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Congrats to a Winning Team

Filed under: News About ASI

At a time of transition across the publishing spectrum, it’s a vote of real confidence for ASI® magazines to win a record three Jesse H. Neal awards – the B-to-B equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize.

At ASI, we’re proud of consistently producing compelling, exclusive, original content. It’s a commitment we made to our 250,000 print and online readers from the start. Happily, the Neal Award judges concur, honoring Stitches® magazine with two Neals and Wearables® with one. In addition, Stitches, Counselor® and Advantages® magazines were named finalists for seven more Neal awards in a stiff competition that attracts top publications like Architectural Record and Advertising Age.

Like most people, I love winning. It’s great for our team’s confidence and we always enjoy partying together at the ceremony.

But what’s especially gratifying is that the judges recognized ASI’s commitment to a very broad skill set, honoring traditional long-form journalism as well as multi-platform packages with a strong social media component. These days, it’s critical for magazines and websites to interact with their online audience – a skill that comes easily to our writers and editors (especially the ones with a quick wit!).

Stitches senior writer Theresa Hegel, an award-winning journalist from Emmaus, PA, won for overall reporting as well as for her cover story “Can This Shop Be Saved?” Instead of giving readers a typical-but-sufficient story on yet another troubled business, Stitches went way above and beyond and sent Joyce Jagger, aka The Embroidery Coach, to Wisconsin for two days to help an embroidery shop turn itself around. Learning how Jagger whipped this business into shape should appeal to any business looking to improve.

C.J. Mittica, editor of Wearables magazine, took home a plaque in the category of “Best Subject-Related Package” for his story, “The T-shirt That Thinks,” which zeroed in on an industry-specific subject that’s breaking the apparel world wide open. As C.J. wrote: “Smart wearables will radicalize the branding capabilities of apparel. They’ll position information at our instant beckoning. They will literally tell us how we should live. With enough time, the tech will burrow so deeply inside the garments that the category of wearable technology won’t exist anymore. There will only be clothing.”

In less than 10 years, ASI magazines have been honored with over 140 journalism awards and remain the only industry publications to ever win a Neal Award. Our grand total for Neals alone is now nine wins and 17 finalists.

Under Editor-in-Chief Melinda Ligos and Publisher Rich Fairfield, our magazines have become the ones to beat – something the competitor in me enjoys to the hilt.

In the pic above, from left: Advantages Editor Kathy Huston, Melinda Ligos, C.J. Mittica, Theresa Hegel, Stitches Editor Nicole Rollender, Counselor Editor Andy Cohen and Rich Fairfield.


ASI Promocar Hits The Open Road

Filed under: News About ASI

Sometimes, companies need to try a crazy idea and have a little fun. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, at least we get to say we tried something different.

With that in mind, ASI created an art car we dubbed the ASI Promocar – a 2002 Mazda Protégé our employees covered inside and out with an array of colorful promotional products, everything from logoed slinkys and stress balls to keychains and lanyards. Most of the items were generously donated by ASI suppliers.

Our moving billboard is part of a year-long public relations campaign called “Driving Serious Fun,” designed to spread the word about the industry’s creativity and ingenuity. In the past year, we’ve displayed the Promocar at ASI trade shows in Chicago, Orlando and Long Beach, CA. Everywhere we bring it, people gawk, smile, take pictures and ask questions. Yes, we say, it is street legal (anyone can turn their vehicle into an art car as long as you obey a few sensible rules) and no, those things don’t generally fly off, even at 60 mph (we used a lot of glue).

As much fun as it is, the Promocar serves a serious purpose: It opens up a conversation about promotional products and gives us a chance to brag about the low-cost, high-impact items that fuel a $21.5 billion industry to anyone who’ll listen.

Now, we’re giving the Promocar a real road test. Starting March 30, ASI’s PR manager, Dawn Marie, is driving it back to Pennsylvania from California, for a total of about 2,700 miles. From Los Angles, the car will stop in Flagstaff, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Memphis, Tennessee; Asheville, North Carolina; and Floyd, Virginia before ending its trip in Stockton, New Jersey on or around April 8. The car will then return to ASI headquarters in Trevose, Pennsylvania.

