March 1, 2013
Hard to believe, but this week I celebrated my 10-year anniversary with ASI®. Looking back, it’s amazing to consider how the world, the industry and ASI have changed. I remember seeing people walking the halls speaking into dictaphones! Now, we can utter a few words into our mobile phones and, in a flash, see an entire display of the latest products in ESP Mobile™.
One constant: the steadfast commitment of the Cohn family and ASI to this industry. And I’m very proud to say the ASI number is still the number that matters.
I joined ASI on Feb. 24, 2003 (see my first official company photo at right). And what I said at my first real industry gathering still rings true. This is an industry in which many small companies and families are invested – and it’s an industry where everyone always seems to have such a good time.
At that same meeting, I promised you’d always know where I stand and that I’d always want to know where you stand. You can still email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments or concerns.
When it comes to our products, I can say with confidence they’re the best in the world. The numbers say it best: in 10 short years, ESP® has increased from 5,000 users all the way to 2012’s record of 38,800. Today, an incredible 72% of all product searches in the industry are conducted in ESP.
When I joined, ASI had 19,000 members. Now, we have over 25,000. And from 5,000 ASI-hosted member websites we’ve grown to over 17,000 – with more coming online every day.
From a handful of live education courses, we’ve developed into the largest educator in the industry, with more than 25,000 people currently enrolled in the ASI Education Certification Program. Our trade show coverage is the largest in the industry, too, with 18,872 attending across five shows in 2012. Exhibitor and flow space numbers are also growing.
And this September 15-17, we’ll host our 7th U.S. Power Summit at the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. In addition, we’ll launch the very first Canadian Power Summit, taking place June 12-14 at the Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta.
The industry itself is certainly keeping pace. My first year, industry sales were $16.1 billion. In 2012, we hit $19.4 billion, enjoying 12 straight quarters of growth. In the face of the recent recession, how many other industries can say that?
Ten years is a long time, but when I look around ASI’s office, I realize I still have a long way to go to catch up with industry veterans like Mel Viers in customer service, who’s been with us 41 years. Jim Lang, our editorial creative director, is right behind Mel with 38 years on the job. These guys make Ron Ball, our VP of supplier sales, who just celebrated his 35th ASI anniversary, almost look like a newbie!
But few come close to ASI’s chairman of the board, Norman Cohn, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday. He and the Cohn family have led ASI for 51 years – and Norman’s been in the industry 61 years. Norman is the second generation involved, with Matthew Cohn and Stephanie Cohn Schaeffer from the third generation both active as well, and grandchildren from the fourth generation have already served as interns.
As it did from the start, ASI’s number-one goal remains helping you become more successful.
With ASI, you’re never alone. On any given day you’ve got over 400 talented designers, developers, writers, trainers, account execs, analysts and brand experts available to help you with every aspect of your business.
One thing that can’t change fast enough, however, is the diversification of our industry. I remember looking out over a sea of older, white males at my very first ASI Show in Chicago. Zip ahead a decade and, sadly, the landscape remains pretty much the same. And that needs to change.
That said, I’d like to thank you all for your advice and counsel and for the patience you’ve shown me over the years. Looking forward, I can honestly say I’m more excited about this industry than ever before. I’m continually impressed by the passion and creativity that power us all – and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
February 14, 2013
Filed under: News About ASI
The zeitgeist right now is all things Canada – birthplace of Neil Young and Justin Bieber, home to phenomenal hockey, a gorgeous national anthem, some of the funniest comedians ever (Seth Rogen and Eugene Levy) and, now, ASI’s very first Canadian Power Summit.
Registration for the June 12-14 confab at the legendary Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, aka “the castle in the Rockies,” is officially open. This is a prime opportunity to join the most influential leaders in Canada’s promotional products industry at what promises to be an incredible three days of networking, brainstorming and strategizing at one of the premier destinations in the Great White North.
To register, click here.
At the summit, we’ll cover a full slate of hot topics, including everything you need to know about mobile marketing and lucrative sales markets. We’ll also offer an exclusive look at our first-ever Counselor® Canadian State of the Industry report, providing key strategies to move any business forward.
