If You See Something, Say Something
Because the CPSC and the DOJ Aren’t Playing11/16/2021 | Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
It’s a catchy phrase first used by the Department of Homeland Security in 2010, when the DHS launched the national "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign. The campaign was intended to help emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement and to raise awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime. Credit where credit is due, though, the phrase was actually first coined by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), then licensed to DHS.
Anyway, what does that have to do with potentially dangerous or unsafe promotional products? Great question. It turns out the Consumer Product Safety Commission is not just asking you to report issues of product failure, they’ll fine you if you turn a blind eye long enough. And that applies to suppliers and distributors alike.
In one of the most significant developments in product safety law in the last several years, Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Hong Kong and its subsidiary Gree USA, pled guilty to willfully failing to report product failures to the CPSC as required by the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA). According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the CPSC, the Gree Companies knew dehumidifiers they manufactured were defective, failed to meet safety standards, and could catch fire. Gree failed to timely disclose that information to the CPSC. While CPSC civil penalties for not reporting have become fairly routine, (in fact the Gree Companies paid what was then a record $15.45 million civil penalty in 2016), this is the first time that corporate criminal enforcement action has been taken under the CPSA requirements.
Think you don’t need to be concerned about selling electronics with batteries a little on the sketchy side? You know, those you don’t have test results for since you just sourced the electronics, but not the battery manufacturer? Do you know how many sales of faulty products it takes to get on the Fed’s radar?
In filings for this case, the DOJ alleges “egregious conduct” by the Gree Companies, and makes accusations beyond failing to report, including selling products known to be defective, using fake UL certifications, and generally lying to the public about the safety of their products. Other liability trials have heard evidence the Gree Companies didn’t inform retailers of the full scope of affected products and delayed their recall announcement so that products that should not have been sold could be distributed to unsuspecting consumers. Could your organization survive the kind of penalties the Gree Companies will have to pay? As just a partial settlement, there’s a $91 million penalty and restitution to any uncompensated victims of fires caused by the defective dehumidifiers. Your boss could be on the hook, as well. In this matter, two Gree USA executives have been charged criminally by the DOJ and await trial.
So, let’s say all this has opened your eyes to the risk of averting them when you come across unsafe promotional products, just what is it you should do? Like we said before, if you see something, say something. Under the Consumer Product Safety Act, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers that “obtain information which reasonably supports the conclusion that their product contains a defect which would create a substantial product hazard, or that creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, must immediately inform the CPSC of the defect.” You don’t need to be the compliance officer in your company to understand the need for proper safety and sourcing protocols, and don’t settle for anything less than documentation that products you sell meet the applicable federal and state safety rules. On top of that, you need to ensure that documentation is supported by legitimate testing. Product safety is literally EVERYBODY’S responsibility in the eyes of the CPSC and DOJ. If you ever doubted it, this cautionary tale should let you know you are on the hook for it, so embrace it. It’s good for both you and your clients.
Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. Connect with Jeff on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or read his latest musings on food, travel and social media on his personal blog jeffreypjacobs.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
used with permission from PromoCorner
Do You Have A Social Media Game Plan?
Free Downloadable Planner11/18/2021 | Jessica Onions, Designer Patch
Are you winging it when it comes to social media or do you have some sort of plan in place? If you’re the former, I urge you to reconsider creating a plan for your posts. It may seem a little daunting at first, but over time it will help you better hone in on what your audience likes to see and, in turn, increase your social presence.
Here are four actionable ideas to help you get started on your social media planning journey.
1. Create A Posting ScheduleErratically posting is kind of like throwing darts blindfolded. You’re not maximizing your potential performance and could be posting during times when very few of your followers are online. Take a quick look at your insights to see when your followers are online and start posting at these times. The times will most likely differ across various social platforms, so make sure you follow the times relevant for each one. If you are posting to a platform multiple times per day, I suggest you space things no closer than an hour to avoid spamming your followers and giving your other posts some room to breathe and be seen.
2. Cross-Posting Do’s And Don’tsYou don’t have to post everything on every platform. For example, flyers are great for Facebook but don’t work out very well on Instagram due to the square format of the platform. However, if you have something very important to share (closure, booth number, etc) create a graphic that works well on all platforms and share during your best times.
3. Repurpose Existing ContentTake that flyer you posted on Facebook and break it apart. Showcase lifestyle images with a multiple-image post on Instagram. Or take your recent blog post and turn it into a Facebook or Instagram Live stream so you can hold a discussion with your followers.
