PPAI’s Legislative and Advocacy Work – The Power of an Industry Voice

If you’ve had your eye on industry social media or recent industry news, you may have read about the pending launch of a new membership-funded industry lobbying group. I’ve been tracking the comments of dozens of engaged industry professionals supporting PPAI’s legislative and advocacy efforts and have had dozens more direct emails and calls looking for an official PPAI response.

It is unlikely I will gather the thoughts and opinions of our 11,000+ member companies (representing more than 500,000 industry practitioners) in a timely enough manner to respond to the “I want an answer now” social media climate. Rather, I will offer what I know to be true about PPAI’s efforts in this area, and I welcome your comments and suggestions in this broader, interactive format.

For longer than I’ve been associated with PPAI, we’ve had a strong, industry-driven and collaborative lobbying presence in Washington, D.C. From the beginning, PPAI’s lobbying efforts have focused on the core issues related to independent contractors, tax reform and small business, as well as industry-critical issues we identify as we monitor thousands of bills on a day-to-day basis. We continue to invest heavily in this strategic initiative. This is in addition to our ongoing and significant efforts to increase understanding and acknowledgement of promotional products as key branding tools that help advance brands, and to position promotional consultants as strategic partners and trusted advisors.

As a result of our reputation and long-standing presence in D.C., we are a sought-after coalition partner. As an industry that represents advertising, media and marketing, as well as manufacturers, importers, resellers and decorators, we are able to strategically align with partners who focus on specific issues, including the Small Business Legislative Council, the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the American Alliance for Innovation, the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity, the Coalition to Save Local Businesses, the National Association of Manufacturers, and many more.

Our government relations work is built upon a firm foundation of industry engagement from the smallest to the largest members—including engagement by the Advertising Specialty Institute’s (ASI) senior management on PPAI’s Government Relations Action Council and our Legislative Action and Education Day (L.E.A.D.). I mention ASI here because they have been an increasingly engaged colleague in our legislative efforts and, in my view, seem to be receiving some undeserved scrutiny for running the recent story.

Thanks to these engaged stakeholders, PPAI has a well-oiled machine in place. From our D.C.-based lobbyist’s boots on the ground, to L.E.A.D. at the federal, state and local level, to the ‘virtual fly-in’ digital advocacy (more than 7500 industry emails to legislators) as part of our Promotional Products Work! Week efforts, to our dedicated government relations team—we make sure federal and state lawmakers understand the value, economic contributions and employment opportunities offered by this vital and growing industry. As part of our mission to grow and protect the industry, we—PPAI, together with its expansive and engaged constituency—continuously educate members of Congress—at their D.C. and home offices—and other government entities on the value of the industry.

I will continue to respond to individual member inquiries regarding the potential launch of a new legislative advocacy group, letting them know that while I am pleased to see that the prospective group’s agenda is consistent with PPAI’s long-standing efforts in this arena, it would be unfortunate if any industry effort was divided or diluted as a result of two separate efforts.

The irony isn’t lost on me that I am posting this blog as I sit in the Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC) board of directors meeting in Washington, D.C. This group influences legislative and federal policy issues related to the small business community, and thus directly impacts our industry. PPAI’s standing seat on the SBLC board assures us a driving force on the relevant legislative agenda.

To learn more about PPAI’s advocacy efforts, I encourage everyone to visit the PPAI LAW website and take the opportunity to become more engaged in these efforts so that we can all protect and grow this industry to which we owe so much.

Want to talk about it? You can call our Director of Public Affairs, Anne Stone, at 972.258.3041, or me directly at 972.258.3050.

Industry Transformation & A Time To Pivot

As an advocate and evangelist for our industry, I’ve spent the better part of my career traveling the US (and the world) to tell anyone who would listen that the promotional products business is about so much more than selling products at the lowest price.

This year at The PPAI Expo it was more evident than ever that the overwhelming influence of technology and access is making industry stakeholders reconsider and reposition how they go to market now and in the future.

