When the right products are paired with innovative, solution-focused promotions, the combination can spark spectacular results for the client—and for the industry professionals who make it happen.

Last month at The PPAI® Expo, 163 PPAI Pyramid Awards were presented to companies to recognize excellence in five program categories: Client Programs, Supplier Decorating, Marketing, Technology and Supplier Stars.

Read more about 14 award-winning promotions in the Client Program category to help ignite your own imagination.


Distributor | Alwayz, Inc.

Type Of Client Excavation and property development

Target Audience 24 highly-targeted recipients in construction finance including local bankers, investors and real estate agents.

Other Media Direct mail and print

Primary Objective To generate new appointments and new billable construction projects, and to create general awareness and excitement about the project management and estimation services provided to local investors and developers.

Total Cost $4,000

Strategy And Execution A direct mail piece was sent by USPS Priority to targeted prospects over a five-week period. A “gambling” theme was chosen to highlight the pain points of project delays and unforeseen expenses. The mailing was a self-contained display that featured messaging on the inside lid that read: “Property Development Projects are High Stakes Investments. Don’t Gamble Your Budget Away on Unforeseen Delays and Expenses. ACCUESTIMATION™ is a SURE BET.” The box contained a green felt “casino table” interior with three thematic, imprinted promotional products including two branded dice tins containing Red Hots candy, a stainless steel playing card bottle opener and a casino chip USB flash drive loaded with a short presentation.

Results Seven recipients responded prior to the follow-up call (a 29 percent response rate) and 100 percent were receptive. The promotion resulted in four new clients and seven potential clients for a ROI of approximately $4.25 million in secured contracts.


Distributor | 20/20 Brand Solutions

Type of client Technology/Manufacturing/Engineering 

Target Audience Automobile industry businesses, engineers/buyers in the continental U.S.

Other Media Web, email, direct mail

Primary Objective To stimulate awareness and generate interest in the company’s products, and to demonstrate its value to existing and prospective engineering businesses in the U.S. automobile industry.

Total Cost $24,000

Strategy And Execution A custom erector set with branded decals and options to build five variations of toy cars was sent at strategic intervals to 2,500 pre-vetted automobile industry engineer clients and prospective clients. The set was packaged in a protective, corrugated brand mailer. A sentimental marketing teaser accompanied the toy, depicting children playing with the toy. The campaign was supplemented with a three-day email blast and an informational micro website to pique recipients’ interests. Invited site visitors also had access to an idea book, case studies and other related products and services to help stimulate a call-to-action.

Results Open rates on the three-day email campaign exceeded 28 percent, and the inquiry website generated 2,716 unique clicks and inquiries. The sales pipeline grew into the multi-million-dollar range.


Distributor | Pica Marketing Group, an iPROMOTEu affiliate

Type Of Client Manufacturing

Target Audience Distributors of a specific brand of products and OEM car dealers attending the National Automobile Dealers Association trade show.

Other Media Web, email, direct mail

Primary Objective To drive qualified attendees to the booth to learn about new programs and products, thereby increasing wallet share of current clients and creating a new relationship with targeted prospects.

Total Cost $20,995

Strategy And Execution A hand-delivered invitation targeted 1,750 registered attendees through the network of distributors beginning six weeks out. The invited attendees were encouraged to bring the poker chip inside the invitation to the booth to learn more about the products and to redeem it for a gift. There was a two-part digital communication: 1. Instruct the distributors about the NADA initiative and 2. Remind them to invite the targets. To drive behavior, the distributor with the most attendees won a travel voucher for the annual company national sales meeting. Booth staff scanned the attendees who brought their chip, which allowed the company to track those attendees who came to the booth and which distributor had the most participants.

Results Viable leads increased by 84 percent (150 percent over goal) and 15 percent of leads were converted to post-show meetings (15 percent over goal). Post-show sales increased by 10 percent.


Distributor/Supplier | Competitive Edge and St Regis Group - R.S. Owens

Type Of Client Franchise Food Service

Target Audience Retiring CEO

Primary Objective  To recognize the outgoing CEO of the No. 1 pizza company in the world (a rank achieved under his leadership).

