The promotional products industry is healthy, strong and brimming with opportunities as evidenced by the robust turnout and major product introductions at The PPAI Expo 2013 in January.
The PPAI Expo, named one of the top-50 U. S. shows by Trade Show Executive, has long been the industry’s forecaster for the coming year. And the prognosis for 2013 is pretty darn good.
Attendees and exhibitors at this year’s show reflected an upbeat vibe and came ready to do business. While exhibitors put their energies into rolling out new product introductions, distributors did their homework coming to the show prepared with client requests, shopping lists and with specific client promotions and campaigns in mind. At its core, The PPAI Expo is the show where business gets done.
Nearly 3,300 industry companies, representing every category of promotional products, exhibited in 3,100 booths during the show’s 11th year at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
While final, audited attendance numbers were not available at press time, Darel Cook, PPAI director of expositions and meetings expects the numbers to be strong. “By all indications, the 2013 PPAI Expo was a huge success. Attendance numbers greatly improved over 2012. The general consensus from exhibitors was not only were there more distributors, the distributors also came to do business. Distributors came armed with programs to find products [for], and exhibitors reported an uptick in activity. The Expo continues to showcase the biggest, the most, and by far the best the industry has to offer. The Expo is indeed the show of the industry.”
The show week began on Monday with Volunteer Day featuring a recognition luncheon and committee meetings followed by Education Day on Tuesday, a full day of professional development workshops built within 10 tracks and taught by industry experts and professional speakers. New this year was a track specifically on product responsibility with classes focusing on state and federal regulations, “green” initiatives and product safety. More than 80 educational opportunities were offered during the week.
The always-anticipated Sneak Peek on Tuesday night was a flurry of activity as thousands of distributors browsed the aisles of the four pavilions showcasing new products, green products, made in the USA products and express ship products—the latter a new pavilion for 2013. When the show opened Wednesday morning, distributors flooded the show floor, with lists in hand, ready to shop.
Read on for more highlights of this year’s PPAI Expo.
>>Mark your calendars for The PPAI 2014 scheduled for January 13-17, 2014 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Watch for registration to open by mid-summer at www.expo.ppai.org.
>>Find more photos from The Expo on PPAI’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PPAI.HQ
>>General Session Recap: Lynne Lancaster and Seth Mattison
Closing The Generation Gap
Attendees at Tuesday afternoon’s General Session heard generational speakers Lynne Lancaster and Seth Mattison give the honest truth: Sometimes the other generations are aggravating. The solution lies in using the traits and habits of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generations Xers and Millennials, to foster profitable relationships.
• Up your thank-you game to secure relationships with Traditionalists, who want to be recognized for their loyalty.
• Be in the business of simplifying promotional products for the competitive and time-crunched Baby Boomers, who are overworked but unwilling to admit it.
• Be willing to prove it to skeptical Generation Xers, who want proof of suitability and value.
• Mingle high-tech and high-touch with Millennials. The youngest group responds best to brands that get the approval of others and brands that respect and respond to their concerns. –Jen Alexander McCall
>>General Session Recap: Ken Schmidt
Create A Demand, And Price Isn’t An Issue
Ken Schmidt roared on stage aboard a Harley-Davidson 1200 Series Sportster spoke to a packed ballroom about the importance of having a story to tell. “You guys have a story yet?” he asked. “No demand is created in a world where stories aren’t told.”
The content of that story is where great branding is born. During his tenure as communications director at Harley-Davidson, Schmidt not only orchestrated a legendary branding turnaround that restored the near-bankrupt company to a brand that’s not only outselling Honda 10-to-one in the U.S. but also created an experience that’s become a lifestyle for Harley disciples, as Schmidt calls them. There’s a huge chasm between disciples and customers. “A disciple is someone who feels so good about something they’ll tell another person about the source of their joy.”
He told the audience if their clients haven’t told others why they do business with their companies, zero demand has been created. Without creating experiences for clients through company stories, the relationship is based on a commodity. “If we have zero differentiation, we are creating zero demand for what we do,” he added.