Throughout the trip, she’s couchsurfing with locals whenever possible as a tie-in to the freebie concept the promo products industry is based upon.

Anyone who sees the car during its trip and posts a pic to social media with the hashtag #ASIpromocar can score a “Driving Serious Fun” T-shirt. Follow the car on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and on ASI’s website, www.asicentral.com.

Since everyone loves free stuff, of course we brought along giveaways. Hopefully, we’ll motivate end-users to consider advertising with promo products the next time they need to get the word out about something they’re passionate about, whether it’s a store opening, a charity 5K or even an employee wellness program. We’re also letting people sign the inside – on the dashboard, steering wheel, radio, doors and even the ceiling.

The reaction we get from kids is the best. They don’t question anything – they just have a ball touching it and yelling out “Look at the fun car!”

And, at a time when we conduct so much business electronically, it’s wonderful to meet people face-to-face – especially in a car that’s the epitome of ‘mobile’ advertising. Maybe we’ll even inspire a few distributors to create an art car of their own. It’s not only a conversation-starter, it’s literally an advertising vehicle.

Before we started this project, we researched art cars and consulted a number of expert enthusiasts like Costas Schuler, who covered his Mercedes with 10,000 pens, calling it the “Mercedes Pens.” Their advice pretty much came down to this: Use a lot of glue (GE Silicone II works wonders), make sure not to obstruct your sight lines or lights and be as creative as possible.

After gluing like crazy, we splattered the car with some bright colors and even put some Keith Haring swirls on some of the stress balls. We also painted a road on the hood and the roof to go with our “driving” theme.

If the most famous company art car of them all, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, collided with a Jackson Pollock painting, it might look something like the ASI Promocar. It’s always a work in progress. Sure, some people don’t get it. And that’s OK, too.

Our little Mazda already has 190,000 miles on it, and it’s a long trip from one end of the country to another. Since this is a low-budget project, if the car does break down along the way, we’ll call AAA and hope for the best. To date, we’ve only lost a few items, mostly because people can’t seem to resist pulling on things to see if they’re really stuck. We also made sure to only use lightweight plastic and foam items so even if something does come off, it can’t do any harm.

So far, Schuler has driven his art car over 270,000 miles – an inspiring number. Wish us luck and keep an eye out for the ASI Promocar. Honk if you love promo products!

Below are suppliers who generously donated items to the ASI Promocar:

  • Aakron Rule Corp., asi/30270
  • All-In-One, asi/34256
  • Ariel Premium Supply, asi/36730
  • Bullet, asi/42424
  • Chulani Promotional Products Inc., asi/45100
  • Digispec, asi/49716
  • Footprints USA, asi/55030
  • Hit Promotional Products, asi/61125
  • IDProductsource, asi/62088
  • Nationwide Promotions LLC, asi/73464
  • Norwood by BIC Graphic, asi/74400
  • Prime Line, asi/79530
  • PromoMatting, asi/35750
  • Zenith Promotions, asi/98980

Inspiration and Motivation at ASI Long Beach

Filed under: ASI Shows, Community, Education, Members, News About ASI

ASI’s Long Beach keynote speaker Jillian Michaels – an internationally known fitness expert who single-handedly built a healthy-living empire – was as down-to-earth as a friendly neighbor. While waiting backstage, she kicked off her high heels and showed our crew pictures of monarch butterfly caterpillars from her Malibu backyard.

She’s only 5-foot-2, but she radiates presence. And, she was so beautiful up close I was nearly mesmerized. Can you tell how much I enjoyed our on stage conversation? Right from the start, she enraptured our audience with her personal story of being an unhappy, overweight teenager who was bullied in school and yet managed to overcome it all, thanks in great part to her family’s support.

“As a kid, I was lucky enough to have two people who really believed in me,” she said. “Having people who support you and who believe in you is really critical.”

Through hard work and determination, along with a strong mentor and helpful clients, Michaels established a huge personal brand and starred in a hit reality TV show. I bet everyone who heard her positive, inspiring message left motivated to make changes in their life and in their business. I know I did.

