one convenient trade show. We expect the co-location of ISS Atlantic City and Expo East to be the beginning of what will be the show to attend in the Northeast for all companies in the decorated apparel and promotional products industries. In fact, if Expo East and ISS each deliver an attendance on par with past shows, Expo East will immediately become the second largest event in the promotional products industry – second only to The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas.  

Building Bridges And Strong Relationships
In addition to helping maintain strong ties with regional associations across the United States and North America, developing and strengthening our ties with promotional products organizations across the globe continues to be a priority for the Association. To that end, fellow PPAI staff members and I have met with several international counterparts since the start of 2014.

We kicked off the year with visits to the Trade Only Show in the U.K. and the PSI Show in Germany. More recently we participated in The Promotional Products Professionals of Canada convention in Toronto, and the AMPPRO Show in Mexico City. In every case, these events have given us the opportunity to meet and collaborate with the host show organizers as well as the international organizations visiting the shows from the region. For example, at PSI we met with the European Promotional Products Association (EPPA) an umbrella organization which represents European promotional products associations in 11 European countries.

These visits are a valuable opportunity to share knowledge and information, and to cooperatively ensure that promotional products companies throughout the world are leading the charge in areas of product safety, fair labor conditions, technology and industry advocacy.

The relationships we’ve built during these trips have also allowed PPAI to serve as a resource for companies needing partners abroad. For instance, I’ve had a number of distributors looking for partners to help facilitate a local customer with an international event. I’ve successfully connected PPAI members with my association peers – in countries throughout the world. 

A Focus On Technology
When you hear the word “technology,” what’s the first thing that pops into your head? For most of us it implies geeky IT staff trying to help us remove the malware downloaded from some of our more adventurous “shopping” sites. Okay, maybe that’s just me…

Seriously, in an industry strongly rooted in relationships and tradition, technology and innovation are often usually placed on the backburner. But at the same time, we are all aware that technology has the ability to streamline and transform the way many of us do business. 

Dale Denham, MAS+, and the PPAI Technology Committee understand the challenges and opportunities facing our industry and have helped us launch the inaugural PPAI Technology Summit during Expo East in Atlantic City, May 21-22.
The Technology Summit will bring technology leaders from across the promotional products industry together to tackle these challenges and opportunities. The two-day summit is designed specifically for individuals in IT leadership positions with additional topics of discussion ranging from cloud computing to open source collaboration.

I encourage every company interested in understanding how technology can grow their business to join the technology conversation by participating in this inaugural event. Registration can be accessed here

Product Safety Awareness Program
In the decade or so I have been with PPAI, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve ‘required’ a member company do to something above and beyond the normal association membership criteria in order to engage with PPAI or gain access to the marketplace. That recently changed when the Association took a strong stand in an effort to protect and grow the industry. 

At this year’s Expo we introduced the Product Safety Awareness Program (PSAP), an initiative requiring every member company wanting to gain access to the PPAI marketplace (trade-show exhibit space, sponsorships, advertising, etc.) – regardless of membership category – to complete a minimum of four hours of product safety education no later than the start of Expo East 2015 in Atlantic City.

It has been a little less than three months since the announcement and I am happy with the progress to date. Out of the 1,400 supplier, distributor, business services and multi-line representative member companies required to meet the education requirement more than 225 companies have already become PSAP Early Adopters. Those companies have fulfilled all the requirements of the program.  Another 100 companies have confirmed their participation in the program and nearly 400 companies have identified Product Safety Ambassadors, another requirement of the program. Progress.

That is not to say that the program has not been without its critics. Some companies believe four hours isn’t enough to make a difference. Others feel their product line or current processes should allow them to ‘opt-out’ of the program. Others just don’t like being told how to run their businesses. Each of those arguments has merit and many companies have programs and expertise in place that goes far beyond the new requirements. However, the PPAI Board feels that the issue of product safety and regulatory awareness is so compelling and important to the industry that only the strongest statement supported by complete compliance to the program can suffice. And I wholeheartedly agree.

Earlier this year, a high-ranking staff member at the Consumer Product Safety Commission sent me a personal note congratulating PPAI on the development and implementation of the Product Safety Awareness Program. He wrote, “I can’t tell you how often I hold out PPAI as an example to many groups that call me. Thank you (again) for your industry’s proactive approach and your willingness to be a resource.” Our leadership is being noticed.

Companies have until Expo East in March of 2015 to meet the PSAP requirements. I’d personally like to see us achieve 100% compliance by Expo in January 2015 so we’re making it as easy as possible for companies to quickly and conveniently and achieve the Product Safety Aware status.

Over the coming months, PPAI and our regional association partners will offer dozens of opportunities to achieve the PSAP designation through live and on-line learning platforms.  We’ve revamped the PPAI website to include step-by-step directions on achieving Product Safety Aware status, and the FAQs have been updated with answers to the questions we’ve received over the past 90 days. We’re even developing separate FAQ’s focusing on specific industry categories and segments.