And, we just secured a great keynoter – Dr. Jack Mintz, world-renowned fiscal and tax policy specialist and chair of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, who will discuss the current climate for small businesses in Canada.
Throughout the summit, we’ll have numerous chances to explore the 125-year-old resort, which is surrounded by pristine wilderness in the heart of Banff National Park, and everything it has to offer, including great golf, terrific dining and an array of recreational activities.
And while I’m on the topic of cool Canada, there’s still time to order your copy of 2013’s The Professional Buyer’s Guide™ catalog for the Canadian marketplace. It’s the best place to find great products from Canadian and Canadian-friendly suppliers – everything from bags, tools and electronics to sporting goods, office supplies and wearables.
In addition, we added some really fresh features this year – full-page advertorials with everything you need to know about select suppliers and a clever buyer’s “guided tour” of products to fit any campaign.
I can’t say this often enough – catalogs work. The average distributor reports ASI® catalogs produce $19,000 in sales per year. Guaranteed circulation of The Professional Buyer’s Guide is 50,000 so click here to order or e-mail email@example.com.
And if you’re a fan of the country that’s produced some of the best-known singers of all time, let me know your favorite – Justin? Joni? – by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
February 8, 2013
The Dallas show that closed Friday attracted over 500 top suppliers and 16 team-building distributor sales meetings, including Counselor® Top 40 distributor American Solutions for Business’ winter conference.
All of us at the show got incredible feedback, which is always great to hear. It’s clear a ton of deals took place on the show floor and during numerous networking opportunities. Here’s a small sampling of reactions:
Larry Zavadil, CEO of American Solutions for Business (asi/120075): “ASI Education has been great, and we found tons of ideas on the show floor. Every vendor we’ve come across has a unique solution to offer.”
Gabe McGraw, from Gold Bond (asi/57653): “Distributors are coming in with a list, which makes it easy because that translates into orders and everybody benefits. We’ve been so happy with ASI Dallas – in fact, with all of The ASI Shows – because they’re really big producers for us.”
The show was such a hit it even attracted the local news. Fox featured ASI Dallas on its Wednesday broadcast, showing off many of the hottest products at the show (despite the unfortunate use of the word “swag”).
On Friday, we kicked off the final day with a wonderful keynote by three-time Super Bowl champion and 2006 “Dancing with the Stars” winner Emmitt Smith, who advised a packed house on successful small business strategies (see pic).
He was such a nice guy he even posted a photo of the two of us on his Facebook page. It’s amazing to me how many of our keynote speakers turn out to be so gracious. Maybe they know how lucky they are – and how lucky we are to have them share their fascinating experiences and secrets of success!
As we reported in a special show edition of Counselor® Promogram®, Smith’s main message was: “Be bold with your goals.”
“Your attitude determines your altitude,” he told attendees. “You have to believe in yourself and your own abilities to be able to reach new heights. But, the only way to get there is to write those goals down. It’s only a dream until you write it down. That’s when it becomes a real goal.”
Counselor Editor Andy Cohen interviewed Smith after his keynote session to get more motivational advice. Click here to watch the video.
In addition to a lot of work, we had a ton of big Texas fun at the show, too. As you can see from the picture of our happy bull-rider, the industry came together at a boisterous Gala Celebration on Thursday night at the world-famous Gilley’s, the inspiration for the John Travolta/Debra Winger blockbuster “Urban Cowboy.”
I’m always on the lookout for Hoosiers and was thrilled to spot John Burr at the show (pictured in the Indiana tee shirt with me). John’s an account executive with American Solutions for Business. I first met him 6-7 years ago at an ASI show in Philadelphia and he’s now working in Pleasantville, NY. In many ways, that’s the best part of any show: making – and renewing – connections.
Fortunately, many of the people who attended the show are from the Southwest, so they didn’t have any trouble getting home. But many of us who planned to head back to the Philadelphia-NJ area are being delayed by the “Nemo” blizzard. I hope everyone Back East stays warm, dry and safe and that everyone traveling gets home OK. Make sure to check www.asicentral.com for notices of any industry companies affected by the storm.