4. Check Your Insights Each MonthAt the end of the month, check your insights on each platform to see how your posts are performing, then use this information to help guide what and how you post the next month.
To help you get started, I created a FREE Downloadable Social Media Planner that includes a Month at a Glance, Weekly Planner, and Insights Overview. With it, you can write down your best times to post on each platform, curate post ideas, and organize your insights at the end of the month. If you would like to receive a copy, email me at email@example.com and I’ll send it your way! (Note: you can either print the planners or use them digitally with a PDF viewer.)
If you’re looking for more ideas on what to post, check out a few of my other blogs where I dive deeper into Social Media Videos, Using LinkedIn, and Creating Easy Social Posts. Until next month, happy planning!
Jessica is the Art Director at PromoCorner and has been in the promotional products industry since 2010. With a degree in Graphic Design, she has been working in Marketing for 14 years creating advertising of all sizes; from social posts to billboards. Jessica shares her passion for design in her monthly blog, Designer Patch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Used with permission from PromoCorner
Golden agers, mature adults, seniors. Whatever you call them, people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and older make up a massive portion of the population. While there’s no exact age that one achieves senior-citizen status, most dictionaries define a senior citizen as someone over age 65.
Around the world, there are more than 750 million seniors, with about 54 million in the United States, according to research group Brookings. By 2060, the National Council on Aging projects there to be 98 million older adults living in the U.S. The population for those 85 and older is projected to increase 118 percent between 2019 and 2040, rising from 6.6 million to 14.4 million.
While marketers spend millions wooing millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z’s (those born after 1997), the senior market represents a prime segment of consumers, many of whom are independent, active and poised to flex their economic muscle. Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are 10 times wealthier than millennials. In fact, boomers hold more than half (53.2 percent) of U.S. wealth, according to Bloomberg. The senior market is sometimes referred to as the forgotten market, but to paraphrase a quote in an article in The New York Times, while millennials are sharing about stuff, boomers are buying it.
Older adults don’t have more money simply because they’ve been in the workforce longer—the Federal Reserve reports that millennials have substantially less wealth than baby boomers had at the same age. In 1989, when boomers were about the same age as millennials are right now, they controlled 21 percent of the country’s wealth. This is nearly five times what millennials currently own.
Americans ages 70 and older had a record net worth of nearly $35 trillion in the first quarter of 2021, according to the Federal Reserve. So, what are they doing with all this wealth? Many of them spend their money just like younger generations. For example, one in four people age 80 or older have a mortgage, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Nearly half (46 percent) of homeowners between the ages of 65-79 are also paying off their house.
Older adults are also generous with their giving. Philanthropy Roundtable reports that charitable giving peaks at ages 61-75, when 77 percent of households donate. Only about 60 percent of households headed by someone age 26-45 donate to charity.
Seniors have substantial wealth to share now before they eventually pass it on to Gen Xers and millennials. Over the next few decades, financial experts are projecting the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history as baby boomers pass down $30 trillion in inheritance.
In the meantime, many seniors are sitting pretty. They have money in the bank and they’re ready to enjoy their golden years. Read on to learn about this thriving market and explore some promotional ideas for reaching the potential end users within it.
One is the loneliest number—especially in the U.S., where seniors are more likely to live alone than anywhere else in the world. In the U.S., 27 percent of adults over age 60 live alone compared with 16 percent of older adults in 130 other countries around the world.
This isolation can take a toll. Loneliness increases the risk of dementia by 50 percent, the risk of stroke by 32 percent and the risk of an early death by 26 percent. The nonprofit, Campaign to End Loneliness, reports that half a million people over age 50 go at least five or six days without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. For two-fifths of older people, TV is their main company.
The Administration on Aging notes that even just 15 minutes a day of virtual or in-person interaction with another human can help mitigate the effects of loneliness. Promotional campaigns can help bring awareness to the loneliness epidemic facing senior adults. Places like senior centers, libraries and recreation centers can use promotional products to educate older adults in their communities about programming, services and ways to stay connected.
Marketers often woo younger consumers because they think that once they are hooked on a brand, they’ll be a customer for life. But that’s not necessarily true, says an article in The New York Times, because tastes and passions often change as they age. In contrast, baby boomers are more apt to find favorite brands and stick with them. This audience has the time and money to make it worthy of every company’s marketing message.
