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Vampires, Superheroes … And Ad Specialties?

Filed under: Industry Initiatives, Media Coverage, News About ASI, Research, Using Ad Specialties

Whether you’re a geek or a Gleek, you probably saw news reports on Comic-Con, a gigantic comics fanfest in San Diego. As CNN reports, promotional products were an undisputed “star” of the 42,000-strong annual convention.

Conventioneers collected free T-shirts and tote bags along with branded buttons, sunglasses and other souvenirs promoting popular franchises like True Blood, Twilight and the upcoming movie Captain America.

Click here to view the CNN report (wait past the inevitable commercial) and to take a look at numerous examples of imaginative ad specialties in action. Cape and alien mask optional for viewing.

On another “good news” front, I recently saw a blurb about a “prop drop” for the popular TV show The Office. The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, a real organization in a real city where the fictional TV show takes place, asked local businesses to bring in promotional products touting their companies for possible display on the desks of characters like Dwight, Pam and Jim.

They asked for pens, mugs, magnets and the like in triplicate to be sent on to the show, which is about to embark on its eighth season on NBC. So next time you tune in, look closely at desk items to see what ad specialties you can spot.

All of this is boffo news for our industry, which Counselor Promogram just reported enjoyed the sixth consecutive quarterly increase in Q2 revenues. Ad specialty industry distributors increased their revenues by 5.9% in Q2, with sales totaling $4.6 billion, rising by $257 million compared to the same period in 2010. This follows a sales gain of 7.6% in Q1.

According to the survey conducted by our executive director of research services, Larry Basinait, the majority of surveyed firms are also forecasting continued growth during the rest of 2011. The number of distributors anticipating an increase in sales this year is four times greater than those that expect a decline.

That’s a great big “woo-hoo” for all of us, especially on the heels of a very successful gathering in Chicago.

Let me know which Office character you resemble and what you think of our latest survey by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

It’s a Wrap

Filed under: ASI Shows, Media Coverage, Members, News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

The heat wave followed us home from the Midwest, but we’re trying to stay cool with a final wrap-up from a very successful show in Chicago. Total distributor attendance was 4,500 – up 9% from last year – from 1,930 distributor firms.

The show generated a ton of positive feedback, and I’d like to thank everyone who tweeted about our events and their show floor experiences. NBC in Chicago sent two reporters to the convention center and from the looks of it, they had a great time.

Click here to see the story and dozens of pics from the show floor, featuring numerous products along with video demonstrations and an interview with Counselor senior writer Dave Vagnoni. NBC posted everything to its business website Inc.Well, a how-to blog for Chicago business.

Speaking of products, click here to check out my latest hot products video, featuring three great items for the fourth-quarter selling season: a gigantic fortune cookie from Good Fortunes (asi/57689), a vinola from Logomark (asi/67866) and a heart-shaped mirror from Hirsch Gifts (asi/61005).

And if you missed former NFL coach Mike Ditka (at right), click here for a recap of his keynote.

We also enjoyed a terrific reception and “pinning” ceremony in Chicago for recipients of our gold standard education certificates: Bachelor and Masters of Advertising Specialty Information. Click here for a recap and interview with Melinda Ligos, our senior VP of professional development. We now have 7,000 people registered for classes and working toward their certification.

Let me know what you learned at the ASI Chicago show by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Hot City, Cool Show

Filed under: ASI Shows, Members, News About ASI

We just ended ASI Chicago, the final show of the 2011 season, and I’m happy to report significant growth in total attendance for the three-day event. In addition, we attracted a record number of pros to a full slate of educational offerings and everyone enjoyed the keynote by sports legend Mike Ditka and two swinging parties – including the Counselor Hot Party.

Yeah, it was steaming hot outside, but distributors escaped record high temps by discovering cool, new ad specialty products at the largest show of the summer, which took place Tuesday through Thursday at McCormick Place. The show featured 700 exhibitor companies, up 10% from 2010 – including many Counselor Top 40 suppliers.

