Tag Archives: #PPAIExpo

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.

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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.

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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.

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When Worlds Collide

Based on keynote speaker, Tony Hsieh’s “collision model” this year The PPAI Expo not only created community and co-learning, but an astounding 800,000+ collisions.

The PPAI Expo 2014 Marks 5-Year High  in Attendee and Exhibitor Numbers

The PPAI Expo 2014 Marks 5-Year High in Attendee and Exhibitor Numbers

For one week the promotional products industry comes together to launch their year, and this year they came out in force to gather industry insights and trends and set the stage for the year to come. Whether it is The PPAI Expo’s sheer size and quality or professional development and business-building opportunities, no other industry event provides this level of engagement and access to the promotional products market, its leaders, brands, new products, services and solutions.

This year, The PPAI Expo ranked 53rd among all U.S. trade shows on the Trade Show Executive Gold 100, but it is clear The PPAI Expo is the number one trade show in our industry and 2014 was personally my favorite so far.

The PPAI Expo 2014 generated growth in both attendee and exhibitor participation. At more than a million square feet of exhibition and education space, The PPAI Expo is the largest single gathering of suppliers, decorators, technology providers and distributors in the industry dedicated to showcasing new, green and Made in America products, decorating technology, motivational strategies, professional development and leadership and global access to the promotional products marketplace.

I am pleased to report The PPAI Expo 2014 attracted a five-year high of more than 11,500 attendees from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 34 countries, representing our fourth consecutive year of growth. Professional development and education session attendance also experienced significant increases. In fact, Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh’s general session had one of the largest crowds ever measured with an overflow attendance of more than double the previous year.

This year, significant growth was generated through an increase in promotional products suppliers, decorators and distributors, as well as the co-location of the Recognition Professionals International conference with PPAI’s brand. pavilion. With the additional growth, exhibit and education space totaled more than 1,100,000 square feet, with more than 1,400 exhibiting companies in more than 3,250 booths.

We hosted more than 120 professional development and certification sessions drawing standing-room-only attendance to education tracks highlighting business management, product responsibility, marketing, sales and service and technology.

With guidance from the Association’s Product Responsibility Advisory Group, industry committees and advisory groups, PPAI launched ‘Product Safety Aware’, a program designed to enhance an industry-wide commitment and culture where companies are not only aware of product safety but are leading the discussion at every level in the promotional products channel.

The general session and keynote line-up included remarks from Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh, The Mark of a Leader’s CEO & Chief Storyteller Doug Keeley;  Valorie Burton discussed how to be better, not bitter; and our industry’s own, Mark Graham of RIGHTSLEEVE and Bobby Lehew of Robyn Promotions who walked the audience through the three important models to consider in business and how to market a business to not merely survive turbulent times but to stay alive and thrive.

We recognized more than 160 companies and individuals with Suppliers Achievement, Pyramid, Image, Technology and Supplier Star awards and during the PPAI Chairman’s Leadership Dinner we gave special honors to Don Lafferre as the 2014 PPAI Hall of Fame inductee, Mike Schenker, MAS, as the recipient of the 2014 PPAI Distinguished Service Award and Peter Geiger as the recipient of the 2014 H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award.

For the last two years I have talked to anyone that would listen about PPAI’s goal of delivering industry Visibility, Viability, Credibility and Community—we now add Commitment, Culture and Confidence to our pledge of industry advocacy. This philosophy was exemplified through Tony Hsieh’s inspirational keynote address where he explained the Zappos model of creating community, co-learning and collisions. Attendees were excited to hear how Zappos.com builds business by accelerating collisions between co-workers and their communities through organic growth generated as a result of strategic design, location and traffic flow—promoting interaction, collaboration and commerce.

Based on the Zappos.com model, The PPAI Expo week generated more than 800,000 collisions in over a million square feet at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas!

Looking Forward To This Year And The Next

Next year, The PPAI Expo 2015 will be held Sunday through Thursday, January 11-15, 2015, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas; the SAGE Show will take place, April 23-25, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas and Expo East will be held May 19-21, 2014, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For more information, visit The PPAI Expo, SAGE Show and EXPO East.

I hope to see you at one or all of the upcoming events!

Paul