Consumers over 60 are overwhelmed with advertising that promotes retirement planning, insurance plans, health-care systems, senior living communities, and health supplements and devices. What they are interested in are comfort and convenience including tech products, travel excursions, luxury cars and vacation homes, along with home improvement to upgrade or reconfigure living spaces. Marketers who overlook their wants and needs are missing huge opportunities.
Depending on their birth year, Americans can receive full Social Security benefits as young as 66 years old, but many want to continue working. In 2020, 9.8 million adults ages 65 and older were still in the workforce or actively seeking work. Promotions that help them find employment and train them to continue learning to excel in their jobs have value in this market.
Source: Administration for Community Living
Hurca / MicroOne / Shutterstock.com
Think retirees want ocean views and white-sand beaches? Turns out, many prefer big cities where health-care facilities and other related services are more readily available. These are the most popular destinations in terms of number of seniors relocating last year:
More than a quarter of all U.S. seniors live in California, Florida or Texas. Here’s a breakdown of states with the largest population of residents ages 65 and older:
More than half a million people around the world have celebrated their 100th birthday. The U.S. is home to about 97,000 centenarians—more than anywhere in the world. By 2050, there are projected to be more than three million centenarians globally.
Source: World Economic Forum
They’re called the golden years for a reason—research shows that many people tend to get happier as they age. After age 55, people reach peak happiness levels with their finances, physical appearance and overall well-being. Adults reach their highest levels of happiness in their 80s.
Source: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch report
Source: National Center for Assisted Living
An estimated five million seniors are abused every year, with caregiver neglect being the most common type of abuse. Older adults with disabilities, memory problems or dementia are most frequently abused. Don’t let this abuse go unchecked. Work with community organizations on promotions and campaigns to raise awareness about elder abuse, the signs to watch for and how to help if abuse is detected.
Source: National Council on Aging
Fraudsters love to target older individuals. They know these adults have sizable nest eggs, are more trusting of others and may not understand technology well. The FBI estimates that seniors lose more than $3 billion a year to fraudsters.
When they’re scammed, seniors lose $500-$1,500 on average, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The most common scam? Tech support scams followed by fake prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries.
Older adults also fall victim to romance scams. Fraudsters contact them through online dating sites or express false romantic interest to get money. Romance scams cost adults ages 70-79 an average of $10,000 in 2020.
How can you help? Work with organizations like banks, credit unions or senior centers on promotional campaigns to educate older adults about scams and what to do if they have been targeted.
Labels, stickers and decals are mainstays in health-care facilities and long-term senior care facilities. Staff can use them to keep equipment and charts organized. They can also use them to communicate safety information and ensure visitors are checked in properly.
Label Works / PPAI 111141, S3 / www.labelworks.com
With the Vortex Golf Umbrella, seniors are prepared for sun or showers on the course. This automatic-open umbrella features elastic vent straps, anti-inversion struts and a thermoplastic rubber grip handle.
Crown/IMAGEN Brands / PPAI 113430, S10 / www.imagenbrands.com
Whether grandparents are going to the office or to their grandkids’ game, the Perka® Trent Tumbler keeps their beverage the ideal temperature for hours. A sweat-proof powder coat finish protects hands from the heat. This BPA-free tumbler is designed with a spill-proof, flip-cover sipper lid and includes a drinking straw.
Logomark, Inc. / PPAI 110898, S12 / www.logomark.com
Senior rehabilitation centers and nursing homes can show their care with the Field & Co. Organic Cotton Check Throw Blanket. Made from 100-percent cotton, this blanket is both lightweight and eco-friendly. Choose from charcoal, navy (shown) and tan.
Leed’s / PPAI 112361, S13 / www.leedsworld.com
These luxury Lemon Verbena Bath Salts are crafted with only the finest mineral-rich sea salt and all-natural fragrances. The light, invigorating scent will perk users up, calm them down and remind them of your client’s brand every time they open the jar. Add other related products to create a luxury bath gift basket.
SnugZ USA / PPAI 112982, S11 / www.snugzusa.com
Active seniors can stay cool during sports with the Toddy ICE Cooling Wrap. This lightweight, ultra-soft wrap is activated in water to provide fast-acting cooling on the court or field. Get it fully customized with full-color graphics that don’t fade.
Toddy Gear / PPAI 516677, S6 / www.toddypromo.com
The Italian Gourmet Kit makes a fun gift for seniors in supper clubs. It includes a jar of marinara sauce, two bags of penne pasta and a box of breadsticks.