All told, total distributor attendance was 4,500 – up 9% from last year – from 1,930 distributor firms.

I was really happy to hear exhibitors praise the quality and professionalism of distributors, which means we grew attendance without reducing the quality of attendees we attracted.

Click here for photos from the show. And for a complete listing of the 35 distributors and suppliers on the Counselor Hot List, click here.

The keynote by former NFL coach Mike Ditka was exceptional. A packed house learned how to “ACE” their bottom line with “Attitude, Character and Enthusiasm” from one of the most motivational figures ever to play and coach in the NFL. Ditka talked about everything from his views on football to how business leaders can motivate their employees. He was also nice enough to stay for an extended question-and-answer period. Click here to watch an ASI TV video with reactions from attendees.

We’re not done yet! Register now for the ASI Holiday Preview shows hitting Los Angeles September 23, Toronto September 27, Atlanta October 18 and Philadelphia October 26. The one-day tabletop event features two hours of education, with show hours from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., followed by a closing reception from 4 p.m.-5 p.m.

And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 ASI Shows in Orlando (January 16-18), Dallas (February 1-3), San Diego (April 2-4), New York (May 8-10) and Chicago (July 17-19).

As always, to learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2012, contact Karen DiTomasso, vice president of sales, at kditomasso@asicentral.com.

If you were at the show, let me know your favorite part – and anything we might improve upon, by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

How Tweet It Is

Filed under: ASI Shows, Members, News About ASI

ASI education surveys show social networking is as hot as, well, the thermostat in Chicago, which is expected to hit 98 today. So we weren’t surprised a packed house attended a power panel in ASI’s new Social Media education track.

Afterward, I caught up with marketing and sales expert Brad White, VP of sales for Top 40 distributor Boundless Network. When I asked him for the biggest mistake most people make when it comes to social media marketing, he said it’s proceeding without goals or strategy. Social networking should be an integral part of any company’s overall marketing plan.

Click here for a Tim’s Take of my interview with Brad.

When I asked Brad for the best way to gauge the effectiveness of social marketing, he gave a surprisingly simple but spot-on answer: “The best measurement is how much money you make.”

In addition, of course, there are a ton of analytics and data to get numbers on a spreadsheet, but the bottom line really does come down to profits and revenue.

We’re having a great time in Chicago. To see the action for yourself, click here to check out the photos from the first two days of the show, which ends Thursday.

I hope you also got a chance to see the video demo of ASI SmartSales, a high-tech sales and marketing tool to help distributors and decorators close more sales and increase profits with modules dedicated to sales management, marketing campaigns and revenue-generating capabilities.

Click here to watch the video. And while you’re at it, check out a New York Times blog post on “The Surprising Power of Promotional Products,” which offers up a fine assessment of the industry.

Let me know what you think of the show, and please share your best social networking tactics by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Windy City Kickoff for ASI SmartSales

Filed under: ASI Shows, Industry Initiatives, Member Benefits, News About ASI, Research, Using Ad Specialties

ASI chose its Chicago show – the biggest industry event of summer – to offer a sneak peek of its biggest technology investment in years: ASI SmartSales™ . The Oracle-powered tech platform is a customized solution for maximizing sales and revenue opportunities.

Click here to watch the SmartSales video for yourself. Read the press release we dropped to the industry here.

ASI spent millions researching and developing SmartSales, a high-tech sales and marketing tool to help distributors and decorators close more sales and increase profits with modules dedicated to sales management, marketing campaigns and revenue-generating capabilities.

ASI expects the rollout of the new service to begin in the fourth quarter. Expect an announcement shortly about an upcoming customized Oracle-powered technology platform designed exclusively for suppliers.

We paid a lot of attention to the security aspect of this new business platform, leveraging Oracle’s cloud-based technologies with all of ASI’s products to create a unique, highly secure platform consisting of a hybrid implementation of cloud and locally hosted software and databases.

The new technology will include the core ASI services vital to members’ success, allowing them to access ESP for comprehensive product sourcing from 3,400 suppliers; ASI ProfitMaker, which provides ERP and financial management capabilities; ASI LogoMall; their own company websites; exclusive ASI research; and the latest professional development resources available for BASI/MASI certification.