With this, it is my pleasure to feature a guest blog I stumbled upon from Boundless Marketing Manager, Stephanie Freyer, who along with her team is responsible for delivering ‘Brand Love’ moments—everyday. Steph’s observations are on the mark and sum up, quite well, what so many in the industry are experiencing today.

Enjoy the read.

Paul


2016’s Guiding Trend in Promotional Products

Has Nothing to do With Products

Coming to you live from Las Vegas at the Promotional Products International Association’s (PPAI’s) largest event of the year and the biggest trade show in our industry, I’m excited to reveal some of the insightful marketing trends we’ve seen at this year’s Expo. In case you aren’t familiar with Expo, PPAI hosts over 1,300 exhibiting suppliers and 11,000 distributors from across the globe – all clamoring into the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on the heels of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to find out what the hottest new products for 2016 will be.

After closing out day two of the Expo, I sat in my hotel room trying to digest everything I had been absorbing over the past couple of days. I could have easily started writing about the cool life-hack products that are perfect for, say, people who are taking photos all day (like me), or just want their phone readily available to make sure they can check email without digging through their bag (see below for “slingback” and “pop socket” to name a few). But while these little life hacks are cool, catchy, and buzz-worthy, they aren’t the real takeaway of the event.

PopSocketSlingback2

Products for Mobile: Pop Socket & Slingback

Even more impressive than capitalizing on the mobile trend is how deeply our suppliers are invested in their products. From specialized trend research teams, to full-fledged development departments, to entire facilities dedicated to quality assurance, our suppliers are investing in resources that will ensure their products are not only on-trend and meeting consumer needs, but also following compliance laws and making sure they are safe, and risk-free for our clients and end users.

I initially predicted that come time to write this blog post, I’d be sitting here compiling the brand-new items hitting the market. In a recent Facebook post, I remarked on being curious about which trends from last week’s CES show would carry over to PPAI—I joked about seeing branded holograms and mused about new wearables. And while I did see plenty of wearables (and even virtual-reality products…and drones!) what I found is that most of the products at PPAI are not, in actuality, “new.” At first, I was surprised to see that most of what I looked at was the same as last year, with a slight enhancement—a 2.0 version. But this is, in fact, the crux of one of 2016’s guiding trends.

BoundlessFacebook

LogoIncludedApp

Source: @LogoIncluded Twitter Account

On Wednesday, I spoke with a supplier partner of ours about their fitness tracker device, and in discussing a proprietary app they built for it, he actually said the words “to us, the app was the most important part.” Hold the phone. That is quite a strong (and telling) statement. We are in a PRODUCTS industry, people! Promotional products. But as it turns out, the most important thing about promotional advertising moving forward won’t be the product alone, and this show wasn’t about the next groundbreaking item on the market that no one had ever seen before. It was about driving the next level of engagement…it was about the enhancements that can be made to products to make them even more useful, even more necessary, even more relevant to a consumer.

The seeds of this trend were planted in my head at the first session I attended on Tuesday morning with marketing guru and renowned author Seth Godin. Godin speaks in an almost lyrical way—gliding through pretty words and impactful phrases. He is ever-inspiring, and seemingly easy-to-follow—yet he spends most of his time illustrating abstract concepts that are eventually boiled down into a simple idea. His style, his writing, and his whole point is to get marketers to think differently. As Godin said, “one of the biggest marketing challenges is that most of the people you are trying to sell to don’t think they have a problem that only you can solve.” In essence, brands are challenged to put products into the world that play a critical role in consumers’ lives—and do it better than the next guy.

Seth Godin Session

Seth Godin’s Opening Keynote at The PPAI Expo

In case you haven’t been following Boundless on Twitter, we’ve been tweeting out soundbites heard throughout the Expo from our top suppliers. Reading them back to myself gave me the opportunity to clearly identify the theme that had already been manifesting in my mind.

TweetsPPAI

Tweets from PPAI 2016

All the suppliers I spoke with told a similar story in a different way: the product is only a part of the equation. The critical ingredient is finding a way to create a marketing tool (a promotional product) that builds a relationship. How do we enhance a product so that it actually becomes a necessity, or occupies a permanent spot on your desk or in your bag? Something you couldn’t imagine living without?

