Editor's Picks: Made In The USA
For decades now, Americans have been buying imported products because of their lower cost and, in some cases, greater selection and availability. While globalization is not going away ever—and there is a place for lower-cost products, increasingly, U.S. consumers are indicating an interest in buying products that are made closer to home. They are interested in origins and authenticity; they want to know where products come from, what they are made of and what the story is behind them. These influences have fanned the flames of a new movement—that of Americans buying products specifically made in the U.S.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released in July found that 70 percent of Americans think it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to buy U.S.-made products. Since the promotional products industry has always taken its cues from the larger consumer products sphere, perhaps this is why demand for made-in-the-USA branded products is on the rise.
“We have seen increased interest in American-made promotional products,” says Stan Dohan, MAS, president of Blanchester, Ohio-based supplier The Allen Company. “American patriotism and pride are on the rise along with an increase in U.S. manufacturing stories. We are also in the collegiate licensed market, and large purchasers like Notre Dame will not buy products from Asia.”
Amberlea Barnes, CEO of Stuttgart, Arkansas-based supplier Drum-Line, says 99 percent of the company’s product line is USA-made. “We are having a year of growth here at Drum-Line,” Barnes says. “The Trump administration’s focus on American manufacturing has been positive for us. Other obstacles with imports—such as rising costs and production and shipping delays may be reasons buyers are sourcing domestically.”
Buy American, Hire American
Why is buying U.S.-made items important to some clients? “Outside of patriotism, the reason people buy American-made is probably just because it’s the right thing to do,” says Bruce Felber, MAS, corporate brand specialist for Holland, Ohio-based distributor The Image Group. “They feel like our country should be supporting itself.”
Terry McGuire, senior vice president of marketing for Sterling, Illinois-based distributor HALO Branded Solutions, says supporting U.S.-made promotional products is always good for business. “Using U.S.-made products is an additional way to differentiate your company and your brand,” he adds.
Cost is a factor, but there are so many benefits to buying American-made products that distributors can get past this impasse by leveraging their sales skills. “Distributors should be selling advertising value,” Barnes says. “Adding even a small amount of customization that is not available online will make a distributor more valuable in the long-run.”
Another way for distributors to influence clients to buy U.S.-made products is by appealing to them on an emotional level. “Distributors can say to their clients, ‘Look, we’re here to support our country,’” Felber says. “‘Isn’t it worth a few dollars more to keep Americans working as opposed to sending jobs overseas?’”
Product quality and safety are other factors. “When the supplier manufactures the product in the U.S., orders turn faster and more reliably, and without the safety concerns of direct importing,” Barnes says. “You know you are getting a quality product; not to mention, you can feel good about supporting American jobs.”
McGuire agrees, suggesting that distributors focus on quality, workmanship and their conscience. “There is a quality difference,” he explains. “There is also the peace of mind that comes with knowing the goods you are purchasing were made in accordance with the United States’ strict environmental, labor and product safety laws—none of which are a guarantee if the product is made outside the U.S.”
Industries that may be particularly interested in buying American-made promotional products include labor unions, construction services, government and the military, political campaigns and educational institutions.
Mixing Old And New
What trends are currently influencing the made-in-the-USA category of promotional products?
“All the same trends influencing the promotional products industry apply to USA-made products,” Barnes says. “These include technology, personalization, high utility products and retail-inspired style.
“For instance, Americans are reliant on technology,” she explains. “Even ‘old fashioned’ products like notebooks and calendars have to work with technology. Drum-Line offers SmartBook interactive journals that feature a digital link embedded in the cover art. Recipients scan the cover with a free smartphone app to link to a YouTube video, special offer, Twitter hashtag, etc. Mixing old and new can make a powerful impact.”
Personalization and retail-inspired style are also trends to watch, Barnes says. “Retail brands are prevalent in our industry. End users ask for brand names they know.”
Marketers saw a consumer shift toward personalization last year, according to a January article in AdWeek, and that trend has continued to gain ground in 2017. Barnes offers a tangible way to leverage the personalization trend using promotional products.
“Consumers love to see their name in print,” she says. “Giving a calendar or journal with the recipient’s name shows you value their business, and it also keeps your company name in front of them all year.”
Made-in-the-USA drinkware is also gaining prominence in the promotional products industry, Dohan says. “Increasingly, we have a developing customer base for more U.S.-made drinkware items that are outside the box of the standard ceramic mugs. These include bistro mugs, barrel glasses and more.”
A major influencer is the shift in attention to craft beer and the rise of home brewing. The craft beer culture comes with unique ways of serving, consuming and storing beer. In response to this trend, The Allen Company offers a collection of craft beer accoutrements, including stainless steel and glass growlers, and pilsner and pint glasses.
Potential challenges for the U.S.-made product category include the cost of labor and overhead against imports, says Scott Thackston, president of Mauldin, South Carolina-based supplier Aprons, Etc.
Dohan says that the glassware category is dominated by U.S.-made products with new styles all the time, but the molds are expensive and the energy required is high. “Also, extraordinary tariffs exist for Asian glass,” he adds.
Barnes agrees that employment issues and costs are indeed part of the equation. “Finding enough skilled labor continues to be a challenge for U.S. manufacturers,” she says. “Education and awareness about training opportunities is important.”
There are opportunities on the horizon as well. “I only see one challenge ahead, and it is a good one,” Dohan says. “And that is demand.”
