Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Promotional Products Industry Revenue Expected to Increase by 4.1%

The promotional products industry has begun to turn the corner following the financial crisis, posting gains the past three years, according to a market research report by IBISWorld. In 2012, industry revenue is expected to have increased by 4.1 percent as marketing budgets expand and the industry benefits from promotions associated with the 2012 Olympics and presidential election. However, despite positive growth in four of the five years since 2007, IBISWorld estimates industry revenue will decline at an annualized rate of 0.8 percent to $13.2 billion as a result of a decline in media expenditure and the loss of a key downstream market.

“In 2009, pharmaceutical companies introduced self-imposed rules prohibiting the distribution of non-educational promotional items, removing themselves as industry clients,” said IBISWorld. This loss, combined with decreased advertising dollars, drove revenue down 14.4 percent in 2009 as the pharmaceutical market had accounted for 11.0 percent of industry revenue.

The majority of industry revenue is generated through the distribution of specialty advertising products. Operators specializing in this service do not manufacture products; they purchase “blanks” or “plain stock” from industry suppliers and customise them according to client needs. Unfortunately, industry globalisation has made it easier for a client to go directly to the manufacturers (although this often has dire consequences for the client, despite the expected short term gains), skipping industry firms altogether. In addition, consumer safety laws, such as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, have increased the cost of insurance and product testing. According to IBISWorld, these trends have caused the industry to experience some consolidation and pushed some firms out of business; industry enterprises have declined at an average annual rate of 0.6 percent to just more than 8,000 in the five years to 2012.

As businesses have begun to expand their advertising budgets, the industry has benefited from a move toward more integrated advertising campaigns. With audiences becoming more fragmented, clients are being forced to diversity their marketing efforts. In addition, promotional products expose a user to a brand or product name throughout their use, making them “more cost effective than a magazine or television ad that may be only viewed once”. Consequently, industry revenue is forecast to grow during the five years to 2017.

IBISWorld estimated that no firm in the promotional products industry holds greater than a 3 percent market share. Furthermore the top four operators are estimated to represent just 9.2 percent of industry revenue, indicating the industry has a very low level of concentration. The industry consists of a large number of small, niche operators that focus services on local and regional markets. Consequently, more than 85 percent of industry firms have fewer than 10 employees and only 1.5 percent has more than 100. Recently, industry concentration has increased marginally due to some firms being acquired or leaving as a result of a poor operating environment.

All of this makes me proud to be in the position I find myself in the industry, based in London and working with a great team looking after millions of pounds worth of promotional products for some of the biggest brands in the world like Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Linux, McDonalds, WWF, LinkedIn, Bosch, etc. I look forward to working with you soon.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Let me Award you my business

It's a busy marketplace we're in and there are a lot of people out these in the Promotional Marketing arena. How can you differentiate yourself? There are a lot of companies out there all claiming to be the best - how do I know which one to choose from I hear you ask...

There are some of my marketing contacts at the big brands I work with who have told me they get more than two calls a day from someone new trying to get them to buy their marketing collateral through them. These cold callers are all promising them the earth. My contacts openly tell me that in the past, they used to get interested. You see, some of these cold-callers will do anything to get their foot in the door. They can be low  cost operators who will do loss-leading jobs to try and get in favour and "on the books" as a supplier to these companies. The problem is, they don't last and they can't back up their fast-talking with real results and certainly can't offer the service.

I've been in the business for a long time now and have travelled most of the world while being in this business. I'll never claim to knowing it all as there is not a day that goes by where I don't learn something new in my trade. But what I do know is summarised below.

Promotional Marketing has a very low 'barrier to entry'. There are many companies that have started out with a catalogue, a website, a phone number and a sales person. These can all look professional, but how do you know that the person/company you're dealing with is what they say they are?

I have met well over a 1000 people in this industry and I have never met a single one that has done a degree majoring in International Business and Marketing, yet this is what they all claim to be experts in. In fact, I'm surprised at how few have either one of these or a tertiary education at all. Now I'm not saying this is a pre-requisite to having a successful Promotional Marketing or Merchandise company, but when it comes to the big brands and the senior roles, having these credentials behind you certainly does help. I'm fortunate to have such strong relationships with my clients that regularly I sit in on their marketing strategy meetings as their 'in-house' below the line (or GWP/BOGOF*) expert. 

There are some external ad/media agencies I work with in London that do exactly the same. I worked on a global LandRover launch and had to meet up with XYZ^ Agency in Regent Street and pitch with them to get the deal done. Having my Marketing and International degree behind me meant that I was able to engage and participate in every step of the pitch and strategy plan.

The next most important thing to me when choosing which Promotional Marketing consultant you want to use, is history.