I think you know by now that I put my money and time where my mouth is. I commit that we will do everything possible to help you and your colleagues meet the deadline. Want me to sit through the four hours of education with you? Just ask. It may be on-demand webinars from 11 pm – 3 am or over a weekend, but you have my commitment. It is that important to the association and to me.

I know that this small email group represents the proverbial choir so while I know you understand what I am saying maybe you can help me preach this message to the thousands of other companies that need to hear the message.

A Request For Information 
Thanks for taking the time to read this far into this update. I have one more favor to ask before you go.

Providing useable, statistical information to our industry is a top priority for PPAI. I thank you for helping me fulfill my commitment to gather and share relevant, reliable research. We have launched the 2014 Q1 Sales Barometer, and invitations to participate will hit supplier and distributor inboxes this week. In order to ensure a strong response, which will generate a more accurate snapshot of the industry, I’m asking you to help me spread the word.

I’ve posted the links to the Distributor and Supplier barometer below. Please forward it to your industry contacts and ask each of them to join you in participating. 

DISTRIBUTORS – Click Here

SUPPLIERS – Click Here

Now About The Baby With The Wet Diaper
Finally, I want to leave you all with some words on change. In a quarter where we’ve see announcements about a world power snapping up beachfront property from a neighboring country, a huge passenger jet going missing and even a supplier company buying a distributor, it is obvious that change is inevitable and largely uncontrollable. How we respond to the change is within our control and what will determine how the industry evolves.

We here at PPAI are experiencing change as well, in many areas.

Bob McLean, our executive vice president, and Gary Slavonic, our director of business development, continue the process of integrating our sales processes so that PPAI products and services are sold by internal sales representatives and key-account managers who can build stronger relationships with members.

Anne Lardner-Stone, PPAI’s director of public affairs, and the Product Responsibility Action Group, are going full-throttle on implementing the Product Safety Awareness Program and working with members to help them see the benefit of a ‘required’ education program to help protect and grow our industry.

PPB
Editor Tina Berres Filipski and her team just mailed the first redesigned issue of PPB magazine and are driving downloads of the new PPAI Media app. You can download the app here.

Darel Cook, director of expositions, and the Expo staff finalized what we expect to be a successful co-location negotiation and agreement with ISS.

And, a small group of board members just completed interviews with three candidates for our new outside counsel.

At PPAI we have other large and small initiatives under way that will change the way we develop and deliver products, services and value to our members. Some of these initiatives are in response to a changing business environment. Others are more forward reaching and strategic, and focused on keeping us ahead of the curve. Some of the changes will be visible to members and others will remain largely unseen.

Regardless, as an organization we’ve become more and more comfortable recognizing the need for and embracing change. I am confident that you are undergoing similar dynamics in your own businesses. If you’re not I suspect you will be soon – like it or not.

Gary shared the following column from Inc. magazine with his team recently, and I think it was worth sharing with you too. There’s nothing in this list that we don’t already know but it certainly is good to reminder that change is inevitable and that we must evolve to meet new challenges.

Enjoy the read.

Thank You
I want you to know I appreciate your time and your support as well as your willingness to be an advocate for the association and the industry. Have a terrific second quarter… and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you grow your business.

Demand For #SXSW Promotional Products Captures Event Headlines; Positive Proof Promotional Products Work!

South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences and Festivals offer a variety of events for anyone interested in music, film and interactive technologies. Year after year, this huge trendsetting event serves as a launching pad for new creative content. New media presentations, music showcases and film screenings providing buzz-generating exposure for creators and compelling entertainment for audiences. Conference panel discussions present a forum for learning; business activity thrives at the trade shows and global networking opportunities abound.

Austin’s relaxed atmosphere serves as the perfect backdrop for SXSW. Intellectual and creative intermingling among industry leaders sparks new ideas and carves the path for the future of each ever-evolving field, long after the events’ conclusion.

So, you can see why promotional products are the perfect marketing tool for SXSW creators and marketers to share strategically crafted branded products with this highly sought-after target audience.

I wanted take this opportunity to share with you our thoughts on the news and goings on at Austin’s SXSW event this week.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Promotional Products Association International has issued a statement from President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, regarding screened luggage at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport during SXSW and his rebuttal of the claim by a Palo Alto tech firm that “most of the (SXSW) freebies end up in the attic, if not the trash.

“It turns out the news reports of delays at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport were due to the fact that SXSW event goers were actually taking their promotional products home and not trashing them.

The TSA has since issued this travel tip recommending that airline passengers leaving SXSW with lots of freebies should take them in their carry-on luggage so they can get through security faster.

Regarding the Palo Alto tech firm’s claim that ‘most of the SXSW freebies end up in the attic or trash,’ Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) and the promotional products industry wholly support the donation of unused promotional products to help those in need, and are glad the Austin-based Foundation for the Homeless is the beneficiary of the generosity and compassion of South by Southwest (#SXSW) attendees and its marketers.

