February 7, 2014
I’m standing in the wings at the Dallas convention center with President George W. Bush, seconds before our interview in front of a packed house of 1,200. The president turns to me, leans in close and says, “This is important to remember. Have fun!”
With that, we were off and running. For over an hour, the president answered every question I had – including what he was thinking right after the planes struck the twin towers on 9/11, when he was in an elementary school classroom.
He got a lot of grief for not leaving immediately, but as he explained to our audience – which was so riveted you could have heard a pin drop – when he got the news, a little girl was reading out loud. He was angry, and his mind was racing, but he couldn’t show it because he knew it wouldn’t be helpful to the American people. As the little girl read on, he realized he was now a war-time president – that he had to protect her and protect America.
Of the many on-the-spot decisions he had to make in the harrowing days, weeks and months after 9/11, the president said, “History will ultimately judge whether I made the right decisions or not.” Whether you support Bush’s politics or not, being in the same room with any president is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The presentation took place on the last day of the ASI Show in Dallas, which ended Thursday after attracting over 500 suppliers (including 65 new to Dallas) and over 3,300 distributors from 43 states and seven countries. Despite crazy 20-degree weather and snow on the ground, it was a great show and the Bush presentation was definitely the highlight. (For more coverage, including blogs and videos, visit www.asicentral.com and the ASI Show Facebook page. Click here to read the press release. And click here for Fox news coverage of the show.)
Over the years, ASI has hosted many A-list keynote speakers, including President Bill Clinton, First Lady Laura Bush and Gen. Colin Powell. President Bush impressed me and I’d rank him right up there with Clinton. Bush was very charming, incredibly smart and extremely gracious, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since Bush is one of a mere handful of men ever elected U.S. president.
We talked before we went on and he asked a lot of questions about ASI and our industry. Once on stage, Bush thanked ASI’s owners, the Cohn family, and said of Matthew Cohn, who followed his father Norman into ASI, “I love people who follow in their father’s footsteps.” And several times during the Q&A he looked right at me – and winked.
As you can see from the photos, President Bush still works out a lot and still carries himself like a president. He recognized our audience as great marketers and entrepreneurs and said he hopes the government supports small businesses like those represented in the promotional products industry.
President Bush also didn’t shy away from any topic. When I asked if he’d always known he’d seek public office, and always wanted to be president, he confided that, if he’d known earlier, he would have taken his college years more seriously! (His GPA and a youthful drinking are well-documented. He hasn’t had alcohol for decades and told our audience he’s also stopping smoking cigars.)
He also talked about the hobby he took up after leaving office: painting. This was a surprising choice because, as he said, he wasn’t an art guy, he was a baseball guy. But he’d read a book by Winston Churchill that addressed taking up painting to smooth the transition from world leader to (almost) ordinary citizen. Today, Bush takes art lessons about once a week and paints nearly every day, largely because it’s relaxing.
One of my favorite moments took place at a meet and greet with industry people, where he spoke to every single person in the room. When Bush learned one man was on active duty with the U.S. military, he personally handed him a medallion
“Thank you for your service,” he said. I later learned he brings a bag of the medallions with him everywhere so they are always available as a way of thanking our military men and women for all they do to protect our nation.
To me, such gratitude is the true mark of a great leader – no matter the politics.
October 8, 2012
Westword, Denver’s equivalent to the Village Voice, posted a gushing report on the items inside the bags the University of Denver gave out to journalists gathered in Colorado to cover the debate.
The reporter was clearly wowed by the bags’ contents, which included industry staples like water bottles, lip balm, pins, pens, caps and even a gluten-free snack bar. “Upon close inspection – i.e. giddy dumping of contents on the floor – we found all sorts of surprising goods: some edible, some health-oriented and some sure to endure as mementos of another political happening that puts Denver in the spotlight,” the reporter gushed.
All in all, I’m sure the bags provided long-lasting PR for the university – and our industry. Click here to read the post and see photos. (Like many reporters, this one used the word “swag,” which is loved by some in our industry and hated by others!)
June 26, 2012
I encourage you to share the story with clients, friends and family via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., using this link: http://webreprints.djreprints.com/45722.html.
This story is part of a multi-year public relations and educational outreach effort ASI has made on behalf of the industry to reinforce the undeniable ROI of ad specialties and the power and reach of a vital industry that employs over 400,000 people across North America. Click here for recent examples of more stories in Bloomberg Businessweek, the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor and on Fox News.
Norman – who is in his 50th year of leading ASI – is a one-of-a-kind leader: competitive but not a bully, smart but approachable, strong but kind. He absolutely loves the industry he has nurtured since he was 19.
