Category Archives: Advertising Research

Promotional Products Do Work – A Modern Approach to Practical, Useful, Thoughtful “Conference Swag”

As a trusted leader in the promotional products industry, it is our responsibility to advocate for our members and to deliver to others the essential knowledge they need to understand the inner workings of our medium. I have been reminded today after reading the Fast Company piece that there still remains an excess of misconceptions and doubts about our industry—ones I would like to take this opportunity to address. I will be responding to Fast Company on behalf of the Association, our members and this amazing industry.

The influence of promotional products cannot be underestimated, with more than 65 percent of advertisers citing promotional products as highly effective in reaching consumers and contributing to brand recall, and 88 percent of marketers recommending promotional products. Unlike the article suggests, promotional products are not toss away items—in fact, more than 80 percent of promotional products are used for more than a year. Eighty-three percent of consumers have a more favorable impression of the advertiser, and that increases to 88 percent for Millennials. Additionally, eight out of 10 consumers pass along promotional products versus carelessly throwing them in the trash. These are only a handful of the statistics we have proving promotional products are a strategic and influential medium that resonate with our audiences. Promotional products are welcome in places and spaces no other advertising medium can touch and deliver pass-along rates that are the envy of the advertising industry.

Our industry has evolved and grown over time, and consumer preferences and behaviors have also changed. We have pioneered many studies as an industry, and at PPAI, to ensure we keep up with our end-users and to understand the role promotional products can play within their current lifestyles. Most modern promotional products are designed to be useful, practical and enjoyable—their shelf life is far more extensive than meets the eye. For example, the “flimsy totes” we receive at conferences have become more and more useful with the adoption of plastic bag bans that are rolling out in states across the U.S. Many consumers have made them an essential part of their everyday lives. Our industry has also connected to consumers’ tech-savvy side by integrating technologies such as AR and Near Field Communication, which will only continue to advance in the future.

We also want to address one of the reporter’s main points: the environmental footprint of promotional products. As the leading voice for the promotional products industry, PPAI is committed to making a positive impact on the global environmental crisis. We have identified environmental responsibility as a core pillar, with mandatory product responsibility education and the ongoing development and sharing of best practices with our members and industry partners so they can recognize and address the impacts of their operations and supply chain on the environment. This is not restricted to emissions reduction or lowering the impact of manufacturing, but also encompasses a larger set of affirmative protocols that promote human rights, and worker health and safety. With the right resources and tools, promotional products organizations have been adopting policies to offer more environmentally-conscious assurances for their customers and employees. From green and compostable products to sustainable textiles, the promotional products industry has taken a proactive stance (including a “green” pavilion at our annual exposition) in bringing to market products that make the consumers’ experience more enjoyable and better for the environment.

As we always say, promotional products are truly the only advertising medium that reaches all five senses, plus a sixth—the sense of ownership for consumers. We do not want to deprive the majority of consumers (83 percent) who enjoy and are inspired to take action upon receiving a promotional product. Rather, we want to grow and evolve along with them so both brands and their audiences can continue to see this as a positive advertising medium in all aspects of their lives.

Paper Calendars Endure Despite the Digital Age | Guest Post by NYT Reporter, Christopher Mele

Today I am pleased to share with you this feature on printed calendars published by The New York Times. I would like to express my gratitude to the reporter Christopher Mele and to PPAI members Jerome Hoxton, president of Tru Art Advertising Calendars, and Melissa Ralston, marketing director for BIC Graphic, for their contributions.

