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It’s SOI Survey Time

Filed under: News About ASI, Research

Each year, ASI conducts the most comprehensive and important research about our industry to create the Counselor State of the Industry report. But we can’t do it without you.

All we ask is that you take 10 minutes to complete a survey, and you’ll be entered to win a sweepstakes for a $250 Visa gift card. The survey ends April 4. If you’re a distributor, click here to take the survey. Suppliers, please click here.

It’s important because your info leads to the in-depth reporting conducted each year by the Counselor team on key sales, marketing and operational metrics used every day by industry practitioners. Nowhere else do you get the scope of this detailed information about our industry. And it’s free to ASI members.

The SOI report, which comes out in print and online each summer, is considered the most influential in the industry – and for good reason. It’s a definitive analysis of this industry’s most recent past as well as a roadmap to the future.

With your responses, we’re able to help you grow your business by revealing critical information such as:

  • Most popular product categories
  • Highly targeted markets
  • Innovative marketing and advertising techniques

Once Counselor’s SOI issue comes out, read it 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 2013 sales to determine the biggest markets and most popular products.

Remember: The 10 minutes you invest in taking the survey today will pay off in dividends come summer. Thanks for your help – and great luck winning the gift card!


The Era of Innovation

Filed under: Community, Members, Research

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?

Let me know by posting a comment or emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


A Mountain of Information and Inspiration

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

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:

  • My on-stage interview with Michael Bernstein, CEO and chairman of the board for mega-supplier Polyconcept and No. 3 on the 2013 Power 50 list. I grilled Michael, one of the most powerful people in the industry, about his North American business, expansion into decorated apparel, significant decline in the European business and restructuring of the Asian sourcing business, along with his plans – still in the infancy stage – to become a supplier in Asia to local consumers of promotional products. You should also check out Michele Bell’s interview with Michael.
  • The annual Power 50 dinner and release of ASI’s latest groundbreaking global research, proving promotional products deliver commanding advertiser recall among an average of 82% of recipients in every international city surveyed. Check out our online page to download – and share! – PDFs packed with stats on major product categories, along with the study itself. Share the link (www.asicentral.com/study) across all your social media sites.
  • Awesome social media insight from master videographer Devin Graham, whose YouTube videos now boast a combined 200 billion views – yes, that’s billions with a “b.” As ASI’s Dave Vagnoni (@VagnoniASI ) tweeted from the summit: “Seriously, hire @devinsupertramp before you can’t afford him.” Devin, along with ASI creative guru Jake Krolick (pictured on stage), implored the industry audience to inject excitement into everything they do and to experiment with extreme ideas and videos that will capture the attention of the next generation of promo sellers and buyers.

For more advice and tips, check out ASI’s video interviews with:

  1. Lion Circle’s (asi/67620) Rich Carollo, who’s been leading the charge for competitively priced Made-in-the-U.S.A. products.
  2. Tommy Lewis of Bob Lilly Professional Promotions (asi/254138), winner of the Power Summit’s annual “Marketing Smackdown.”
  3. Keynote speaker Adrian Gostick, New York Times bestselling author of The Carrot Principle and an expert on motivating employees.

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.


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.


Camaraderie in the True North

Filed under: Community, Members, News About ASI, Research

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:

  • Sales volume change by region: 63% of surveyed distributors in Canada, which did not suffer the same extreme recession as the U.S., reported strong growth in 2012, versus 58% in the U.S.
  • Competitor threat: Only 24% of Canadian distributors surveyed cite “websites selling promotional products” as their top perceived competitor threat, versus 41% of distributors in the U.S.
  • Sources of new business: While 81% of Canadian distributors cite referrals, followed by websites (35%) and cold calls (29%), organizational networks are used far more in the U.S. than Canada (33% vs. 17%), as is online social networking (14% vs. 9%).

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:

  1. 1. Simplex Promotional Products, 253%
  2. 2. Stitchery and More,  249%
  3. 3. Level 2 Sportswear, 130%
  4. 4. BrandAlliance, 80%
  5. 5. Brand Blvd Inc., 78%
  6. 6. Vispak Inc., 67%
  7. 7. Fairware Promotional Products Ltd., 65%
  8. 8. Talbot Marketing, 63%
  9. 9. Superex, 48%
  10. 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.

    If you attended our inaugural Canadian summit, please let me know about your experience. What worked? What didn’t? Post a comment or e-mail me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


Go Social

Filed under: Community, Members, Research, Using Ad Specialties

ASI® recently welcomed about 35 members of the Philadelphia Area Promotional Products Association to our headquarters in Pennsylvania for a social media seminar.

PAPPA members (who used to be called Specialty Advertising Counselors of the Delaware Valley) got an eyeful from Jake Krolick, ASI’s rock star creative director, in a fast-moving presentation offering practical, tactical tips for businesses to “go social.” He was joined by special speakers (and former ASI-ers) Jay Ostrow and Dale Denham.

