July 21, 2016
ASI® recently finished an incredibly positive, powerful week in Chicago, including our last large show of 2016.
At ASI Show® Chicago, distributors enjoyed a ton of great events and we got very positive feedback from exhibiting suppliers pleased with the quality and quantity of the attendance.
We’re already planning for 2017, so keep an eye out for registration notices and info on great keynote speakers like former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino in Orlando, Shark Tank judge Daymond John in Chicago and John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods in Dallas.
Chicago highlights included the keynote appearance by husband-and-wife political dynamos Mary Matalin and James Carville, who gave us a real insider’s view of this zany presidential election – including Carville’s prediction for Hillary Clinton’s VP: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as VP.
Matalin is a Chicago native whose mother managed beauty schools and whose father had a small business printing drapery fabrics. Matalin was 26 when her mother unexpectedly died, changing her life forever. “I was going to run her beauty schools,” she told us backstage. “Instead, I packed up my Chevy hatchback with everything I owned and drove to D.C. The car died on the Beltway.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The liberal Carville and conservative Matalin have been in the public eye since the early 1990s, helping get candidates elected or advising presidents. And though they’re well-versed in answering questions posed by the country’s toughest reporters, I believed it when they said they appreciated the “insightful, thoughtful” questions posed by our audience.
Two of my favorite quotes:
After the keynote, they graciously spent another hour visiting booths on the show floor, quizzing exhibitors about their products and posing for selfies (see pics).
And in case you wondered about the snazzy shoes Matalin wore onstage (she smartly changed to comfy ones right after), she got them for $87 at www.theoutnet.com, discounted from $1,500. “My daughter is a fashionista who picks out my clothes,” she told us.
I didn’t ask Carville what he was wearing, but did appreciate the lapel pins he had on: a fleur-de-lis symbol of New Orleans, where the couple is raising their family, an American flag and a Marine Corps logo.
One final note on ASI’s political coverage: Please be assured that ASI doesn’t endorse any candidates for public office.
That said, ASI is committed to providing the promotional products industry with in-depth coverage of the entire political season, including live coverage of the action surrounding the national conventions as well as member polls and stories that provide unique insight into the role promotional products play in politics, along with ways ASI members can tap into the lucrative political marketplace.
As for our keynote speakers, our primary process for selecting speakers is through extensive surveying of distributors, suppliers and decorators to determine their interests and their level of interest in specific people who are available for speaking engagements. In terms of political speakers generally, we have had people of all viewpoints – Bill Clinton, Laura Bush, George W. Bush, Colin Powell and Rudy Giuliani all have spoken at past ASI Shows.
Our goal is to find people who are engaging, interesting, timely, topical and who can help people think about things in ways that might be different than the way they think today. There are many different viewpoints, and we try to provide a forum for ones that surveys tell us are of interest to ASI members.
June 22, 2016
No matter which candidate you support, ASI has you covered, starting with a special keynote Q&A at our Chicago show with political odd couple James Carville and Mary Matalin, and extending to presidential polls, convention coverage and stories on selling political promo products.
As Counselor reported, political swag is a multimillion-dollar business. In fact, investing millions in promotional products helped fuel the unexpected rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – and reinforced promo’s essential role in the race for our nation’s highest office, according to a story by ASI editor C. J. Mittica.
(Tip: if you do sell political promo products on the local, state or federal level – yard signs, buttons and brochures etc. – make sure you get paid upon delivery, especially by losing candidates!)
This is an important election. We the people will be responsible for electing the next leader of the free world. I’m thrilled Carville and Matalin will provide some insight into how the outcome will impact small business and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Interestingly, Matalin recently switched parties, from Republican to Libertarian. As it happens, the first presidential candidate I ever voted for was Libertarian, so we’ll definitely discuss the motives behind her switch. To listen to ASI’s podcast with Mary Matalin, click here.
I also want to know exactly how the husband-and-wife political strategists have maintained a very happy marriage in spite of being polar political opposites. Do they ban politics from the dinner table – or thrive on fiery discussions?
Matalin, a conservative, grew up in the Chicago suburb of Burnham, IL. James “The Ragin’ Cajun” Carville, a liberal Democrat, is from rural Carville, LA. The couple married in 1993. Together, they have over 30 years of experience in politics and have individually worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In 2014, they co-wrote Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home.
For answers, attend the keynote at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 14, the last day of the three-day Chicago show – the largest promo products trade show of the summer. It’s free to any distributor or decorator registered for the show and all exhibiting suppliers, but it’s not open to the general public.
And, a limited number of tickets are still available for ASI members to gain early admission to the keynote or to attend a meet-and-greet with Carville and Matalin.
So please send me your questions! And if you haven’t already, to register for ASI Chicago call (800) 546-3300 or visit www.asishow.com/shows/2016/chicago.
June 9, 2016
Filed under: Community
I am mourning the passing of Everett Groseclose, who was more like a father to me than my own. I met Ev 33 years ago when I was working as an intern at Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
He was the “big boss,” one of the first and best writers of the off-beat stories that appear on the front page of the Journal, and I spoke with him only in passing that summer. The next winter, I answered a blind ad – to a PO box – and my resume ended up on his desk.
