May 7, 2014
With the U.S. reporting modest economic gains and a European recovery finally taking hold, the most recent ASI North American sales report on the promotional products industry also shows renewed reason for optimism. First quarter distributor sales were up 6.4% over Q1 2013 sales. And Q1 supplier sales grew 4.8% over Q1 2013, below the growth rate of the last two quarters, but similar to the first two quarters of 2013.
It’s great to report the year is off to a strong start, with more than half of North American distributors reporting a year-over-year increase in sales and only about one in five reporting a decline. Historically, Q2 growth numbers have declined from Q1 numbers in each of the last three years, and it’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues.
On the supplier side, more than half told ASI they enjoyed a year-over-year increase (Q1 2014 vs. Q1 2013) in sales, with about 21% reporting a decline.
Nationwide, April was the best month for job growth in a while, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3%. Wages, however, remained flat, and it doesn’t look like the hoped-for hike in the federal minimum wage is going anywhere anytime soon. A new report by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington offered some pretty dire predictions: it may take the economy nine years to recoup the jobs lost during the recession, plus those needed to employ new workers during the slow recovery.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects growth in Asia to remain steady at 5.4% this year. Last year, the region – home to 60% of the world’s population – grew 5.2%. I just returned from a long trip to China and Hong Kong, where ASI has a half dozen independent reps working to sell SGR memberships and marketing and to help manufacturers there connect with North American suppliers. In the spirit of the ongoing fusion of the global economy, ASI also has one rep working in India reporting contacts who are very interested in ASI suppliers and services.
While things are finally picking up in Europe, according to Reuters, numerous factors could still affect the economy, including ever-broiling tensions with Russia, a prolonged period of low inflation and an unwillingness by European member governments to continue reforms. On the good news front, deficits are down, investment is up and, although unemployment remains around 10%, more Europeans are finding jobs.
April 28, 2014
Tom Athan is a college student who produces and sells a clothing line called Dudz from his dorm room (imagine low-slung, custom-made M.C. Hammer-style lounge pants for guys and girls in a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns). Athan was unsure how to advertise his apparel cost-effectively – until he learned about the power of promotional products. Now, he plans to invest in a small run of screen-printed T-shirts, bumper stickers and magnets to spread the word about his quirky brand.
Athan was among 50 business students who attended a lecture Counselor Senior Editor Dave Vagnoni and I gave at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J. Tammy Dietrich, assistant dean of TCNJ’s School of Business, invited us to discuss the $20.5 billion promotional products industry as part of the school’s Sophomore Colloquium spring seminars, which teach students about different industries to broaden their knowledge about potential internships, future careers and smart business ideas.
Dave and I presented key findings from ASI’s Global Advertising Impressions Study, surprising students who were unaware how much bang for the buck businesses can get from promo products. The most impressive stats? That 86% remember the advertiser on a promo product they receive and that the cost-per-impression is only about half a cent – cheaper and more effective than primetime TV ads, print ads and billboards.
Anthony Paun, a finance major who attended the session, said, “Today I learned that people keep a large quantity of the promotional products that they get, and the return on investment is way better in comparison to TV advertising.”
Our session was informative, fun and interactive – we gave away candy and logoed products to students who shouted out correct answers to our pop quiz questions – and we think our content was a big hit.
“There’s no substitute for students hearing directly from industry experts and realizing the many facets of a business they only knew a fraction about,” Dietrich said. “The School of Business is so grateful to ASI for participating in our spring 2014 series and providing students with global insight into the ad specialties world. Students love getting freebies as well as creating them for their clubs and organizations, but had no idea of the magnitude of this business.”
As it stands now, though, the advertising specialty industry is too invisible to business students. They learn about buying and using TV, radio and Internet advertising, direct mail and everything else under the sun, but marketing programs rarely mention the power of promotional products and their incredible ROI. That’s why ASI is focused on outreach to colleges and universities to teach students about our industry and the power of advertising specialties in marketing campaigns – as well as explaining how to become a distributor and build your own business.
ASI’s long-term hope is that these future business leaders will look to our industry when embarking on their careers. We plan to continue outreach to convince other business, marketing, advertising and new media students to join what we all know is an exciting, creative industry, which more people need to discover.
Dietrich thanked us with a wonderful compliment: “As a bonus, Nicole Rollender and Dave Vagnoni make an engaging team and we hope to have them back at TCNJ.”