Total Cost $16,000

Strategy And Execution  A one-of-a-kind recognition piece was created and presented to the CEO at the company’s most high-profile event of the year.

Results It was a show-stopping event. People stood in line after the awards ceremony to have their photo taken with the piece.


Distributor | HALO Branded Solutions

Type Of Client Medical Spa

Target Audience The company’s top revenue-generating salespeople in both corporately-owned and privately-owned franchises but the entire salesforce could compete.

Primary Objective To encourage additional participation from the salesforce resulting in additional future revenue generation for the company.

Total Cost $18,000

Strategy And Execution The company was looking for a creative travel set to celebrate its recent rebranding as well as announce the winners of a sales incentive trip. Eight weeks before the trip, winners of the sales contest received a full-color, custom-wrapped, rolling luggage piece and a passport folder. When the luggage was opened, a light-activated sound module played a recording from the HR director that congratulated the winner and said to pack the bag for fun in the sun in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Two weeks later, an Ame & LuLu beach bag and matching swimsuit dry bag with two matching Mandela towels and two travel-size Aloe-up sun care kits (a second for a guest) were sent to the winner’s home. Onsite at the event, a custom polo shirt was presented proclaiming “President’s Club Winner 2018” that was later worn for a group souvenir photo. Upon returning home, winners received a follow-up package with a trophy, lapel pin and a mini split of champagne encouraging them to keep the celebration going.

Results The client received many onsite accolades from winners and management about the creativity and usefulness of the gifts. The buzz filtered to other sales personnel and created more excitement. The distributor has already been contacted to start working on the next event.


Distributor I I Miller International

Type Of Client Title insurance

Target Audience The current client base, as well as former clients and attorneys who specialize in real estate

Other Media Direct mail

Primary Objective To reinforce the client’s environmental concerns, show support for the Jewish community (many clients are lawyers in New York City and a large percentage of them are Jewish) and get recognition for the longevity of the company.

Total Cost $1,800

Strategy And Execution In Judaism the term “chai” means “life” and the number 18 is considered very lucky. The client was celebrating his 18th year in business. Since he is in New York and many of his clients are Jewish, the distributor suggested he plant 18 trees in Israel in honor of his clients. To involve the clients, live seedlings were purchased for each current and former client. To be sure the recipients understood why they were receiving the seedlings and to invite them to participate in the celebration, a seedling and a seeded card were sent by FedEx (the package was marked Live Plant). The timing was centered around LinkedIn sending out notices encouraging people to congratulate the attorney on his 18th year in business, which coincided with the prime planting season. The package was also planned to arrive near a weekend so the recipients would have the opportunity to plant the seedling and seeds.

Results More than 72 percent of the clients planted the seedlings or grew the herbs from the seeded card, giving them a constant reminder of the company’s significant milestone.


Distributor | American Solutions for Business

Type Of Client University museum

Target audience Museum members, contributors/donors, members of the university, scientific and local community (families, schools, etc.) and new members. Total size was more than 3.8 million.

Primary Objective  To rebrand and reposition the organization within the university and city to create stronger relationships with its members, contributors and the scientific and local communities, and to use promo products to communicate the museum’s new features, technology and attractions before the doors officially reopened.

Total Cost The budget was originally set at $30,000. After learning more about the distributor’s custom capabilities, it was increased to $43,000.

Strategy And Execution There are two major attractions at the new museum: a 12-foot-tall, open-air diorama featuring a full-scale woolly mammoth and a new, state-of-the-art planetarium. The distributor used these attractions to inspire the custom pieces for the promotion. Actual photographs from the sculptor of the museum’s woolly mammoth were sent to the supplier’s sculptor to create a two-inch replica. A total of 1,100 custom, hand painted snow globes were created and given as gifts to local legislators and regents who passed the bonding bill, which was a significant step in relocating the museum and adding the woolly mammoth exhibit. The additional products—socks, water bottles and totes—all feature a constellation design that incorporates the university’s block letter “M.”