I'm not interested in the companies that have been around for over 50 years, that means nothing. Many of those where run by different people back all those years ago. What I'm interested in is what you've done in that time. Yes, you may have been around for 15, 25, 50 years, but what have you achieved in that time. What buying and sourcing trips have you been on? What successful campaigns have you created? What awards and recognitions have you been involved with? What industry associations are you affiliated with? How do you know what they're telling you is vetted?

I'm fortunate to have started out and worked with some of the biggest and most respected Promotional Marketing companies in their respected countries and marketplaces. I'm also lucky in the fact that I got into this industry at a young age (early 20's after university as a Key Account Manager) and I knew then that this was the industry I'd be in for the rest of my life. I grew quickly in the industry and early on got tasked with flying to Hong Kong and China on buying trips. I had a key eye for what would work well and sell well back in my home market and work well with my clients. Since that first trip I have been going annually on international buying trips and have seen millions of different new and wacky marketing items and kept records of them all for when that next campaign may need something just like that. This information and history of invested sourcing trips is invaluable to my clients when brainstorming the next campaign.

There are hundreds of campaigns as well as successful premiums that I have imported that I could share with you, but what have our peers and industry bodies said about this work?

Last year I was proud to be involved with the top industry accolade of Promotional Distributor of the Year. 

This award was then won for the following year too. This is from the UK's leading trade organisation the BPMA (British Promotional Merchandise Association).

Coupled with these awards was the below award which was very humbling as this number 1 spot was voted by an independent trade association involving all the suppliers in the UK.

I truly believe that these will be some of the tipping points when you make your decision as to who you'll be using as your marketing consultant, so for that I hope you can award me your business.


* GWP = Gift With Premium 

* BOGOF = Buy One Get One Free
These are often used in FMCG clients and I'm used to supply the premium that accompanies the sale with their item. 
^ = Name withheld out of privacy respect for the agency

Thursday, 1 November 2012

What makes customers stay loyal?

An interesting article...

Acquiring new customers is an expensive process for businesses, so it’s vital that some of them become loyal to the brand and return for repeat purchases.

This not only helps to drive revenue but also could ultimately lead them to become brand advocates, which in turn could help bring in more new customers.
So what helps to drive brand loyalty? This infographic from Zendesk shows that consumers rank quality (88%) and customer service (72%) as the two biggest drivers of loyalty.
However delivering excellent customer service can be difficult in a multichannel world.
The infographic also looks at the importance of first impressions, how loyal customers share their brand experiences and the impact of loyalty schemes.
For those of us that have built our business models on delivering quality this is a great positive reinforcement.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Planting for real growth - an eco-friendly story

Planting for real growth

Every single year for the past 7 years I have been on buying trips through Europe and Asia finding all the coolest latest gadgets for my clients. With international client's all over the world it has meant that that I generally need to be on a plane and in front of them presenting all these cool new items. Some years I was flying from London to San Francisco every single quarter to sync with the Google marketing team and ensure we had the latest gadgets, coolest apparel and quirkiest products to reflect the Google image. Once the items were approved, I'd then be jetting off to all the various large Google offices around the world (Zurich, Hamburg, Milan, Paris, Belgium, Dublin, etc) to sync up with their marketing teams too.

We take our Environmental impacts very seriously, and so do our clients. That is why we invested in getting something done and remove our carbon footprint.

While ISO14001: 2004 Environmental Certification assures our customers and supply chain of the drive for continuous improvement, we will always strive to go that little bit further.



We’re continually working on reducing our impacts and so we figured, let’s do something to remove the lot!
We are removing some of our greenhouse gas emissions by helping the Woodland Trust through its Woodland Carbon project, creating half an acre of new native woodland in the Heartwood Forest, UK – enough to remove at least 75 tonnes of CO2, equal to our current carbon footprint.

This is part of a strategic programme to reduce emissions wherever possible.
And we will be doing the same next year for our 2012 footprint.

Photos courtesy of Woodland Trust Picture Library (WTPL) 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

What's happening in the US on the campaign trail

The Obama campaign raises money from official political merchandise: T-shirts, buttons, hats - you name it.

Supporters of President Obama, it seems, are more likely to wear their political leanings on their sleeves.

The Obama campaign has bought 4 x as much gear to sell to supporters -- T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and the like -- as Republican rival Mitt Romney, according to a USA TODAY analysis of campaign-finance reports.

Meaghan Burdick, the campaign's director of merchandise and marketing, said in a sworn statement that sales are a crucial part of its overall strategy.

Buyers of even small purchases are put on a mailing list and "repeatedly" solicited for further donations, she said. The online store is a central part of driving traffic to the campaign's website, and shipments contain even more Obama campaign literature.

Burdick said the campaign raised $37 million of merchandise sales in 2008. The average purchase was $43.

Comparable figures for 2012 haven't been disclosed, but the campaign's wholesale purchases of branded stuff are accounted for in monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. Using that accounting, Obama has ordered $6.7 million of campaign merchandise for resale. The Romney campaign has tallied $1.6 million in orders.

An individual's purchase of official campaign merchandise is counted as a contribution, which could help explain why Obama boasts a big advantage in small-dollar donors: 48% of Obama's fundraising comes from donors giving $200 or less; 24% of Romney's money comes from similar donors.

"You might have a lot of people who wouldn't normally give a political contribution but might buy a pen or bumper sticker or something like that, who get swept into it that way," said Kent Cooper, a former FEC official and co-founder of Political Moneyline, which tracks money in politics.

One of Obama's small-dollar donors is Santos Crespo, who stood in line at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last month with two fists full of $10 pins. Crespo, president of a union representing 23,000 New York Board of Education workers, said he wouldn't normally contribute, but the pins are union-made, the proceeds support Obama and he can give them as gifts to his staff.
"We're competing against the Koch brothers, who are putting up millions," he said. "We need to raise money every little way we can."

Among the more unusual items for sale: a $40 Obama 2012 grill spatula, a $12 gay pride dog bandana and a $10 Joe Biden beer can holder.

For Romney, items include a $30 silver "R" necklace, a $3 "Catholics for Romney" button and a white, pink or blue baby onesie for $20.12.

Monday, 17 September 2012

World Records

It's at times like these I am constantly reminded that I have one of the best jobs in the world.

To explain how much fun I had yesterday, allow me to divulge a little...

In my family I am one of 4 boys and we are all within 4 years of each other. I am a twin at the top. We were lucky enough to be spoilt with facilities such as a flood-lit tennis court, an acre of lawn, a trampoline, a putting green, a BMX track and a big swimming pool at home. The reason for mentioning this is that I believe it, coupled with 3 brothers close in age was one of the reasons I became so competitive. At an early age the best gift Santa could possibly leave us would be a Guinness World Records Book. We would study and analyse all the records and then set courses up around the garden and house and the 4 of us boys would set our own records and compete for the top of the leader board.

It is therefore a great privilege for me to now be making regular trips to the Guinness World Records HQ in London and meeting with their teams of PR Managers, Event Managers, Press Officers, Brand Licensing Mangers, et al. 

We have now signed up together and the relationship is blossoming. In-house we have now created the Official Guinness World Record Store and supplied all the marketing collateral in it, just in time for their new book.

With the official launch of their latest book, we got a lot of the Guinness World Record Holders together for a shoot and invited the press.

We held the event at a hotel right on the Thames and overlooking the famous Tower Bridge. This was going to get a lot of exposure and publicity for the book and the new store we created.

Here is my photo of the largest “Guns” (Biceps & Triceps) Moustafa Ismail (Egypt) – 64.77 cm (25.5 in) circumference. You'll see and hear more of Mo later in this article.

Here I am with The Space Cowboy a.k.a Chayne Hultgren (Australia) – Multiple record holder (Swords). He swallows all of those in his hands at once. I had a long interview with him and in fact spent the entire afternoon with all of the people below and they all had fascinating stories. Chayne also has a cool trick where he swallows a neon tube and then switches it on and you can see the tube shine through his stomach and skin. I spoke at length about what he does to prep (ie eating or not eating - he has a system he has to stick to to get it right) and we spoke about some of the accidents he's had, but recovered from.

Wouter van den Bosch & his bike outside - Largest Rideable Bicycle (based on weight) – 750 kg (1650 lb) and over 6ft (2 meters) tall. Wouter is from Holland and he bought the bike over in a van. I had been over to Holland 11 times prior and been in Amsterdam 11 days before this photo was taken so we had a lot of similar stories to talk about. Wouter is a Dutch art student and former mechanical engineer,who has built this 450kg heavy monster bicycle from parts donated to him from friends and a tractor company. It took him three months to build the monster bike, and it's made from steel tubes, bicycle parts and a tractor tyre. He's become a YouTube sensation with over 6,498,341 views and you can see it here

Well this was all great, we still had a job to do and I'm all about the promotional marketing so I had to get into the room and set up for the shoot. Let's get the gear out...

First up we had the official adjudicator on the set for s few snaps with all the official merchandise they'll use to judge an event, right down to the stopwatches, counters and tape measures to record the records with. Here is Ben.

Next up was Sofia Romero – Escapologist - Fastest Escape from a straightjacket 4.69 seconds here modelling the cap and medals. 

