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Windy City Wow

Filed under: ASI Shows, ASICentral, Community, Member Benefits, Members, News About ASI

ASI celebrated its 15th anniversary of hosting a national trade show in Chicago in a very big way. This show had it all: art, commerce, education, networking and, above all, fun and flair.

The show featured 50 education sessions, leading suppliers, 22 team-building distributor sales meetings and a multimedia keynote by graffiti artist, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Erik Wahl on using creativity to supercharge your potential.

Go to www.asicentral.com for complete coverage of the show, including blogs and videos from ASI’s ace on-site editorial team.

To me, innovation was the word of the day on a bustling show floor. I saw tons of new packaging ideas, along with some traditional decorating techniques applied to new products. And, everyone seemed to really benefit from the new Signage + Decoration pavilion and the two days of demos inside. After seeing the techniques, I’m sure distributors will gain a new appreciation for the decorating suppliers do for them.

The feedback from the Erik Wahl keynote was also tremendous. He actually painted right on the stage and spoke about the importance of creativity to business – which are not two words most of us use together in the same sentence. But it makes sense to think outside the box for inspiring ideas.

I think my favorite part of the show was the heartfelt speeches made by winners at Wednesday night’s 2014 Counselor® Awards. I especially loved the speech by Gary Hellinger, of Gary Plastic Packaging Corp. (asi/55990), who won the Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award. ASI Chicago was the very first trade show he’s ever been to. And I almost choked up as he described his operation in the South Bronx, where he has 600 employees working three shifts. What a sweet guy.

At the ceremony in the very cool Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago we also announced the Top 40 Distributor and Top 40 Supplier rankings – the largest companies in the industry based upon 2013 revenue. For more info, go to www.asicentral.com. For the complete list, click here.

Our Counselor Person of the Year, Norman Hullinger, CEO of alphabroder (asi/34063) (pictured with me, right), was loudly applauded by his team members for expertly guiding the company through an unprecedented period of change, acquisitions and re-branding. As I said during my speech, talk about daring!

Throughout the show, it’s been great to talk to people and to hear how bullish they are on the second half of the year. Suppliers and distributors alike are very positive on our industry and are looking forward to a stronger finish than ever.

ASI Chicago took place Tuesday, July 15, through Thursday, July 17, at McCormick Place and featured 750 exhibiting companies – including numerous Counselor Top 40 suppliers and 105 exhibitors new to Chicago this year. Total distributor attendance was more than 4,300, from distributor firms based in 42 states and eight countries. The show is the largest ad specialty trade show of the summer.

The reviews were excellent:

  • “We have about 30 salespeople here,” said Michael Giachetti, of Standard Register (asi/333647). “We attend all The ASI Shows® because it’s the perfect way for our local and regional teams to take advantage of ASI Education, spend time with our diamond partner sponsors and visit with a wide variety of suppliers. ASI is a wonderful partner.”
  • Jason Christianson, of JC Imaginations (asi/234328), said, “ASI Chicago has been great. I came looking for new, innovative items for schools and colleges and I found tons.”
  • “Being at ASI Chicago is the perfect way to show our technology to ASI members,” said Randy Paar, of Canon Solutions America (asi/14976). “A lot of other industries that are using traditional printing methods, like screen printing, are moving in this direction. This technology really opens up the types of applications that the promotional products industry can supply the end user. We’re impressed with the show and are glad to be part of the Signage + Decoration Pavilion.”

One of many special benefits ASI members could take advantage of included free education, which featured strategic sessions on scoring sales as well as a new Screen-Printing Success Track, part of ASI’s new relationship with ST Media, sponsored by Workhorse Products. We also unveiled the new Signage + Decoration Pavilion, produced in partnership with ST Media, featuring well-known equipment companies and live education allowing attendees to explore niche sales ops and speak to experts in potential new markets.

Exhibitors were delighted with the show because it gave them a terrific opportunity to display their latest, greatest products, talk to numerous distributors and discuss creative ad campaigns. Jennifer Grigorian from Hit Promotional Products (asi/61125), said, “The ASI Shows deliver very good traffic. We always leave with new relationships and really benefit from spending one-on-one time with our customers.”

The show also featured the debut of the #ASIpromocar, an “Art Car” decorated with a variety of promotional products donated by ASI suppliers and driven 750 miles from ASI headquarters in Philadelphia to the show, where it was on display and available for people to sign and get their photo taken.