Paul

~~~~~~~~~~

By Christopher Mele, Reporter, The New York Times

Digitally published in The New York Times on December 29, 2016 and in print on December 30, 2016, on Page B2 of the New York edition.

With the year’s end comes the ritual of many households and offices: getting new appointment books, planners or calendars to hang on walls or put on desks.

In an age of smartphones and the internet, you might think the days of paper calendars are numbered, but data suggest otherwise. Not only have they survived the digital revolution, but sales of some kinds of print calendars have increased.

The sales of appointment books and planners grew 10 percent from 2014-15 to 2015-16 to $342.7 million, and decorative and other calendars increased by 8 percent to $65 million in that time, according to figures from the NPD Group, a consumer research firm.

Personalization has helped make planners and appointment books popular, Leen Nsouli, an analyst of the office supplies industry at NPD, said in an email.

“The consumer can customize a planner to fit his or her style with accessories, colors and even color code events and activities,” she wrote. “That’s not something you can do on the standard phone calendar.”

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Promotional calendars are a way for businesses to advertise and to connect with customers. | Credit: MedForce

Jerome Hoxton, president of Tru Art Advertising Calendars in Iowa City, Iowa, said traditional calendars remain popular because they combine aesthetics with utility. Paper and digital calendars can readily coexist.

“What we found is it’s a question of and,” he said. “It’s not a question of or.”

Bertel King Jr., in a blog post last year for Make Use Of, a technology and productivity site, made the case for paper calendars, noting that he was “inundated with notifications, beeps, alerts and messages.”

“Having to open another tab, fire up another piece of software, or launch another app to access my calendar amounts to one more onscreen thing vying for my attention,” he wrote. “Suddenly a paper planner starts to make sense.”

It may seem counterintuitive that a print product can thrive in the digital age. But the continued success of some paper calendars mirrors that of printed books, an industry that several years ago was confronting what seemed like the very real possibility that e-books would outsell the printed variety. Instead, a Pew survey this fall found that most readers still preferred their reading material printed on paper.

Still, the popularity of some calendars — desk pads and the ones that hang on your wall — has waned.

The average number of printed calendars in households was 3.12 in 2011 compared with 3.98 in 1981, according to the most recent study sponsored by the Promotional Products Association International and the Calendar Advertising Council. The kitchen remained the prime display location, with 75 percent of respondents saying they had a calendar there. The average number of printed calendars per business was 2.10, down from 2.56 in 1981, according to the study.

A 2008 paper from Virginia Tech, called “An Exploratory Study of Personal Calendar Use,” predicted the march of electronic calendars would be swift and inevitable. “With the increased use of mobile devices, more and more calendaring tasks are performed off the desktop computer,” it said.

A bright spot in the industry remains promotional calendars, like those distributed by real estate agents, medical professionals, car repair shops and other businesses. As a percentage of sales of promotional products, those calendars have held steady or increased slightly from 2012 to 2015, according to industry figures.

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Paper calendars are an effective advertising vehicle with a mass market appeal. | Credit: Wright County Parks & Recreation

Melissa Ralston, marketing director for BIC Graphic, said in an email that companies have found paper calendars to be an effective advertising vehicle with a mass market appeal.

She said studies have found that 82 percent of recipients enjoy getting a calendar as a complimentary gift and 70 percent plan to do business with the company that provided the calendar.

As for Ms. Ralston, she practices what she preaches. She said she has three calendars: a planner, a wall calendar and one on her refrigerator.

Redefining The Industry | #GetInTouch – Industry Branding Campaign

PPAI will officially launch the industry branding initiative, the #GetInTouch campaign, September 26 in conjunction with the 2016 Advertising Week in New York.

The #GetInTouch campaign (formerly referred to as the Industry Branding Initiative) was originally introduced to the PPAI membership by PPAI Chair of the Board Tom Goos, MAS, and me at the 2016 PPAI Expo. It is a five-year, multimillion-dollar industry-wide initiative targeting advertising buyers. It is designed to increase awareness and improve and enhance the overall perception of the promotional products industry and communicate the benefits of working with promotional consultants. The overall goal of the campaign is to direct a larger share of advertising dollars to the promotional products industry.

The #GetInTouch campaign was originally conceived by the 2014 PPAI Chairman’s Roundtable Work Group, and is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work by a collection of PPAI staff, members and volunteer groups, including the PPAI Board of Directors, the PPAI Industry Branding Initiative Advisory Group and the PPAI Public Relations Committee.

Collaborating for Success

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PPAI’s #GetInTouch campaign launches during Advertising Week 2016

This joint initiative between PPAI and the membership is extraordinarily important to the promotional products industry because, for too long, we’ve been an afterthought for many advertisers—a medium of fun and useful ‘stuff’ but not always recognized for our proven value and strengths. Within the industry we may know, understand and communicate the power of promotional products, but it’s high time the rest of the world recognizes the advertising power of promotional products and their place in successful advertising campaigns. Our research tells us that as other advertising media struggle to achieve year-over-year growth and remain relevant, promotional products are perfectly positioned to grow—and have grown—in an increasingly digital world.