ASI distributors with ESP who are interested in being the first to receive ASI SmartSales when it becomes available should e-mail smartsales@asicentral.com or visit www.asicentral.com/smartsales. Members who want to sign up for ESP and ASI SmartSales should call their ASI account executive at 800-546-1350.

The video demos were just one of the many highlights at ASI Chicago, which takes place through Thursday at McCormick Place convention complex. If you’re at the show, I hope you’re enjoying yourself.

If you had a chance to see the video, let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

It’s a Heckuva Town

Filed under: ASI Shows, Members, News About ASI

ASI is out in full force in Chicago for the last show of the 2011 season. The industry’s biggest event of the summer started off with a full day of education Tuesday, and it’s full steam ahead through Thursday at McCormick Place.

If you’re with us in Chicago, I hope you’re taking advantage of our new Take Five Live campaign – which allows anyone working toward their BASI certificate to fulfill live course requirements at just one ASI Show and complete the rest of their requirements online.

Wednesday, we’re making another big announcement regarding our new technology platform with tech giant Oracle, so stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday night, everyone’s hitting the Enclave Nightclub for a party co-sponsored by Buztronics, asi/42963; California Tattoo, asi/43530; Prime Resources, asi/79530; Price Chopper, asi/79500 and SnugZ USA, asi/88060.

Without pausing to breathe, we’re then heading straight to Counselor magazine’s annual Hot Party, where we’ll name the industry’s hottest trendsetters. We’ll have photos of all the action on ASI’s website, http://www.asicentral.com/.

If that’s not enough, sports legend Mike Ditka gives the show’s keynote (co-sponsored by BamBams, asi/38228, Express-A-Button, asi/53408 and Showdown Displays, asi/87188). Join us to learn how to “ace” your bottom line with “Attitude, Character and Enthusiasm” from one of the most motivational figures in the NFL today.

If you’re at the show, let me know what you’re looking forward to the most by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

ASI Launching Oracle-Powered Tech Platform

Filed under: Industry Initiatives, News About ASI

ASI is in the midst of a very exciting technology launch, and I’d like to share some preliminary information – with much more to come as we prepare for the official fourth-quarter rollout.

Following a decades-long tradition of providing business tools that help distributors, suppliers and decorators grow sales and manage profitability, ASI teamed up with tech giant Oracle to build an industry-specific technology platform. The next-generation sales-boosting tools will include cloud capabilities and software services tailored for the industry – and your business.

Knowing how integral relationship-building is to this industry, we designed this platform to fundamentally change the way suppliers and distributors communicate, collaborate and nurture those relationships. And it comes at a perfect time – when the industry is shifting from cost-cutting to all-important revenue-building.

The new offering will include comprehensive product sourcing powered by ESP, order management, reporting and business analysis and other functions.

The R&D for this project took more than a year and represents a multimillion-dollar investment by ASI. From the beginning, we concentrated as much on safety and security as we did on the technology itself, and we have every confidence in Oracle, a worldwide database and software innovator with over 30 years experience and more than 370,000 customers – including 100 of the Fortune 100.

In addition to the new Oracle-powered implementation, ASI initially invested $1 million to increase protection of data driving the industry and continues with annual investments of $500,000. There isn’t a single company in the industry spending more on product development and data integrity and security than ASI, and that long-standing commitment is something I and the Norman Cohn family are proud to have as our hallmark.

ASI expects to announce general rollout plans in September, with initial availability anticipated for the fourth quarter. 

We can’t wait to make this safe, high-quality product a part of every member’s business. For more information, distributors may contact Dan O’Halloran, executive vice president of distributor services, at dan.ohalloran@asicentral.com or 215-953-3070; and suppliers may contact Rich Fairfield, publisher and executive vice president at rfairfield@asicentral.com or 215-953-3627.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, ideas or comments, post a comment or e-mail me here. Stay tuned!

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