Results The museum accomplished its goal of connecting with the community, legislature and new and existing members. Each item served a unique purpose to engage with the more than 5,000 guests who attended preview events over a two-month period.


Distributor | Geiger

Type Of Client University’s Health Sciences Center

Target Audience High school students from public, private and home-school forums who were interested in exploring education in health care.

Other Media Web, email, video, direct mail

Primary Objective The Red Bag Tours program is designed to inform high school teachers and school districts as well as help university faculty and staff conduct more efficient and organized tours to attract more visitors to the campus.

Total Cost $17,851

Strategy And Execution The university was looking for a way to better organize and increase traffic for high school students who requested tours of its facilities. Branding was important for this program to increase recognition both internally and among the visiting high school students. The Red Bag logo and related promotional materials helped the university staff know which event was happening on the busy campus. The logoed items—including stickers, bags, sunglasses, cell phone holders, apparel and pens—were selected not only to make a lasting impression on the students but to be useful to high school teachers as well.

Results In past years no budget was expended for student visits to the health science center and the number of students visiting was no more than about 120 annually. After the Red Bag Tour was implemented in 2018, the university’s health sciences center welcomed 840 students to the campus in that year alone. Word quickly spread about the Red Bag Tours and the online signup sold out for all of 2018 within a matter of weeks. The high school students enjoyed the sunglasses and took pictures while wearing them in front of the school’s banner. Seeing the school’s logo, coupled with an immersive education experience, truly drove home the school’s brand identity for visiting students.


Distributor | Inproma

Type Of Client: Communications

Target Audience 1,800 customer-facing technicians who install the systems and troubleshoot problems directly with the consumer.

Other Media: Web, email, video

Primary Objective  To increase customer satisfaction and improve employee performance and morale by rewarding and recognizing performance metrics for customer satisfaction, meeting or exceeding the appointment window, successful service call resolution, service call-back rates, number of safety incidences and numbers of service calls.

Total Cost This is an ongoing program with a yearly budget of $60,000.

Strategy And Execution The Pyramid of Excellence program strategy differentiates the recognition given to each number of wins by using a variety of products with a unique color for each, so that high performers can be multiple winners. The program has been running for six years, bringing in new product selections every three years. The distributor provides product options and color schemes, helps with final selections, revises the logo and updates the web store for easier purchasing, maintenance of inventory, reporting capabilities and distribution of products.

Results Recently the client decided to stop the program, but once employees found out they voiced their discontent and the program was reinstated. The Pyramid of Excellence products are seen as a badge of honor that employees strive to achieve. They also provide a way to earn respect and recognition from their peers. In the most recent year, there were 209 winners, far exceeding expectations by 318 percent. For Q1, 11.6 percent of the employees won. It was the largest number of first-time winners since the inception of the program.


Distributor | All The Right Tools Inc., an IPROMOTEu affiliate

Type Of Client Veterinary College

Target audience Entire staff, faculty and graduate students

Primary Objective  To draw attention to and increase attendance at a strategy meeting

Total Cost $4,000

Strategy And Execution It was determined the college would go beyond the traditional email/mailbox invite and facilitate a desk-drop invitation with a memorable promotional product to draw attention to the plan and create awareness of the event. An assortment of animal-shaped stress products were presented including a cat, dog, pig, sheep, cow, eagle, horse, turtle and chicken. The stress product and a printed invitation/information card was packaged and delivered to faculty, staff and students all on the same morning two days before the meeting. This was coordinated through the college’s strategic planning and communications team, with the help of administrative assistants from each department across the college.

Results The package created a tremendous amount of excitement, and attendance at the strategic plan launch grew by 1,000 percent over previous meetings. Community awareness grew exponentially and actual involvement in the critical strategic initiatives increased by over 100 percent.


Distributor | Summit Group

Type Of Client Airline

Target Audience Primary, airline leadership; secondary, Special Olympics athletes; tertiary, airline associates and the general public

Oher Media  Web, video

Primary Objective  The airline needed help launching their partnership with Special Olympics, including a project that would convey their message of inclusiveness at the leadership conference. The distributor proposed a kit-packing event to solve two goals: a volunteer activity with leaders and athletes working together and assembly of 15,000 co-branded, sun-safety kits for the athletes to use during the summer events.