Our conversation was a highlight of the ASI Show® Long Beach, held Tuesday, March 24, through Thursday, March 26, at the Long Beach Convention Center. Our show attracted 203 exhibitors and 1,643 distributors from 925 companies from 31 states and three countries. I was very happy to hear that the show also attracted 126 women-owned companies and 114 minority-owned companies.

For more on the show, recaps of education classes and to see pics, visit our Facebook page and www.asicentral.com.

We got great feedback from attendees like Rob Cunningham, of Uniflex (asi/92480), who said he really enjoyed the show. “We’ve had a lot of good traffic and great sales conversations with distributors.”

To me, that’s what it’s all about: making connections.

Distributor Bob Lewellen, of Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600), told us his company likes holding meetings in conjunction with ASI shows because they present good opportunities to meet face-to-face. “Our dealers like to come to the show so they can get product ideas and find new suppliers to do business with,” he said. “Plus, all of our dealers attend education – there is always something to be learned. The seminar choices give you a chance to focus on what’s important to you.”

There were lots of opportunities for fun, too, from networking events like dinner at Gladstone’s restaurant, to paddle boarding and beer tasting at our new networking clubs.

Hundreds of people also visited the ASI Promocar, a Mazda Protégé we covered inside and out with hundreds of promotional products donated by ASI suppliers. The Promocar (hashtag #ASIpromocar) is part of an ASI PR campaign called “Driving Serious Fun,” designed to drive attention to $21.5 billion promotional products industry and to spread the word about the industry’s creativity and ingenuity.

After Long Beach, the Promocar sets off on a 2,700-mile journey across 12 states. Make sure to follow the car along the way through pics and blog posts on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and on ASI’s website, www.asicentral.com. The car already has 190,000 miles on it, so wish us luck!


Get Pumped for ASI Long Beach

Filed under: ASI Shows, News About ASI

At first, I didn’t think I had much in common with Jillian Michaels, an LA-based entrepreneur who built a successful business around fitness and motivation. Then I learned that she, too, was an overweight child. Now, I can’t wait to share the stage with her at ASI’s Long Beach show and to ask her about her incredible journey from unhappy childhood to creator of her own fitness franchise.

Our Q&A takes place Thursday, March 26, 9:30-10:15 a.m. And if you’d like to meet her afterward, there are still tickets available for a meet and greet before the show floor opens. I’m sure any entrepreneur or small-business owner who attends will come away inspired to put down the potato chips and grow their business (instead of their waistline).

The show is once again at the Long Beach Convention Center, in Halls A and B, starting with Education Day from 12-4 on Tuesday. Exhibit days are Wednesday and Thursday.

I’m delighted we’re also welcoming 10 distributor meeting groups that chose to hold their big gathering at an ASI event. I hope to see as many of you as possible in Long Beach, so if you see me dashing down the hall, please say hello. And don’t forget to tweet using hashtag #ASIlongbeach.

I know everyone will spend most of their time checking out the many classes and browsing the show floor for 2015’s newest products. For a refresher course on all that ASI’s ESP® has to offer, I suggest a brand-new Power Session called “Getting the Most Out of ESP: 20 Tips in 20 Minutes,” 4-4:30 p.m. Wednesday and 11-2 p.m. Thursday on the show floor with ASI’s Joan Miracle.

We introduced a number of new events at our 2015 shows, and Long Beach is no exception. Here’s a recap of some fun networking activities you can join to meet one-on-one with other distributors and suppliers:

Tues., March 24

  • Explorers Club: 2-4 p.m. $35. Stand-up paddle boarding: Meet at Hyatt Regency Long Beach lobby entrance at 1:30 pm. Host: Editorial’s C.J. Mittica.
  • Good Spirits Club: 7 p.m. $20. Light apps and a flight of six craft brew samples at The Yard House. Hosts: Editorial’s Melinda Ligos, Joe Haley and Nate Kucsma. Meet at the Yard House.

