Salt & Pepper #10 - Elevating the Industry

Welcome to Salt & Pepper! Salt & Pepper is basically the PromoKitchen equivalent of debate team. The purpose of this monthly article is to open up discussion and conversation on different challenges facing the Promotional Products Industry. In this edition of Salt & Pepper, Chef Kirby Hasseman and industry veteran Bill Petrie talk about what it will take on a national, local, and individual for the industry to level up.

NOTE: Salt & Pepper is intended to foster intelligent dialogue between professionals. This is not a dagger throwing contest. Be honest and authentic, but please also be kind and keep it classy.

Pepper - Bill Petrie

For most of its existence, the promotional products industry has been little more than an afterthought in the world of marketing and advertising. Most executives at traditional advertising agencies view promotional products as merely supportive collateral and not a “true” advertising medium. Recently there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding the importance of elevating our industry in the eyes of both complimentary advertising mediums and among our clients. These efforts need to take place on a national, regional and local level to make a significant impact.

What does this look like?

National Strategic Partnerships – PPAI and PromoKitchen have both done a great job with forming an alliance with master marketer, Seth Godin. PromoKitchen has done two podcasts with Seth, and last month during Ad Week in New York, PPAI sponsored a one-on-one hour long discussion with Mr. Godin hosted by PPAI's CEO, Paul Bellantone.  While the Godin/PPAI partnership will continue through Expo with Seth serving as the keynote speaker in 2016, we need to keep momentum as an industry and continue to pursue similar partnerships with innovators and marketplace disruptors outside of our existing walls.  By aligning with marketing/advertising subject matter experts like Seth Godin, advertising professionals will begin to view the promotional products industry in an entirely different – and positive – light.

Regional Outreach – Regional promotional products associations need to establish partnerships with local and regional advertising and marketing associations. In Nashville, the Promotional Products Association of the Mid-South (PPAMS) has worked with the American Advertising Federation of Nashville (AAF) to insure that promotional products are part of the AAF annual awards ceremony, called the ADDY’s. In 2015, industry distributors Goldner Associates and Sunrise Identity both won Gold ADDY’s in recognition of their hard work. As a result, the members of the larger advertising community are beginning to recognize the value of promotional products as a viable advertising medium. Each regional association should form partnerships with the local American Marketing Association (AMA) chapter and/or AAF chapter and participate in their conversations and events.

Local Teaching – Teaching at a local level provides an opportunity for individuals to make a positive impact for the industry. Historically, both distributorships and individual salespeople do a very poor job of utilizing the products they sell to enhance marketing efforts. How can we expect to elevate our industry when most distributors don’t enthusiastically and/or creatively employ the use of the very products they are telling clients to buy? If you believe in the viability of our industry, it is your responsibility to leverage promotional products every chance you get. Whether it’s wearing corporate branded apparel or using creative dimensional mailers or leave behinds, clients won’t value the viability of your creative merchandise ideas if you don’t show them you value it yourself.

Over the past few years great strides have been made to elevate the industry. However, we can’t just rely on PPAI, regional associations, and organizations like PromoKitchen to accomplish the goal. As an industry we have to do a better job of using our own companies as the case studies for the effectiveness of our goods and services. If we don’t, our clients will continue to view what we do as an afterthought because we cease to show them otherwise.


Salt - Kirby Hasseman

It IS important that we focus on “Elevating the Industry.”  Bill is exactly right about taking our place as a true and valuable advertising media, but how do we do it?  The effort needs to come from 10,000 feet and below.  While Bill outlines some high level ways we as an industry can elevate, here are my thoughts on what YOU individually can do today.

Think Like a Marketer:  Part of the reason our customers think of us as their “pen salesperson” is because that is what we talk about.  When you are meeting your clients, discuss other media in a voice of collaboration.  The fact is, if they do it right, promo can add to the success of their advertising efforts in a big way. You will also get the additional benefit of talking and learning about their entire campaign not just their “hand outs.”

Be A Practitioner:  This echoes what Bill said above, but it bears repeating.  If you are not doing a monthly promotion for yourself, how can you tell your clients that what you do and provide matters?  I challenge you to take it even further than that.  If you want to “think like a marketer” (see above) you need to really understand other forms of media and they all relate to each other.  Be on Social Media and be a real user. Step into your client's shoes every once in a while and some time to learn what it's like on the front lines.  If you don’t understand how to market today, how can you advise anyone else one how to do it?

Be Transparent:  In the promotional world, one of us can really do it all on our own.  We all have partners.  Clients know that.  Stop acting like it’s 1985 and open up a bit.  If you are working with the best supplier/partners that they industry has (and if you are not, why not?) then this is a positive, not a negative.  If we work together to help our clients, the industry as a whole rises.

Stop Discounting Yourself:  I am not just talking about product here.  In addition to the items we sell, we, as an industry, tend to discount our own time and efforts far too often.  If you are just a gateway for your clients to buy things, there's a good chance you aren't earning what you are worth. A funny thing happens when you start to take the steps above. When your clients begin to see the added value you bring to the table, you can charge more because you are worth more, and as an added bonus, your clients will stop shopping around. When you discount yourself, the industry suffers, but when you elevate your game and come to the table knowing your worth, you AND the industry win!

What are your thoughts on how we can work together to elevate the industry and promote our advertising medium as something not only viable, but imperative?  Share your ideas and comments below.