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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!

Promo Power 101

Filed under: Community, Education, Guest Blog, News About ASI

Tom Athan is a college student who produces and sells a clothing line called Dudz from his dorm room (imagine low-slung, custom-made M.C. Hammer-style lounge pants for guys and girls in a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns). Athan was unsure how to advertise his apparel cost-effectively – until he learned about the power of promotional products. Now, he plans to invest in a small run of screen-printed T-shirts, bumper stickers and magnets to spread the word about his quirky brand.

Athan was among 50 business students who attended a lecture Counselor Senior Editor Dave Vagnoni and I gave at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J. Tammy Dietrich, assistant dean of TCNJ’s School of Business, invited us to discuss the $20.5 billion promotional products industry as part of the school’s Sophomore Colloquium spring seminars, which teach students about different industries to broaden their knowledge about potential internships, future careers and smart business ideas.

Dave and I presented key findings from ASI’s Global Advertising Impressions Study, surprising students who were unaware how much bang for the buck businesses can get from promo products. The most impressive stats? That 86% remember the advertiser on a promo product they receive and that the cost-per-impression is only about half a cent – cheaper and more effective than primetime TV ads, print ads and billboards.

Anthony Paun, a finance major who attended the session, said, “Today I learned that people keep a large quantity of the promotional products that they get, and the return on investment is way better in comparison to TV advertising.”

Our session was informative, fun and interactive – we gave away candy and logoed products to students who shouted out correct answers to our pop quiz questions – and we think our content was a big hit.

“There’s no substitute for students hearing directly from industry experts and realizing the many facets of a business they only knew a fraction about,” Dietrich said. “The School of Business is so grateful to ASI for participating in our spring 2014 series and providing students with global insight into the ad specialties world. Students love getting freebies as well as creating them for their clubs and organizations, but had no idea of the magnitude of this business.”

As it stands now, though, the advertising specialty industry is too invisible to business students. They learn about buying and using TV, radio and Internet advertising, direct mail and everything else under the sun, but marketing programs rarely mention the power of promotional products and their incredible ROI. That’s why ASI is focused on outreach to colleges and universities to teach students about our industry and the power of advertising specialties in marketing campaigns – as well as explaining how to become a distributor and build your own business.

ASI’s long-term hope is that these future business leaders will look to our industry when embarking on their careers. We plan to continue outreach to convince other business, marketing, advertising and new media students to join what we all know is an exciting, creative industry, which more people need to discover.

Dietrich thanked us with a wonderful compliment: “As a bonus, Nicole Rollender and Dave Vagnoni make an engaging team and we hope to have them back at TCNJ.”

We’d love to return!

– Nicole Rollender is ASI’s executive director of professional development

In top pic, TCNJ students Tom Athan, co-founder of Dudz, and Robert Garavente with ASI’s Executive Director of Professional Development Nicole Rollender, with their new ASI branded tumblers. In bottom pic, TCNJ students Anthony Paun and David Chao are all smiles after winning logoed promo products and candy.

Online Learning Center Earns A+ Praise

Filed under: ASI Shows, Community, Education, Guest Blog

Distributor Stephanie Jackson is usually up and out of the house by 5 a.m. six days a week to work out. But on quiet Sunday mornings, this serious athlete has made it a habit to relax, coffee in hand, and take classes in ASI’s Online Learning Center.

After taking a few courses and “actually learning important information about the industry and our products, I got even more committed,” says Stephanie (at right), who went on to earn her Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information. What’s more, she has the distinction of being the first distributor to complete her certification requirements and pass her final exam on ASI’s brand-new Online Learning Center platform.

It’s because of dedicated industry pros like Stephanie that I’m so proud of the major upgrade we’ve made to ASI’s education hub. The revamped site, powered by the latest in learning technology, is designed to help distributors, suppliers, decorators and screen printers quickly and easily access more free classes, additional resource tools and new social media sharing.

“The best part of achieving my BASI is the confidence it provides,” says Stephanie. “I’ve been in this industry a little over a year and what I’ve learned via actual experience, coupled with my ASI Education training, has provided me a firm foundation. I’ve always been a fan of continuing education, and would wholeheartedly recommend it to both industry newbies and veterans.”

Super-motivated Jackson describes the ad specialty industry as a hard business due to online competitors and price wars. But her fun job title – The Inquisitive Marketing Advisor at Signature Services & Promotional Products – reflects her commitment to really listening to her clients and delivering top-notch marketing campaigns for them. “I’ve won a lot of business that would have gone to an online competitor,” she says. “The deciding factor for my new clients was the service I delivered and my quick response to their needs.”

To better serve dedicated pros like Stephanie, the ASI Education Team and I focused on creating an entirely new, user-focused learning experience for our members via this upgraded Online Learning Center platform, which features:

  • Super-intuitive user interface. A superior user experience is available through a customizable home page with movable widgets, such as an events calendar, RSS feeds and polls.
  • Social learning. Post photos and videos, join or start discussion boards and “friend” other learners to view and share material, questions and opinions.
  • Added content. Includes ASI research reports, magazine articles and other resources.
  • Easy access. Log on with existing ESP Web credentials.