He invited me back to New York for an interview, and he later called long-distance to hire me for my first full-time job: I took calls all day from Journal reporters, who dictated their stories as I typed as fast as I could and tried to ask questions and edit their stories along the way.
Ev was a constant coach, adviser and mentor. After seven years working for him, Ev helped me move from editorial to the business side, a foreign place and one usually distrusted by editors. But Ev told me I could do it, and he believed in me.
On the 25th anniversary of my first day working for him (June 4, 1984), I flew to his home in Santa Fe and presented him with an engraved Rolex watch: “Thank you for believing. Rgds, TA.” (Ev’s sign-off was always “Rgds, EG,” the origin of my use of TA.)
He gave me advice whenever I asked, most recently about two months ago when he also shared that his cancer had returned. I loved Ev Groseclose and thank him for everything he allowed me to do for myself simply because he believed in me. My prayers are with his daughters, Kirsten Rose and Megan, and all his family and friends.
June 3, 2016
Whether you have a mom-and-pop shop or a huge corporation, online security has never been more important, especially in light of recent criminal data breaches at social media sites LinkedIn, MySpace and Tumblr.
In what is the online equivalent of a superstore break-in, hackers stole and then tried to sell what they claimed were 117 million LinkedIn email addresses and passwords. This is a huge deal because lots of people routinely use the same password on multiple sites, meaning hackers could use one piece of stolen info as a gateway to break into banking websites and other key accounts.
If your LinkedIn info was stolen, LinkedIn was supposed to notify you with instructions to reset your password and consider adding two-step verification. Regularly changing passwords – and using long passwords that are a mix of letters, numbers and symbols – should be routine at every home and office these days.
But I admit, when I first heard about the breaches I had to think, “Did LinkedIn notify me? Do I still have a MySpace account? Did I ever use Tumblr?”
We’re all super busy, and it’s easy to get lazy about personal online security – just as it’s easy to forget to lock your front door or your car. Make no mistake, cybercrime is very real and growing more sophisticated every day. There’s malware, email worms, like-jacking, link-jacking – the threat list goes on.
To alert ASI members to the latest breaches, ASI’s CTO, Armughan Rafat, sent an advisory email I’m sharing in full below. Please note: the LinkedIn, MySpace and Tumblr breaches are not related to your safe, secure ASI accounts and, unfortunately, ASI cannot help you change settings to your personal external accounts.
Here is Armughan’s email:
If you have used LinkedIn, Tumblr or MySpace, I highly recommend you take the following actions to protect your account(s):
If you already changed your password in response to a breach notification from LinkedIn, there’s no need to change it again. But if you wish to change it as a precaution:
For more information on the data breaches, please visit:
May 18, 2016
One of the biggest concerns distributors have over hiring summer interns is the time and effort it takes to train newcomers about our industry. I get that. To help, we made training a key component of a bold new ASI intern program.
ASI devised a series of training webinars that offer interns hired by industry companies a broad overview of products and their ROI, biggest markets, industry players and more. It’s like taking Promo 101.
I’m such an unabashed cheerleader for the promo industry that I want to keep it flourishing forever, but it’s clear we’re in dire need of more millennials and greater diversity. Interns can provide new energy, ideas, enthusiasm and insights into the new millennial generation – our future buyers as well as future employees.
According to Forbes, there are 80 million millennials in America alone, and they represent about a fourth of the entire population and $200 billion in annual buying power. They are the trendsetters. Take a moment to review your own staff – how many millennials work with you? How many people of color?
As the age and demographics of buyers change, as well as the audiences they’re trying to reach, we need an industry that reflects those demographics so we can better understand preferences, what works and what doesn’t work.
As it stands now, though, the advertising specialty industry is largely invisible to millennials. In school, they learn about buying and using TV, radio and Internet advertising, direct mail and everything else, but marketing programs rarely mention the power of promotional products and their incredible ROI.
That’s why hiring an intern makes good business sense. Even if they don’t enter the industry full-time, they’ll learn why they should include promotional products in whatever future marketing campaigns they create in whatever industry they choose.
So please check out the ASI® Summer Internship Program, which will provide each intern hired by an industry company with:
ASI will also award at least one intern with a $1,000 scholarship.
We just announced this program, and already about 60 people have registered. Join the trend! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 6, 2016
A guest blog from ASI CTO Armughan Rafat:
Imagine the business value in obtaining instant access to 50,000 people who understand exactly what you do day in and day out – like-minded people who can answer questions, provide resources and even help you advance in your chosen field.
That’s the potential of ASI’s latest resource – ESP Chat, an online community a click away in ESP Web®. I’m proud to say ASI is the first in the industry to offer supplier-hosted chat rooms.
ESP Chat represents a terrific opportunity for distributors to get quick answers from suppliers and for suppliers to build stronger business relationships with customers. As an added bonus, it’s also a place for anyone in the promotional products industry to get to know each other.
In the meantime, I urge you to learn from each other, share your experiences, suggest hot products and alert others to new industry trends. Spread the buzz throughout the community – the world-wide community. Like Facebook, ESP Chat is a powerful social networking tool.
