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No Pain, Lots of Gain

Filed under: Healthcare, Using Ad Specialties

ASI is always researching new markets and industry trends, and Counselor magazine recently reported on a big one: incentives used in wellness programs.

Turns out, incentives are key to encouraging employee participation in wellness programs. An Incentive Research Foundation report shows only one in five people will participate in wellness programs if there are no incentives. In fact, offering incentives increases participation at a minimum of 60%.

Although research clearly shows companies can attain a significant ROI through wellness programs, right now only 44% of companies are using promotional products as incentives to get more employees involved. That means there’s clearly room for growth in this market.

It’s good for business – and it’s great for reducing skyrocketing health-care costs. According to a 2010 government report, between 70% and 75% of the $2.5 trillion spent every year on U.S. health care is used for treating preventable conditions. Incentives can help turn the tide.

Popular items used in incentive programs range from logoed body mass index calculators and jars filled with almonds instead of candy to wristbands, pedometers and backpacks – many carrying printed cards with health tips.

The timing couldn’t be better to tap this market, as health-care reform is giving smaller companies help in launching wellness programs through grant money, tax credits, educational surveys and online portals. As Counselor senior writer Dave Vagnoni reports, by 2014, companies will be able to offer rewards of up to 30% of the total cost of an employee’s insurance coverage.

If you haven’t already, read the entire Counselor story. I promise you it’s a real eye-opener.

Let me know what success you’ve had with the wellness incentives market by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


Power on to 2012

Filed under: Members, News About ASI, Research

We spent three great days in California at the 2011 Power Summit – braving surprisingly chilly weather – debating, networking and strategizing with a diverse assemblage of about 250 industry leaders and aspiring leaders.

For photos, videos and news of the Counselor Power 50, click here.

During the summit, we heard from experts like John Hamm, an executive coach and author of “Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills for the Practice of Great Leadership.”

My main takeaway from John was this: Be honest – with your employees and with your customers.

The Power Summit is always a whirlwind of ideas, discussions and debates. For me, three main themes emerged from this year’s gathering. The first is focus. Focus on your business and refocus your efforts as we barrel toward the end of 2011 and into 2012.

The second theme is technology. Power your business with the latest technology and increase efficiency and your bottom line. The third theme is talent – recruiting it and developing an even deeper bench. And once you’ve built that team, don’t forget to bring them into as many discussions as possible. You’d be amazed at the great ideas that surface from brainstorming sessions.

One of the highlights of the summit was the release of ASI’s latest research study, “Defining the Disconnect: An Analysis of Channel Beliefs vs. Customer Needs in the Advertising Specialty Industry.” This is the very first industry study to tell suppliers and distributors straight out if they’re delivering products end-users really want. If you haven’t already, I urge you to read it in its entirety by clicking here. Circulate it to as many industry friends as possible.

The next ASI Power Summit will be at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida, November 11-13. It’s never too early to register.

For more on the 2011 summit, please check out my Tim’s Take videos by clicking here and here. If you attended, I’d love to know your thoughts. Post a comment or e-mail me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


The Industry Responds

Filed under: Community, Media Coverage, Members, News About ASI

I received immediate feedback to my letter to members concerning President Obama’s call for cuts in federal government spending on ad specialties. I appreciate everyone who responded and applaud your passion – no matter where you stand on this particular issue.

The executive order titled “Promoting Efficient Spending” was posted Wednesday and made me feel less anxious about its overall impact on our industry. Section 7, Extraneous Promotional Items, reads: “Agencies should limit the purchase of promotional items (e.g., plaques, clothing, and commemorative items), in particular where they are not cost-effective.”

Can we live with that? Many of you who wrote think we should, for the overall good of the country. Others think Obama’s stance is anti-business and that his views on economic recovery are misguided.

One point I’d like to stress is that ASI is not partisan in any way. As an organization, we advocate on behalf of this industry – and not for or against any particular politician or political party.

Below is a sampling of some of your comments – with names removed. They represent what many of you are thinking:

  • I am not an Obama supporter, but unless we start spending within our means, our people are going to suffer like never before. This would be a far greater tragedy for our industry in the long run. 
  • Leave it up to Obama to mess things up for Americans.
  • As a conservative, I think our federal government needs to be much, much smaller, and every little bit will help. I’m sorry that some promotional products distributors and suppliers will lose some federal government orders, but if we could get our economy back on the right track, these sales could be more than made up for in the private sector.
  • Times are tough, and we all need to make cuts. Why should our advertising specialties be any different? 
  • We have complete idiots in Washington.
  • No matter what is cut, somebody is going to cry foul. 
  • I’m in the business and I’ll take the hit in order to save this nation from financial ruin.  Our government needs to cut, cut, cut. 
  • Everybody screams, “Cut the federal budget!” until the cuts start to impact their own business.
  • At a time when companies are struggling to stay alive, and we are hearing of more and more corporations filing for bankruptcy, we should be proud to offer promotional items and premiums as a way for corporations to reach their consumers in lieu of expensive media spending. 
  • Instead of cutting us out, have all of Congress pay for their own health care and save on the private gym, etc.

