November 21, 2013
Thanks to strong Q3 results, distributor and supplier sales in the promotional products industry have now risen for 15 straight quarters, which is solid proof that companies big and small continue to buy what we’re selling: The enduring power of promotional products.
These days, ideas and innovations are what make the world go ’round. Bloomberg Businessweek says we need look no further than Twitter’s $24.9 billion valuation as evidence we’ve officially entered the “ideas economy.” Lucky for us, ideas and innovations are at the heart of this industry, where new products coupled with inventive branding can hit the market – and seize the imagination – faster than ever before.
If we capitalize on innovation, as Bloomberg suggests, our industry will continue to grow. This year alone, if ASI’s indicators are correct, total sales will surpass $20 billion. I know that anything – a political coup in a far-off land or even a devastating weather event – can cause unexpected economic havoc, but I’m pretty comfortable in our predictions.
What’s your take on 2014? ASI’s Counselor magazine recently asked Power 50 members if their companies would hire additional staff in the next year and 63% said they would. I take that as a strong indication of overall industry health. Is your company hiring? Are your clients spending more? Are you?
As Dan Taylor, president of BamBams (asi/38228), which increased sales by 8.5% this year, told ASI: “I think the value factor of promotional products in the marketing space has contributed to this growth. Companies are working hard to expand, so there is a need for advertising in the marketplace.”
Today, promotional products are used by virtually every business and major brand in America, and for good reason: They work! For proof, you need look no further than ASI’s most recent global advertising specialties impressions study, highlighted by tons of easy-to-share stats on everything from the impressive CPI to strong advertiser recall.
It’s clear we have the right products and the right message at the right time. So ask yourself this: What will you be selling in 2014? Products? Or ideas?
September 19, 2013
This year’s ASI Power Summit in Park City, Utah, had it all: Breaking news, early morning inspiration, late-night camaraderie, tons of expert advice, incredible views and great golf and mountain biking.
Memorable moments included losing power within a 50-mile radius of the resort during the very last panel with members of the 2013 Counselor Power 50. Undeterred, we powered on, first using the light from moderator Matthew Cohn’s iPad to light up the speakers on stage and eventually by relying on several other iPad lights along with lanterns from the hotel. Not a single person left the room and every question got answered. I think there’s an Apple commercial in this!
Here are a few of my other personal highlights:
And don’t forget to check out ASI’s Facebook page, for pics by Jake (@Phillyspread).
The whole point of smaller, more intimate get-togethers like the Power Summit is for people to learn from each other, make new contacts and deepen friendships with people they already know (or think they know). So I’d like to thank everyone who joined us, and each and every speaker and panelist. Quality ruled!
Throughout the summit I was thrilled. But I was also saddened to hear a young sales star – who sells several million dollars in promo products a year – say he doesn’t think our industry is sexy and that he never tells friends what he does for a living.
In my final address to the Power Summit attendees I shared that story – and really let loose in response. I told our audience I’ve been excited by the industry since the day I started nearly 11 years ago. I’m proud of what I do and of the incredible ROI promotional products provide. Every day, I’m amazed by the continual creativity of our products and the talented people in our industry. I can’t imagine having more fun anywhere else.
July 31, 2013
Whenever you think you’ve got it tough, consider what Michael Ryba recently accomplished. Michael, an account exec with Brown & Bigelow Inc. (asi/148500), earned his Bachelor of Advertising Specialty Information™ (BASI) from ASI® – while undergoing cancer treatment and recovering from surgery.
“I’m so proud of my achievement,” says Michael, who pursued his BASI to become proficient in selling other types of ad specialties beyond his niche of decorated apparel. “Clients and prospects ask me what the BASI in my e-mail signature line is – and when I tell them what it means, they say, ‘Wow, none of my other distributor reps have that designation and knowledge.’ ” Even better, his sales are up.
It really makes my day when I talk to people like Michael who are excited about continuing their professional education – and growing their businesses as a result. Today, I’m proud to say ASI’s Education Certification Program (launched in November 2010) has hit a big – and excellent –milestone: We’ve certified more than 1,000 industry professionals, who’ve earned their BASI or Master (MASI) of Advertising Specialty Information™ certifications.
