Category Archives: Uncategorized

PPAI and the Shift from a Transactional to Relational Organization

In the November issue of PPB, Chair Tom Goos, MAS, summarized his term over the past 12 months. In that column, he talked about the Association’s undertaking of a strategic planning session and his pride in the work of the PPAI Board and staff on the resulting strategic plan. He mentioned a new mission statement and the idea that the plan focused on taking the Association from transactional to relational.

The new mission statement—PPAI is the trusted leader delivering essential knowledge, resources and community to ensure the success of our members and the industry—says a lot, not only about where we are going but perhaps where we’ve been.

As we prepared for the strategic planning session, our session facilitator, Seth Kahan, took the time to talk with members. He participated in focus groups, made phone calls and interacted with members one on one. It was the feedback from these members that let us know we had become the trusted leader. I take great pride in knowing that the organization has positioned itself as such.

But the fact that the phrase is still a part of our mission statement is meant to show that we will not rest on our laurels, and as we move forward we not only fully embrace this title, but we plan to focus on it in the future. We will strive in every aspect of our operation to remain your trusted leader, and in doing so, we will move the organization from transactional to relational.

You may be wondering exactly what that phrase means. I must admit, after the strategic planning session, I had to think about it a bit myself.

It means that our strategic plan will take us beyond simply trying to acquire new members and sell additional benefits. It will focus us on reaching deeper into the members we have and enhancing a deeper relationship.

Let’s consider each of the four goals:

  1. Drive meaningful member value and engagement. This goal says nothing about getting more members. It is, as I like to refer to it, our Love goal. We want our members to love us, to trust us and to engage with us—however you choose to engage with us. Whether we’re talking about super users/brand advocates, or the creation of knowledge communities where content will be king, our focus is value and engagement—and is relational in every sense.
  2. Advocate for the industry. A long-standing goal for the Association, advocacy is something we will continue to execute on your behalf. But what changes with this strategic plan is that we want to build a stronger relationship with you, so that we advocate together. Each of you has an opportunity to be a part of our buyer outreach efforts by getting involved in our Get In Touch! campaign. This million-dollar-plus, five-year campaign, will only see its full potential if we work together. Our efforts on the legislative and product responsibility sides are not dissimilar in that they too will garner the most attention and draw the greatest success when we work together. Stronger relationships between you and your Association will build a stronger industry for the future.
  3. Deliver and leverage strategic foresight. By having a greater understanding of what’s ahead, we can better prepare for our future. This goal looks to find and track emerging trends that will or could have an impact on our industry. It’s not just looking at what disruptors might be coming our way and the implication of such, but what opportunities are being created for the industry by these trends.
  4. Manage an efficient and progressive organization. How do we retool PPAI to deliver second-to-none member experiences, interaction and engagement? This might be a deeper dive into technology to enhance member interaction with the Association or developing more personalized relationships with each of our members—basically allowing you to customize your PPAI membership in a way that best meets your needs.

Transactional to relational. You see, no mention of acquiring more members, selling more booths or anything that is transactional. Those may be a byproduct of this strategic plan, and I hope that they are, but it is not our focus. You loving this organization is our goal.

Want more information on this and engaging with PPAI? Call me at 972-258-3050. I’d enjoy sharing with you.

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.

PPAI’s 2016 Legislative Agenda – Get Engaged!

As the PPAI Public Affairs team, our DC-based Lobbyist and 80 of the most engaged, dedicated and motivated volunteers prepare for the Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D) next month in Washington, DC, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share PPAI’s 2016 Legislative Agenda.

Please take a few minutes to read through the industry- and small business-critical issues we will focus on during our Capitol Hill visits in May, and throughout the year during PPAI’s L.E.A.D. Local and recess visits.

It doesn’t take a lot to get engaged in industry advocacy but the payoff is tremendous. Want to get involved? Start here – at the PPAI Law website or contact Joseph Landeros at josephl@ppai.org or 972-258-3015.

 

Let’s work together to grow and protect this amazing industry.

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.

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.