ASI’s Online Learning Center houses more than 350 on-demand courses in a variety of industry-specific curriculums, such as sales, marketing, wearables and decorating, which are free to members and automatically tracked electronically. Courses range from introductory to executive level, making them ideal for both newcomers and industry veterans.

Finally, I’m happy to say that, to date, 1,151 professionals (including Stephanie) have been certified through the ASI Education Certification Program, with nearly 30,000 enrolled in ASI’s free Online Learning Center.

Stephanie, who can’t wait to receive her BASI pin from ASI President and CEO Timothy M. Andrews at the ASI Show in Orlando, plans to continue taking courses to keep her competitive edge. “I love that I get tested on the material I learn and that there are always new courses being added,” she says.

Please login to our new Online Learning Center soon at www.asicentral.com/onlinelearning and experience it for yourself. I welcome your feedback, so drop me a line anytime at nrollender@asicentral.com. Happy learning!

Nicole Rollender is ASI’s executive director of professional development

Promo Products 101

Filed under: Community, Education, Industry Initiatives, News About ASI

When college students tell you you’ve done something right, you want to share it with the world. That’s how we felt when we heard from Babson College students who recently dipped a toe into the promotional products industry through a unique initiative spear-headed by ASI’s education department.

ASI and Babson College worked together to help instructor-led student groups spend about $3,000 in seed money to buy, imprint and sell promotional products. As part of their immersion into the business world, these budding entrepreneurs were granted access to ASI’s ESP®, where they could source and order products from our suppliers. By using ESP and reputable ASI member companies, students told us they felt confident they were selling quality products.

After the program ended, the college surveyed participating students. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “It was great because it allowed us to have a reputable way to contact a trusted supplier.”
  • “Definitely continue to provide ASI as a resource… ASI helps legitimize the business immediately and gives a group of college kids credibility.”
  • “Without the strong relationship with our supplier that our COO worked on throughout the semester, we would not have been so successful.”
  • “ASI was incredibly valuable in determining a good supplier within the U.S.”

The inaugural program was so successful, during the 2013-2014 school year ASI and Babson will expand it to enable up to 40 student businesses to show and sell their products through an ESP Websites e-commerce company store.

Our long-term hope is that these future business leaders look to their positive experiences with our suppliers and our industry when embarking on their careers. We plan to continue outreach to other colleges and universities to convince other business, marketing, advertising and new media students to join what we all know is an exciting, creative industry, which more people need to discover.

After announcing the program’s results, we received a number of accolades, along with feedback worth sharing.

The owner of an Illinois company that’s sold promotional products since 1975 applauded the program and shared his own story about a paid internship program he offers for marketing and advertising students. He started the program to mentor students and help them gain valuable, real-world business experience – and to help spread the word about our industry.

As he points out, “Wherever they pursue their career, they will have a very strong background in the power of promotional products as well as how to integrate promotional products into a given target market to help build brand awareness, new product intros, etc.”

He added, “The younger generation will become the backbone of our industry in the near future.”

I couldn’t agree more. As I explained to a distributor who is concerned programs like this one could hurt our industry, any worries about possible student competition should be outweighed by the need for greater exposure.

As it stands now, the industry is too invisible to business students who are learning how to make smart marketing decisions once they’re business professionals.  They learn about buying and using TV, radio and internet advertising, direct mail and everything else under the sun, but marketing programs rarely mention the power of promotional products and the incredible return on the investment of marketing dollars.  We need to change that.

In terms of the next generation of leadership in the industry, we need people to understand and be excited about promotional products as a potential career or the industry will wither and die.  As I walk around trade shows and other events, I am very concerned about the aging of our distributor sales population, the invisibility of the profession to anyone who didn’t grow up in the industry or stumble into it by accident, and equally concerned that we have little or no racial diversity.  We are 90% white in a world that isn’t. Exposing our industry to entrepreneurial students from every walk of life has the opportunity to inject new enthusiasm among those who decide to join.

While I appreciate the feedback, my larger concern is about an invisible industry, lacking new youthful entrants and racial diversity. We plan to continue to pursue programs similar to Babson’s at other colleges and universities and hope to have several such programs next year.

We’ll keep everyone apprised moving forward. My hope is that after considering what more exposure, education and diversity can do for our industry in the long run, everyone will become more enthusiastic about our shared future.

Promo Products 101

Filed under: Community, Education, News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

Pop quiz: Next time you find yourself in a group of college students who don’t know what you do for a living, ask them about promotional products.  Then ask if they’ve heard about the industry in their marketing class, or if they’re considering our industry for a potential lifetime career.

I’m betting you’ll get a lot of blank stares in response.

If recent discussions I’ve had with distributors in Chicago and Los Angeles are any indication, just about everyone is on board with the need for more outreach to colleges and universities. We want to get young people educated and excited about this industry. Hopefully, they’ll give it the ultimate stamp of approval and brand it “cool.”