Wed., March 25

  • Yoga Club: 6:30 a.m. $10. Room 104C at the Convention Center. Host: Kaushika Kansara of ASI Show®.
  • Runners Club: 6:30 a.m. $10. Run starts at Hyatt. Host: Hilary Dolphin of ASI Show.

Thurs., March 26

  • Pizza Party: 12-1 p.m. in Booth 236. Come by for a free slice.

When you need a break, stop by our new Social Lounge in Booth 459, where you can kick back in easy chairs and view a big screen with all show-related social media posts and pics.

It’s also where you can check out the ASI Promocar, a Mazda we covered inside and out with hundreds of promo products in a nod to the industry’s creativity. You’re welcome to sit inside, take pics – and post the hashtag #ASIpromocar. Wish us luck: After Long Beach, ASI’s PR manager, Dawn Marie, is driving the car about 2,700 miles cross country as a far-out example of our industry’s ingenuity. You can follow the Promocar’s progress on www.asicentral.com and ASI’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

All in all, Long Beach is shaping up to be an exciting show. And after the winter we’ve experienced here in the East, I know I’m looking forward to sunny skies and warmer temps. See you there!


Thanks to the Promo Products Community

Filed under: Community, News About ASI, Research

I love nothing better than hearing “thank you,” especially from a business that’s acknowledging how much I mean to them as a customer or client. So I’d like to take this opportunity to send out a great big “thanks” of my own to everyone in the industry who’s completed a survey, participated in a focus group or sent me an email. I’d also like to express my appreciation for the over 2,000 ASI members who joined the ASI Marketing Research panel.

I literally could not do my job as ASI’s director of marketing research without help from every one of you.

With the information you so generously provide, ASI is able to prepare and share a ton of important data with the industry. The most important, perhaps, is the input you send us as we prepare for our annual Counselor State of the Industry (SOI) report, a mega-effort we’re kicking off this week.

The SOI study helps shape our understanding of the advertising specialties industry as a whole and provides a forward-looking view into what’s ahead. The results are always widely shared, in Counselor magazine’s special State of the Industry issue, which is dedicated to the study, as well as through numerous citations in newspapers and magazines all year long. In 2013, the issue even won a prestigious Jesse H. Neal Award, considered the Pulitzer Prize of business press – and the 2014 issue (see cover at right) recently was named a finalist for another one.

In addition to loads of stats and graphics, the SOI issue contains info designed to help any sized company plan strategically for the future, grow their business, streamline operations and tap new and emerging markets. Along with winning tips and tactics and growth strategies, the SOI issue also profiles that year’s Counselor Award winners – including the Person of the Year – and publishes the revenue and ranking of Top 40 distributor and supplier companies.

Here’s how you can contribute (and earn my sincere thanks once again!):

Counselor is currently polling professionals in the industry – both distributors and suppliers – to find out how the market did in 2014 and to get their impressions on where the industry is headed in 2015. Your input is invaluable. Please take 10 minutes to click the appropriate link below and complete the State of the Industry survey.

  • To complete this year’s Distributor State of the Industry, please click here.
  • To complete this year’s Supplier State of the Industry, please click here.

If you haven’t read the 2014 issue yet (available in print and online at www.asicentral.com/soi), please check it out. ASI editorial staffers spend months gathering and analyzing key sales, marketing and operational metrics used by most of you to provide useable info tailor-made for our industry. The accompanying graphics also provide valuable snapshots of what’s up, down and trending.

I’d also love to know if there’s a topic, trend or strategy we might have missed or not given enough attention to, so please either post a comment or email me at nkucsma@asicentral.com.

Hear that? It’s me, thanking you in advance for participating.

– Nathaniel Kucsma, ASI’s director of marketing research


Playing To Win In Dallas

Filed under: ASI Shows, News About ASI

Troy Aikman, ASI’s keynote speaker in Dallas, had a great excuse for running a couple minutes later than I expected to our show on Thursday: He was dropping his two young daughters off at school, something the 48-year-old dad does every day, no matter what.

It says a lot when a guy worth an estimated $25 million drives his own car, runs his own errands and makes family a priority. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback even told us his favorite pastime when he’s not working as a FOX sportscaster is spending time with his daughters, aged 12 and 13.

