Our Quest To Educate, Elevate And Inform Buyers

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By now you’ve probably heard the good news: Promotional products sales in 2012 posted a 4.4 percent increase for the year, raising industry sales to $18.5 billion. Although only a slight swell over 2011’s $17.7 billion, it marks 2012 as the industry’s third-highest sales year yet, behind 2006 at $18.7 billion and 2007 at $19.4 billion.

As the economy bounces back so goes our industry—or does it? Watch for next month’s column for more on the answer to that question. For now, suffice it to say that historically our industry has bounced back from industry revenue losses in 2001 and 2002 and again in 2008 and 2009—but we all worked hard for those rebounds. Nothing has come easy.

Although promotional products have been around for more than a century and have become iconic within our culture in many ways (think of the logoed t-shirt and souvenir beverage tumbler, for example), our industry works tirelessly every day to recognize and reinforce the powerful role that promotional products play in delivering advertisers’ messages to their target audiences using carefully selected items that are useful, appreciated and retained by recipients.

Leading the way in this endeavor is PPAI, whose vision statement makes this focus very clear: To champion and advance the promotional products industry. The Association’s overarching charge is further stated in its mission statement: PPAI advocates the power and value of promotional products in the marketing and advertising professions to ensure the success of its members and the global industry.

The steps toward fulfilling this vision and mission are outlined within the Strategic Plan, particularly in Goal 2 titled: Advocating for the Industry. Through its team of professionals at headquarters in Irving, Texas, and with the expertise of volunteer leaders, PPAI is working to influence external audiences to use promotional products and understand their true effectiveness. The expectation, of course, is ultimately to grow industry sales and enhance the perception of the industry and the products it sells.

Recognizing that a thriving industry needs a continual infusion of fresh talent, PPAI is working to reach, teach and educate younger professionals and college students about choosing the industry as a career choice and using promotional products in their marketing campaigns wherever they may be employed. PPAI’s longtime partnership with the American Marketing Association has provided countless targeted opportunities to get our message out to thousands of marketing students and faculty members using face-to-face conferences, webinars and web advertising. Coming up September 8-11 in New Orleans, Louisiana, PPAI will participate in the new AMA Annual Marketing Conference as a high-profile Platinum sponsor. This will be an incredible opportunity to further our goals as this high-visibility event is expected to draw marketing and communications executives from around the world.

PPAI is also teaching its members how to advocate the value, effectiveness and power of promotional products to buyers through a co-branded PPAI & ASI ADvocate™ program being announced this month. The program was first launched in 2006 to train members to make presentations to local business organizations about the effectiveness of promotional products as a marketing medium. That highly successful model is being expanded to include collaboration with Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) to broaden the program and expand its reach to members and nonmembers. This industry-wide strategy will leverage the strengths of both organizations.

Earlier this year PPAI launched the first of what’s planned to be an annual initiative to spread the word about our effective advertising medium and the benefits of working with qualified promotional consultants. Promotional Products Work!™ Week, a five-day, nationwide effort held this past February, sought to unite the industry and carry the message about promotional products to clients, legislators and communities. PPW!W will continue to grow. In 2014, the industry-wide awareness event will focus on local market promotional strategies for industry stakeholders to build and strengthen their business and community relationships. It will also target media buyers and Fortune 500 marketing and advertising executives with fact-based and ROI-driven communications strategies.

On the heels of this year’s highly successful event, PPAI launched a new, fully loaded buyer website at www.promotionalproductswork.org. The go-to source features winning promotional product campaigns depicting real-world results from PPAI’s Pyramid Award program and case studies featuring key consumer brands including Nintendo and Arby’s restaurants. The robust site is also home to documents such as steps to develop a promotional plan, FAQ’s, research, videos, trends and data, and a distributor locator search tool by ZIP code.

These are just a few of the latest strategies PPAI is employing to elevate, grow and strengthen our industry through buyer awareness. If you have additional ideas, I’d enjoy hearing from you.

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