We’d love to return!
– Nicole Rollender is ASI’s executive director of professional development
In top pic, TCNJ students Tom Athan, co-founder of Dudz, and Robert Garavente with ASI’s Executive Director of Professional Development Nicole Rollender, with their new ASI branded tumblers. In bottom pic, TCNJ students Anthony Paun and David Chao are all smiles after winning logoed promo products and candy.
April 22, 2014
Perseverantia Vintia is a Latin motto that translates into “Perseverance Conquers.” This sentiment is a perfect description of the fifth annual Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) hosted by the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) in our nation’s capital April 9 and 10. Throughout the trip to Washington D.C., the 70 industry volunteers who participated shared a common refrain: “They remember who we are and what we are here for.” To me, this refrain sums up our mission, which was to educate members of Congress about the value of advertising specialties and the legislative issues most important to suppliers and distributors.
This year, the L.E.A.D volunteers came from all 50 states, including my home state of Pennsylvania, where ASI is based. Over two days, our group made over 200 Congressional office visits, the culmination of months of preparation that included contacting Congressional staff to arrange meetings and participating in numerous conference calls and webinars to coordinate activities and hone our “lobbying” skills.
As in the past, one of the primary message points is that low-cost, high-impact ad specialties, which still cost as little as half a penny per impression, work. We also wanted to remind our lawmakers of the important part a $20.5 billion industry that employs over 400,000 people plays in the national economy.
Invariably, every Congressional office we visited had numerous advertising specialties, which helped us make our case while providing tangible proof of the importance of using ad specialties for public awareness programs such as organ donation and health-care awareness. Naturally, we always bring promotional products with us to reinforce our message. This year, Jim Socci of Artistic Toy (asi/37122) designed a really clever and effective product to use during our pitch – an elephant-shaped hand puppet that turned inside out to become a donkey (pictured). Needless to say, the message was not lost on our audience and, whether they were Republican or Democrat, the puppet never failed to make them smile.
In addition to industry awareness, we also focused on preserving the ability of suppliers and distributors to hire independent contractors in lieu of employees, maintaining the full deductibility of advertising costs and the need to be mindful of small businesses in any proposed tax reform. Each team was prepared with position papers on each topic that concisely set forth the issues at hand, which we left behind as a resource for future reference.
Throughout our trip, the group met over meals to compare notes and share success stories. At the breakfast meeting on the final day, PPAI recognized Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina as its Legislator of the Year in recognition of her commitment to small business interests and success, willingness to meet with industry professionals and support of issues critical to the promotional products industry.
Kudos must go to the folks at PPAI who worked so hard on the event, especially Paul Bellantone, president and CEO; Anne Lardner-Stone, director of public affairs; and Seth Barnett, government relations manager. Their diligence and enthusiasm was evident from the start and I’m confident Congressional leaders left our 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
In the photo at top, Chuck, at far left, is pictured with PA Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, center, and Jim Socci.
April 14, 2014
ASI scored some major PR for the industry recently, thanks to a national story that aired on the MSNBC Sunday morning program, Your Business, which exclusively covers small businesses and entrepreneurs. Host J.J. Ramberg and her crew spent hours at ASI’s New York show interviewing exhibitors and the end result is a serious look at a fun industry and the proven power of promotional products.
You can check out the fact-packed MSNBC segment on ASI’s press page by clicking here. You can also access it at on the show’s webpage by clicking here. Don’t forget to share the link on your social media pages – like Facebook and LinkedIn – and also internally among your own teams.
Overall, I think the MSNBC segment really captured some key points about advertising specialties while also relaying the energy and fun of what we all do every day. In the “Business War Chest” part of the program, host J.J. described the cool items she saw as “promos with a purpose” (which I love!) and said ad specialties “can’t be beat.”
Producer Dawn Stackhouse spent a total of about seven hours on the show floor over two days, interviewing exhibitors and learning all about the industry. Even though it looks easy once it makes it to air, it’s unbelievable how much work goes into reporting a single 4-minute segment – and appearing on TV. I bet every exhibitor featured on the show has a newfound respect for on-air talent now that they’ve experienced the “bright lights” themselves.
I’d like to offer my congrats to the companies selected for on-air interviews: Debco (asi/48885), Stuffed Tees (asi/79662), Personalized Gift Source (asi/50161) and Brighter Promotions (asi/42016). The MSNBC segment closed with host J.J. hanging out with the ASI Show mascot, Promo, and shooting off a tee shirt shot from a logoed air cannon supplied by Air Cannons Inc. (asi/33252).