NC Custom / PPAI 111662, S7 / www.chocolateinn.com
Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-Fort Worth-based writer and former associate editor of PPB.
Used with permission from PPAI Media
Over the years, as I navigated the waters of the promotional products industry, I have discovered that if I want to survive, stay relevant and top-of-mind, I have to do things differently from my competition.
In looking at my deliverables, the products and services I sold to my clients, I realized something was missing. I had to change my thought process. I needed to churn the waters. I needed to become a disrupter. That term often causes a negative response, bringing to mind someone who is contrary and difficult, but not in this case. Becoming a disrupter was an internal process. I learned to disrupt my mindset, flip what I did on its head and differentiate it by taking it to the next level. One of the things I identified was that many of my competitors were doing the same thing and most of the things they were doing lacked creativity. So, I became a disrupter.
Over the ensuing years, I noticed the more I marketed myself in a creative and unique way, the more clients began to take notice. As I built certain campaigns that identified a challenge I was facing and created measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure my success, clients began to ask questions. Who created this campaign for you? What made you decide to have this created? Are they successful? What type of success rate have you had? Can I get the name of the company that created this?
With every question, the answer was the same: “My company created this and, yes, we have great statistics and measurable KPIs.” When they recognized that my team and I created these marketing tools, the next question was usually, “Can you create marketing tools like this for us?” or “Can we use this same campaign?” I answered in the affirmative and a whole new segment of my company was launched. Let me share a few examples of how creative marketing campaigns, introduced as self-promotions, can potentially translate into campaigns your customers will want you to run for them.
With a former client, I was responsible for designing creative marketing door-openers, such as one called “The Jury Is Out … Now You Be The Judge” (see image at top left). As you can expect just by the name, this piece was specifically targeted to law firms and legal-related companies and it garnered some amazing responses. One of the companies using the piece sent it to a large law firm and, on the follow-up call, my client was immediately put through to the marketing director who proceeded to smother him with accolades about this promotion. He said, “… I have never seen anything like this from your competition. Is it possible for our company to use it?” With some modifications to the verbiage, etc., the obvious answer was “Yes!” The craziest part of this whole story, as it related to me, is that the prospect told my client that the law firm had a $500,000 budget for this type of marketing. The main takeaway to remember is that clients and prospects want a promotion that sets them apart from others.
When I was working as a distributor salesperson, one of my first campaigns came from reading a book by the brilliant writer Roger VonOech, titled A Whack on the Side of the Head. It’s focused on helping the reader understand, more granularly, the creative process. One of the chapters speaks about unlocking mental blocks by comparing two unlike objects, such as a cat and a refrigerator. If you have ever been to one of my creative workshops, I discuss this in detail.
Armed with this idea, I created a self-promotion that compared me to a Swiss Army Knife. It explained the functions of the knife compared to the functions I performed as a salesperson. Here are two examples (see image at left):
This promotion produced an 84-percent successful engagement rate and was written about in an end-user marketing magazine where a marketer with a large national construction company saw it and called me to ask if I would design a similar campaign for his company. He had a $1 million marketing budget and it turned out to be an amazing case history.
As mentioned previously, one of the initial steps in building a successful campaign is to identify the challenge to be addressed. While working with one of my existing clients, we identified a large group of inactive clients whose business they wanted to rekindle. We created a box containing a puzzle with copy that read, “It’s Amazing How Time Flies … Let’s Reconnect.” The colorful graphics (see image below) and great copy that encouraged the recipient to put the puzzle together, created an engaging call to action with stellar results. With only 30 percent of the program initiated, the client had garnered a nearly 35-percent engagement rate with past clients to reactivate their business. These are the kind of metrics that get the attention of sales managers.
Again, being a disruptor, I always analyze my internal systems to determine what I can do differently that will set me apart. Over the years, one change I’ve made is to thank clients on their annual business anniversary instead of giving year-end holiday gifts. This spreads my program throughout the year instead of trying to fit it into the busiest time of the year, and it keeps me from competing with others who are giving year-end gifts. For these reasons, this program proved to be a homerun. Here’s how we did it.
We’ve always segmented our client lists, and for this promotion we further classified them as A-E, with A’s designating the best top-tier clients and E’s being profitable clients, but not ones that would generate significant sales. Every client gets something in this promotion, but the gift is predicated on the sales volume and profitability of the client. We also ran a report to find out the month and year we had first done business with each client and that was the catalyst for this promotion.