We need to pay attention to how people interact with products. In what situations and contexts do people have challenges that need to be solved? How can a product be enhanced to meet those needs?

For some suppliers like the one mentioned above, that means building a client-branded app that not only connects to a fitness tracker like a FitBit, but lets users interact with each other—from engaging in fitness competitions to arranging meetups. For others, it means designing a special pocket in a bag that addresses a unique need for a certain demographic or interest group. And yet for others, it means leveraging a digital rewards code to connect on the platform we use most: the internet. Some suppliers embrace the age of digital connectivity by creating products that continue to make it easier for us to stay connected with one another—from chargers, to tablet stands, to storage devices—they’ve developed a product that once you have, you cannot live without. Or at least, you think you can’t. Addressing a unique need, driving people to a connected platform, serving up a branded web experience—all of these methods produce a more engaging interaction with a consumer.

All this to say: the pen, the water bottle, and the grocery tote aren’t going anywhere. Value can be found in any product that is suited for the audience and is “sticky” because of utility or novelty. But the future of our industry lies in the type of functionality that goes deeper than the bag that sits in your trunk. It taps into our basic human need to connect. It gives us avenues to build relationships over an extended period of time, and it makes us feel like we can trust in brands. From what I can tell, 2016 is going to be a great year for promotional marketing.

StephBio

Product Safety Milestones

The following will run in my PPB magazine President’s Perspective column in December. The PSA program is only successful with the work of the Product Responsibility Advisory Group and hundreds upon hundreds of member companies. Thank you.

Product Safety Aware Reaches A Milestone

What a difference two years makes. It was in January 2014 that we announced the PPAI Product Safety Aware (PSA) program to the industry. Under the terms of the program, each company seeking to do business through PPAI channels must become Product Safety Aware by having at least one employee complete four hours of product safety education.

Developed by PPAI’s Product Responsibility Advisory Group (PRAG) and vetted through industry committees and advisory groups, the PSA program was intended to enhance an industry-wide commitment and a culture where companies are not only aware of product safety but are leading the discussion at every level in the promotional products channel. We have long been the go-to industry resource for education and resources related to your compliance obligations, and this initiative builds on those efforts.

But, that’s not to say we didn’t have our share of detractors in the early days of the program. A number of companies resisted the program because they either believed the program didn’t apply to their businesses or because they thought four hours of education was excessive. But, I am pleased to report that every PPAI-contracted exhibitor at Expo East 2015 was Product Safety Aware, every company that advertises in PPB is Product Safety Aware and every company you’ll see on the show floor when The PPAI Expo opens next month in Las Vegas will be Product Safety Aware.

Leaders in regulatory compliance now laud PPAI as the poster child for how to create a product safety awareness program. So, where do we go from here? Now our focus turns to keeping the industry up to speed on all developing issues. Under the Product Safety Aware program, companies must simply complete at least two courses every two years to maintain their PSA designation. In the years to come, PPAI is committed to continuing its leadership in product responsibility and expanding our focus to reflect the broader mission and scope of this initiative.

We’re not focused exclusively on product safety anymore, and we’re not just focused on one set of regulations. There are really five pillars of product responsibility—product safety, social compliance, environmental sustainability, supply chain security and product quality. And our intent is to build a library of resources around each of these critical components. This was clearly reflected by our recent rebranding of what was formerly the PPAI Product Safety Summit to the Product Responsibility Summit. This year, the Summit broadened its scope to address social responsibility issues and challenges. In subsequent years, the Summit will address each of those pillars in turn, while never abandoning its roots in product safety.

Product responsibility is becoming a differentiator as more organizations become aware of how their sourcing decisions can impact their financial position, mitigate the risk for bad press and enhance a brand’s image in the market. There is no “easy button” or “fast pass” that is going to get us where we ultimately need to be, but I am very pleased to report that as a result of our Product Safety Aware initiative we have all taken at least the first steps on this path.