There have also been a number of articles written about this issue, including one that ran on the Politico blog, which quoted me. As it turns out, even Politico was unable to find any agencies that have paperweights, stress balls or coffee mugs.

In addition, I also spoke to a Washington Post reporter on the issue and was happy to continue to hammer home the cost-effectiveness of ad specialties – and how using them often actually saves the government money when compared to other forms of advertising. That’s a point all of us should be making – no matter which color state we live in. To read the Washington Post article, click here.

Stay tuned for more as this issue continues to develop. And keep writing, by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


Obama Attacks Fed Promo Product Spend

Filed under: Community, News About ASI

As you may have already seen, President Obama has announced a mandate to cut 20% from federal agency spending on “plaques, clothing, and other unnecessary promotional items.” The cuts are designed to trim the government’s “wasteful spending.”

We are undertaking an aggressive PR campaign to immediately educate the media and others to help the general public, as well as political leaders, understand the importance of our industry: job creation, promotional products’ incredible ROI and why our industry’s output and value shouldn’t be called “wasteful spending.”

We’re calling on everyone to reach out to their senators and congressmen – they need to hear from each of us, collectively and individually. I am sending a letter directly to President Obama. Below are talking points you might consider in a letter to the editor of your local paper and to your senator or your representative.

  • The promo products industry helps create jobs. The industry employs nearly 500,000 people throughout North America and includes thousands of small and women- and minority-owned businesses.
  •  Promotional products, which cost just half a penny per impression, beat out prime-time TV, radio and print advertising as the most cost-effective advertising medium available, meaning even smaller companies can pack the advertising punch of multimillion-dollar companies. ASI studies show 83% of ad specialty recipients in the U.S. say they can identify the advertiser on a promotional item they own.
  •  As more companies shift to lower-cost advertising like promo products, it’s helping the industry bounce back. A recent ASI Q3 industry survey found sales rose for the 7th straight quarter.
  •  Promo products save taxpayers money. The U.S. government used promotional items as reminders to mail back the U.S. census – instead of sending government representatives door-to-door – a move that may have saved taxpayers up to $85 million. The ensuing response rate surpassed that of the 2000 census.
  •  Obama himself knows promo products work – he relied heavily on them to get elected in 2008, and his reelection website today offers everything from logoed T-shirts to leather bracelets, bumper stickers, buttons and beyond.

You can find your senators here. Click here to find and write your U.S. representative.

We’ll provide additional information and guidance in coming days as we continue to learn more and evaluate ways to effectively respond.

Let me know what action you’re taking and if you have any other suggestions by posting a comment or e-mailing me here.


What Do End-Users Really Want?

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

This week, ASI released its latest study, which addresses the key question, “Are you delivering what end-users really want?” The answer may surprise you.

In the first industry study to tell suppliers and distributors if they’re delivering the right products, ASI documents the discrepancies in attitudes and opinions between buyers, sellers and end-users of the products fueling our $17 billion industry.

Defining the Disconnect: An Analysis of Channel Beliefs vs. Customer Needs in the Advertising Specialty Industry” lays out a plain case for paying attention to customers’ wants and needs. At the same time, it points the way to new selling opportunities.

Significant findings of the study show:

  • Three-quarters of distributors and suppliers feel consumer-branded items are important for promo products, but just 32.3% of end-users and 41.3% of end-buyers agree, suggesting a major disconnect between their beliefs and those of industry members.
  • Contrary to what many suppliers and distributors think, end-users would take a survey (82.5%), go to a trade show booth (70.6%), take action on a social networking site (41.8%) or buy a gift with purchase (33.2%) to get freebies.
  • Newer forms of decoration, such as appliqué and garment printing, are much more popular among end-users than distributors think, presenting potential new sales opportunities for distributors and suppliers.

For a downloadable PDF of the study, click here. I suggest reading it in its entirety – and letting its findings help you improve the way you think about your products. It may help you boost your bottom line. To read our press release, click here. I encourage you to share the results any way you can: tweet about it, post the link on Facebook, email it to everyone in your company.