Total Cost $125,000

Strategy And Execution To meet the objectives of educating and inspiring leadership, and creating a service opportunity and a meaningful gift for Special Olympics althetes, the distributor collaborated on a kit-packing event where everyone wore shirts with both logos. Sun-safety kit items were chosen for athletes including a rally towel, lip balm, sunscreen, aloe vera gel, twill cap and sunglasses. Custom flags and No. 1 foam fingers were also provided. The goods were organized on pallets and delivered in a tight window, with completed kits stored for as-needed distribution at future Special Olympics events.

Results  Survey results ranked the kit-packing as the favorite part of the conference and participants were energized by the olympic-like announcement ceremony. The promotion accomplished its goals by creating a spirit of inclusion, delivering the message to target audiences and using relevant promotional products.


Distributor | Amplified Image Marketing

Type Of Client Nonprofit - Health and Wellness

Target Audience Approximately 3,400 women and men diagnosed with breast cancer in Nebraska and Western Iowa

Other Media: Web, video

Primary Objective Develop complimentary kits for breast cancer patients addressing the three types of treatment and including items to help them feel a little more comfortable during their treatment and recovery.

Total Cost $90,000

Strategy And Execution The items that went into each kit were selected by breast cancer survivors. The chemo kit included a branded pillow and blanket, branded fruit infusion water bottle, lotion and shampoo, meditation CD, coloring book, soft sleep cap, dry mouth spray and queasy drops packaged in a branded canvas tote that could be used after treatment. The surgery kit contained a branded robe, pillow, branded journal and pen, drainage belt, coloring book and glass jar with 31 messages of hope packed in a branded bag. The radiation kit contained a branded hot/cold tumbler, Lindi cooling pads and a bottle of emu oil inside a branded lunch tote.

Results  The kits helped create awareness for a program that is provided at no cost to breast cancer patients. More than 800 branded kits, each containing five branded items and wellness products, were delivered to recipients over a one-year period.


Distributor | HALO Branded Solutions

Type Of Client Nonprofit serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assult and child abuse

Target Audience 500 county residents including community leaders, children and men and women of all ages

Other Media: Web, email

What is the primary objective of the program? The nonprofit’s eighth annual Walk A Mile needed to be rebranded from “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes” to “Walk A Mile in Their Shoes” to make it more inclusive and bring awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault to all.

Total Cost $5,480

Strategy And Execution A new logo depicting a high-top tennis shoe was created to show that all people can be affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse; it replaced the previous logo of a stiletto heel that focused solely on women as victims. Sponsorship forms were sent out in July followed by a “save the date” e-blast, and posters were placed around the downtown business district. Once sponsorships were established, event signage, banners, t-shirts and promotional items were ordered. A QR code was created and added to the registration flyers so participants could create their walking teams.

Results The event drew 125 walkers and 22 sponsors. The walkers paid $40 each and received a wrist band, t-shirt, tote bag, car magnet and other sponsored items. The walk raised over $30,000, an increase of $8,000 over the previous year.


Distributor | Proforma Big Dog Branding

Type Of Client Law Enforcement

Target Audience Approximately 190,000 county residents

Other Media: Web

Primary Objective Raise money for the family of a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty

Total Cost $42,985

Strategy And Execution Once the law enforcement organization approved the program to move forward, the distributor had the t-shirt and hoodie design completed and approved, and the online store live within 24 hours. The design selected had special significance as it featured a Spartan mask the officer favored with his name and end-of-watch date included. On the back was a quote from Matthew 5:9; a Bible verse often used in reference to military and law enforcement.

Results Online sales were steady, but when the media picked up on the effort things really took off. Because of the online program’s results, the distributor was asked to help with merchandise sales at the related 5K charity race. They had about 10 days to produce and deliver the event merchandise. New apparel graphics were created again using the Spartan mask on the front and back of the t-shirts and hoodies. The two efforts raised a total of $134,500 which was donated to the officer’s family and the DCSO Fallen Officers Fund.


Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB