You are it! The growth of products and services from what used to be called an ad specialty jobber is significant. When I joined this industry in 1968 as a “jobber”, my oods and services were very limited. ASI’s supplier members were my feeding tube. I am a lot older and don’t need a feeding tube, but you do. From jobbers we became distributors, from distributors we became consultants. From specialties we became (to some people) promotional products.
In recent times we have begun to use “bling”, “swag” (abbreviated BS), and a few other stereotype names for our goods and services. The Swag Bag and the word “swag” have become fashionable because the media calls it such when the bags are filled with giveaways at the Oscars. Once again, we need to look at our products and services today. I doubt whether anyone reading this exclusively sells BS. I doubt that everything you do is branding. So, who are we? We are more than we can say in a two-minute elevator speech. We are, in fact, “agencies”. We are partners with our clients in many different ways. We help our customers ARMER their relationships with the two key assets – their employees and their customers/community. We are their source for Appreciation, that could be called BS because gifts, and rewards fit into this category. We are the source for Recognition as plaques, trophies, certificates etc., fit into this category. Don’t you dare call an award that has been earned BS. It is a very personal accomplishment. We are the source for Motivation, getting internal or external people to do what a business needs them to do. We are a source for Education assistance in helping an organization communicate themes and information on anything from health to safety, job performance and such. We are the source for Reinforcement of whatever a company needs. It could be a branding, it could be a message, it could be a campaign. Virtually every product or piece of BS can be used for this.
Still, nothing puts it all into a bottle. We do so much more, and it continues to be difficult to label. So, once again, I fall back to a moniker I have touted for decades. It is specific yet vague. It is intellectually stronger than BS. It is open for interpretation and extension. It can cover a lot of applications.
We are “promotion agencies”. Our expertise is in people. We know how to make them perform, we know how to make them satisfied, we know how to build their self-esteem, their knowledge. So, it is about people not products. I write this because of a recent conversation with the owner of a large 25-year-old company in our business. She has been using “A Promotional Agency” for years. She wanted to change it a bit. She loved the cache, but felt she needed to clearly identify with trends. She discarded BS as too “demeaning” (she felt this was a synonym for chachkas, tchotchkes or however you want to spell it), but she loved the word branding. Her tag line is a now “A Promotion & Branding Agency”. I am in. That is a good extension. Both are words that describe a function, not a product or market specific. Both allow her to build a story when she is asked, “who are you and what do you do?” That’s specific, yet vague. A prospect will understand the words but need an explanation that is directed to their needs. Promote our service award program, brand your company, promote safe work habits, brand your apparel. Promote your school, brand your pride merchandise. There it is - the next step in identifying ourselves in the marketplace. 4Imprint positions their company as BS. You can, too, but think about how you want to be perceived and how to measure it in the types of clients you serve and the services you want to offer.
Joel D. Schaffer, MAS is CEO and Founder of Soundline, LLC, the pioneering supplier to the promotional products industry of audio products. Joel has 48 years of promotional product industry experience and proudly heralds “I was a distributor.” He has been on the advisory panel of the business and marketing department of St. John’s University in New York and is a frequent speaker at Rutgers Graduate School of Business. He is an industry Advocate and has appeared before the American Bankers Association, American Marketing Association, National Premium Sales Executives, American Booksellers Association and several other major groups. He has been a management consultant to organizations such as The College Board and helped many suppliers enter this industry. He is a frequent contributor to PPB and Counselor magazines. He has facilitated over 200 classes sharing his industry knowledge nationwide. He is known for his cutting humor and enthusiasm in presenting provocative and motivating programs. He is the only person to have received both the Marvin Spike Industry Lifetime Achievement Award (2002) and PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award (2011). He is a past director of PPAI and has chaired several PPAI committees and task forces. He is a past Chair of the SAAGNY Foundation, Past President of SAAGNY and a SAAGNY Hall of Fame member. He was cited by ASI as one of the 50 most influential people in the industry.