Working with promotional products professionals, savvy marketers design and produce strategically branded promotional campaigns to reach and appeal to a highly targeted audience in a tangible, long-lasting and memorable manner. Promotional products are used to educate, support worthy causes, recognize and reward employee achievements, support legislation and inspire action. In cases where promotional products are not needed, consumers report a pass-along rate of 36 percent—a lucrative benefit for marketers.

Promotional Products Fact Sheet

Promotional Products Fact Sheet

PPAI’s more than 40 years of industry research supports the fact that promotional products are one of, if not the most valued of all advertising media. In fact, eight in 10 consumers own promotional products, keeping them for more than a year in their kitchen (91%), workspace (74%), bedroom (55%) and in pockets or purses (24%) because they are useful. For marketers, the efficacy of promotional products provides the best ROI in the business, delivering an 88-percent brand recall and driving 85 percent of recipients to do business with the brand after receiving a branded product.

Whether through research or anecdotal evidence, it is clear promotional products have value to everyone, otherwise, they would not be distributed to both their intended audiences and to unintended, but equally valued, audiences—audiences who will find their original purpose to be just as useful and for which they are equally appreciative.

This appreciation of the function, form and fit of promotional products is why we, as an industry, strive to ensure unused products make their way into the hands of those who can use them most—teacher resource centers, animal shelters, community outreach organizations and, yes, homeless shelters.

The promotional products industry donates, contributes and volunteers in support of the communities it serves every day with literally thousands of products, millions of dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours supporting worthy causes, schools and organizations, such as the Kids In Need Foundation, Merced Rescue Mission, Community Health Charities Minnesota, Richmond State School for Success and many more.”

Spread the word, promotional products work!

Paul

***This Is Not A Test*** Take Action NOW!

Earlier today, Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) of the House Ways and Means Committee released his proposal for tax reform. Among many items that address corporate and personal taxes is one section that would directly affect the promotional products industry.

Camp has proposed a plan for amortization of advertising expenses, a move that follows former Sen. Max Baucus’ who released a discussion draft late last year that would allow businesses to expense only half of their advertising costs in a given year and amortize the remaining half over time.

In a press conference earlier today, Camp said that in order for corporate tax rates to be lowered, the amortization for advertising expenses must be one trade-off. Camp’s plan would create an amortization schedule over a 10-year period; 80 percent of advertising would be deductible in the first year, then 70 percent and on, down to the 50 percent number. Until now, businesses have been allowed to deduct 100 percent of their advertising costs in the year they are incurred.

This is a harmful plan for anyone in the advertising business. We as advertising industry professionals need to take action to help educate Congress about why the advertising deduction is necessary and why it must not be changed.

You can add your voice to ours and tell Congress this is not an acceptable “trade-off” and the deductibility of advertising must remain as it is today.

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Delivering Confidence & Meeting Customer Expectations

A Special Message to PPAI Exhibitors, Advertisers, Sponsors

At The PPAI Expo 2014, held January 13-17, we introduced the Product Safety Awareness Program. Developed by the Product Responsibility Advisory Group (PRAG), the program is designed to foster an industry-wide commitment and a culture where companies like yours are not only aware of product safety but are also engaged in the discussion—a discussion we believe will lead to confidence across every level in our channel.

Over the past several years, PPAI has become a respected leader in the product safety arena. We began this journey by providing hundreds of industry companies with timely and relevant product safety education courses through our professional development programs. We’ve established relationships with product safety agencies. And, we’ve made it a priority. While we are proud of our efforts, we feel we’ve only taken the initial steps in tackling this complex issue. Now we are upping the ante.

The program requires every member company wanting to gain access to the PPAI marketplace (exhibiting at a PPAI event, advertising in a PPAI publication, and/or sponsoring PPAI in any way) – regardless of membership category – to designate a Product Safety Ambassador who must complete a minimum of 4 hours of product safety education no later than the start of Expo East 2015 in Atlantic City. It’s that simple.

For PPAI, this initiative is one important part of a larger Pathway to Confidence initiative that also focuses on creating awareness and promoting the PPAI Product Safety Awareness Programeffectiveness of promotional products. But most important, we want to help you by giving promotional products buyers confidence not only in the power of the medium but in its safety. You’ve heard our mantra before, Visibility, Viability, Credibility and Community. This is the next step – Commitment, Culture and Confidence. We cannot have one without the other. Our customers say so.

Obviously a topic of this magnitude has more detail, so I invite you to take a look at the Product Safety Aware Program FAQs. For more information, visit www.ppai.org. I strongly believe this program will make a strong and bold statement both to and on behalf of our membership and the industry.

Please contact me directly with questions or concerns at PaulB@ppai.org or call 972-258-3050.

I look forward to your continued support and participation.

Paul