Industry Leaders Share Strategic Foresight Insights In Keynote Luncheon

On Wednesday, Paul Bellantone, CAE, president and CEO of PPAI, hosted an Association update and keynote luncheon featuring a panel discussion with PPAI Board Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS+, and incoming Chair Dale Denham, MAS+. The audience was treated to insights from these three industry authorities, including their thoughts on key issues facing PPAI members and the promotional products industry.

Bellantone opened the session by discussing PPAI’s longstanding relationship with the American Marketing Association (AMA). AMA President and CEO Russ Klein joined Bellantone on stage to highlight the details of the new alliance between the two organizations. Through its Affinity Partners program, PPAI is now able to offer members many AMA benefits including membership discounts for individuals and groups, AMA conference and training event credits and an additional discount on exhibit space at AMA conferences.

Klein underscored the importance of vertical partnerships such as the one between PPAI and the AMA, quoting Mikhail Gorbachev: “In a time of crisis, it’s too late to start a relationship.” He discussed how every brand is made up of its story and its customer experience, lamenting that for too long, we have been focused solely on the story. He said, “As we are shifting to placing a premium on the experience, promotional products are the one strategic tool that can straddle the story and the experience.”

A panel discussion with Tomasini and Denham followed. The panel was unscripted, with at least every other question coming from the audience. Bellantone explained that their intention was to allow members to ask spontaneous questions and have their concerns addressed.

Among the topics covered were the evolution of Expo, improvement of female advancement in the professional landscape, concerns about industry consolidation and private equity entry, recruitment initiatives for younger and more diverse employees, incorporating philanthropy into business planning and the threat of online competition.

As the session wrapped up, Bellantone shared his projections on the future of the industry. “I believe we still have an underserved business market,” he said. “I’m bullish on it.”

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