We implemented the program, and I sent the CEO at my best client company a day golf bag with his company logo embroidered on the bag and a luggage tag which read: “Happy Anniversary from your friends at PROmotivations.” When he received the gift, he immediately called me and said this must be a mistake. “Cliff, my anniversary is not for another three months.” I chuckled and said, “No, this is our anniversary. Four years ago, this month, you started working with us and we wanted to say, ‘happy anniversary’ and thank you for your loyalty to our relationship.”
As you can imagine, he was floored and asked me more about how I produced the idea. He was so impressed with the success and overall feel of the program that he decided to initiate it for his company as well, and we got all that business. Running this monthly self-promotion also gave us time to be proactive and to provide a meaningful, personalized gift that was valued and appreciated by our clients.
Doing things differently in ways that set you apart from your competition can be scary. Forget it, let go of the fear, plan a course of action and work through the details before you implement any program, but do it. Done is better than perfect.
I always recommend starting a new promotion by trying it out on your company first. If you try something new, if you become a positive disruptor, you may be surprised at what new doors may open and what new channels you may find for more profitable sales. And in this way, you will be leading by example, not just talking about it.
Cliff Quicksell, Jr., MAS+, president of Cliff Quicksell Associates, has been an active industry volunteer serving on various PPAI committees, as a speaker and facilitator at PPAI and ASI shows, and as a member of PPAI’s Ambassadors Speakers Bureau for more than 15 years. He has also served five terms as the education chairperson for Chesapeake Promotional Products Association and is currently board president.
Quicksell has also been a speaker, trainer and international consultant to companies, associations and international business groups for more than 34 years and is the recipient of numerous awards including 30 PPAI Pyramid Awards, and is a five-time winner of the Printing Industry PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity and the CPPA Creativity PEAKE Award. He was PPAI’s Ambassador Speaker of the Year for six consecutive years and, in 1997, was the inaugural recipient of PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award. Counselor magazine named Quicksell one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the promotional products Industry.
He writes two weekly blogs, “Jumpstart Monday” and “30 Seconds to Greatness.” Reach him at email@example.com and www.quicksellspeaks.com.
Fifth in a series
In this series, distributor owner and sales coach Josh Frey answers frequently asked questions on a wide range of sales topics.
My background is in corporate gifts, and let’s just say I know a few things when it comes to selling holiday gifts. Back in the day, 60 percent of our business was dependent on Q4 sales and the overwhelming majority of the orders we sold and processed were holiday gifts.
For some of us, holiday gift-selling is an “icing on the cake” sale if you have a stable client base ordering year around. For others, this is a huge part of your overall sales and take-home commissions. Regardless of where you and your promo business fit in, there are several things you can do to end your 2021 strong with a bump in profitable sales.
Whether your clients’ offices are open, or their employees (and their clients) are working from home, now more than ever companies are trying to find ways to connect with their employees and clients. You can be that bridge, and there are a lot of products and services to offer.
Want to know how to get started? Don’t sweat it. I have got you covered with some sales strategies you can deploy to proactively and successfully sell and deliver on holiday gift orders in Q4.
Here are my top five ways to crush holiday sales:
Ideally, choose suppliers that offer a wide selection of gift categories (food/wine, brand name, personalization) and have deep levels of inventory and production capacity to process your orders on time.
If a client asks for a specific product that is outside the offering you have built from these suppliers, redirect them to something you know is available. Be transparent with your buyers, let them know why you are recommending these products as alternatives and encourage quick decisions in return for guaranteed stock and delivery.
Many distributors start the holiday gift conversations with clients in September (or over the summer) but if you’ve waited, you may still be able to deliver. However, with supply chain shortages and production backups, the earlier you can get your clients’ orders placed, the more confidently you can assure them of on-time delivery and avoid stock/back order issues. Leverage the current supply chain challenges to get your clients to order earlier than ever before. It may not seem like it, but it’s an opportunity to close more deals, faster.
Now more than ever, clients want products that are unique, personalized and shipped directly to their employees’ or clients’ homes. There are numerous suppliers that offer custom kitting services for clients who request a compilation of products. Ask your outside sales rep at your preferred suppliers to see what services they offer and relay these opportunities to your clients.