The study — authored by our executive director of research, Larry Basinait –  compares opinions about ad specialty preferences and usage patterns from suppliers through to end-users. The study also examines overall opinions about ad specialties as well as specific product types: shirts, caps/headwear, bags/totes, writing instruments, mugs/glasses, desk/office/business accessories and calendars.

Some key study takeaways include:

  • Suppliers with consumer brands should emphasize product quality over brand name. For suppliers without consumer brands, messaging to distributors can be more about product parity and lack of end-user and end-buyer interest in many branded items.
  • Distributors should showcase themselves as consultants, leading end-buyers to products preferred by end-users, such as students in the lucrative education market who prefer brighter colors.
  • Mugs and glassware items are used by end-buyers almost as much at home as at work. This means the design needs to withstand long-term use in an environment where decoration and style are key.

Please let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


Counselor Names Power 50

Filed under: ASI Shows, Community, Industry Initiatives, Members, News About ASI

Timidity has no place in business. And if Polyconcept’s recent history has shown us anything, it’s exactly that. When Polyconcept’s Philippe Varnier, Yann Leca and David Nicholson purchased Trimark Sportswear, they changed the game by becoming the first major supplier to sell both hard goods and apparel.

This big, bold move also helped propel them from No. 8 to No. 1 on this year’s Counselor Power 50 list.

By definition, the business leaders on our annual list set the agenda for the market, provide successful examples for others to follow and, ultimately, dictate how business is done in the ad specialty industry. Last night we honored them for their outstanding business acumen at the fifth annual ASI Power Summit in Dana Point, California.

Here’s the top of the 2011 Counselor Power 50 list:

  1. Philippe Varnier, Yann Leca and David Nicholson, Polyconcept 
  2. Marty Lott, SanMar (asi/84863)
  3. Kevin Lyons-Tarr, 4imprint (asi/197045)
  4. Greg Muzzillo and Vera Muzzillo, Proforma (asi/300094)
  5. Marc Simon, Halo Branded Solutions (asi/356000)
  6. Eric Bensussen and Jay Deutsch, BDA (asi/137616)
  7. Thomas Myers and Hank Harrell, Broder Bros. (asi/42090)
  8. Rich Witaszak, Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601)
  9. Gene Geiger and Jo-an Lantz, Geiger (asi/202900)
  10. Nicolas Paillot, Norwood and BIC Graphic North America (asi/40480)

 For the complete Counselor Power 50 ranking, click here. For photos of the Power Summit and Monday’s awards ceremony, click here.

It’s also worth noting the newcomers who hit the list for the first time, since they’re definitely among the ones to watch. They are:

  • Fred Parker, CEO of Bluegrass Promotional Marketing
  • Daniel Tsai, Jennifer Tsai and Glenn Oyoung, leaders of Tri-Mountain (asi/92125)
  • Billy Dolan, Vivian Lo and Jason Miller, CEO/owners and president of Camsing Global

For more info and details on why these leaders moved up – or down – read the upcoming December issue of Counselor and check it out online at http://www.counselormag.com/.

Let me know what you think of this year’s ranking by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


James Carville Tackling ASI Radio

Filed under: ASI Shows, News About ASI

You could never accuse political pundit James Carville of being a shrinking violet. The upcoming ASI Show keynoter – a guest on ASI Radio this morning – stakes his claim to fame with the very first words posted on his website: “The man who has devised the most dramatic political victories of our generation.”

Even if you disagree with his politics, you gotta admire Carville’s verve. The Democratic strategist credited with ushering an unknown Arkansas governor into the White House always tells it like it is, whether he’s opinionating on Sunday morning talk shows or addressing a corporate crowd like ours. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say on ASI’s weekly radio show. To listen in at 10:30 a.m. ET today, click here.    

You don’t have to prefer blue over red to enjoy Carville, a blunt-talking Southerner who dishes sports once a week on XM Radio and is married to Republican consultant Mary Matalin. His fierce frankness is why we chose him to square off with conservative Bill O’Reilly in “Live from the No-Spin Zone” January 18 in what’s sure to be a highlight of ASI’s first show of the year in Orlando.

Carville and O’Reilly, Republican and popular host of Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” will give us the straight scoop on the 2012 presidential elections just as the already divisive race kicks off. I, for one, can’t wait for this smackdown. Sparks will definitely fly.

So tune in as our radio hosts get the first stab at the Ragin’ Cajun. I guarantee it’ll be one of the liveliest exchanges ever heard over our airwaves, as Carville gives us his firm opinion on everything from the huge role promotional products will play in the 2012 elections to whether LSU will take Tulane.

Let me know what you think the hosts should ask Carville by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


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