As ASI’s Executive Director of Professional Development, I’m passionate about offering such a breadth of live and online professional development opportunities to our members because of how much it benefits individual careers – and the industry as a whole. And, lots of you have the right idea. More than 27,000 industry pros are enrolled in ASI’s Education Certification Program, and to date 5,040 have attended live education classes during the 2013 ASI Show® season, making ASI the largest educator in the industry.
Here are three quick reasons from my desk to yours why you should join us:
1. You – and your industry knowledge – stay current and relevant. By being up-to-the-minute on new products, decorating trends, the latest social media and mobile technology, and more, you’re part of the super-fast-paced, new “normal” we work in. You’ll make yourself indispensable to your clients.
2. You’re engaged in the industry – and engaging to clients. Don’t be content to conduct business the way you always have. The more you expand your professional knowledge and skill areas, the more excited you’ll be about your career and where it’s headed.
3. You’re a vital part of your company’s team, and the industry. The more knowledge you have, the more meaningful your contributions to your firm, and the marketplace as a whole.
To those ends, ASI’s Education Team is dedicated to creating the best educational experience possible for you. For example, every year we create a 100%, brand-new slate of 60+ educational courses that you can take live at our five ASI Shows and our traveling Advantages Roadshow – we’re working on our 2014 lineup now.
In addition, our Online Learning Center currently houses more than 400 on-demand courses that you can take 24/7 – so if you want to brush up on how to cold call or what the top five apparel-decorating methods are at 2 a.m., be our guest. Our goal is to offer you up-to-the-minute seminars in lots of subject areas, including sales, marketing, social media marketing and hands-on technology. (Sneak peek: Instagram is gaining steam, so I’m developing a course that will teach distributors how to leverage this cool site – and gain super sales from it.)
Participation is free and user-friendly, with all courses automatically tracked electronically. Click here for a complete overview.
I welcome your feedback, so drop me a line anytime at email@example.com. Happy learning!
– Nicole Rollender is editor of Stitches® magazine and ASI’s Executive Director of Professional Development
July 18, 2013
ASI® ended its 2013 ASI Show® season with a great show in a wonderful town, attracting more than 4,200 distributors from firms in 47 states and 12 countries. Over three days at McCormick Place, our Chicago show – the largest ad specialty show of the summer – really delivered.
To me, the Chicago show is more than a trade show – it’s an opportunity. Whether you came for the 78 education sessions, the black-tie Counselor® Awards or the non-stop networking, the best the industry offers is right at your fingertips.
Plus, you get to work hard and play hard in one of my favorite cities. To a Midwestern boy like me, Chicago is the center of the universe, filled with terrific museums, stunning architecture, the best deep-dish pizza on earth and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. No wonder a record 17 distributor companies, including Allegra Network (asi/372000), EmbroidMe (asi/384000), iPROMOTEu (asi/232119), WorkflowOne (asi/333647) and HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000) chose the Windy City to hold major sales meetings.
I’m not alone in my praise. Here’s what attendees had to say about the show:
The show was also deemed worthy enough to attract the attention of the prestigious Chicago Tribune newspaper, which ran a story in its business section, along with nine online photos and interviews with a slew of companies, including Vernon Hills, PromoPet, St. Regis Crystal, Helping Hand, American Greenwood, Dunbar Foods and Lion Circle.
Exhibitors (including 83 new to Chicago this year) were just as pleased. Scott Anderson from Leed’s (asi/66887) told us his booth was busy from the get-go, thanks to a great mix of quality distributors. And despite the heat wave, there’s no better time than July or place than the three-day Chicago show to kick off the second half of the year and to prepare for the all-important fourth-quarter selling season.
And if you weren’t inspired by the networking and the deal-making, you had to be motivated by Thursday’s keynote by Christopher Gardner, the inspiration for the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” (pictured here with ASI’s chairman, Norman Cohn, in a borrowed ASI Show hat).