To make money in this business, you have to sell volume profitably. In my experience, I make this happen by spending the majority of my time on revenue-generating activities. Are you wasting your time calling factories and sitting on hold to find out if there’s stock or to learn the status of your orders? Most of the big suppliers have real-time inventory and order status updates at the click of a button. They have built out fantastic tools to keep you informed so you can sell more volume, efficiently. Take advantage of these resources that are available to you and free yourself up so you can focus on sales.
With these tips you will be well equipped to now go out and crush your holiday and Q4 sales. Good luck!
Josh Frey is founder of Falls Church, Virginia-based distributor On Sale Promos and the Swag Coach Program. He is a 25-year industry veteran and front-line sales coach. Josh@swagcoach.com. Visit TheSwagCoach.com to register for his next Distributors Helping Distributors show and learn more about his promo coaching programs offered.
Seasoned promotional products professionals will remember the fidget spinner craze of 2017: seemingly overnight, the world became obsessed with those little plastic spinners. Industry message boards filled with requests for help locating suppliers that carried fidget spinners, and discussion ranged from jokes and talk about how silly spinners were to more serious chats on supply chains, inventory updates, and more. For what seemed like months, the industry was a-buzz with fidget spinners.
Just a small handful of the fidget spinner posts that infiltrated the Promotional Products Professionals industry group on Facebook in mid-2017.
There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of articles written about the rise and fall of the fidget spinner empire since 2017. People were perplexed by the runaway popularity of fidget spinners, and kids nationwide were absolutely enthralled by the toys. Claims were made that fidget spinners and other fidget toys had health benefits such as easing stress and increasing focus. Child development experts debated the veracity of those claims, and teachers everywhere were overrun by classrooms filled with the faint whirring noise of dozens of kids fidget spinning away.
Google search trends results for “fidget spinner” from January 2017 through now.
A SAGE search for “fidget” brings up all kinds of different fidget toys.
Search in SAGE Total Access for the keyword “fidget” in 2021 and you’ll be met with page after page of different types of fidget toys. The infamous spinner is still there, but now there are also fidget cubes, ropes, buttons, puzzles, slime, putty, and so much more. You’ll also notice there’s a new top dog in the fidget toy game: fidget poppers.
Though fidget poppers have yet to see the same level of crazed searching in our industry, they’re insanely popular with children right now. Walk into any gas station, grocery store, or major retailers like Target or Walmart, and you’ll find a display of brightly colored silicone pop-its. TikTok and YouTube are filled with videos about the poppers: unboxing, reviews, ASMR pop videos – the list goes on.
Some of the top YouTube videos for fidget poppers – look at those view counts!
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. People love to fidget! Even as I’m writing this blog, I’m fiddling with a bag clip from yesterday’s lunch left on my desk. Often, we just use whatever is at hand to fidget and fiddle with: paperclips, a USB drive, bobby pins. But fidget toys give children and adults alike a dedicated outlet for that extra energy, and though there’s not a ton of verified and peer-reviewed evidence out there yet, these toys seem to help us maintain focus and regulate our emotional states.
These new-fangled fidget toys aren’t that new of a phenomenon, either. In 12th century Ming dynasty China, there were Baoding balls: two small balls that could fit in one hand and repeatedly rotate to reduce stress, were used to help soothe the user and put them in a more meditative mindset, according to AtlasObscura’s article titled “Quit Worrying, Fidget Toys Have Been Around Forever.” Similarly, Greek “worry beads” have been around for over 800 years.
The takeaway? Though fidget toys might wane and wax in popularity and the number one fidget-du-jour changes regularly, fidget toys aren’t going anywhere. From stress balls to foam putty and fidget spinners to tangle puzzles, the market for these toys seems to be sticking around.
Used with permission from SAGE
If you’ve spent any time in fashion circles this year, you know that sustainability is the hot topic of the moment. With discussions swirling about fast fashion, ethical production, and everything in between, consumers are more concerned than ever about how sustainable their fashion choices are. That concern extends to promotional apparel as well.
As with anything else, there are degrees to sustainability. Some manufacturers only produce clothing made with renewable materials or are incredibly transparent about their labor practices. Others make an effort to use recycled components where possible. Whatever they choose to do, sustainability, like other eco-conscious measures such as low-waste living and recycling, doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing game.
Meme posted on Instagram from The Sustainable Fashion Forum.
Like other earth-friendly initiatives, “sustainability” has become a bit of a greenwashing term. Greenwashing is a marketing spin used to persuade customers that a product or company is environmentally friendly through recycling imagery or eco-friendly buzz words – think oil and gas company putting out an ad touting their environmental dedication. The aim of greenwashing is to capture customers who prefer to purchase from environmentally-conscious brands.
