There's no place a distributor’s creativity is showcased more vividly than when faced with solving a client’s problem. Whether it’s driving traffic at a trade show, creating awareness for a new business or marking an important milestone, when a distributor’s creativity, imagination and execution are paired with the perfect products, the result is a winner. Read on to learn more about the campaigns that took home gold at this year’s PPAI Expo.


Distributor Self-Promotion
Distributor | Axis Promotions

Target Audience 1,200 of the distributor’s top clients
Other Media Used Custom tube mailer
Primary Objective To mark the 25th anniversary and invite gift recipients to join the celebration; to reinforce the message that Axis is an industry powerhouse with unparalleled creative work; to increase sales and serve as a door opener for prospective clients; and to deepen client relations, and increase the company’s social media following and online engagement through a social media contest.

Strategy And Execution Axis Promotions employed the theme “Shaking Things Up for 25 Years!” and reinforced it through the use of products that were celebratory in nature, and/or silver in color, to represent the distributor’s 25th anniversary.

Encased in a custom packaged tube were a custom cocktail shaker complete with a stirrer, jigger, strainer and muddler; custom cocktail playing cards, with each card bearing a likeness of an Axis employee, an illustration of their favorite cocktail and instructions on how to make it at home; sour cherry candies; a custom coaster that doubled as messaging and an Instagram contest insert card.

Results Client responses for Axis’s Silver Anniversary Mailer were overwhelming and came in the form of sales, thank-you notes and social media posts. The gift resulted in approximately $200,000 in sales from both new and existing clients, as well as invitations to two RFPs. On social media, the kit produced 18 user-generated posts, 10,006 impressions and 407 “likes.”


Distributor | Axis Promotions

Type Of Client Financial industry
Target Audience 330 executive-level employees at top financial institutions
Other Media Used Video, print
Primary Objective The client took its new company positioning statement, “Connected Commerce,” to market in order to educate potential financial institutions on the ease of doing business with the client through its “Core Three Pillar” plan.
Total Cost (including promotional products, media, printing, packaging, etc.) $100,000

Strategy And Execution Retained as a creative agency, Axis Promotions created the strategy, concept, design, content, video editing, graphics, promotional components, custom packaging and fulfillment to execute this high-profile global campaign. 

A custom wood crate served as the star product, fashioned with branded iron markings that promoted the client’s Connected Commerce and Pillar messaging. A branded crowbar was packaged with the crate, to be used to open it while also conveying strength, privacy, security and stability. Also included were a personalized note from the recipients’ individual sales reps and a light-sensored video book presentation that played upon opening and highlighted the client’s unique solutions offering.

The last three components of the crate each represented a core pillar: an RFID blocker, a Tile and a universal travel adapter.

Results The client was overwhelmed by the buzz and positive feedback received from the field, all of which have driven critical meetings and sales.


Internal Communication Programs
Distributor | Axis Promotions

Type Of Client Financial industry
Target Audience The client’s national and international employees
Primary Objective To educate and excite staff about the company rebrand, and to encourage staff to share the excitement and new knowledge with prospects, clients and partners.
Total Cost (including promotional products, media, printing, packaging, etc.) $51,337

Strategy And Execution A “Rebrand Kit” was created in two tiers: one for employees in the U.S. and Canada, and the other for employees working in international offices. Both tiers included a retail apparel item to align the client with a luxury provider—jackets and vests from Patagonia—as well as key office essentials that could be displayed on employee desks. The essentials were a polar tumbler, business card holder, pen and journal-pen combo.

Results All 250 kits arrived prior to the day of the relaunch and generated lots of excitement for the brand on the day of the unveiling. Axis also placed additional orders for items from the kit.


Distributor Self-Promotion
Distributor | Geiger

Type Of Client Aluminum can manufacturer
Target Audience Plant managers and purchasing executives at the distributor’s largest client
Primary Objective The manufacturer was being purchased and split into two separate companies. Prior to being sold, the primary point of contact was the company’s purchasing department, but after the sale of the company, the new points of contact would be within each of the two new plants. The self promotion was designed to introduce the distributor to the plant managers.

Strategy And Execution The mailing included items that reflected the client’s business and that were co-branded with related messaging: a mini can cooler, can Koozies, a can-shaped tumbler, can-shaped note pads and a flyer and business card.

Results The mailing generated revenues over seven months that totaled $72,570 with 27 orders.


Distributor Self-Promotion
Distributor | HALO Branded Solutions

Target Audience Thirteen decision makers at seven prospective client businesses
Primary Objective To showcase the distributor’s creativity using promotional products and to set up a meeting with the target audience

Total Cost (including promotional products, media, printing, packaging, etc.) $861

Strategy And Execution Building on the theme, “Don’t throw a monkey wrench into your plans,” the distributor combined a red cardboard toolbox with a metal crescent wrench, stuffed monkey and informational card. The toolboxes were hand delivered, and delivery was followed up with communications to the prospects.

Results Three of the seven targeted businesses became new clients, which represented a 43 percent response rate. One new client became the distributor’s largest client to date. The distributor’s initial investment resulted in 188 orders and $90,458 in sales volume.


Distributor Self-Promotion
Distributor | Shumsky

Target Audience New and existing customers
Other Media Used Direct mailer, insert card, business cards
Primary Objective To deliver good will and drive new business

Strategy And Execution Recipients of the self-promotion campaign received a custom pair of themed socks promoting the distributor’s capabilities as well as a request to work together on upcoming marketing projects. The colorful and creative socks were selected to be part of the campaign due to the trending nature of socks in the retail market. 