The next model for the caps and medal was Sharran Alexandra – The World's Heaviest Sportswoman (she actually lives less than 2km away from me!)

Putting on her meanest sumo wrestling face, this is the sport she competes in.

And then a test to see how tough she really is

 Setting up the group shot

The last addition to the final shot is introduced below

This is the lovely and quiet German spoken Johanna Quaas. 
She is the World's Oldest Gymnast at 87 years old

Here is the set up for the group shot, now with our T-shirts added too

 And a shot of the world record breakers with our event wristbands too (we use these for mass participation events) so we can count up the official numbers.

Here we have the high-vis vests used for events

Here we have some stickers on the swords

Right with the shoot over and it was time to do a few formalities, the first of which was an arm wrestle over the merchandise to see who was champ.

 As you can see from the below signature he wrote in my book, he'll have to work a little harder sculpting his guns and return for a re-match next year. 

I gave him some official merchandise to cheer him up though.

The next big thing was meeting the delightful Jyoti Amge. She is the Shortest Woman Living - at just 62.8 cm (24.7 in). She also has the most infectious laugh and giggle I have ever come across and had most of the team in stitches during the balloon shoot I did with her. You could see she loved the day just as much as we did.

Here are a few pics of Yoti on her shoot. We had got her a T-shirt that was 18-24 months and it was still massive on her, but she couldn't stop laughing throughout the shoot, so it was worth it.

Hydration enforcers

Yoti joins the gun show

And so ended a brilliant summers day, next to the river Thames in the heart of London, meeting some incredible people, and they call this work, I'm a lucky man indeed.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Above and below the line marketing - what's the difference?

At university one of the majors I did in my Bachelor of Commerce was Marketing and this where I first heard the terms "above the line" and "below the line" marketing. To many this is an unknown term, it certainly was to me so allow me to explain briefly. Traditionally above the line marketing is the stuff one usually thinks about when they hear the word "marketing"; it's your print, radio, television and so on. Below the line is everything else. 

It initially troubled me that the path I was heading down was below this famous line. Who drew this line? Where does he live? Could I take him in a rumble or at least beat him in a bare cheek 100m dash after a full night's drinking games?

If you do something - anything in fact that gets your company's name into the minds of your customers then it's marketing - pure and simple. In fact research has shown that below the line marketing and digital the fastest growing sector in the marketing mix.

The trouble is that there are some huge companies out there who don't seem to know the difference. Dozens of times every day when myself or members of my team are speaking to a company who straight away tell me that they don't have a budget for marketing and yet we will have taken their phone number from an advert in a national paper which will have set them back several thousand pounds/dollars! Untargetted, unimaginative and with a lifespan of one day - there are moths that have lasted longer than these people's marketing efforts and so in an attempt to spend wisely, they repeat the very same advert a week later - genius!

Why are these smart marketeers so ready to dismiss promotional merchandise as a viable way to generate more business? Now don't get me wrong - giving away a random pen to some passer by at a trade show is about as useful as a bacon sandwich in a synagogue. People throw money at advertising because it's the done thing, but that doesn't necessarily make it the right thing.

But it's not all pens and mousemats. These things certainly have their place but there are over a million other ideas out there. People are happy to spend so much money and yet so little time on their marketing and the costs can be huge. I pride myself on giving good advice - sometimes a pen is the right way to go, but I need to ask a lot more questions before I arrive at that conclusion. I'm not trying to make a sale here (although I have no objection to your buying from me) but I am trying to make sure that you get the best advice.

The person working at the newspaper advert office only wants to know the size of advert you want to buy and on what date you want it printed. He doesn't care about your business because he doesn't need to - and yet you form a strategic alliance with this person?

So let's dispense with this concept of what I do being "below the line" - I know that my clients have had great responses to the merchandise that they have given out. It's lead to more business and more long standing relationships between them and their customers. When was the last time a newspaper advert did that?

And so it is that I draw a new line - and all marketing, from the multi million pound TV campaigns to the humblest ballpoint pen will be above it. Now that's out of the way, can we talk about your marketing?

Friday, 7 September 2012

One blog at a time...

Here we go...

Hi folks,

I say 'Hi', but at this stage I'm not sure who I'm addressing, but I have a feeling this forum could be a good place for me to put some ideas and visuals down as they come to the fore. 

The point is, I am lucky enough to work in a really fun and dynamic industry. My office desk (and inbox) is constantly being bombarded with new and wacky marketing ideas and I'm not sure where to put all these ideas, thoughts, industry trends and anecdotes.

In this day and age there are a multitude of different avenues for these ideas on-line such as FB, Picassa, G+ to name but a few, but I'm going to add this forum to the mix too and see how it goes.