To help us achieve success with this initiative, we’ve partnered with SAXUM, a nationally known Oklahoma City-based integrated marketing agency to deliver a creative and impactful campaign that breaks through the advertising clutter to reach and influence advertising buyers, from Fortune 500 companies to smaller, local advertisers.

Tom Goos put it best when he spoke at the opening general session at The PPAI Expo earlier this year: “For years PPAI has worked on advocating for the industry, but never with a multi-year strategic campaign at this level. Industry promotion has always been bootstrapped with little budget or limited resources. With the launch of the #GetInTouch campaign, the board is saying we want this to be a primary focus and we should put funding and a strategic plan behind it. The board recognizes that we are well positioned to capitalize on the changes in marketing and growth of the digital world.” He also explained “PPAI will not be successful if it pursues this initiative alone. It’s going to require companies like mine and yours to participate.”

To that end, along with an integrated paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) strategy, including major media buys in publications like Advertising Age, digital strategies and possibly an industry spokesperson, the #GetInTouch campaign will feature member kits available for download and customization. The member toolkits will include a variety of communications assets including print advertisements with several versions of copy along with various digital, social, promotional products, public relations and collateral elements that members will be able to immediately incorporate into their own marketing efforts—the key here is making sure PPAI members become an integral part of the #GetInTouch campaign.

The Messaging
While the overall message is about the power of promotional products and the importance of the promotional consultant, there will be several sub-messages which include:

  • Campaign tagline: ADVERTISING THAT LIVES ON
  • Campaign hashtag: #GetInTouch
  • Promotional products are a tangible representation of a brand.
  • Promotional products create excitement, surprise and delight.
  • Promotional products positively affect buying decisions.
  • Promotional products have staying power.
  • Promotional products, the only advertising your customers will thank you for.
  • Promotional products become a part of everyday life.

The campaign will also include sub-messages focusing specifically on Promotional Consultants:

  • Promotional consultants help design programs that get results and save time and money in the process.
  • Promotional consultants partner with you to promote and protect your brand.
  • Promotional consultants are industry experts and marketing pros.

A Redesigned Website | PromotionalProductsWork.org
Complementing the launch of this PPAI initiative is the launch of the newly redesigned www.PromotionalProductsWork.org website. The website, targeted at advertising buyers, tells a two-part story about the power of promotional products and the importance of working with promotional consultants.

While this site is independent of the #GetInTouch campaign, the timing of its redesign and launch is not coincidental. After passing through a specific #GetInTouch page, buyers who want to learn more will be directed to the new site.

A Call to Action
The PPAI #GetInTouch campaign will be one of the most significant contributions PPAI has made to the strengthening of the promotional products industry, but as Tom noted, we must engage our members for this initiative to be successful. Here are a few things you can do—right now and long-term—to be part of this exciting initiative:

  • Commit right now that you will be part of the initiative!
  • Share this information with your internal teams, colleagues and peers.
  • As the campaign will focus on the power and proven results of promotional products, we need your winning case studies.
    • Get in touch with Kim Todora today to learn how to include your case studies in the #GetInTouch campaign.
  • Keep on the lookout for information on the #GetInTouch campaign.
  • Share your thoughts and ideas for enhancing the campaign with Kim and me and the planning team.

Thank You
Our ability to clearly articulate the power and compelling value of promotional products and working through promotional consultants is critical to the vitality and vibrancy of our industry.

PPAI has a winning plan to reach advertising buyers through the #GetInTouch campaign at the national level and will create the tools you need to get involved and engaged with your customers and prospects. I thank you in advance for your support and participation.

Sincerely,

Paul

Guest Post | Thoughts on PPAI L.E.A.D. in Washington, D.C.

If Coke and Pepsi can set aside their battle of the brands for a worthwhile cause, so too can the promotional products industry. During PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) event held in May, industry representatives from around the country united to encourage our nation’s legislators to consider critical issues important to the entire industry.

Today I am pleased to present a guest post, “Thoughts on PPAI L.E.A.D. in Washington, D.C.”  by Kyle A. Richardson, editorial director of Promo Marketing magazine. This PM blog originally appeared in the June 27, 2016 issue of Promo Marketing.

Thank you, Kyle, for joining us for the PPAI L.E.A.D. We are grateful for your participation and retrospective on the critical importance of our industry’s unified voice in D.C.

