Photos: Brian Stidham of EMT

commonsku (PPAI 552077), a promotional products business and sales software provider, kicked off the year by hosting more than 1,000 attendees at its all-day virtual event, skucon, on January 8.

“We were stunned by the response to this conference, not only did over 1,000 industry professionals attend the day’s event, but they stayed throughout the entirety of the conference, a testament to both the ambition and resilience of this industry and also the very generous insights shared by our amazing speakers,” says Mark Graham, commonsku’s president and chief brand officer. “We are so thankful for everyone who joined us to kick off 2021 with passion, inspiration and energy.”

The day began with MarketingProf’s Ann Handley, who spoke on the “big, bold, brave new world of content and storytelling” and then launched right into a panel conversation hosted by Denise Tascherau of Fairware on the topic of advocacy, activism and transparency featuring Ben and Jerry’s Head of Global Activism and Strategy Chris Miller, and Kierstin De West, who was recently LuluLemon’s global vice president of brand management and strategy.

Bobby Lehew, commonsku’s chief content officer, followed those up with a discussion with Fast Company senior staff writer Liz Segran on sustainability and trends while also discussing an article she wrote. “It’s time to stop spending billions on cheap conference swag,” Segran said. Sam Kates, commonsku’s vice president of sales, hosted an emerging voices panel featuring sales tips from the next generation of salespeople which included Alyssa Inkrott with Raining Rose, Inc., Porshia Carter with InTandem Promotions and Alex Branstrator with Bagley.

Jonathan Isaacson, chairman and CEO of The Gem Group, also presented, “Acceleration in the Age of Deceleration,” that defined the macro trends driving innovation today, and Catherine Graham, commonsku’s CEO, led a discussion on the future of the industry with Paul Bellantone, CAE, PPAI’s president and CEO, and Tim Andrews, ASI’s president and CEO.

The day’s keynote speakers were supplemented by two breakout groups on subjects ranging from strategic positioning led by Dominique Volker of Whitestone Branding, successful ecommerce and shops by Tracey Clingen, how to host a virtual conference by commonsku’s Marketing Director Kate Masewich, optimum operations by Britney Godsey of Gold Bond, influencer marketing by Quianne Savoy of Moore and Moore Merch, and how to design merch for purpose, mission and values by Maria Corpuz of Soul and Swag. A lightning round of one-on-one networking was also an opportunity for attendees to share their best sales stories from 2020.

Also, on the schedule, LA Creative Director and Brand Strategist Mitra Khayyam with Midnight Rider joined Lehew on stage to chat about creating merchandise experiences that connect, and from Brussels Belgium, Simon Polet with Merchery talked about the surprising magic of authenticity.

skucon’s programming concluded with a presentation from marketing luminary Seth Godin, who closed the day’s lessons by inspiring the artist within every entrepreneur to rise to the level of their craft and professional ambition. An evening a networking session allowed all attendees to break into small groups and share their insights from the day.

Sponsors of the event included Spector & Co, SnugZ USA, Goldstar, Outdoor Cap, SanMar, Numo, Logojojo, BamBams, Chameleon Like, Hit, EMT, Maple Ridge Farms and PPAI.