“I don’t want to be corny, but I hang out with my girls,” he told the 600 people at the keynote at the ASI Show Dallas, which ended Thursday after three days at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, attracting 485 exhibitors and 3,435 attendees from 49 states and 19 countries, with distributor attendance up about 4% over 2014.

All told, a record 20 companies chose Dallas to host their sales meetings, an increase of 15% over the previous year. The show also attracted 270 female-owned and 230 minority-owned businesses, which I was very happy to see.

Aikman was not what I expected. When we first met backstage in the green room he seemed low key and almost subdued. But once he got on stage, he really came to life, telling fascinating and often funny stories about growing up in California and Oklahoma, where his family raised cows, horses and chickens on 240 acres.

I always find that when you ask someone about their upbringing, you learn fascinating things. In Aikman’s case, even though he took one of the most successful teams in the history of the game to the Super Bowl three times, he came off confident without being arrogant. That’s an admirable trait a lot of successful people can’t manage to pull off.

He also offered some insight into the Cowboys as an organization, and the tough but fair leadership of former Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson, who told him, “You don’t coach a player to what he is, you coach him to what you want him to be.”

Aikman expected his teammates to know their roles and treat professional football like the job it is. “People get fired for not knowing their assignments in the real world,” he said. “My job as quarterback was to do whatever it takes to win.”

Surprisingly, football wasn’t Aikman’s first choice. In high school, he also played baseball and basketball and only signed up for high school football so he wouldn’t disappoint his father. Even as he racked up success on the playing field in college and with the Cowboys he never stopped working hard.

Even his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys, when the team won only a single game, taught him a valuable lesson. “It served me well later in life,” said Aikman. “I never forgot how hard it is to win. I never forgot what it was like to lose a game.”

Not surprisingly, he said, “My career surpassed my wildest dreams. I can’t complain at all.” How many among us can say that – and mean it?

For complete coverage of the show, including blogs, photo and videos, visit www.asicentral.com and www.asishow.com. And, search for our hashtag, #ASIDallas.

Upcoming 2015 ASI Shows are Long Beach (March 24-26), New York (May 5-6) and Chicago (July 14-16). To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2015, contact Karen DiTomasso, vice president of sales, at kditomasso@asicentral.com.


Game On in Dallas

Filed under: ASI Shows, News About ASI

Since I live and work so close to Philadelphia, I’ve become a big fan of the Eagles football team. In 2005, I was even lucky enough to watch them play in Super Bowl XXXIX against the New England Patriots in Jacksonville, Florida – a very big deal for someone whose high school was too small to support its own football team.

Now I’m gearing up for a Q&A with one of the greatest players of our time, three-time Super Bowl champ and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who graciously agreed to step in as a last-minute keynote speaker at the ASI Show® in Dallas. I’ll interview Aikman, an Emmy-nominated FOX sportscaster, Thursday, February 5, at 8:30 a.m. at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, on the final day of our three-day show.

If you have any questions for Troy, please post a comment or email me at tim.andrews@asicentral.com.

Most recently, Aikman jumped into the fray over the “deflategate” controversy, going so far as to call for severe punishments for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick for those deflated footballs. I like a guy who speaks his mind and can’t wait to see what else he has to say about life on and off the field.

Aikman is sure to have some great stories about working for one of the most recognizable brands in the world and how he transitioned from one successful career to another without missing a beat.

In addition to the Q&A, Dallas offers a ton of other highlights:

  • Concurrent Education Programs, with 45 courses on Tuesday’s education day, 9 a.m.-4:25 p.m., with all sessions qualifying for points toward the ASI Certification Program.
  • The Joe Show Live Tuesday morning, hosted by Joe Haley.
  • The new Explorers Club, featuring rock climbing at Summit Gym, and the Diner’s Club at Bolsa Dallas on Tuesday.
  • The new Yoga Club and Runner’s Club on Wednesday.
  • Gala celebration at Eddie Deen’s Ranch Wednesday night.

Click here for the complete schedule with times, etc.

If you see me in Texas, please be sure to stop me and say hello.


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