The car is intended to drive attention to the creativity and ingenuity in the promotional products industry, and it was a big hit. I sure hope everyone got the chance to see it – and to sign it! (See ASI’s Matthew Cohn signing at top). Now, all we have to do is drive it safely back to ASI headquarters outside Philly. I’m very happy to report we only lost a single pen during the drive out. I’m now taking bets on how many we’ll lose on the trek back.

Although this was the last big national show of the year, ASI is already preparing for 2015. Registration for the 2015 ASI Shows opens July 19 at www.asishow.com. The line-up is:

  • ASI Orlando, January 4-6, Orange County Convention Center
  • ASI Dallas, February 3-5, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
  • ASI Long Beach, March 24-26, Long Beach Convention Center
  • ASI New York, May 6-7, Javits Center, North Pavilion
  • ASI Chicago, July 14-16, McCormick Place.

An unprecedented roster of business and leadership trailblazers includes Steve Wozniak and Peyton Manning. For information on exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities, contact Karen DiTomasso, vice president of sales, at kditomasso@asicentral.com.


SOI: Cautiously Optimistic

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

Remember the dark days of the Great Recession? We were mired in a subprime mortgage crisis, losing millions of jobs and experiencing 10% unemployment. Nearly every industry took a hit, including ours. Distributor sales dropped to $16 billion in 2009, down from a record high of $19.8 billion the year before.

Today, our industry has almost fully rebounded, with total 2013 distributor sales expected to reach new heights, according to the latest “State of the Industry” report from Counselor magazine. Counting Q2, in which sales rose to $4.9 billion, we’ve now enjoyed 14 straight quarters of growth.

Of course, anything can happen between now and the end of the year. Regime changes, shifts in consumer confidence and even natural disasters could impact profits and sales. And I know we’re all holding our breath to see how the ongoing implementation of the new federal health care law affects our bottom line.

But for now, I’m happy to spread a little good news for a change.

It’s time to capitalize on the gains, increase sales, spend a little more on marketing – and get the word out about the ROI and high rate of advertiser recall of promotional products. With the U.S. economy still struggling to gain a firm foothold, a lot of companies, schools and non-profits continue to count every penny, which makes our message all the more compelling.

ASI makes it easy for you to go on your next sales call armed for bear, with tons of useful stats about the health of our industry and viability of our products. If you haven’t already, read Counselor’s SOI issue cover to cover and cherry pick the stats and info most useful to your business. And be sure to read the growth strategies that are working wonders for industry leaders – and put them to work for you.

Along with tons of sales-generating ideas, this year’s report analyzes 2012 sales to determine the biggest markets and most popular products. This year, health and education kept their grip on the number one and two markets, while manufacturing and construction both rose, providing new opportunities.

Other highlights from the 2013 Counselor “State of the Industry” issue include:

  • Top 3 Products: Shirts, bags and writing instruments, per percentage of total 2012 industry revenue. T-shirts alone represent $2.7 billion of the $19.4 billion in total distributor revenues.
  • Bags Down: For the third year, bags declined in their share of sales, down to 8.7% of the market.
  • Vote for Profits: 2012’s elections helped increase sales of buttons, badges and bumper stickers by 48% over 2011.
  • Green is (Not So) Good: While nearly three-quarters (72.6%) of all distributors indicated sales of eco-friendly items were the same as in 2011, 7.2% more reported a decline than an increase.
  • Electronics Up: As a group, USB drives and other electronic/tech products now represent about 10% of the overall market.
  • Toys and Games Drop: Questions over safety issues have helped drive sales of toys and games down 65% since 2009.

The SOI report, which comes out in print and online, is considered the most important and influential in the industry, for good reason. It’s a definitive analysis of this industry’s most recent past as well as a roadmap to the future. So do yourself and your business a favor and check it out.

And keep an eye out this fall for ASI’s next Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study. We’ve got researchers in the field now – surveying end-buyers from Atlanta to Australia – to give you even more powerful data proving ad specialties are a high-impact, cost-effective ad medium.

In the meantime, you can visit ASI’s customizable End-Buyer Website for even more surefire methods of selling the ROI of promo products to prospects and buyers.

If you’ve used any of ASI’s resources to boost sales at your company, please let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


A New Era for ESP

Filed under: ASI Shows, Member Benefits, News About ASI

It’s all things tech at ASI®, with upcoming technology workshops led by our CTO in Chicago and over 10 new features in the latest ESP Web® upgrade (our 6th, if you’re counting).

