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Out With the Old, In With the New

Filed under: Community, Members, News About ASI

The end of one year and the start of the next is a great opportunity to review your company’s jeers and cheers, set future goals and determine if you want to shake things up or maintain the status quo.

This year, for the first time ever, I sent out a “Letter from the CEO” to tens of thousands of members and prospects recapping the top 10 things ASI accomplished in 2010. We also published the letter in our magazines.

In response, I received a flood of emails. The compliments made me proud. The detractors made me doubly determined to do an even better job for our customers – rightly described by one publication as, “an unpaid army of advocates.”

In today’s Twitterific world, online customer opinions are as potent as New Year’s Eve punch. And if you didn’t learn that lesson in 2010, make it your No. 1 resolution for 2011. Social networking is so hot, people are trading texts instead of kisses as the ball drops at midnight nowadays. Talk about new age.

All in all, 2010 was a good year for the promotional products industry. During the downturn, our industry lost thousands of sales reps – and about $4 billion. But we’ve definitely turned a corner. Through the first nine months of 2010, the ad specialty industry expanded by 8.2%.

Full speed ahead!

We’ve got a terrific year ahead of us, which starts next month at our big show in Orlando January 23-25. Michael J. Fox is our keynoter, and we’re also counting on participants to help us break a Guinness World Record for most people to dance the Twist with a Peppermint Twist-Off featuring chart-topper Joey Dee.

How’s that for a fun start to the 2011 selling season? After that, it’s smooth sailing all the way to Dallas Feb. 16-18, New York March 22-24, San Diego May 18-20 and Chicago July 19-21.

No matter how you celebrate the New Year – whether it’s with champagne, spiked prune juice or a good book by the fire – I hope it’s a happy one for you and yours. Let me know what you have in store for 2011 by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

We Woof You a Happy Holiday

Filed under: Community, Research, Using Ad Specialties

Dogs that Tweet. Now I really have seen everything. While searching for unique promo pet products we came across a device from Hammacher Schlemmer that lets Hairy Potter share his “thoughts” with Twitter followers. Somehow, a tag figures out what a dog wants to say and shoots off one of 500 pre-loaded Tweets.

Which begs the question: What do dogs think? I’m guessing “bacon!” and “squirrel!” are high on the list. If pet Tweets are a tad too high-tech for you, we’ve got nine other gifts on our list that could easily jazz up a pet store opening, dog show or other pet-themed promotional event.

Turns out, the pet industry is relatively recession-proof. People may scrimp when it comes to spending money on themselves, but when it comes to Sir Winklebottom, the sky’s the limit. A recent American Express poll reveals 31% of consumers plan to buy their animal a gift this holiday season.

Need some ideas? Check out our list of the top 10 coolest pet gifts of 2010:

  • Pet Bandana: “Doo” rags. Pet bandanas with Velcro fastener from Marathon Mfg./Prestige Line (asi/68707) come in 17 color choices to match any fur coat.
  • Leash: On a tight leash. Keep that dog safe and secure with this durable 5-foot leash from Rhode Island Textile Co. (asi/82307).
  • Bird Feeder: A little bird told me. Keep feathered backyard visitors happy with this tall, clear bird feeder with multiple perches from S & K Manufacturing (asi/84325).
  • Pad Balm: Give me your paw. Moisturize and protect puppy’s paws with this thick, natural pad balm from Solar Advertising (asi/88148).
  • Pet Umbrella: It’s raining cats and dogs. Hammacher Schlemmer (asi/59444) has an inverted bumbershoot umbrella that forms a waterproof cocoon around a small dog.
  • Gravy Mix: Ride the gravy train. Humans shouldn’t be the only ones eating fabulous food this holiday season. Furry friends will appreciate this beef or white gravy mix from Ingredients Corp. of America (asi/62649).
  • Scoop N’ Clip: What’s the scoop? This paw-shaped food scooper from the WOV-IN Group (asi/92980) has a 1-cup capacity and doubles as a food-bag sealer.
  • Waste Bags: Look out behind you! This dog-shaped container from Handy Products Line (asi/78206) feeds 20 poly waste bags out its backside.
  • Canine Shower Stall: Rubber ducky. The groomer comes to the home with this canine shower stall from Hammacher Schlemmer (asi/59444) that features 16 water-jet nozzles and a showerhead to wash and rinse a pet in an enclosed space.
  • Canine Twitterer: Dogs can Tweet, too. This tag from Hammacher Schlemmer (asi/59444) lets a canine share its thoughts with followers on Twitter via a motion sensor and microphone in the tag that interprets activity and sends one of 500 pre-loaded Tweets.

To see a “Joe Show” demonstration of many of these products, click here. To read our press release, click here.