During the seminar, everyone was encouraged to branch out. Share product info with clients through the information corkboard site Pinterest and add more video to your marketing mix. It’s also quick and easy to liven up your company’s YouTube site with something fresh, like a behind-the-scenes tour of your company. Remember to make it fun – and keep it short.

With a little imagination, you’ll find the possibilities are endless.

So next time you’re pitching a potential new client, send an infographic on the ROI or CPI of promotional products along with your presentation. Spread the news about a new product by uploading a captioned pic through Quickmeme. And don’t forget about good old blogs, which can help bump up your company’s search engine results while allowing you to better engage with customers and potential customers.

I hope PAPPA members enjoyed their morning at ASI. Several members later told me how much they enjoyed it and thanked ASI for hosting. In return, I’d like to sincerely thank PAPPA for the recent award the organization presented to ESP®,  the PAPPA 2013 Liberty Award in the technology category.

The tech award recognized, among other things, proclivity, user friendliness and mobile marketing efforts. ESP, of course, uses world-class search technology to give members and their customers a superior searching experience, and we are delighted to see that recognized. In the photo at left, Heather DiPrato, ASI’s senior VP of distributor services, proudly displays our award.

Let me know what new technology or social media site has made a difference at your company lately by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube – and exploring new possibilities like blogging site Medium (founded by ASI keynoter Biz Stone and his partner Ev Williams), the new iPhone app Whisper (which is taking off like gangbusters on college campuses) and Sina Weibo, billed as China’s Twitter – with twice the number of users.


Congrats to a Winning Editorial Team

Filed under: Community, News About ASI, Research

ASI had good reason to cheer this week when Counselor® magazine was honored with its fourth Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for its 2012 “State of the Industry” issue.

This award is a really big deal. Considered “the Pulitzer Prize of business media,” the Neal Awards recognize the best in business-to-business editorial achievement and are B-to-B’s most prestigious and sought-after editorial honors. The judging panel, chaired by Diana Henriques of The New York Times, selected a mere 46 Neal Award winners out of 138 finalists from an original 640 entries.

Winning entries were selected for exhibiting journalistic enterprise, service to the field and editorial craftsmanship. As you know, Counselor’s annual State of the Industry issue is packed with statistics, largely compiled and analyzed by our executive research director Larry Basinait. Editor Andy Cohen steers this massive ship from concept to press, which requires the hard work of every Counselor staffer.

It was previously announced that ASI’s Wearables®, Stitches® and Counselor magazines were named finalists for five Neal awards. ASI magazines were recognized among several legacy publications, including Broadcasting and Cable, Architectural Record and The American Lawyer.

Tuesday, a big group of us went to New York City for the awards announcement. In the photo above, editorial staffers Joe Haley, Andy Cohen, C.J. Mittica, Christopher Ruvo, Dave Vagnoni and Larry Basinait celebrate with Melinda Ligos and Rich Fairfield.

When the big moment came and they announced Counselor as a winner, we cheered so loud we couldn’t even hear what the judge’s had to say about our entry. Later, we learned one judge said of Counselor’s SOI package: “The value of the story lies in the data-based reporting.” Judges also praised the story for being comprehensive and well-paced.

In less than 10 years, ASI magazines have been honored with nearly 100 journalism awards and remain the only industry publications to ever win the prestigious Neal Award. What that means is our entire editorial department is world-class – and I couldn’t be more proud.

For members, it means consistently providing top-notch education and educational resources to improve your business and further the professionalism of this entire industry.

Below are the details on our award winner and finalists. If you haven’t already, these stories are well worth the read. The SOI issue in particular contains a ton of practical advice and business strategies you can turn to all year long.

Neal Award winner is:

  • Counselor®: for Best Subject-Related Package, “State of the Industryissue, trend stories, how-to tips and profiles written by numerous staffers and edited by Andy Cohen.

Neal Award finalists are:

  • Wearables®: for Best Single Article, “Passing the Test,” an investigation into whether garments from industry suppliers and retail brands lived up to their performance property claims, written by C.J. Mittica.
  • Stitches®: for Best Single Article, “Life in the Garment Center,” a comprehensive cover story on New York City’s famed Garment Center, written by Christopher Ruvo.
  • Wearables: for Best Subject-Related Package, “Made in America,” an examination of the root causes allowing domestic apparel manufacturers to thrive here at home, written by C.J. Mittica, Christopher Ruvo and Sara Lavenduski.
  • Counselor: for Best Instructional Content, “17 Ways to Raise Capital,” a how-to guide for businesses on raising capital through conventional and out-of-the-box means, written by Dave Vagnoni.
  • Counselor: for Best Cross-Platform Package, “Best Places to Work Road Tour,” an eight-day, 17-city cross-country quest to find the coolest workplaces in the ad specialty industry, with print and online results from a detailed survey of 4,000 industry employees, written by Andy Cohen, Joe Haley and Melinda Ligos.

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