The ESP upgrade was designed with ease of operation in mind, allowing distributors to quickly create and manage their preferred supplier lists and for new suppliers to introduce themselves and their products to the industry.

My favorite new feature might be the “Joe Show” hot products videos you can now access from ESP’s home page, along with clickable product links. Joe, one of ASI’s most experienced editors, dishes out clever campaign ideas and tips with each new show. And thanks to Joe’s turbo-charged personality, you get a big dose of entertainment along with useful tidbits you can mimic on sales calls.

Other smart new features include one-click virtual sample editing (just click the wand to open the editor) and top sellers in the page footer, along with larger images of the most popular products. If you’re like me, you want intuitive features, a clean design and, above all, simplicity. If you’ve checked out ESP’s latest and greatest, please let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn.

And if you’re joining us at ASI Chicago, taking place Tues., July 16 (education day), Wed., July 17 and Thurs., July 18 (exhibit days) at McCormick Place, stop by the ASI booths for a demo. (Show registration is still open at www.asishow.com or by clicking here).

That Wednesday, we’re also offering one-hour workshops led by our chief technology officer, Armughan Rafat, who will make sure you’re up to date on ASI’s latest technological advances and help you map out your business strategy to include all the updates coming down the pike.

We’ve scheduled two sessions to choose from: 10-11 a.m. (includes refreshments) and 12-1 p.m. (includes lunch on ASI). Armughan will leave time at the end to answer any questions – and to hear your ideas and suggestions for future improvements. The workshops count toward your BASI/MASI, too.

Click here to register for either session.


Experience the New ESP Web

Filed under: Member Benefits, News About ASI, Using Ad Specialties

To triumph in today’s supersonic business world, technology must pass a pretty stiff litmus test for speed, ease and intelligence. With that, I say welcome to the new ESP Web® experience.

ASI’s world-class technology is taking a big step forward with a major upgrade that will help distributors increase sales and power up productivity. The best part? It’s already live for all users of ESP. And there’s no fee for the upgrade. Current ESP Web subscribers are automatically upgraded.

Check it out, and if you have any questions, click here for tutorials and more.

From the start, our goal with this upgrade was to make ESP® even more of an online business partner – a partner that intuitively knows what you want and helps you get it, as quickly and easily as possible. So we made it as close to a real-world Google experience as possible – with performance speeds on numerous features increasing a whopping 60%. Put these simple, intuitive tools to work for you to search and source products faster than ever before.

ASI’s technology and user experience teams worked for over a year on design and implementation of the new ESP Web, incorporating critical feedback from numerous industry focus groups in order to transform the ESP experience. The hottest new ESP Web features include:

  • Product Compare: Add up to 10 products for a side-by-side comparative snapshot of select product details that can be added to a Project Folder or ESP Presentation or included in a client-safe version to share with end-buyers.
  • Daily Deals: View up to four deals from today, yesterday and tomorrow all at once, along with a quick view of the product and supplier, and a click-through right to the product page. Today’s deals include a countdown clock ticking off the seconds until deals expire.

  • Search Leading Text: Near-instant delivery of the most relevant terms and topics being searched for, along with hot product recommendations. Search suggestions are updated with each new letter typed. Find products faster and filter searches by price and quantity.
  • Sponsored Presentations: Distributors can open, modify and send supplier presentations showcasing select products.
  • Updates to Presentations: Now, users can upload their own custom product image to a presentation and edit, show or hide the “Price Includes” field on all price grids.
  • Virtual Samples Icon: In a flash, see any virtual sample-ready product available in ESP.

If you’re not already a believer, please demo the new ESP Web at our upcoming ASI Shows® in New York City (Wednesday, May 8 and Thursday, May 9) and Chicago (Tuesday, July 16 through Thursday, July 18).

And if ESP has made a difference in the way you do business, I want to know. Please post a comment or e-mail me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


ASI Leads The Way

Filed under: Member Benefits, News About ASI

As the New York Giants can surely attest to, it’s great to be No. 1. So it gives me great pleasure to announce that ASI now leads the industry in the critical areas most important to its 27,000 clients, including No. 1 rankings in ESP users, show attendance and magazine circulation.