Are you buying your pet dog, cat or rock a gift this year? Let me know by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

A Gift of Great Art

Filed under: Community, News About ASI

I love this time of year, although it seems to last no longer than wrapping paper on a child’s present. There’s so much going on it’s hard to take it all in. But if you happen to visit New York City over the holidays to see the tree or take in the show at Radio City, I urge you to carve out a little time to check out a couple of really cool, free exhibits anyone can enjoy:

  • Sympathetic Resonance is a huge interactive musical-instrument sculpture by Joshua Kirsch on exhibit through December 26 at the Wired store off Washington Square Park, in the old Tower Records. The piece uses the keys of a marimba, which is a mallet-percussion instrument of African origin, to sound notes triggered when someone plays the touch-sensitive aluminum keyboard. Click here to see video of Joshua performing his sculpture in Brooklyn earlier this year.


  • Jim Campbell’s Scattered Light illuminates Madison Square Park through February 28. This outdoor sculpture features nearly 2,000 LEDs encased in standard light bulbs, suspended within an 80-foot-wide support structure that creates a vibrant light grid. The LED bulbs are programmed to flicker scattered light, creating the appearance of giant human shadows crossing a floating 3-D matrix of light. Click here to see a video of Jim discussing his light sculpture.

There’s nothing I love more than touting the work of artists like Jim Campbell and Joshua Kirsch. So I was delighted when editors at Bucks Life magazine asked to feature some of the art and hand-crafted furniture I have in my home in their December holiday issue. The accompanying story talks about the way art imprinted my life as far back as grade school and shows off some pieces built by Hunterdon County, N.J.-based craftsman Tom Schlack. Click here and here to read the story and see the photos, which include a piece by Joshua in my living room.

December turned out to be a showcase month for me. Recently, The Palm Restaurant in Orlando, FL, where we host one of our annual trade shows, honored me by including a caricature of my likeness on its wall. The Palm is known for posting 200 to 300 local notables’ likenesses alongside caricatures of regulars and celebrities. It’s a huge deal to be included and I’m delighted to be considered a “local” in a city where I have so many great show memories. If you haven’t yet registered for the ASI Orlando show taking place January 23-25, please click here.

I hope your December’s been as fun as mine. Let me know how you’re spending your holidays by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Lights, Camera, Education

Filed under: Education, Member Benefits, News About ASI

ASI went Hollywood this week when a NYC production company transformed ordinary office byways into temporary movie sets for the filming of our upcoming Supplier Success System. The series is a sequel to the uber-popular distributor version that’s helped so many industry newbies jump-start their business.

The supplier version will feature me, SGR Editor Michele Bell and Digital Advertising Director Gene Rahill explaining the intricacies of the promotional products industry while offering helpful tips and instruction.

The shoot was as professional as they come, complete with bright lights, makeup and calls of “action” and “cut.” In some of the scenes, numerous ASI employees served as extras. In the pic at right, the technicians are setting up the lighting for a segment shot in our warehouse. We may not win any Oscars, but we’re hopeful the supplier education system proves as popular as a holiday blockbuster.

This new industry “crash course” will be supplemented with interviews with successful suppliers, top industry experts and end-users from the Fortune 500. It’ll be patterned after the Distributor Success System, a 10-part learn-as-you-go series that includes an introductory DVD and 10 30-minute lessons on CDs, along with a workbook and motivational flash cards. 

The best part is you can take these courses when you want, where you want – at home, in the car, on a PDA or through a smart phone. Electronic versions are also available to all ASI members through our website. As with most ASI benefits, the Supplier Success System will be free.  

So far, we’ve given out over 8,000 distributor versions, which was first released in May 2009. We expect another hit on our hands when the supplier version comes out later this year. We’ll alert you as soon as it’s available.

If you’ve watched the distributor version, please let me know if it was helpful by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Laura Bush Offers Advice and Insight

Filed under: ASI Shows, News About ASI

One statement really made an impression on me during Laura Bush’s interview on ASI’s radio program this week: “It’s important to nurture boys as well as we’ve nurtured girls.” The former first lady wants to be sure both boys and girls are given the chance to grow up happy and strong.

One way to help make that happen is by volunteering, especially at your local elementary school, where a few hours a week can really make a difference in someone’s life. At this time of year, I can think of no better message to spread.

No matter what your politics, a front-row seat to history makes for fascinating stories. In her interview with our radio hosts, Mrs. Bush discussed everything from the way a presidential visit to Africa inspired her daughter to study global health issues to her current obsession with her BlackBerry – a promotional product she got from an event sponsor.

To listen to the entire archived interview, click here. To read our press release, click here.

Mrs. Bush spoke to us to advance her free upcoming keynote, “Life in the White House,” at the ASI trade show in Dallas on Friday, February 18. The same day, she will also address the ASI Women’s Summit in a luncheon talk titled, “Shaping the Future: Empowering Women Around the Globe.” Reserve your spot now by clicking here.

In her radio interview, Mrs. Bush discussed her continuing efforts on behalf of Afghanistan women, the importance of volunteering and the pleasures of private life. She also talked about a new initiative being championed by the George W. Bush Institute to improve the performance of school principals. Mrs. Bush says the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership hopes to certify at least half of the nation’s public-school principals through its program by 2020.

Her advice to business owners who might be facing adversity? “Keep your eye on the ball. “You’ve got to continue to work toward goals and not be sidetracked by criticism or other problems that come up.”

Please let me know what you thought of the interview by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.