In January, the distributor developed a winter theme for the socks, using blue with white snowflakes, and the company logo was positioned on the bottom of the socks.  An insert card reinforced that the distributor is more than a shirt and hat apparel company. February’s socks carried a Valentine’s Day theme, and the mailing in March featured a St. Patrick’s Day theme.

Results New appointments and referrals continue to come in. The net result of the campaign was $28,000 in sock sales, and over $250,000 in new customer business was generated. The social media posts of people wearing their socks were beneficial to the overall success of the campaign as well.


Trade Show/Exhibit Traffic Programs
Regional Association | Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA)

Type Of Client Regional association
Target Audience 803 distributors, 100 suppliers, immeasurable end users
Other Media Used Web, email, direct mail
Primary Objectives

  • Elevate MiPPA's value to the membership
  • Increase distributor membership
  • Increase distributor membership engagement
  • Promote the industry to end users
  • Provide marketing venue for distributors
  • Business building and relationship building for suppliers

Total cost (including promotional products, media, printing, packaging, etc.) $12,000

Strategy And Execution This event took place at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, one of the premier botanical gardens and sculpture parks in the world. MiPPA played off the garden theme by using spring colors and flowers in the logo and title, “Ideas In Bloom.” The participants had the opportunity to tour the gardens, creating uniqueness for the event, which directly translated to marketing currency for the distributors. Save the Date postcards were mailed at the end of March, followed by a dimensional mailer containing an invitation and a $1 million dollar bill sent in April. Distributors were directed to log in to the MiPPA website to register. The registration system was tied directly to SAGE software, where everything was managed and maintained. Finally, multiple e-blasts were sent with event details, reminders and a link back to registration.

Results The show saw a 67 percent increase in overall attendance and 85 percent attendance rate among registrants; MiPPA welcomed six new members to the association and more than 100 suppliers to the show.


Trade Show/Exhibit Traffic Programs
Distributor | Pica Marketing Group

Type Of Client Plumbing parts manufacturer
Target Audience 2,500 participants among 60,000 trade show attendees who work in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration jobs
Other Media Used Email, direct mail, advertising directly with the trade show
Primary Objective To increase booth traffic by 20 percent and demonstrate the product, and to convert 10 percent of booth leads to post-show sales meetings
Total Cost (including promotional products, media, printing, packaging, etc.) $40,083

Strategy And Execution This trade show is geared toward high-level HVAC-R professionals, so the messaging was crafted to be succinct and consistent with its global branding. The client’s product was the premier plumbing solution, so high-end pieces were used for redemption at the booth. Three weeks prior to the trade show, the first e-blast was sent to 2,500 participants identified as decision makers and saw a 41.9 percent open rate (the industry average is 17.2 percent). 

Two weeks before the show, a trifold direct mail piece was sent with product education/benefits as well as an invitation to stop by the booth and bring the included pen for a product demonstration, gift and chance to win. One week before
the event, a final reminder e-blast was sent and produced a 40.1 percent open rate, which was a 35 percent increase from the previous year. In exchange for watching a demonstration at the booth, the participant received a Yeti tumbler, which was chosen for its on-trend brand and perceived value.

Results The goal to increase booth traffic by 20 percent over 2016 was exceeded; traffic increased 45 percent. Conversion of leads to sales meetings rose to 24 percent and resulted in 30 RFPs.


Trade Show/Exhibit Traffic Programs
Distributor | Pica Marketing Group

Type Of Client Plumbing parts manufacturer
Target Audience 2,500 general contractors, building professionals and owners of smaller heating/cooling companies Other Media Used Web, email, direct mail
Primary Objective Drive a 20 percent increase in booth traffic and convert 10 percent of booth leads to post-show sales meetings
Total cost (including promotional products, media, printing, packaging, etc.) $44,600

Strategy And Execution Three weeks prior to the event, an e-blast was sent inviting prospects to experience a demonstration and asking them to be on the lookout for more information in the mail. Two weeks prior to the event, a direct mail piece was sent using a printed tube, insert card, and microfiber cloth. The microfiber cloth had the booth number, pictures of the client’s products, and a call to action: bring the cloth for a chance to win. The insert card reiterated the call to action and further educated the participant about the benefits of the client’s products. 

One week prior to the trade show, a second e-blast was sent reminding participants to visit the booth and bring the cloth. When they arrived at the booth with their cloth, they were able to watch a demonstration, ask questions and receive a large cooling towel. The towel pictured the proprietary plumbing parts and listed the benefits to the plumbing professional. More importantly, it was a helpful tool for those professionals working in hot environments.

Results Trade show booth traffic increased by 38 percent, or 800 total leads—almost 100 percent over goal. Twenty percent of the leads were converted to meetings, and five percent of meetings were converted to RFPs.


The PPAI Pyramid Rebranded

First introduced in 1958, the PPAI Pyramid Award marked its diamond anniversary at The PPAI Expo 2018, proving its long and distinguished reputation in recognizing the best promotions and products in the promotional products industry. With the milestone came an opportunity to expand and advance the Pyramid Award as well. 

For more than a year, the PPAI Awards Committee has been working to reorganize and rebrand under the Pyramid banner four PPAI awards previously known as Technology, Image, Suppliers Achievement and Supplier Stars. The Pyramid also continues to include categories of distributor promotions. No change was made in how the awards were selected: Supplier Stars are determined by distributor ballots; all other categories are judged by an independent panel of industry and industry-related professionals.

More than 100 awards were presented in five categories at Expo. See the complete list in our flipbook.

THE 2018 COMPETITION OPENS JUNE 4 AND CLOSES JULY 13. Check for entry details. 


Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.