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.
April 22, 2013
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:
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).
April 18, 2013
We all know how important it is to get your voice heard in Washington. Given the state of the economy and numerous legislative initiatives concerning taxes and expenditures, that importance cannot be overstated.
That’s why for the last four years, the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) has sent a contingent of “volunteer lobbyists” to our nation’s capital to speak on behalf of the industry as part of its Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.).
On April 10 and 11, as a member of PPAI’s Government Relations Action Council (GRAC), I joined over 70 volunteers who invaded Washington, D.C. on a mission to educate members of Congress about the value of advertising specialties and the legislative issues most important to suppliers and distributors. The group represented all 50 states and made over 300 Congressional office visits during the two-day period.
Prior to arrival, we contacted our respective senators and representatives to schedule 30-minute visits. In preparation, volunteers also attended a webinar on key issues we later discussed with our representatives and/or their staff. Everyone became well-versed on the promotional products economic engine and its impact on the national economy, e.g., a $19.4 billion industry that employs over 430,000 people.
Here’s a tip: If you want to get a representative’s or senator’s ear, just tell them what your industry does for the economy!
To help prep the “lobbyists,” everyone was given a handbook with each Congressional member’s bio and broken into smaller teams to cover the aggressive meeting schedule. The volunteers gave each Congressional office position papers on the effectiveness and value of promotional products and the role they’ve played in particular in safety recognition programs. We also discussed the importance of maintaining the current independent contractor tax rules under IRS Section 530 and of considering small businesses in any proposed tax changes.
Of course, we also handed out advertising specialties: a notebook imprinted with the PPAI logo and hand sanitizer. Everyone loved the products, which provided the perfect testament to the effectiveness of our industry.
Before we met for dinner that night, we were surprised by an unannounced visit from John Boehner, the House Majority Leader, who commended everyone for their efforts. Clearly, the L.E.A.D. visits were noticed by the powers that be. The next morning, PPAI recognized Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen as its Legislator of the Year. The award recognizes members of Congress who have shown a commitment to small businesses, a willingness to meet with industry professionals and support of issues critical to our industry.
“Congressman Paulsen has championed the cause of small business and met face-to-face with industry leaders,” said Paul Bellantone, PPAI’s president and CEO. “He has established a history of being available and listening to the concerns of promotional products businesses and supporting or opposing legislation that impacts the industry.”
The diligence and enthusiasm of the PPAI L.E.A.D. volunteers was evident from the planning stages through the Congressional visits. I’m sure Congressional leaders left the meetings with a greater appreciation of our industry and the important role it plays in providing businesses with creative, cost-effective ways to reach their target audiences.
– Chuck Machion is ASI’s senior VP and senior counsel and also serves his community as a Newtown, PA borough councilman
In photo above, from left: Art Bustard, president of Cedars Advertising, Inc. (asi/159500); Larry Whitney, compliance manager for Polyconcept North America (asi/66887); Barbara Bustard, of Cedars Advertising, Inc.; Chuck Machion; PA Rep. Tim Murphy; George Jackson, owner of George Jackson Promotions; Bruce Korn, president of Zakback Inc. (asi/365556 )
April 10, 2013
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.
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.
January 30, 2013
Everyone loves celebrating milestones, whether it’s a birthday, graduation or even billions of burgers sold. Here at ASI®, we’re commemorating ESP Websites™ surpassing 5,500 published sites.
It’s worth noting because ESP Websites have attracted distributors in droves since launch, with over 5,500 sites already live and thousands more waiting in the wings. In response, our tech team has worked double time on upgrades and recently announced an additional 50 new features, including:
We’ve also gotten rave reviews, including an “awesome” endorsement from Lisa Marks, owner of On Your Marks (asi/351700), which is powered by The Vernon Company. Marks now has 10 ESP Websites and is certain she’ll see an increase in business over the next 12 months as a result.
“Searchability for our customers is paramount, and we now have an easy solution for them,” Marks told us. “It’s enabled us to compete for new types of business and easily integrates with our e-mail marketing. Plus, we can easily customize our client sites, making them more individualized. But you don’t have to be a Web designer/expert by any stretch – and when you need ASI support, they’re great.”
For more info on getting your own ESP Website (LogoMall® customers, by the way, can upgrade for free), click here or call (855) 240-9360.
If your company is one of the 5,500 or so who helped ASI reach this milestone, let me know what you think of ESP Websites by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
P.S. In case you’re wondering what burger milestone McDonald’s has reached, it’s over 247 billion sold – and counting. With ASI Dallas coming up next week, I’ve got beef on the brain. Any guesstimates on how many burgers each cow can potentially make???
December 18, 2012
In today’s online age, there’s really no better way to impress new and even existing clients than with a customized microsite that shows off their brand in action, which is why ASI® just launched the all-new Company Stores.
Powered by ESP Websites, Company Stores represent the next generation of online selling. It’s fast, easy – and impressive. All you do is choose from ASI’s slate of online templates, stock it with up to 1,000 products, click once to add your client’s logo and voila: a branded store for your best customers.
Click here for more info or call your account executive at (800) 546-1350.
ESP Websites™ Company Stores highlights include:
Hopefully, you were able to join ASI’s user experience VP, Rob Watson, for a demo of Company Stores. Stay tuned for more upcoming webinars and demos, as it’s really the best way to test drive ASI’s latest products and feature updates.
November 19, 2012
I recently attended the 2012 ASI® Power Summit in Naples, Florida, a wonderful annual gathering of about 250 of this industry’s most respected leaders.
During one of our dinners, I had a chance to address the group and to thank everyone on behalf of ASI CEO Tim Andrews, the ASI team and our family for taking the time to attend, learn and benefit from the summit. I wanted to make sure that when participants returned home, they could ask themselves a simple question – Was it worth your time to attend? – and get a resounding “YES!” as an answer.
At every Power Summit, we do everything possible to ensure everyone has a great learning and networking experience. And that’s because we want all of you to come to the next Power Summit, Sunday, September 15 to Tuesday, September 17, 2013, at the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City, UT.
As I said in my remarks, over the years, I’ve witnessed tremendous changes to this industry – and to ASI. But one thing has stayed very much the same: my family’s involvement and love for this business.
It’s been incredible to witness the involvement over the years of our multiple generations, including my mother and father, of blessed memory.
I’m proud to continue to work alongside my wife of 47 years, Suzanne, and my son, Matthew, and daughter, Stephanie, who I’m sure you’ve seen at our trade shows. Our other three children have been involved over the years, and already some of our 10 grandchildren are working as interns.
Hug your family and God bless America. Thank you.
– Norman Cohn, ASI Chairman of the Board
Pictured above at the 2012 Power Summit, from left: Jon Sloan, Jill Stirnkorb, Lori Bauer, Norman Cohn and Tom Savio