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something,” Gardner told our audience about the time he lived on the streets with his 18-month-old son before his smarts and his moxie helped him break into the financial industry and become a self-made millionaire. “You want something – go get it. Period.”
Here are some other gems he shared with us:
Gardner’s is an unbelievable story, but if he doesn’t make you believe you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it, I don’t know who can. But you need to get a plan, stick to the plan and, above all, be passionate.
If you missed this year’s show, don’t worry. We’re coming back next year – and registration is now open for the 2014 ASI Shows (Orlando, Jan. 5-7; Dallas, Feb. 4-6; Long Beach, March 25-27; New York, April 3-4; and Chicago next July) at www.asishow.com. Special 2014 presentations include keynotes by former President George W. Bush and the stars of the hit ABC reality show, “Shark Tank.”
For complete coverage of ASI Show Chicago, visit www.asicentral.com for a wealth of information, including blogs and videos from ASI’s on-site editorial team.
July 18, 2013
If the 2013 Counselor® Awards had a theme, it was family, from the recognition given to family businesses of the year to the three generations of Cohns on stage handing out the awards during a glittering ceremony at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The women were stunning, the men distinguished and the food delicious. Beyond the finery, what struck me most was the camaraderie. Everywhere I looked I saw people talking to each other, laughing and really connecting, whether it was during cocktails, the behind-the-scenes tour of the Impressionists galleries or over dinner. In the end, networking really is what this industry and the art of business is all about.
In addition to recognizing outstanding individuals and companies in seven categories, we announced the Top 40 Distributors and Top 40 Suppliers rankings – the largest companies in our $19.4 billion industry based upon 2012 revenue. Click here for complete coverage of all our winners, and be sure to check www.asicentral.com and our Facebook pages for show info and photos.
I was really touched by the first award handed out, in honor of Cohn family matriarch, Bess Cohn, and her long-standing commitment to philanthropy. In his acceptance speech, Danny Rosin, co-owner of Brand Fuel (asi/145025), spoke about the importance of giving back and, as the messages displayed on screen during our live tweet stream acknowledged, Danny “exemplifies volunteerism.”
Before handing out the Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Awards, ASI® Chairman Norman Cohn (pictured with me and his family) gave a truly heartfelt tribute to his dear friend, former ASI president Marvin Spike, who passed away in December. And hearing Bill Vernon, who accepted on behalf of the 100+-year-old Vernon Company (asi/351700), tell stories about his old pal Marvin and his early days with Norman back in Iowa was like a living history lesson of the entire industry.
Maribeth Sandford, CEO of Bag Makers (asi/37940), shared her lifetime achievement award with four generations of her family, including her adorable 6-month-old great-granddaughter, Josie. “This is what it’s all about – family,” she said during her acceptance speech. “And what a wonderful opportunity I’ve had with the ASI family.”
Chris Lee, our International Person of the Year, might have said it best when he summed up the industry as “amazing people, amazing stories.”
The final award of the night, for Counselor’s 2013 Person of the Year, meant a lot to me, personally, since it went to one of the very first people I met when I joined ASI over 10 years ago: David Nicholson, president of Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, a $443 million company. I really meant it when I described David, pictured left, in my introduction as one of the warmest, most welcoming people I’ve ever known.
Good friends and family, amazing food, inspiring stories and a lotta laughs. Now, that’s my definition of a special night for a very special industry.
Additional winners of the 2013 Counselor Awards are:
June 14, 2013
One thing I’ve learned from 30 years in business is that the bigger the world gets, the more we need to work together. Today, even the most successful businesses are networking and forming strategic alliances while learning together at conferences like the ASI Power Summit.
ASI designs each Power Summit agenda around breaking business trends impacting the advertising specialty marketplace. But along with new ideas and strategies, the most valuable takeaways are often the bonds participants build with each other.
At our first-ever Canadian Power Summit, which just ended, we opted for an interactive format and more round-table discussions. I don’t know if it was the awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies, the late-night cocktails or the potent combination of both, but from the feedback I’ve gotten so far, the construct worked.
