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The New Normal

and Why You Don't Recognize It

4/14/2022 | Gregg Emmer, Marketing Matters

I’m the father of 5 adult children. They have produced 21 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. My childrens’ peer group generally are families where the incomes are from executive or management employment. 7 of my grandchildren have graduated from high school and are in college or starting their careers.

They decide what the new normal is - not us!

The prevailing belief with the industry people I am in touch with every day is that we (day to day life as well as our industry) will return to what we did before the pandemic disrupted the world. We collectively accept that a work week will not likely be 40 hours behind an office desk or even more calling on clients (customers). But other than that, it will be about the same.

I don’t think so. 

For the last couple of decades the most successful distributors and their sales people built a hybrid business selling promotional products based on price and service to an eclectic customer base and at the same time, they provided marketing concepts, great message delivery and a wide range of services including packaging, personalization, distribution and advertising. My bet for continued success was to lean towards the more service oriented areas. 

The necessity is that the decision makers you have worked with over the years, who very likely will be handing their work to a new generation someday soon, introduces you to that new someone and maybe you even work on a project or two. Otherwise, it is very likely that the new (younger) person will be firmly convinced that they can source whatever they need and your ideas really aren’t a big deal!

The “follow the leader” concept is one I saw gaining wide acceptance before the pandemic and now see it established as “normal” for many businesses. Look at what your competition is doing and copy them. If they give prospects earbuds in a logoed recharging case - you do the same - easy - and you don’t have to deal with any salesperson, just go online!

But just as a limited gene pool eventually adversely affects a population’s health, so does a limited “Idea Pool” eventually damage a business's messaging and marketing impact. 

If the “follow the leader” trend continues eventually every real estate company, lawn care and sports medical clinic will be doing the same thing as all the other similar businesses. Without the injection of new concepts, fresh product offering, clever distribution plans or generation of strong desire, little measurable results will be produced. Remember that marketing that does not work is the most costly marketing any business can do.

Certainly if you are aware of a great idea that could be a winner for your client, you want to pitch it even if it is being done by someone else. Just don’t promote the idea across the street or a dozen times in the same community! Good common sense will guide you.

If you have already experienced the passing of responsibility at your client’s business and are faced with a young sourcing wizard, using sampling and spec samples will guide them to making choices that will be good for the business. A great program beats a 15 cent lower cost every time!

Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at
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