Last week I had the opportunity to attend the PPAI show in Las Vegas. PPAI stands for Promotional Products Association International. This is the trade group for suppliers (factories) and distributors (advertising companies and sales people) who deal with durable advertising products. There were literally thousands of exhibitors there which brings to fore one of the biggest problems you have in getting great durable advertising products. Most of these items are sold to the end user by promotional products sales people.
At Arizona Cap we produce our embroidered and printed apparel in house so we see every step of the process. When you purchase a t-shirt from a promotional products sales person he or she likely never sees the product. They've never met the people who make it and they have no idea how it gets done. This can be a recipe for disaster and a good way to waste your money. But we can't manufacture everything in house so how do you get a good laser engraved pen or custom printed breath mints? The key is in dealing with a company who has relationships with top notch factories. At the PPAI show I must have seen 200 different suppliers of pens. How many do we deal with at Arizona Cap? THREE regularly and a handful more for special items. I know which suppliers have a consistently high quality product, deliver on time, and pay attention to detail. The average promotional products sales person simply looks in a stack of catalogs or uses a search engine to find you the color and style you requested and then picks the lowest price. What you all to often get is a pen from factory number #197 out of 200, someone who flubs the artwork, delivers late and can't deliver the same product again if it's reordered.
Unfortunately for you the end user, most promotional products sales people are amateurs. Like real estate and multi-level marketing, 10s of thousands of people get into and out of promotional products sales every year. Most are part-timers. There are a handful of professionals who know there stuff, and know the industry sources well and if you find one, you're lucky. There are an even smaller # of those professionals who have creative and marketing backgrounds. Durable advertising products work when used right. They can give you a great ROI. But if you are just buying (or being sold) something to give away without a plan then you might as well just be giving away money, your clients will always appreciate cash.
So that's my rant on promotional products sales people - what's did I see new at the PPAI show? There really weren't too many totally new items to the industry but there we're probably hundreds of ideas that would be new to your business. An increasing focus from almost all of the different kinds of suppliers was the eco-friendly niche. More and more products of every kind, clothing, pens, journals, toys, drinkware, you name it, are being made from recycled and renewable sources. One really neat idea I saw was a line of recycled, notecards, ornaments, business cards, bookmarks and other items made from recycled paper and with seeds embedded in them. the idea being that you can mail or give these items to a client with your message on it and then they can plant the card, bookmark, postcard, etc which grows into a variety of flowers, herbs, and garden vegetables. The creative marketing ideas for a product like that are endless.
I saw lots of new apparel made from performance fabrics. - Moisture wicking, UV protection, anti-bacterial, wrinkle free, something for every need. There are great packaging/combo options for durable advertising products and apparel, like compressed t-shirts, or t-shirts in a water bottle. I saw some beautiful high end laserengraved crystal awards. Available in single pieces they were stunning and made me wish someone would give me one.
All in all the advertising industry is not changing that much. What is changing is peoples focus on advertising and within their advertising. The current economic situation is forcing more and more of you to refocus on marketing and to seek a better return on your existing marketing. There is no better medium for that than durable advertsing.