Editor's note: I received the article below from Sarah Radin of Boundless Network and am excited to share it with all of you. Now that the dust has settled on the start of tradeshow season, we've all hopefully had time to unpack our bags and digest all of the information that came blasting at us through the fire hose of awesome that is PPAI Expo. In the paragraphs below, Sarah breaks down her Expo Experience and fill us in on what to expect in promo this year. Read through it and then add your own thoughts, comments, and photos. What are you most excited about in promo for 2017? Can't wait to hear what you have to say! -Charity
3 Product Trends your Brand Needs to Know in 2017
The Promotional Products International Association’s (PPAI) Expo is the largest event of the year and the biggest trade show in our industry. After attending in January, I’m excited to reveal 3 big trends we’ve identified for the coming year. As you know, PPAI Expo hosts over 1,300 exhibiting suppliers and 11,000 distributors from around the world. That's more than 4,000 companies gather under one roof!
As the PPAI Vegas Expo came to a close and we hopped on planes and returned to normalcy, it is easy to look back and feel overwhelmed by an event that offered so much. Along with dozens of meetings and seminars, we, like you, flocked to Vegas primarily to see the latest and greatest products — and with over a quarter of a million products on display, we were not disappointed.
We saw the good products, the great ones, and to be honest, some of the ugly too. Here is the recap of what's going to be hot for 2017:
Trend #1- It’s all about the “Retail Details”.
As I walked the floor I spotted what I like to call the “retail details” everywhere I looked. I’m talking about those small details like hidden pockets or small embellishments that elevate a product to the next level. Along with a huge increase of retail brands entering our space, even more notable was the influence retail designs are having on the products our suppliers are producing. Stiff cotton shirts are being replaced by soft, high-quality fabrics. Stock colors are being phased out and marbled and trendy wood and burlap designs are becoming more and more prevalent. We are seeing a shift to quality over quantity in a big way, and our vendors have really stepped it up this year to meet demand for these trendy products.
A big standout for me this year was the Numo booth. Some of their new product lines looked straight out of a Target catalog, and their booth was arranged in a retail-like way that made me feel giddy and creatively inspired. Their products had all of the “retail details”, from bright, vibrant colors, to boutique looking bags that appeared hand-made and expensive. Their product lines were cohesive and begged to be branded as part of a collection, rather than as a single giveaway.
Trend #2 – Customers are looking for an experience, not a product.
While at the Expo I had the great pleasure of attending Johnny Earle’s (aka Johnny Cupcake) seminar -“Recipe for Brand Loyalty”. His brand has a cult-like following due to his unique marketing that immerses the customer in an experience rather than just selling them a product. His creative prankster mentality dreamt up what he calls “the world’s first t-shirt bakery”, a fake bakery that in fact creatively sells t-shirts. The brand he has built has fans chasing after him in his ice cream truck, lining up for days around the Boston storefront for special edition releases, and bidding thousands on E-bay — all for a t-shirt in a unique package.
While walking the floor I saw that Johnny was onto something. This year, more than ever, there was an emphasis on customized packaging which can turn any product into a present. Things of value should be preserved, so adding creatively designed packages greatly increases the perceived value of any product. Along with that, the very act of opening a package creates an experience for the recipient. Nothing is worse than pulling out a wrinkled shirt crammed in a box, or a beautiful bag getting creased from being carelessly shipped. Careful and creative packaging is the solution and after walking the floor I saw that many of the vendors had caught on.
One product that stood out as more an experience rather than a product was EcoEasy’s “Tailgate in a Box”. The kit features a portable grill and all the essentials one would need to have an awesome day tailgating with friends. The kit came in a box with a slice-of-life picture of young twenty-somethings having a blast. This promotional product isn’t just offering you tools, they are offering you a memorable day filled with laughter and the smell of fresh burgers on the grill. This is the future guys. In his seminar, Johnny said, “If you don’t give people something to talk about, then no one is going to talk about you”.
People may forget about a product, but they will never forget the way that someone made them feel. Associating your brand with a fun memory is the quickest way to turn any customer into a fan and advocate for your brand. A brand that excelled at this at the expo was Moleskine. Their booth was simple in design, but gave visitors a memorable experience. They handed out free travel sized notebooks and set up a station where you could customize the journal with stamps and decorations. Visitors lined up to receive the giveaway and chatted happily with the Moleskine reps as they turned their journal into their very own work of art. So instead of throwing in a promotional product as an afterthought, integrate it creatively at an event or as part of a larger campaign for a lasting impact.
Trend #3 – Two is better than one — multi-feature products are here to stay.
But WAIT, there’s more!
There is a reason every infomercial proclaims this when trying to make that hard sell. People love when products serve multiple purposes or have bonus features. Just think about the evolution of the simple click-pen. What started out as a writing utensil has transformed into the new Swiss Army knife! Pens these days not only can write in 5 different colors, but are also erasable, have a stylus tip and a screen cleaner on the clip, are also a flashlight and can park my car. (Ok, maybe not the last feature, but you get the picture). You see it in the retail world all the time, particularly in cars. From back-up cameras to built-in WiFi, people are now expecting more from the products they purchase.
Some products that stood out to me that offered more than meets the eye were: a coffee mug that was also a French press, a hoodie that glows for night safety, a business card that can be planted, and a Bluetooth speaker that was also a digital clock. They say two heads are better than one, and I tend to think the same applies for promo products as well. If a product can perform more than one function then you have twice the opportunity to make a lasting impression with a client.
Along with products being multi-functional I also saw that kitting products together is increasing in popularity. If a single product can’t do it all, it can still be kitted with other products for a cohesive branding opportunity (such as a car safety kit or the tailgate in a box). As more and more products hit the market, look for more of these multi-feature and kitted products to be very popular this year.
So there you have it. Expect high-quality, multi-purpose, retail-like products to be huge in 2017. Expect exceptional packaging and for promo products to be used in conjunction with creative campaigns, instead of thrown in as an afterthought. From what I can tell, 2017 is going to be an exciting year!