If you want to learn more about the Product Safety Aware initiative or any of our product responsibility resources, please reach out to our public affairs team and they will be happy to help you.

Thanks for your continued support of this important industry initiative. And as always, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you grow your business.

LASTING IMPRESSIONS = BRAND GRATITUDE

It is with great pleasure that I repost an article by PPB’s editor, Tina Filipski. It’s good reading. Enjoy!


AWXII Blog Article - I Love New York T-ShirtGuest blog by Tina Berres Filipski, editor, PPB magazine | Originally published in Advertising Week Social Club, September 15, 2015

With the abundance of ad messages coming at consumers from multiple sources, it’s not surprising that ad avoidance is at an all-time high. This tendency to close an ad or change the channel is a real concern because marketers want their audience to desire engagement with their brands. Best-selling author, entrepreneur and agent of change, Seth Godin, whose blog is one of the most popular in the world, recently wrote that the most valuable forms of marketing are consumed voluntarily.

An Hour with Seth Godin InviteHear more from Seth Godin on how to initiate meaningful conversations with your audiences when PPAI presents “An Hour With Seth Godin” on October 1 at the Hard Rock Café New York.

Click here to reserve tickets.

Advertisers have discovered that the way to the decision-making part of the brain is not only through a prospect’s eyes or ears. Advertising that appeals to people’s sense of smell (a branded pen filled with vanilla-scented ink), taste (a gift box of silky chocolates) and touch (the softness of a Pima cotton logoed t-shirt) is a fresh approach to driving sales and, more importantly, to making the advertising message stick.

Today, we hold more computer power in the palm of our hand than Apollo 11 had when it landed a man on the moon. Technology feeds us a constant stream of news, notes, entertainment, educational content and advertising messages 24/7, on the device of choice, at our desks, in airports, on busses, trains and planes, in bars and restaurants, in our cars, on the street and in our homes. It’s conservatively estimated that the average adult is exposed to no fewer than 200 visual advertising messages a day; that’s 70,000 per year. Amid all the noise, it’s easy to filter ad messages, confuse them or tune them out completely.

It’s not surprising then, that the average adult has an attention span of  eight seconds (the average goldfish can pay attention for nine seconds) so advertisers must create messages and methods of communicating them that are innovative, engaging and memorable.

This is where taking a multi-sensory approach with sound, touch, taste and smell reinforce the visual message to produce a more powerful and memorable experience both for the advertiser and the prospect. Yasushi Kusume, a brand and innovation designer, author, speaker and lecturer says that applying multi-sensory design to all the touch points (moments of contact with a user) allows a product or service to produce a more complete, and ultimately better brand experience.

Appealing to the senses can also positively affect consumers’ memory about the brand. In one example, scientists discovered that adding tea tree oil to wooden pencils helped recipients remember the logo on the pencils. Two weeks later, recipients who received fragrance-free pencils experienced a 73-percent decline in recall but for those who used the scented pencils, there was only an eight-percent decline.

So how do you create a multi-sensory experience? Pairing an online ad with an offer for a tangible promotional product (such as a logoed travel cup offered in an online ad from a state tourism department) is a proven way to keep the ad message top of mind. Liquor distributors have found value in promoting new brands by partnering with bars to serve up their drinks in LED-lit take-home glasses. Real estate agents and homebuilders keep their names in front of new homeowners by gifting them with a logoed key chain embedded with a sound chip. Likewise, take-out restaurants can remain memorable longer if they tuck a sound-activated refrigerator magnet into each order. Car dealers can also keep that new-car smell fresh in a new owner’s mind with a scented car air freshener. Insurance companies and banks can put a smile on clients’ faces by sending them home with a chocolate-scented pen or beribboned gift pack of the real thing.

By creating multi-sensory experiences in pairing the tactile value of promotional products with visual or auditory media, advertisers are also reinforcing name recognition for the brand as research shows that 88 percent of consumers were able to recall the advertiser’s name on a promotional product received in the past 12 months, while only 71 percent could recall a newspaper ad seen the week before.