February 6, 2013
ASI® kicked off its latest show in Dallas Wednesday – the same day we announced the availability of thelatest version of our ESP Mobile™ app.
The Texas show continues through Friday at the Dallas Convention Center, where thousands of distributors and suppliers will conduct business at a faster, more efficient pace than ever before, thanks to tech innovations like the ESP Mobile™ apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.
ESP Mobile downloads have already topped 9,000 since launch – and we’re expecting a new surge now that we’ve unveiled over 40 innovative new features, which we’ll demo in Dallas as well as at upcoming shows in Long Beach (March 22-24), New York (May 8-9) and Chicago (July 16-18).
If you haven’t already, give the new mobile app a test drive. Now users can:
-Tap to create virtual samples and generate dynamic on-site sales demos
I’m really looking forward to reactions from users at Dallas, which features some Texas-sized action. Just check out the big way the Omni hotel greeted show participants this week. It’s a great “sign” of the enthusiasm and professionalism we’re encountering everywhere.
In addition to demos, networking and a brand-new Gala Celebration at the world-famous Gilley’s, we’ve got 16 distributor sales meetings taking place here in Dallas.
First thing Wednesday morning I welcomed Counselor Top 40 distributor American Solutions for Business (asi/120075), which brought together upwards of 250 sales reps for their winter conference. As I often do, I asked the audience if anyone was from my home state of Indiana – and found a single Hoosier, as well as someone from N.J., where I now live.
After all-day education (which includes new classes for owners), the show floor is open for business Thursday and Friday. We’ll start off the last day with a free keynote by former Dallas Cowboy and three-time Super Bowl champion Emmitt Smith, who might be better known in some circles as the 2006 “Dancing with the Stars” winner.
Keep checking www.asicentral.com and our Twitter feed for the latest show news, blogs and videos. And if you’re with us in Dallas, let me know what you’re looking forward to the most by posting a comment or e-mailing me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
And don’t forget – on August 12, ASI returns to Dallas for the inaugural Promotions Southwest show at the state-of-the-art Irving Convention Center. Click here for more info and to register for the new show, timed to help distributors prepare for all-important fourth-quarter sales.
February 4, 2013
ASI’s latest research analysis shows total 2012 distributor sales rose 5.2% to $19.4 billion. To put it into perspective, the promotional products industry grew last year at over twice the rate of the overall U.S. economy.
While that’s certainly good news, it’s tempered by the fact that 2012 was a Presidential election year, a once-every-four-years economic jolt our industry gets from super-sized sales of federal, state and local election-related promo products. We’re estimating that about half of 2012’s growth was due to sales of items like campaign buttons, yard signs, postcards and the like.
If we’re to sustain such growth – which, by our estimate, has now continued through 12 straight quarters – we’ve certainly got our work cut out for us. Luckily, promo products can be an easy sell, owing to their well-documented ROI. Pitched right, new clients and prospects should be suitably dazzled by ASI’s most recent Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study, showing promo products consistently rank among the most influential, enduring and cost-effective ad mediums available.
We’ve made it easy to understand and circulate the global study, available on ASI’s website along with colorful, at-a-glance infographics highlighting major products groups and some very impressive stats gathered worldwide by a team of ASI researchers. Click here to access.
In addition, ASI® recently launched a free end-buyer educational website distributors can brand with their own company info and quickly e-mail to prospects and buyers to help excite and educate them about the use and cost-effectiveness of ad specialties.
The bottom line is that with a minimum of effort, by arming themselves with this data any distributor member can go on any sales call loaded for bear and ready to sell.
For more on our most recent sales analysis, check out the entire report here and read the press release here. And help spread this positive news about our industry by posting and circulating the ASI report.
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???