My thanks go to everyone who helped during MSNBC’s visit to ASI New York, especially exhibitors like Easy-Doks (asi/51511), Bloomin’ Promotions (asi/40646), Interall Group (asi/63092), See-Sun (asi/88584), Eco-Centric Brands (asi/51443), S&K (asi/84325) and Idol Memory (asi/62222), who graciously gave their time to demo products for the camera, but who may not have made it to air or who appeared only briefly.
Considering that a 30-second commercial could cost a company upwards of $35,000 per spot, such free publicity is golden for any business, which is why we make it a priority at ASI. We’re continuously courting reporters across North America to gain media coverage showcasing entrepreneurs in our industry, explaining how to use promotional products in marketing campaigns and reinforcing the large return on investment that branded products provide.
The most recent “get” is just one of literally dozens of TV segments ASI has arranged in recent years, including two others that aired on Fox News during ASI New York. Although I’m not crazy about the term “wacky products” and found the Good Day New York anchors a little silly, ASI’s own Joe Haley did a great job representing the industry during a live television show (where anything can happen and it’s very hard to control the messaging).
Check out the segments and let me know what you think by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn. Hopefully, you’ll react as positively as Chris Seriale, of New World Group (asi/283161) who watched the filming in New York and told us: “I’ve been an ASI member for 20 years and this is so cool. It’s great for the industry.”
April 4, 2014
Shark Tank judge Daymond John blew the crowd away at ASI’s New York show. His rapid-fire presentation – chock full of personal stories, funny anecdotes and frank business advice – engrossed an overflow crowd of over 500. There were so many people that, for the first time ever, we had to set up chairs outside in the hallway.
Audience member Albert Galimidi, of Allegra Print & Imaging (asi/372155), put it best: “Daymond lit the stage on fire. He shared so many important points and inspirational stories. The best advice he gave was ‘just keep swimming. Times get hard for all of us, but if you keep swimming you’ll get there.’ ”
Unfortunately, I grew up in Indiana and never learned to swim, but so far so good! What I liked best about John (pictured at right) is how down to earth he is – just like so many people in our industry who also grew a successful business from nothing.
In a word, The ASI Show™ New York rocked. The two-day show took place at the Javits Convention Center, Thursday, April 3 and Friday, April 4. The show was so hot, it attracted a ton of media attention, including MSNBC’s Your Business program and Fox 5 News, which interviewed ASI’s own Matthew Cohn.
Friday, ASI’s products expert, Joe “The Joe Show” Haley, took boxes of the industry’s coolest products to Fox TV’s Good Day New York morning show studios, where he held his own on camera alongside anchors Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly (pictured with Joe). Greg liked the tee shirt cannon Joe brought to demo so much he shot tee shirts all over the studio. ASI will post links to all TV coverage on its website next week so be sure to check back.
The “hot” theme continued through to Counselor magazine’s annual Hot 25 party, held this year at the very swanky, uber cool rooftop club at the Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel, featuring a jamming DJ along with stunning views of New York City landmarks like the Empire State Building. Click here for Counselor magazine’s list of the industry’s hottest, most innovative game-changers.
All told, the NYC show attracted over 1,900 distributors from as far as Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago, and 220 suppliers showcasing their newest ad specialty products for the second half of the year. The reviews were rock solid: “ASI New York has been great,” said Cynthia Weaver, of Polished with Etiquette (asi/296807). “The products I found are going to not only grow my current business but allow me to break into new markets. The ASI Show gives business owners the unique opportunity to find fresh and new ideas to bring back to our clients.”
“The show has been very good,” said Louis Massaro, of Cooler Graphics (asi/80345). “We gathered many great leads and have been able to spend valuable time with our existing clients. The best thing about the show has been the quality of the attendees.” Pete Nutty, of Showdown Displays (asi/87188), added: “ASI New York has been fantastic. Everyone should be at this show.”
We kicked off the action Tuesday and Wednesday at the Javits Center with our invitation-only hosted buyer event, fASIlitate, featuring productive, one-on-one meetings between leading distributors and some of the industry’s most sought-after suppliers. Owen Zibrak, of Ecocentric Brands (asi/51443), said: “We met some great people and made valuable business connections. Each of the individual meetings we had today were a success. We will definitely be doing future fASIlitates!”