In my iPhone pics, you can see the view from my room, me and AIA president and CEO David Woods in one of the gorgeous meeting rooms and a group at wine tasting. To see more (really good!) photos, click here.
Not surprisingly, we spent a lot of time at the summit discussing the Canadian economy and learning new ways to encourage more business between companies on both sides of the border. As close as we are, there are interesting differences between the two countries, some of which were revealed at the summit in a special sneak peek at Counselor® magazine’s upcoming “State of the Industry” report.
Canadian highlights include:
Also at the summit, we celebrated Canada’s fastest-growing ad specialty companies, while learning a few of the secrets behind their success during one of our final panel sessions. Our top 10 list was determined by the percentage each company grew between 2010 and 2012. The top companies are:
10. Akran Marketing, 15%
If you missed this year’s Canadian summit, you can sign up for next year’s, taking place June 11-13 in Ontario, at Queen’s Landing, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Don’t forget: Anyone who attended the 2013 summit received a coupon for $300 off the regular rate for the 2014 event.
In addition, registration’s now open for the U.S. conference, ASI Power Summit 2013, Sunday, September 15 through Tuesday, September 17 at the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.
May 2, 2013
I’m writing this at noon from Pennsylvania. But although it’s bright and sunny outside, to my travel-weary self, it’s actually midnight in Hong Kong – and I’m more than ready for bed. I’m topsy-turvy because I’ve just returned from a week-long business trip to attend the Hong Kong Gifts & Premiums Show, 8,000 miles away and 12 hours ahead of the East Coast where I live.
The show is one of the largest in the world for promotional products, attracting over 4,000 exhibitors from 37 countries. Lucky for me, I got to attend alongside veterans like Supplier Global Resource™ editor Michele Bell, publisher Rich Fairfield and Ed Koehler, VP and associate publisher of magazines and catalogs. We were joined during part of the trip by ASI’s China-based SGR sales team (pictured with us at right: Melar Wang, Tony Tian, Alan Lee and Tammy Jing), who travel throughout Shanghai, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong selling our new SGR memberships.
The new, strictly exclusive membership connects non-North American manufacturers and agents with ASI’s North American suppliers. During the show, we celebrated at a cocktail party for ASI® suppliers that was sponsored and attended by SGR members who are Hong Kong and Chinese manufacturers. And, as much as we love our distributors, ASI believes they are most successful by sourcing from trusted ASI suppliers, so we may as well have hung a “No Distributors Allowed” sign outside the reception. (I wish I had a photo of Rich shooing two distributors away who wanted to crash our event!)
As reported on our website, the show’s traffic was noticeably slower than in previous years, despite growth in the Hong Kong gift market of 6% in 2012. Still, the show floor was huge, crowded and packed with a ton of Bluetooth-capable items, tech gadgets, smartphone accessories and eco-friendly products.
In the photos, you can see one of the many colorful displays from the show, along with Hong Kong Harbor.
I’ve traveled to Asia a number of times, and it’s always equally strange and thrilling. While I decided against trying the still-wiggling shrimp served up at one of our dinners, I gladly seized the chance to visit a local friend of an ASI member at his art-filled home, situated on Hong Kong island with a spectacular view of the South China Sea. He’s 72 – and recently became a new father! (Maybe it’s the shrimp?)
Hong Kong, which is a “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic of China, is on China’s south coast, bordered by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea. The city is 426 square miles and home to about 7 million people. To put that into perspective, New York City (including all the boroughs) is 469 square miles and has 8.2 million residents.
And, while I’m always happy to explore the far corners of the Earth, there really is no place like home and garden. (I’m throwing a pic from my garden up in this blog for fun.) Happily, my next trip is less than 100 miles away – to our New York show, taking place Wednesday and Thursday at the Javits Convention Center, and featuring a special keynote by TLC’s “Cake Boss,” Buddy Valastro Jr., who’s dishing up business advice and handing out cake samples from Carlo’s famous Hoboken bakery.
P.S. If you’re wondering about the blog title, it’s a play on the 1969 film, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium,” about a 9-country, 18-day bus trip.