ESP now has a record 46,000 users, up 12% from the last year. In addition, ESP the most powerful software in the industry generated an unprecedented number of product and supplier searches (29 million), end-buyer presentations created (1.35 million) and supplier ratings (36,000) in 2011.

At the same time, the economy is turning the corner the government announced this week that U.S. jobless claims are the lowest since 2008 and our industry has reported growth in the last eight quarters.

It seems fitting that ASI, the largest full-service organization serving suppliers and distributors in the business, is helping lead the way for our industry, scoring record results while providing the most technologically advanced tools available, year after year.

In addition to record-breaking numbers for ESP, ASI leads the industry in eight key areas:

  • No. 1 in total distributors.
  • No. 1 in research services.
  • No. 1 in website solutions.
  • No. 1 in show attendance and exhibitors.
  • No. 1 in editorial awards.
  • No. 1 in magazine and catalog circulation.
  • No. 1 in education.
  • No. 1 in credit information.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to this: Providing you with the critical products and services needed to succeed in what’s now an $18.5 billion industry.

Our mission is to make you more successful. When that happens, the whole industry succeeds. And that’s the best game-winning touchdown I can imagine.


Super Bowl Means Super Sales

Filed under: ASI Shows, Member Benefits, Using Ad Specialties

No matter which team scores the Super Bowl trophy, ASI member companies printing T-shirts, jackets and other sports-related memorabilia will be big winners this weekend.

Hundreds of ad specialty companies are sure to work into the wee hours Sunday into Monday to get Super Bowl items to eager sports fans. We spoke to Jay Meyer, president of Blue Dolphin Screen Print & Embroidery (asi/141732) of New Hampshire, which is one of the companies working tons of OT this weekend to keep sports fans happy.

If the New England Patriots win in the big game against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, Blue Dolphin expects to print at least 25,000 shirts overnight in the initial order.

“The big sports stores start showing up around 3 a.m. because they want to have the apparel ready in the morning when they open,” Meyer told us. “If it’s really doing well, they’ll reorder, probably another 5,000. Last week after the AFC championship, we printed 7,000 shirts.”

Over 40 employees will work on the initial order, starting by the game’s third quarter. Printing starts as soon as the game finishes. And even if the hometown team fails to take home the title, Meyer said Blue Dolphin still expects to print at least 9,000 Giants shirts.

We’ll be back from the ASI Show in Dallas – where Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wowed the crowd this morning with business and social media tips – and I can’t wait to see the newest commercials along with Madonna’s half-time performance. And the game of course!

Who’s your Super Bowl pick? Let me know by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on TwitterLinkedInand YouTube.


ESP Mobile Is Here

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

Drumroll, please. You can now download the free iPhone app from the Apple App store, free with your ESP subscription.

For a video with all the reasons why this should be your No. 1 app, click here. Any iPhone user can download the app today directly from iTunes here.

ASI’s development team has automatically applied an ESP Mobile license to all members with a current license to ESP Web.  These members simply download the app from the Apple App Store and enter the same log-in credentials as ESP Web. That’s all it takes.

Users who only have a license to ESP Online will need to get set up through Product Support – in a process that takes about the same time it takes to fix yourself a cup of coffee. If you have any questions, please contact ASI Product Support at 800-546-1350 (press option #2).

If you’re on site with us in Orlando and have any questions about ESP Mobile, come speak to our Product Support team at the ASI Booth.

To download ESP Mobile from the App Store, follow these few simple steps:

1.  Visit the Apple App Store on your mobile device.

2.  Search for “ESP Mobile.”

3.  Download the free app.

4.  Once the download is complete, tap the app icon to start up the app.

5.  Enter your credentials.

6.  Kick back and enjoy everything this new app has to offer.

Why get ESP Mobile? Check it out:

  • Choice. Filter product searches by supplier, color and price and sort results by price, cost, ASI number and more.
  • Information. Sort suppliers by ASI number, rating, area code and preferred rank. See a supplier’s complete contact info, including website and line names.
  • Versatility. See imprint information, production time, rush services, locations and product safety warnings – all on the same screen.
  • Visuals. Scroll through high-quality product images and video and add products to your clipboard.
  • Speed. Quickly and easily find and load the product you’re looking for.

Suppliers interested in advertising in ESP Mobile should contact their ASI rep or contact Gene Rahill at grahill@asicentral.com and Suzanne Izzo at sizzo@asicentral.com.

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


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