To that end, ASI® recently announced a unique education initiative designed, in great part, to teach college students ways to become successful entrepreneurs as distributors in our industry. Along the way, they’ll also learn about suppliers, decorators and the ad specialty industry itself.

We think it’s a great way to expand the number of new college graduates who understand the industry and, we hope, become interested in making it a career. Or at least understand the great ROI from using promotional items in the marketing programs they might create in whatever career course they might take.

Right now, our industry is rarely if ever mentioned in marketing, advertising or business courses or textbooks – and I’d like to see that change.

It’s a pilot program so we’ll see how it goes. Right now, it involves a single institution: Babson College, a Massachusetts school that blends top-flight business education coursework with hands-on training, online education and real-world applications.

At Babson, approximately 500 first-year undergraduates enroll in a year-long course to learn how to run a business. Instructor-led groups of about 20 students each receive approximately $3,000 in seed money, which some groups will use to buy, imprint and sell promotional products during the second of two semesters.

As part of our effort to introduce the industry to potential new hires, ASI is donating our time and energy, along with offering access to ESP® and ESP Websites. Students will also be able to take courses at ASI’s Online Learning Center and further hone their business and networking skills during an on-site guided tour at our New York City show in May (featuring a keynote by Buddy Valastro, Jr., the “Cake Boss” on the hit TLC reality show).

We’ve had positive feedback from several local distributors interested in speaking to or mentoring students during this trial. A couple of other people were worried about “the competition” but I think our active distributors can overcome a few kids as we build a pipeline of future industry leaders.

Let me know what you think about this new initiative and if you have any suggestions by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Invest in You

Filed under: Education, Guest Blog, News About ASI

Knowledge is power. Those are words I live by.

For as long as I can remember, my family has established three core values: education, education and education. My grandfather started the trend and highlighted the importance of education to our family by being the first person in his entire state of Gujarat, India, to get accepted into medical school with a full scholarship.

This came at a time when the British ruled over India. It was a major accomplishment in his life and a piece of family history that I will always treasure. His start in the medical field has created three generations of doctors in our family today. I’m actually the only person in my family to have pursued a business degree (dual major: advertising and marketing).

My passion for marketing started in high school. I was geeky back then and probably am still a little geeky today. I joined FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America). I took marketing classes, joined marketing competitions and eventually earned awards and accolades for my passion and even got some scholarships and grants to go to college.

I joined ASI® nearly seven months ago and quickly hit the ground looking to learn about this industry. I found pursuing my BASI was the best way to do it.

ASI’s education program is a great resource for newbies like me, but also for people looking to get a competitive edge. By giving you a highly specialized understanding of the promotional products marketplace, a BASI (Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information) or MASI (Master of Advertising Specialty Information) can transform your career.

A BASI or MASI certification comes with these rewarding benefits:

  • Industry insights you can use to grow your business
  • Networking receptions at ASI Shows
  • Quarterly conference calls with ASI CEO Timothy Andrews
  • Recognition in ASI publications
  • Framed certificate to display your accomplishment (I’m looking forward to mine)
  • BASI or MASI designation as part of your professional title

It’s easy and free to work toward your certification. You’ll see the impact on your career instantly. I know I did!

Click here to visit the ASI Online Learning Center and get started today.

Fal Dieso

ASI brand marketing director


Get Pumped for Success

Filed under: ASI Shows, Education, News About ASI

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins literally rocked the house at ASI’s all-day education session in Chicago on Tuesday. As one Counselor blogger put it: It was a sales rep’s Super Bowl. Or, as Tony himself said: “This is not your typical biz seminar, but they’re boring as sh**.”

You gotta love this guy.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience so energized and so willing to jump in and do whatever it takes to tap into Robbins’ energy and make it work, work, work for them to transform their lives and achieve their business goals.

I hope you followed the constant stream of tweets and blog posts from our editors, but in case you need a recap, below are some Tony tidbits and highlights. Print them out and post them where you can see them every day, to get started on your very own “celebration.” One tip: Play your favorite get-pumped music really loud while reading:

  • Too many people make things worse than they are and make up euphemisms for their situations. Face the truth like it really is.
  • Be honest about your own business – and capitalize on the current economy. This is when you can steal market share and capitalize on the problems of others.
  • 65% of Fortune 1000 companies started during a depression or recession.
  • Success is based on a strong mentality. Tell yourself:  I was made for this time. This is where I come out stronger than ever.

  • Emotions – creativity, flexibility, compassion, vision – are the ultimate resources.
  • Success is 80% psychology, 20% mechanics.
  • Decisions = destiny. If you want to change your life, you have to make new decisions.
  • Some people buy from you simply because they like being around you. Be happy and energized.
  • Energy comes from psychology, not food or sleep.
  • To get pumped before a big sales meeting, act like your favorite team won the Super Bowl – and change your movement by jumping, galloping, fist-pumping, etc.
  • You can be someone who sucks all of the energy out of the room or somebody who lifts people up by your energy. Which one do you want to be?

For more photos and to read the Counselor blogs in their entirety, click here or go to www.asicentral.com.

And if you were at the session, let me know your favorite advice by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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