To illustrate the transaction-based model, he used an analogy to which just about every listener could relate: shopping for a flat-screen TV. “Salespeople are fighting to sell you the same thing,” he said. “The consumer will always take the easy way out if they don’t see a difference—and it will come down to price.”
If consumers can’t differentiate between products, they will demand to pay less. Brain is pain, he likes to say. “When the brain is churning inside the head of a potential customer, we have failed. When your customer’s brain is fully engaged, the customer will become logical. Logic, to the average consumer right now, means to pay the lowest possible price.”
Today’s world is marketing averse—a problem he attributes to the average consumer viewing more than 6,000 marketing messages every day. He said he could talk for hours about the quality, craftsmanship, product line, engineering and elegance of Harley-Davidson motorcycles but still create no demand for his product.
What does move the needle is to ask customers what they want, listen to the answers and take action based on their input. During Harley-Davidson’s rebound, its management team learned that asking customers what they want and using that information to improve the process, product and experience was successful. Schmidt recalled asking, “What can we do differently to make you buy this bike?”
The customer’s ego is the single-most important lesson sellers and their companies can learn. Sellers, he said, need to create differentiation that engages human beings and allows them to feel good about themselves. “We are all selling the same thing,” he ranted. Differentiation demands creativity—and when that happens, price becomes less of a concern. –Tina Berres Filipski
>>Show Goers Have Their Say
Laura Turner, supplier Ash City Worldwide:
“It was a great show! The Ash City booth was packed all three days, which was great for us, but overall traffic was great and the quality of all the exhibitors was outstanding. It was both enjoyable and educational walking the show floor.”
Diane Sakowicz, MAS, distributor Service With A Smile, Inc.:
“Although I earned my MAS years ago, I continue to prioritize PPAI’s education classes. After attending six technology classes at Expo this year, I feel armed with many powerful apps and techniques to maximize my efficiency both in and outside of the office.”
David Miller, supplier Chocolate Inn:
“I found the show to be very busy with well-qualified prospects all working on opportunities. The PPAI Expo was time well spent.”
George Jackson, distributor George Jackson Promotions, Inc.:
“I look for items that fit my clients’ budgets and particular needs. I maximize my time on the floor by using Expo PlanIt to hit the key suppliers I work with and then ones I may want to work with.”
Joe Warmbrodt, supplier Americraft
“It was wonderful. What I found was that everybody wants USA or union made—but they all think it’s expensive and boring stuff. So when they found out our prices, that we have items that aren’t even in the industry yet, it blew them away. We had a great show.”
Shurli Allinott, supplier Brandwear:
“This one is the show. Actually, if we had to choose one show, it would be this show. The quality of the customer is amazing. So many people come—Canada comes, the U.S. comes. It’s just an all-around great, great show.”
Sami Sharone, supplier S&S Creations:
“We’ve had really good traffic … and really good people. Quality people. We are pretty much happy with everything.”
Jennifer Williams, supplier In Your Face Apparel (in her second week on the job):
“It’s informative for me. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here. I’ve been to tradeshows in Vegas, but it’s always been in other industries such as skin care. This is awesome.”
Mark Trotzuk, supplier Boardroom Eco Apparel:
“[Distributors] are very focused. People are looking for very specific things and knowing what they’re looking for. It’s been good.”
Susan Young, distributor HALO Branded Solutions:
“I just think this is the best show in the industry, and it’s where you can find everything.”
>>Thank You PPAI Expo 2013 Sponsors
Evans Manufacturing, Inc.
J. Charles Crystalworks Inc.
Norwood & BIC Graphic North America
R.S. Owens & Co., Inc.
3M Promotional Markets Dept.
Drummond Printing, Inc.
In Your Face Apparel
Leashables By Oralabs, Inc.
Marathon Mfg./Prestige Lines
Sanford Business-to-Business Division
TradeNet Publishing Co.
BAG MAKERS, Inc.
Etching Industries Corp.
Fruit of the Loom
Gill Studios, Inc.
Regional Association Council (RAC)
ADG Promotional Products
Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant
Photos by Oscar Einzig Photography