Polls vs. Promotional Products As Political Predictors
Blanchester, Ohio-based supplier The Allen Company is apparently the go-to source for political candidates who want to buy U.S.-made promotional mugs for their campaigns. From Barack and Bernie to Cruz and McCain, The Allen Company has provided products for many of the campaigns in recent years. The company produces about 20,000 mugs a day.
“Every four years, when the general election campaigning begins, The Allen Company produces mugs for nearly all the presidential candidates, no matter which party they’re with,” says Stan Dohan, MAS, president of The Allen Company. “We’re like Switzerland—we take the business and we do it all. We don’t take sides.”
During campaign season, polls are popular, but there may be an easier way to predict who will win the ticket. Keep your eyes on the prize: promotional products.
“Since 1959, the president and vice president ticket that has run the most mugs with us has won the general election every time,” Dohan says. “Usually, the difference is in the tens of thousands. However, in the 2016 election, the Trump/Pence ticket finished narrowly ahead, with only 1,482 more mugs than Clinton/Kaine.”
Seven Advantages To Buying American-Made
Here’s a quick summary of the advantages of buying U.S.-made promotional products.
1 No inventory shortages
2 Shorter lead times/faster turnaround
3 More customization
4 More confidence in factory and labor conditions
5 Higher product quality and safety
6 Lower shipping costs
7 Feel-good effect: Patriotism, pride and peace of mind
On-Trend Ideas In The Made-In-The-USA Category
Today’s consumers are increasingly aware of the need to bring earth-friendly, durable and reusable totes to the grocery store. Help your clients raise the bar on their marketing campaigns with the Bayside U.S.-made jumbo tote. This duo-tone reusable tote has natural colored handles and is available in 10 colors.
Kati Sportcap & Bag/ PPAI 113758/ www.katisportcap.com
When clients ask for U.S.-made journals, tent calendars or wall calendars, check out the Ad-A-Day product line. All Ad-A-Day promotional products are fully manufactured at the company’s Massachusetts-based factory and use substrate materials that are sourced from companies in the U.S.
Ad-A-Day / PPAI 111105/ www.ad-a-day.com
The TriMark highlighter has three times the ink of imports and a guaranteed one-year shelf life. It uses 80-percent water-based inks, is non-toxic and non-flammable, and all dyes and pigments are free of lead and heavy metals. Three neon highlighters are housed in one component. Choose from multiple body color combinations.
Beacon Promotions / PPAI 113702 / www.beaconpromotions.com
Bring new excitement to clients’ premium loyalty campaigns with the Zero Halliburton 20‑inch international carry-on. This travel case features four spinner wheels and has an elegant ribbed lightweight shell that’s constructed of impact resistant polycarbonate. The main handle is engineered with flexible material for ease of use and a soft feel to reduce stress.
Indigo / PPAI 133405/ www.indigowatch.com
Made in the USA, the Fold-it-Flat pen folds flat so it can be carried in your pocket or purse without adding bulk. The pen’s triangular shaped barrel fits comfortably in your hand and makes writing a breeze. It’s the perfect piece for your client’s next direct mail campaign.
All-In-One / PPAI 111343/ www.allinoneline.com
Rose gold is a trendy hue that won’t fade anytime soon. In addition to fashion and retail, rose gold is the trending color in the world of promotional products. A microfoil balloon available in ose gold adds color and motion to any type of display or event. It’s bound to keep your campaign in the pink.
Pioneer Balloon Company / PPAI 113823 / www.pioneerline.com
Today’s consumers demand product safety, especially for any promotional product that will land in the hands of children. The Safety Spin-it puts a new spin on fidget spinners. Made in the USA, the Safety Spin-it is compliant with Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) standards and features a larger imprint area on the center cap.
Evans Manufacturing/ PPAI 110747/ www.evans-mfg.com
Perfect for seminars, trade shows or employee onboarding, Trekker field journals come with a black or natural recycled chipboard cover and are available in four sizes. The pages in these bestselling journals are perforated and available with light gray lines or a trendy euro-dot pattern. Your client can feature their logo on every sheet, too.
Drum-Line / PPAI 102565 / www.drum-line.com
The U.S.-made letter-size clipboard puts safety first by featuring the Center for Disease Control’s concussion signs and symptoms, and an action plan for coaching staff on the front of the clipboard. The back features your client’s playing field of choice (soccer, football, basketball, etc.) while the clip can be imprinted with the team name.
CPS/Keystone Line / PPAI 111040/ www.keystoneline.com
Have a client planning an outdoor event? Whether it’s a music festival, golf tournament or 5K race, Coleman’s stainless steel 54-quart steel belted cooler is an essential promotional product for any outdoor campaign. Made in the USA, this cooler features a sturdy lid that’s designed for seating so customers will always have a place to sit and relax with a cold drink in hand.
Coleman Company / PPAI 272552 / www.jardencustom.com
A Hot But Cool Campaign Idea
When South Sioux City, Nebraska-based distributor Travel Memories (PPAI 526974) was tasked with developing an awareness campaign for its client Farrell’s Heating and Air Conditioning, they chose a U.S.-made thermometer from Morco (PPAI 114004).
“The thermometers Farrell’s purchased were a highlight for their customers,” says Mick Everett, president of Travel Memories. “They liked the colors and the quality of the U.S.-made item. And when their mechanics handed them out, they were getting their advertising message out there. They keep Farrell’s name in front of potential customers.”
Brittany Glenn is a Plano, Texas-based freelance writer and former associate editor for PPB.