Just because clothing is advertised as sustainable does not necessarily make it so. With that in mind, how are consumers supposed to determine if their clothing selections are genuinely sustainable or just a bunch of PR hooey?
Sustainability has two main legs: ecological responsibility and social responsibility. On the ecological side, clothing is made from renewable materials or manufactured in conditions that preserve natural resources. On the social side, sustainable clothing is manufactured under fair labor conditions, including paying workers living wages and not employing sweatshops or slavery practices.
Few brands manage to satisfy all sides of sustainability, so it’s helpful to look at sustainability as a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, you have fast fashion brands that don’t concern themselves with sustainability at all. On the other, you have slow fashion brands that practice sustainability in all elements of their business, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.
When it comes to promotional apparel, the majority of available options fall into the middle part of the sustainability spectrum. When helping your customers choose sustainable uniform or promotional clothing items, look for the following things:
Determining what products are and aren’t sustainable can seem overwhelming, but know that every step in the right direction is just that – a step in the right direction. No one brand is perfectly sustainable, and it’s not realistic or reasonable to expect perfection. However, choosing items that satisfy some sustainability qualities is better than choosing products that have none, and every effort made to strive for sustainability makes a difference.
To learn more about sustainable business practices, check out our blogs on cotton and forced labor, and corporate social responsibility.
While some people, businesses and organizations loath competition, competition is in fact healthy for business. I learned this several years ago when I was in the restaurant business. I was speaking to a colleague and mentioned how frustrated I was that other restaurants were popping up like weeds all around us – I thought it was bad for business, I thought it diluted our offering, but to the contrary, it was healthy. Having competition does a few things:
keeps you on your toes
makes you stay in a mode of continual betterment
and it draws more people potentially interested in what you have to offer to the foreground
Our industry is no different; there are many service providers who have incredible offerings. It is your job, like it is for your client, to weed through those offerings and connect with those companies who are best for YOUR business. So, when looking at your business on the competitive landscape, keep these points in mind.
Never Become Complacent, Content (or arrogant)
This posture is the kiss of death. The companies who feel they are owed allegiance and loyalty are delusional, loyalty is earned and earned daily – with every touchpoint. With the magnitude of choices, it is so imperative to never become content with what you are delivering to your clients. A great way to determine this is to ask the client. In the book, “Made to Stick” by Dan and Chip Heath the CMO’s (Chief Marketing Officers) while at a conference, asked the authors how they were able to get the information they were discussing in their book, the response was brilliant, ‘…we asked…’. Take time to query your clients through direct questioning or via a survey and ask if you are “exceeding” their expectations, if not, you have work to do. Additionally, never assume that you know what they want; nine times out of ten you’re wrong.
Create a Difference
What are you doing differently, what makes you stand out? Ask yourself this question, ‘What about me and my company, would compel someone to write me a check? Our clients and prospects are constantly looking for a way to position themselves above their competition, unfortunately, many do this by requesting the cheapest product available, and that is yet another nail in the coffin. Salespeople have this tendency to take the easy road, which generally equates to lowering the price – that becomes a very slippery slope. Look at your current systems and methodologies, are they up to date, is your operation streamlined, do you invest in ongoing training and education for you and your staff. As an international speaker, people are often surprised to see me sitting in an audience listening to a presentation; I find so much valuable information by listening to others speak, whether it’s information, or a delivery style, or the way they interact with the audience. I try and take the best from the best, massage it and make it my own. I gain so much from listening to other professionals. If I walk away with one nugget, just one nugget of information, then I am better for it and my audience will ultimately benefit as well. One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from a friend who said, “Cliff it never ceases to amaze me that every year you seem to have reinvented yourself”. For me and my business, it’s critical, as it should be for you!
Always Strive for Improvement - Practice “Kaizen” – Evaluate Constantly
The Japanese have a practice called Kaizen, a description of the practice was found on Lifehacker.com – it states, “A Japanese management strategy called Kaizen roughly translates to "continuous slow improvement." In the corporate world, it's an efficiency and defect-proofing system often used on factory floors. But Kaizen emphasizes the well-being of the employee, working smarter, not harder and developing best practices so that workers don't have to think. As such, Kaizen is an ideal approach to improve one's personal workflow”. This practice of self-evaluation and more importantly, self-improvement will be a critical factor in growing your business and maintaining great client relationships. It is a practice continually, it becomes part of your culture.