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Last month I had the privilege of joining a select group of promotional products professionals in Washington, D.C., for Promotional Product Association International’s (PPAI) Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). Influential industry members from across the country volunteered their time to head to our nation’s capitol, to raise awareness about our industry and the legislation that impacts suppliers and distributors.

We’ve reported on many of these business topics—independent contractor requirements, the Affordable Care Act, Toxic Substances Control Act reform—but it is another thing entirely to go to D.C. and speak to senators and representatives about our industry, our concerns and our needs. When you see a small section of our community—just 80 volunteers in all—organize more than 300 meetings over two days, you start to appreciate the significance of what PPAI has put together.

It isn’t just the numbers, either: Who was in attendance is just as important. Supplier CEOs, distributor franchisees, multi-line representatives and more all stood united in D.C. We were organized by state, with many groups consisting of companies in direct competition with one another. Along with some suppliers and distributors, I was on the Pennsylvania team representing Promo Marketing next to ASI’s own senior vice president and senior counselor, Chuck Machion. No one was concerned about business rivalries. We were all there to do the same job.

PPAI_LEAD - PM 6-27-16

Left to Right: Kyle A. Richardson; Bruce Korn, CAS, president of Zakback Inc.; U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA); Larry Whitney, director of global compliance for Polyconcept North America.

What most stood out, however, was seeing that what we’re doing works. In several meetings, staffers greeted members of our team by name, recalling them from last year’s event. In other meetings, representatives mentioned receiving emails from suppliers and distributors as part of Promotional Products Work! Week. One staff member we met with took notes on the PPAI L.E.A.D. notebook he received in 2015. If you think events like this don’t have an impact, you’d be surprised.

You also may be surprised to learn that every D.C. staffer looks like they’re 17. Don’t let “House of Cards” fool you: Everyone in the Capitol is too young to drink.

I want to thank PPAI for inviting me along this year, as well as all the members of my team—Chuck, Bruce Korn of Zakpack Inc., George Jackson of George Jackson Promotions, Larry Whitney of Polyconcept North America and Norm Hullinger of alphabroder.

It’s said you should lead, follow or get out of the way. The promotional products industry has made it clear which path it will take.

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Kyle Richardson

Kyle A. Richardson is the editorial director of Promo Marketing. He joined the company in 2006 brings more than a decade of publishing, marketing and media experience to the magazine. If you see him, buy him a drink.

 

Participate. Elevate. Celebrate.

PPW!Work_Logo2016

Next week is Promotional Products Work! Week, and together we will build awareness and increase exposure to grow and protect our industry. Everyone has a role to play and each action, no matter how small, will make a big difference at the local, state and national level. You can help by raising awareness in your own company, community and among your current and future customers!

Many of you already have the whole week planned out, but if you haven’t yet started, it’s not too late! Here are a few things you can do—easily, quickly and inexpensively—to promote your business and strengthen our industry right now!

Take a few minutes to reach out. We’ve made it simple and easy.

Initiate. Inform. Influence.

  • Download the PPW! Week guides and toolkits.

    PPWW Persona Quad Ad Set

    Download & add your logo to the #PPWWeek co-op campaign!

  • Use the banners, infographics, video and ads to post to your website and social media pages, and embed in emails. Personalize them by adding your logo.
  • Add the Promotional Products Work! twibbon to your social profile pic.
  • Round up self-promos and samples and donate them to a nonprofit in your community.
  • Advocate for the industry by participating in the PPAI Legislative Education and Action Day Virtual Fly-In.
  • Reach out and thank your customers.
  • Take lots of photos and share them using the hashtag #PPWWeek.
PPW Twibbon FB Ad Set 600x600

Add the #PPWWeek twibbon!

The fourth annual PPW! Week is focused on growing your business by educating the buyers of promotional products—your current and future customers. This international week-long event is focused on raising awareness of the benefits of promotional products among advertisers, marketers and media buyers.

Our goal is to increase our share in the media buy by enabling a deeper understanding of promotional products as an advertising medium among buyers, as well as sharing the benefits of working with certified promotional products professionals.

Thank you for your commitment and dedication to this great and growing industry. It is through your individual and cumulative efforts that we succeed—every day.

Paul

For more information or questions, contact PPW! Week program manager, Kim R. Todora at KimT@ppai.org.

Promoting and Protecting the Incentive Industry

For many years, PPAI has been an active member of the Incentive Federation. This organization is dedicated to promoting and protecting the incentive industry which includes promotional products, recognition items and related promotions. This group is now in conversations with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), regarding recent changes to their Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines. Under these new guidelines, OSHA points to the negative success safety incentive programs have had in the work place:

“Incentive programs for workers or managers that tie performance evaluations, compensation, or rewards to low injury and illness rates can discourage injury and illness reporting. Point systems that penalize workers for reporting injuries, illnesses, or other safety or health concerns have the same effect, as can mandatory drug testing after reporting injuries. Effective safety and health programs recognize positive safety and health activities, such as reporting hazardous conditions or suggesting safer work procedures.”