While researching The Wall Street Journal story, the reporter spoke with a number of industry people, including Peter Geiger of Geiger (asi/202900), Bob Stevens of Footprints USA (asi/55030), Barry Hermanson of Aunt Beth’s Cookie Keepers (asi/37465) and Paul Bellantone of PPAI. I’d like to thank them and everyone else who participated.
I think the piece is incredibly positive and, along with all the other coverage we’ve generated, presents enduring evidence of the brand-building business tools at the heart of our industry. I couldn’t be prouder.
Let me know what you think of the story by e-mailing me here.
April 10, 2012
Scores of reporters were drawn to ASI’s recent San Diego show, resulting in a ton of great press for the industry. One TV reporter called the show “the coolest convention of the year” thanks to the creativity and ingenuity on display.
The TV reports and newspaper stories provided a strong showcase for the power of promotional products, along with terrific exposure for a number of companies, including BamBams (asi/38228), All-In-One (asi/34256), Pingline (asi/78137), Alight Promotional Products (asi/34194), Panther Vision (asi/75825), Outdoor Cap Co. (asi/75420), Yanlee Trading Co. (asi/98766), CleggPromo (asi/45450), PopOut Products (asi/68650) and A Plus Wine Designs (asi/30223).
Reporters interviewed numerous people at the show, including Brett Gent of Openers Plus (asi/63073), Jeff Grippando of WorkflowOne (asi/333647) and Carl VanderSchuit of LiteFx (asi/67740). I hope they enjoyed their time in the media spotlight!
ASI’s Dave Vagnoni was on hand to expertly guide the news crews through the trade show maze, show off products to the viewing audience and discuss the amazing ROI of our $18.5 billion industry – a number that really impressed the media.
If you haven’t already, check out the coverage:
For all of ASI’s press coverage, visit our press page here.
FYI, we hate the use of the word “swag” too but we can’t control what the press says – as hard as we try.
February 1, 2012
We kicked off the ASI show in Dallas in a really big way, with a terrific slate of education – and national news coverage of our industry.
Steve Noviello, an Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter for the Fox affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, reported a series of hot product segments from the Dallas Convention Center that were aired across the country.
The segments were seen by viewers in 13 markets, reaching a total potential audience of 610,606 — with a total publicity value for the industry of $27, 642. The reports, which ranged from 1-2 minutes, aired in Dallas, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, Atlanta, Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando, Salem NC, Louisville KY and Gainesville, FL.
Steve discussed the power of promotional products and the strength of the industry itself while showing off some of the newest products we have to offer. He also included some election products, mentioning that the very first promotional products in the U.S. were commemorative buttons dating back to the election of George Washington in 1789 – and how much money the industry is expecting to make off the 2012 election.
Click here to view one of the segments, broadcast in Phoenix.
KDFW (also known locally as Fox 4) broadcasts more local news per week than any other station in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and the most of any television station in Texas.
Steve’s team was terrific to work with, joining Counselor senior writer Dave Vagnoni and ASI Show’s executive director of operations, Cheryl Childers, at the Dallas convention center before sunrise to set up the segments that aired continuously across the country. Joe “The Joe Show” Haley worked hard at gathering all the products showcased during the segment and made sure everything arrived safely – and on time – in Dallas.
Thursday and Friday are exhibition days in Dallas, and Friday morning we’re in for a special treat with a keynote by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. I hope to see many of you there!
January 31, 2012
We’re winging our way to the ASI show in Dallas for a three-day event that promises to be as action-packed as the great state of Texas itself.
Education day on Wednesday features the “Industry’s Biggest Speed Networking Session”. As always, all sessions are eligible for credits in the ASI Certification Program. In addition to two days of exhibits featuring the industry’s hottest new products, Dallas features a brand-new gala at the Dallas House of Blues and a keynote by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.
In addition to offering up some awesome business tips, Stone will let us know how one of the most influential social media outlets in the world opened opportunities in marketing, politics and philanthropy.
We’re definitely on a roll, especially considering what a great success we enjoyed in Orlando, with record-breaking education, a SRO keynote and 2,100 people whooping it up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom gala. If you missed us in Orlando, check out some video highlights:
Click here to see an interview on the Orlando Fox affiliate with keynoter James Carville, a Democrat who sparred onstage with Republican pundit Bill O’Reilly.
Click here for a wrap-up video with highlights from a barn-burner of a show.
Click here for best-selling product highlights from our Supplier of the Year, Hub Pen (asi/61966).
And click here for a roundup of terrific products for the adventurer set, featuring Counselor Distributor Choice Award winners.
Featured products include Tekweld natural insect repellent mister (asi/90807); carabiner bottle opener watch and matching wristwatch from Logomark (asi/67866); Elleven Amped checkpoint-friendly compu-backpack from Leed’s (asi/66887) and the Port Authority Nootka jacket from SanMar (asi/84863).
November 10, 2011
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:
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.