“If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what’s the worth of the real thing?” asks promotional consultant, author and speaker Jae M. Rang, MAS, in her new book Sensory Media. “I’m going to suggest its image to the power of five—five representing our five senses. Here’s why: When you hold a promotional product you hold the “brand in your hand.” It’s different than seeing a billboard or watching a commercial. A promotional product is an interactive, multi-sensory communication tool that can create or recreate a brand experience. Each time you pick up that pen, wear that t-shirt, drink from that water bottle, or write on that sticky note, you’re reminded of where it came from and are, in some way, interacting with the brand imprinted on the product.”

Unlike all other forms of advertising, promotional products recipients actually say “thank-you” to the giver and then keep and use the product for up to two years on average. No other media can claim that.

In a world where consumers are flooded with ad messages, and the staying power of the impression can be as fleeting as an Instagram post, promotional products offer a tangible, memorable and refreshingly innovative way to promote a brand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Berres Filipski, editor, PPB magazineTina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB (Promotional Products Business) magazine, the flagship publication of Promotional Products Association International, the trade association serving more than 11,000 manufacturers, decorators and promotional agencies in the U.S. and around the world. Before joining PPAI in 1995, she produced publications for the meetings/hospitality and home furnishings industries, as well as a consumer magazine for upscale Dallas-Ft. Worth homeowners.

ADDITIONAL INSIGHTS:

People Love Promotional Products

The Influence Of Promotional Products On Consumer Behavior

Effectiveness Of Promotional Products As An Ad Medium

Invitation to “An Hour With Seth Godin”

"An Hour With Seth Godin" | Advertising Week AWXII | Hard Rock Cafe New York | October 1, 10 am

“An Hour With Seth Godin” | Advertising Week AWXII | Hard Rock Cafe New York | October 1, 10 am

I am pleased to announce that PPAI is presenting a thought leadership session during Advertising Week (AWXII) featuring a conversation with Seth Godin. “An Hour With Seth Godin” will take place at the Hard Rock Café New York at 1501 Broadway, on October 1, 2015, 10 am.

Seth is a best-selling author, entrepreneur and agent of change. His blog (@ThisIsSethsBlog) is one of the most popular in the world. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and, most of all, changing everything.

What to do When it's Your TurnI hope you are able to join me for this one-on-one discussion with Seth about his new book, What to do When it’s Your Turn, avoiding the race to the bottom, the importance of community-building and a whole lot more. We will discuss a broad spectrum of topics designed to inspire, inform and initiate meaningful conversations among marketing and communications leaders throughout the promotional products industry and beyond.

Advertising Week AWXIITickets are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are interested in attending, please send me an email to reserve your seat. The first 100 attendees will receive Seth’s new book and a book signing will immediately follow.

Advertising Week is a long-standing partner in PPAI’s mission to reach buyers in an influential and highly targeted way.  This week-long gathering of the advertising industry’s best and brightest brand marketers, creative visionaries and media leaders and influencers is an ideal setting for us to initiate thoughtful conversations, inform meaningful decisions and inspire consideration and buying of promotional products advertising. This is just one more positive and powerful way the Association engages in buyer outreach to drive the industry’s business forward and position it with strength now and in the future.

We are pleased to partner with Advertising Week to bring this conversation with Seth Godin to you.

I hope to see you there,

Paul

P.S. I am also very excited to report that Seth is the featured keynote for The PPAI Expo 2016, January 10-14, in Las Vegas.

Government Relations Update

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

State of the States

Earlier this month, PPAI Government Relations Manager Seth Barnett attended the National Conference of State Legislators in Seattle, where he connected with state-level leaders from across the nation. More than 5,500 state politicians, legislative staff members, and non-profit and trade association leaders met to discuss the most pressing issues faced by the states. This year’s theme focused on states learning to work effectively despite any standstills at the federal level. Many of the speakers looked to empower state officials to become more hands-on in their legislative approach. Presenters and leaders issued a call for renewed advocacy at the business level. Many businesses neglect connecting with state officials, though as political efforts progress, the need for this connection is always present.