These new Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines puts a negative stigma and a blanket generalization on all safety incentive programs, which is just not the case. Limiting potential hazards in the work place is something both employees and employers take very seriously in an effort to have a safer workplace, and all methods of safety prevention should be considered when trying to achieve these objectives.

The Incentive Federation response highlights in great detail how injuries have been in steady decline from the 12-year period of 2003-2014 reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. I encourage you to take a look and better inform yourself on the current guideline changes taking place.

Additionally, I will be heading to Washington, D.C. next week as part of our annual lobbying event—the Legislative Education and Action Day or L.E.A.D.—and we will be sure to share the effectiveness of well-designed safety programs in reducing worker injuries and improving employee morale.

If you have any questions about this report or our work in DC, please contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

Guest Post | The Best of Government Spending

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post by Counselor Editor, Andy Cohen.

This Counselor Commentary was published in response to the KHOU investigative report broadcast last week.

Thank you Andy for your staunch support of this great industry!

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It’s common – and wrong – to question how government agencies spend money on promotional products. Those are smart investments, even though some don’t want to admit it.

Election season really does bring out the worst in just about everybody. Candidates, political action committees, backers, government officials, and voters even – they all end up slinging mud at some point in an election year. So, 2016 is certainly no different, and considering the tenor of the presidential campaign, it may even be the worst yet.

But one common line of criticism, which definitely ramps up during election years, is how government offices (local, state, federal) spend money on promotional products. These are used in many ways by public offices – rewards for employees, awareness campaigns, job fairs, and retention and hiring efforts. They’re all legitimate expenses because they provide value and help these government offices spread their messages and achieve their goals.

Not everybody wants to admit that. Take officials in Texas, for example. A recent report on KHOU, a CBS-affiliated television station in Houston, and online at KHOU.com revealed that the media outlet’s “investigative reporters” totaled up how much state government agencies spent on promotional products that it used as rewards for employees between September 2008 and December 2015. The grand total? A whole $8.8 million worth of what the report calls “trinkets.”

The range of promotional products that state agencies in Texas used over that seven-year time period – can I stress, SEVEN YEARS! – was rather impressive. There were items such as weather station desk accessories, water bottles, coffee mugs, travel tumblers, blankets, umbrellas, jump ropes, juggling balls, pens, notepads, and business card holders. They were also used in a variety of ways, including as performance and retention rewards, and as training tools at meetings.

“These items were purchased and utilized to reinforce training concepts,” Bryan Black, a spokesman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, told KHOU in reference to the juggling balls that the agency purchased. “Different quality control scenarios were written on the balls, and the balls were then used as a tool for the participants to answer scenario-based questions and apply the information presented during the class to reinforce learning.”

A completely reasonable purchase for a state agency to make, but KHOU decided to make this a referendum on public spending, saying that “your tax dollars” bought these items. The implication, of course? Wasteful spending. So, they found somebody who would speak out against it.

“I think it needs to be seriously looked at,” said Peggy Venable, senior policy fellow with Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit government watchdog group. “We do want government employees who are recognized for doing a good job, (but) how do we do that? I don’t think it’s with junk.”

Well, Ms. Venable, you have no idea what you’re talking about. It has been proven time and again that promotional products provide value beyond just the item that’s handed out – just check out the many ASI Ad Specialties Impressions Studies we’ve conducted at www.asicentral.com/study. They’re far from the “junk” you call them, because they actually provide a return-on-investment better than most other forms of marketing media. And, as rewards promotional products are particularly impactful because recipients actually keep and repeatedly use the items in their everyday life – reinforcing the message that the agency handing the items out wants to impart.

The media outlet in Houston and the one non-profit watchdog representative that they chose to quote are making a lazy and easy argument that tends to rear its ugly head whenever government spending becomes an issue. So, the whole state of Texas spent $8.8 million on rewards for employees and training tools over a seven-year period – less than $1.3 million per year for one of the largest states in the union. I’d argue that they didn’t actually spend enough, and could have gotten more out of what KHOU refers to as “your tax dollars at work” by doing more consistent promotional products campaigns. Maybe they should have targeted some extra education and training efforts toward local media, so they too can see and feel the impact of promotional products.