There’s still time to get in on the action: The next upcoming 2014 ASI Show is Chicago (July 15-17). To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2014, contact sales VP Karen DiTomasso at email@example.com.
April 2, 2014
Filed under: ASI Shows
Shark Tank judge Daymond John – the keynote speaker at ASI’s New York City show on Friday – believes one key to surefire success is to invest in people and not just ideas. John, a modern-day renaissance man, branding expert, fashionista and judge on the ABC hit reality show Shark Tank, will expand on that advice, and more, during a presentation I can’t wait to see.
As a Shark Tank co-host, the man known as “The Shark” fields business pitches from everyday people hoping to launch their company or product to new heights, and then invests his own money into the best projects. During a recent interview on ASI Radio, John told our listening audience he looks for problem-solvers who never stop working and who are constantly growing and learning. “At the end of the day, they’re just not going to stop until they’ve exhausted all resources,” John said. “I love investing in people.”
John’s keynote is Friday 9:30-10:15 a.m. at the The ASI Show™ New York, which takes place at the Javits Convention Center Thursday, April 3 and Friday, April 4. We kicked off the action earlier this week with ASI’s invitation-only hosted buyer event, fASIlitate, Tuesday and Wednesday at Javits with productive one-on-one meetings between leading distributors and some of the industry’s most sought-after suppliers.
During the trade show itself, ASI hosts free education classes on social media, relationship building, demographics, sales and the secrets of successful entrepreneurs. All classes qualify for points toward the ASI Certification Program. To date, over 29,000 industry professionals have registered for classes necessary to obtain the industry certification through ASI’s free Online Learning Center.
Thursday, ASI’s products expert, Joe Haley, conducts a live version of his popular “Joe Show,” featuring dozens of cool, new products from leading suppliers. The fun continues Thursday night at the annual Counselor Hot 25 party at exclusive downtown rooftop club at the Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel. Click here for Counselor magazine’s 2014 list of the industry’s hottest, most innovative game-changers.
March 28, 2014
The ASI show in Long Beach, California was as provocative as it was successful. Artist Erik Wahl – one of the most unusual keynoters we’ve ever had – gave a presentation described by more than one person as “awesome.”
Linda Panksy, from PIP Printing (asi/398508) told us Wahl, a best-belling author who uses art as a means of communicating business advice, actually inspired her to think differently: “He made me realize that I need to get out of the box.”
According to Wahl, “You have to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition, and creativity can do that. The companies that are successful right now are the ones that create unique experiences for their customers.”
If you missed the keynote, check out an interview Counselor Editor Andy Cohen conducted afterward with Wahl, on ways ad specialty companies can become more creative and innovative. Click here to watch.
The two-day California show was attended by more than 1,800 distributors, including sales stars from Million-Dollar Roundtable companies such as Geiger, Brown & Bigelow, Jack Nadel and iPROMOTEu. The show floor attracted 280 exhibitors, including 93 new to Long Beach.
The best part for me were the reviews from attendees like Paul Herzbrum, from BND Corporation (asi/129474), who said: “We’re leaving with many new initiatives that will help us build our business, and that’s what attending a trade show is all about.”
Katharina Pieper of BamBams (asi/38228) told us she most enjoyed the quality of attendees. “We’ve been able to talk in detail with distributors and are being asked for quotes and are getting valuable leads. We are already committed to all The ASI Shows next year, and we will be in New York next week.”
What I liked best about our week in California was all we accomplished, starting with the unique combination of our invitation-only fASIlitate event with an ASI show. Everyone I spoke to who attended both events found the experience worthwhile. Tonia Allen Gould, from TagSource, described fASIlitate as “Absolutely fabulous. It’s a great use of time. I’m sitting down with vendors one-on-one and it’s a very rewarding experience. I would definitely recommend it.”
I hope you’ve been able to catch another new initiative: the live, on-stage version of our ever-popular “Joe Show,” featuring dozens of cool, new products from leading suppliers. Host Joe Haley is earning high praise for the live format. One distributor even told us it was his favorite part of the show.
Seems like we’re barely taking a breath before heading to ASI New York, taking place next Wednesday and Thursday at the Javits Center. After that, it’s on to the ASI show in Chicago July 15-17. (To learn more about exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities for 2014, contact sales VP Karen DiTomasso at firstname.lastname@example.org).