Let’s say you’re a distributor searching for a product in ESP and have a question. Instead of stopping to make a phone call or shoot off an email, click on “Chat with supplier” and go right into the supplier’s chat room.
And suppliers can click here to watch a short video overview of the benefits of hosting. Suppliers savvy enough to host their own chat room will have a leg up on the competition, as numerous studies show most customers prefer chat over email and phone.
What I love most about ESP Chat is its direct integration into ESP. You enter with a single click and can reply, post an ESP product, pic or even an emoji. The first day ESP Chat was available, I scrolled through numerous conversations, watching live as distributors queried suppliers on product availability, color, size and deadline.
But when you want a private chat, simply select that option.
Think about the last time you called a company needing support or answers. How many times have you spent 15 minutes or more on hold only to get cut off? It’s frustrating.
With chat, you shoot off a question and either wait for an immediate response or check back later when you have time.
Maybe it’s because I’m in IT and generally wedded to my computer and device, but I find chatting on the phone more time consuming. With chat, I feel like I’m in my element. Getting quick answers feeds my instant-gratification side.
Right now, we have 24 distributor-only rooms available, plus a general ESP discussion room that’s open to everyone.
Like any online communication tool, there are limitations. Suppliers might not be online when a question is sent, but it’s in their best interest to answer as soon as possible.
Chat is not the communication method of the future – it’s the communication method of now.
April 25, 2016
Thanks to social media, reactions to controversial issues hit fast and furious these days. Most recently, a few of you in the promotional products industry posted about ASI’s Advantages® magazine’s mid-April cover featuring a large marijuana leaf.
Our coverage revolved around Advantages’ annual report on promo product growth in 2015 and the big news that sales in Colorado are increasing at a faster rate than in any other state in the country, fueled in large part by the burgeoning legal marijuana industry.
One reader shared her discomfort over the cover (which prompted her son to ask why she was now selling pot-related promo items) and questioned why we didn’t wrap the cover or somehow disguise the pot leaf.
Here’s my take:
So far, 24 states and D.C. have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana, with more surely to come. Some states have stopped jailing users for carrying small amounts and others let adults 21 and older use it for any reason.
This on-going trend toward legalization has promoted celebrated magazines as diverse as National Geographic, Time, The Nation, Newsweek, Fortune and Philadelphia to feature covers similar to ours. Way back in 1969, even world-famous Life magazine put pot on its cover with the headline, “12 million Americans have now tried it…Should it be legalized?”
It was news then – and it’s news now.
As we do with any business subject, ASI is covering the marijuana industry from all angles, even attending a cannabis trade show in New York last summer to report ways companies are using promotional products. The verdict? Cannabis presents a ripe opportunity for distributors.
I’m proud that our talented reporters and editors delve deep into business issues. And I’m proud of our photographers and designers for illustrating those issues with powerful images. That’s their job.
We’re not endorsing marijuana, just as we don’t endorse (or condemn) any political figures. We will, however, invite them to speak at our trade shows. Over the years, ASI has hosted many A-list keynote speakers, including presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Donald Trump, First Lady Laura Bush and Gen. Colin Powell.
We took some heat for inviting Bush in 2014, but I defended our choice because, like all of our speakers, he was engaging and interesting, and offered unique insights into the world of business, recognizing our audience as great marketers and entrepreneurs.
By the same token, we’re very excited about the Mary Matalin and James Carville keynote Thursday, July 14, at 8:30 a.m., during ASI Show® Chicago. Matalin (a celebrated conservative) and Carville (an unabashed liberal) are one of the best-known political couples in the country and are sure to provide insight into this year’s unprecedented presidential campaign.
ASI isn’t telling industry members to vote one way or another, and we’re not telling them to sell marijuana-related items or call on marijuana dispensaries, just as we don’t urge anyone to, say, call on bars or offer logoed condoms (which are available!).
We’re simply presenting business opportunities and educating our audience – online, in print and at our many live shows and events – providing the same sound advice and sales tips we’ve offered the industry since 1962.
In fact, in 1977 ASI’s Counselor magazine also featured pot on its cover (see pic at right), with the headline “Is Specialty Advertising Ready for This? A Report on the New Consumer.” I imagine that issue prompted a few letters (remember those?) as well.
Then as now, we always listen to our members and accommodate them whenever possible. Once, in response to a request from a distributor, we went so far as to cut out pages of a catalog he disliked, mailing it back to him in edited form.
I am sorry the reader who took issue with our marijuana leaf cover took some online heat for her comments. Maybe she can use the experience as a teaching moment to talk to her son about legalized marijuana, medical marijuana and the many ways our creative, innovative industry seizes opportunities presented by emerging markets.
Will we start censoring our editorial coverage or putting brown paper wrappers on certain covers? No. ASI’s editorial team has won over 150 awards in the last 10 years, including several prestigious Jesse H. Neal awards, considered the Pulitzer Prize of B-to-B journalism.
I’m looking forward to more reporting, more eye-catching graphics and photos, and more awards for excellence.