PPAI Debuts ‘Product Persona’ Industry Branding Campaign

Earlier this week, PPAI announced a new buyer outreach branding strategy, ‘Product Persona’. The campaign gives voice and personality to promotional products and is designed to inspire and engage buyers while forging connections with promotional products consultants. The campaign’s ads star popular promotional products and will increase traffic to PPAI’s buyer-facing website, (PromotionalProductsWork.org), educate buyers and drive business referrals to promotional products consultants.

We debuted the campaign earlier this month during Advertising Week in New York. The campaign was also showcased at the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) Annual Conference in New Orleans and the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) International Conference in Washington, D.C.

Read the ‘Product Persona’ announcement published in PPB Newslink earlier this week.

This past Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to speak directly with hundreds of promotional consultants, suppliers, buyers and marketers about the power of promotional products during the Michigan Promotional Products Association’s (MiPPA) Promotions That Roar event at Ford Field in Detroit. My presentation focused on the compelling research supporting our industry’s products and the value of working with promotional consultants. Presentations like this, along with the new Product Persona campaign, are small but important parts of our overall strategy and intent to position promotional products at the forefront. By raising the profile of promotional products and directly affecting the buying process, the industry can begin closing the opportunity gap and achieve unprecedented growth.

We will soon be announcing other initiatives supporting these goals and opportunities for co-op and industry partnerships.

All of us at PPAI are committed to bringing the promotional products industry out of the shadows and into the spotlight while gaining the share of market and share of voice we deserve.

LDW 2014 Is Fast Approaching

The RAC Leadership Development Workshop for 2014 is just a couple weeks away. For those not familiar with this event, PPAI brings leaders from 27 regional associations together for a few days of high-level planning, sharing and discussion. One of the conference’s primary goals is to help prepare each regional to be successful in the coming year.  When regionals succeed, the entire industry benefits.

This year’s LDW content focuses on a first-of-its-kind benchmarking survey that shows each regional where they are succeeding, where they need to improve, and who to look to for guidance. It took a lot of courage for the presidents and executive directors to participate in this study and share the inner workings of their association. This unprecedented collaboration marks the start of a new spirit of cooperation among regionals.

If you want to know more about LDW and how it benefits attendees, regionals and the industry, I highly recommend you contact your local association to get involved. The local, grassroots-level participation is so vital to our industry’s well-being even a few hours of collaboration a year can have a positive impact.


The State of the States

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

Last month, PPAI’s government relations manager Seth Barnett traveled to Minneapolis for the annual State Legislative Summit produced by the National Coalition of State Legislators. This event brings in more than 2,000 state legislators, their staffs, trade groups and nonprofits from across the country and all over the world to discuss ways to improve politics for the citizens of each state. This was PPAI’s first time to participate in the event. With the continuation of PPAI’s growth on the state political scene, the legislative summit was the obvious next step for industry government relations efforts.

Of the many subjects that were part of the conversation at the summit, a few stood out as potential benefits for the promotional products industry. These included an overview of small-business health within the states, the status of state economies and an interesting look at the views of American politics held by voters.

Small-Business Health

We work in a fickle and sometimes unstable economy. It is good to understand how our state governments perceive business within our states. Sometimes we overlook the role that state government plays in the workplace. While the federal government has come to numerous standstills over the past several years, the states are continuing to look at what makes their respective economies successful.

Of the small businesses in the U.S., more than 90 percent operate with fewer than five employees and generate less than $5 million in annual revenue. That is significant when considering how much small businesses contribute to the GDP. It is also good to know how our industry, with its 97 percent small-business operation, compares to other industries.

Most state legislators can agree that they want to encourage entrepreneurship and small-business development. In fact, most cities across the country have seen increases in entrepreneurs in the current economy. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of people transitioning from being regularly employed by someone else to becoming independent and creating an S-Corporation, C-Corporation or sole proprietorship. This can be seen as the result of state and local governments efforts to promote the entrepreneurial spirit among residents.

The states have also gone to great lengths to identify what small-business success looks like. Essentially, of the states with the most successful small businesses, less state tax on business reflects better business operation and less government involvement, but more competition regulation keeps the market moving and simplistic tax regulation makes it easier for small businesses and independents to stay profitable.

The states can all agree on one truth, which is that small business is the engine that drives state economies. Still, small businesses face uncertainty and challenges that often stem from poor and misguided legislation at the state level. The unique opportunity here is that state legislatures need input from the business community to be able to create and pass effective legislation.

State legislatures continue to want to hear from constituents about what they can do to better serve businesses. PPAI has a tool specifically designed to help industry professionals to look up their state legislators contact information. Follow the link below to find your state representatives and tell them what you do in the promotional products industry and how they make you more successful.

Who Represents Me?

State of the States

State politics have continued to stay slightly more effective than the federal government in the creation and passage of solid legislation. State politicians are proud of the job most of their colleagues across state lines are doing for constituents. The states are working independently of the federal government to bring back trust in the government after the recession.

Some states are doing a better job of recovering from the recession than others, but all have essentially experienced a return to theirpre-2008 economic status. The majority of states have worked to reestablish their economic bases that will defend against future recession. Many states have created plans to provide more constituent services specifically those which promote business within the state. This includes training programs through government agencies, job readiness programs, business planning programs, and so on.

Politics: What Do Americans Really Think?

The view of American politics by the American public has not been this negative in many decades. Americans as a whole are unimpressed with the direction of government, and while state governments look better in the eyes of the public, they are still not completely immune to negative feedback.

We are currently experiencing the longest period of pessimism regarding the federal government than any other time in history. A mere 14 percent of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing and only 19 percent approve of the American political landscape as a whole.

The economy continues to remain the centerpiece of American politics at all levels. Nearly half of all voters believe the economy is the number one contributing factor to government uncertainty. While economists believe that the economy is in an upward swing, the American public remains cautious. It is important to understand the place we each have as part of the political system. Government cannot work without us. PPAI encourages industry leaders to take action to maintain stability of the industry in front of both federal and state governments. PPAI will continue its government relations push on state and local levels. To learn more about all of PPAI’s political efforts visit www.ppailaw.org.





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.


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. 


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.

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.