Promotional products have been around for decades. Through good times and bad, economic ups and downs, promotional products have remained a viable and important part of the advertising mix. As many advertising mediums are declining in revenue, our industry’s sales continue to grow and now exceed $20 billion annually. So why aren’t promotional products seen as one of the top advertising media by advertising agencies and the rest of the market? Perhaps they do not recognize the possible creative product solutions that solve marketing needs, or they lack access to the amazing case studies and campaigns that our industry delivers. In order to continue to increase sales and market share we need to create relevance around our creative promotional product campaigns. PPAI has a vision to deliver on that mission.
Before we address the issue and opportunity, let me tell you a little bit about my story. I started in this great industry several years ago—19 to be exact. I began my career just a few years after college and worked as a distributor in the Seattle area. Just like many of you, I built my book of business by cold calling, developing relationships and selling cool promotional products to companies who wanted to market their brands. During my first few years in the industry, I worked for Adventures In Advertising, Idea Man and HALO. Since 1999, I have owned my distributorship, Image Source. I still keep a personal book of business that I developed over the years but most of my day is dedicated to being an entrepreneur and advancing my team of 40 promotional products marketing professionals.
I believe I have a unique perspective that helps me serve you as your chair of the PPAI Board of Directors. I have been through the trials and tribulations of struggling to sell a few hundred thousand dollars a year, and over the years I learned how to become a top producer. While I have had many successes, I have also had many failures. The failures help define a person in both character and resilience. I am sure many of you have similar stories of falling down and getting back up. For an entrepreneur, that is just part of the journey.
While I have learned what it takes to be a successful salesperson and business owner, more importantly I recognize the value of promotional products to the advertising industry. The stronger our medium, the better we will all be positioned for success. This is why I feel PPAI’s recently announced Industry Branding Initiative (IBI) is so important. Promotional products have often been the stepchild of advertising media, and while the media category is one of the few still making gains, it has lagged in budget considerations and been absent in research reports measuring the effectiveness of various advertising media. The IBI is dedicated to changing this.
The IBI is a five-year campaign approved by the PPAI board in May 2015 and introduced to the industry at last month’s PPAI Expo. It is a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to increase awareness around the effectiveness of promotional products, improve the perception of promotional products as an important part of the marketing mix and drive share of wallet for the medium.
To help execute this initiative, PPAI has enlisted Saxum, a PR firm focused on gaining earned media as well as placement of paid media. The IBI also utilizes industry engagement, meaning your participation is critical to its success. The IBI will make significant strides in bringing promotional products out of the back room and into the boardroom where marketing decisions are made. Our goal is to create an impact on the end buyer that increases sales for our members and advances our industry. Who doesn’t want that? In the second year of the plan, a national industry spokesperson will be added. It is an exciting time and an extraordinary initiative designed to remove the afterthought stigma once and for all. I’m proud to be a part of it.
Of course, none of this was possible without previous leadership recognizing the need for change. I am blessed to have served with prior PPAI chairs Rick Brenner, MAS+, Mark Jenkins, MAS+ and Marc Simon who all gave so much to PPAI and this industry. The time and talents they offered to advance the Association and our industry have made significant impact. Together they moved the IBI initiative forward from concept to board approval to where we are today: the launch. By creating big picture initiatives like IBI, all of us will benefit in this great industry.
As your 2016 PPAI chair, I am happy to carry this torch as we move ahead. I look forward to working with all of you on this and so many other important initiatives.
Tom Goos, MAS, is president of Image Source, Inc. Reach him at email@example.com.