January 7, 2013
We’ve enjoyed one incredible event after another here at ASI Orlando, including a truly fabulous 80th birthday party for ASI® Chairman Norman Cohn, a super-energized crowd at the 2013 Counselor® Distributor Choice Awards and a standing-room-only keynote by expert economist and political commentator Steve Forbes.
Turns out, Forbes – a very thoughtful guy who provided us with tons of solid business advice – is also very funny. “It’s great to see so much energy,” he said after being greeted by thunderous applause. “I wish we had such energy in Washington.”
A conservative Republican who once ran for president, Forbes was optimistic about the future, despite “headwinds” like an antiquated tax code and a weakened American dollar.
“Many amazing things are about to happen,” the Forbes Media chairman told a crowd of about 900 people (so many we had to keep bringing in extra chairs). “We’ll have major advances in health care, and America will become a manufacturing giant again thanks to our brainpower and technology.”
Orlando really has been one great celebration after another. Sunday night, we celebrated suppliers at the 2013Counselor Distributor Choice Awards (sponsored by AIA Corporation, Crystal Sensations, Dunbrooke, and Moderne Glass Company). Taking home the top prize was Top 40 supplier The Magnet Group (asi/68507), which was named Supplier of the Year.
In accepting the award, Magnet CEO Bill Korowitz graciously thanked his employees in a heartfelt speech. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know Bill, personally and as a member of the ASI Advisory Board, and have come to really appreciate his calm, thoughtful and reasoned side. If I had to sum him up, I’d say he’s just the kind of guy you’d like to have as your neighbor. In business, he’s always willing to try new approaches and on those rare occasions when he’s wrong, he’s always willing to admit it.
In addition, over many whoops and hollers from a very enthusiastic crowd, we announced supplier winners in 59 different product categories – including three new categories of blankets, coolers and hospitality items. In all, 42 suppliers won awards at the ceremony, which honor suppliers for their service and dedication to their distributor customers.
For more info and a list of all the winners, click here.
Before the ceremony started, ASI’s chairman of the board, Norman Cohn, took a few moments to share his thoughts on another industry icon – former ASI president Marvin Spike, who recently passed away.
“Marvin was an extremely passionate supporter of the advertising specialty industry,” Norman said. “He will have forever left his mark not only on ASI, but on the entire industry. Marvin cared about each ASI member as if they were his own family. He was a loyal friend, leader and contributor to the entire industry. I am proud to have called Marvin a close friend. His life defined integrity and he will be missed.”
Unbelievably, Norman – a very familiar presence at all ASI Shows – just turned 80. On Saturday, we celebrated with a lovely party at the Walt Disney World Resort. While it’s hard to keep anything a secret in this industry, somehow we managed to keep the ultimate destination a secret for weeks.
After a champagne toast, the invited guests (who still didn’t have a clue where we were headed) were loaded onto three buses and whisked away to a private backstage-access area at the park. After riding in giant clamshells through an amazing 3-D attraction based on the “Finding Nemo” movie, we were treated to four different buffets of Norman’s favorite foods (including ’50s diner food and his very favorite, pigs in a blanket), 12-foot-tall calypso dancers, dueling pianos and even an enormous dolphin viewing tank, complete with an actual deep-sea diver.
As the birthday cake was wheeled out, ASI Vice Chairman Matthew Cohn called the celebration “an intimate evening of things my dad loves. He loves this industry and he loves his family.” As I said in my toast, many of us wouldn’t even be in this industry without Norman Cohn – who really is the sun in our ASI universe.
In my favorite moment of the night, Norman thanked all his guests, making special mention of his “trophy wife of 48 years,” calling Suzanne Cohn “the reason I’m so lucky in life.”
In true Norman fashion, he was wise, funny – and very, very grateful. “I’ve been active in this industry for 60-plus years and I’ve seen a lot of change and growth,” he told us. “But one thing never changes – my family loves this industry and this business … Hug your family, God bless America and thank you all for being here.”
After a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday,” we got all decked out in light-up hats, lanyards, glasses and rings for a final treat: dessert, coffee and front-row seats to a mesmerizing fireworks, laser and water show.
All in all, it was a really special occasion.