The previous legislative conference focused on dwindling American approval of the U.S. Congress, and ways state legislators can avoid the same situation. This year the idea was given new emphasis as legislators and staff were challenged to better understand their constituents. This personal level of connection is often overlooked at the state level but there is a growing need for businesses to be understood by those who represent them in the state houses. Much of the content surrounded some of the work that is being done at the non-profit and association advocacy level.

States remain focused on creating and maintaining opportunities for small business. They are also beginning to better understand growing areas of concern for many businesses including social compliance and economic opportunity.

It is important to remember that work is being done at the state level on behalf of the promotional products industry. PPAI has continued to meet state outreach goals through its L.E.A.D. Local events, which introduce industry leaders to state officials to discuss the power of the industry.

It is up to the industry, not just the Association, to ensure that state advocacy continues. PPAI has several resources that can be used at the state level including the Industry Legislative Agenda and industry position statements. These items are available at www.ppailaw.org. PPAI encourages industry members to take action by following the link below to send a letter about the value of our industry to your state officials.

The Cost-Effective Advertising Tool In Your State

L.E.A.D. Local California

This week PPAI joined four industry leaders in Sacramento, California for the fourth L.E.A.D. Local event. Prior L.E.A.D. Local events have been held in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.

PPAI staff Anne Stone, Director of Public Affairs and Seth Barnett, Government Relations Manager, joined Harris Cohen, MAS and Neil Levitt of Southern California and Jon Henrickson and Stacy Weiss of Northern California to conduct nearly 20 key legislative meetings. The group discussed the value of the promotional products industry to the California economy and the effectiveness of the medium. Their message was amplified by the statewide virtual fly in effort that gave those in the industry not in attendance the opportunity to have their voice heard by state officials.

This event was successful thanks to PPAI’s collaboration with the Specialty Advertising Association of California and the Promotional Marketing Association of Northern California to create a wider reach and a more significant industry impact. PPAI will continue to collaborate with all regional associations in order to deliver this event year over year.

The Looming Debt Limit, Again

In July the Treasury Department notified lawmakers that they only have until the end of October to raise the debt limit or face another crippling government shutdown. While Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has insisted that they cannot target a specific date on which the debt limit will be reached, he has said with certainty that it will be before the end of the first session. In March the Treasury Department took measures to ensure that the government would not meet the fast-approaching limit. However, this early movement created less opportunity for financial adjustment as the new limit nears.

Congress has started to develop a plan to avoid a government shutdown. This would help avoid a repeat of the 2013, when a shutdown lasted for 16 days. Lawmakers will face many financial debates upon their return to the Hill in September. They are still looking for a long-term plan for highway spending, and they will need to address tax provisions and debate the Export-Import Bank charter.

While there remains some debate over the actual date of the approaching debt limit, Congress must work to create an effective plan to avoid overspending as part of their first priorities after the August recess concludes.

To learn more about PPAI’s legislative efforts, visit http://www.ppailaw.org.

Do Your Due Diligence Before Accepting That Next Order–No Matter How Good It Looks

Earlier today I had an email exchange with an alleged scammer (“Matt”) who wanted to buy 7,500 flash drives and various other electronic products. He had no idea that PPAI doesn’t make or sell promotional products. He said he got my name from “a promotional list.’ Having heard of a few recent scams, I decided to play along.

PPB -- May Issue, pp. 21-24

PPB — May Issue, pp. 21-24

During my exchange, I did a little research and found the business to be non-existent, the shipping address to be an abandoned house in another city (thank you Google Maps) and no chance of verifying a credit card prior to accepting the order. Needless to say, when the interrogation continued, Matt quietly backed out of the deal.

Let this be a reminder that in business (as in life) there are people who will prey on those less informed (or maybe a bit too motivated to close a deal). With more and more business being conducted online, it is increasingly important that you pay attention and do whatever due diligence is necessary to make sure the people you are doing business with are who they say they are.

I have attached a link to a recent column in PPB that talks about this type of scam and others, and how you can better protect yourself from becoming the next victim.

PPB Column: “Are You The Next Victim?

Be careful out there.

Paul