Understand Your Audience
It was alluded to earlier in the article but certainly bears repeating; never assume you know what people want - ask and don’t be afraid of the answers you may get. Years ago, I was going through the motions of business and decided to survey my clients. My top client responded to my survey with my WORST review, understandably I was shocked and dismayed but after careful consideration of his comments - he was right, I was failing him. While it was tough to swallow, it allowed me to correct the situation and reconnect in a way that satisfied his needs. Another method is to research the client and their competition. In an article a few years back in B2B Magazine, they listed the Top Ten Things Clients Want from a Strategic Partner and near the top of that list was ‘…an understanding of my business’. I had a chat with my dad who was a former purchasing officer for McGraw-Hill, he made it clear to me that he wanted nothing to do with a company or sales rep that didn’t understand his business. Take heed to this council, it will do you well.
Be Open to Possibilities
Some of the things you hear may not sit well; however, I encourage you to be open to the possibilities, be open to new ways of doing things and methodologies. Here is an example. Technology is moving at breakneck speed; in fact, in my research, I found that the technological advancements that we’re experienced in our country from 1900 to 1950 were condensed to three months in 2010; that’s fifty years condensed to three months…what does the future hold.
As you move forward how will you be perceived? My suggestion is never to become stale and complacent, always look to create a difference for yourself and your clients, evaluate your business constantly, take the time to truly understand your clients, and remain open to all possibilities.
Individuals, companies, and organizations that feel some sort of entitlement for business need to get a grip. Now more than ever we need to realize that “earning business” happens every day – it’s not a given. It is through this ever-diligent process of self-evaluation and self-improvement that we maintain market share that we’ve come to gain. The trick is keeping it.
Question! What are you going to do about yours?
Continue Making A Difference ~ CQ
For nearly 40 years, Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, MASI, with his company, Cliff Quicksell Associates, has been speaking, coaching, training, and consulting both nationally and internationally to associations and small business groups, on more effective ways to market themselves, their products, and services; as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid Award over 30 times, the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity 5 times, and Regional Association CPPA’s Peak Award 3 consecutive years. Cliff has coached countless others with the same result. Cliff received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years; and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100", as having a significant influence in education in our industry. He was recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. Cliff’s BLOG 30 Seconds to Greatness won the Award for Most Passed Around Content. Cliff’s most recent book, 30 Seconds to Greatness, is available on his website www.QuicksellSpeaks.com Connect with him on LinkedIn or via email at cliff@QuicksellSpeaks.com
You don’t earn your profit until you get paid for your product. Although from an accrual accounting perspective you show a profit at the time of sale, the actual profit to you is after payment. So please be very careful in extending credit to your customers.
If you are losing opportunities because you refuse to extend credit, read on. If however, you are in the enviable position of not extending credit and maintaining your volume, kudos to you. But you might want to consider accepting some new sales by extending credit, so read on.
There is no substitute for knowing your customer. If they are not of good character in terms of their business dealings, you should probably steer clear of credit extension (and possibly credit cards, too). If they are not ethical, they can and may find a way to cheat you.
As an aside, those of you who sell to big box stores, you may have seen some collection challenges. Their accounts payable teams spend way too much time trying to beat you on payments. Skipping invoices, claiming damages, and charging back for incorrect shipping procedures are just a few of their tricks/efforts. They just try to wear you down and get credits from you.
If you choose to provide credit to your customer, you need to set a limit or high credit. Never give more than you are willing to lose. In case you forgot, think about Worldcom and Enron as two huge bankruptcies. Ask your local colleagues if they thought there was a risk of loss beforehand.
Also consider industry segment and geographical risk for your exposure. If all of your clients are in one industry, that industry can incur financial pressures without individual losses. Same with geography. Think oil and gas in the southwest some years ago.
There are credit services which can assist in your decision making. Most of us have heard of D&B, and there are other services available to you. Our industry works with NACM, and you can learn more from them.
You can also pay for credit insurance, or you can factor your accounts receivable. We have a factor in our industry who has worked with some of us.
And don’t forget the selling terms you offer to your clients. Whether you discount for fast payments, accept credit cards (charging the fee is your business decision), and offer extended terms, understand how it impacts your cash flow.
For single large transactions, you can work with your vendor for creative ways to finance the sale and get some cash flow relief.
Regardless of your approach, never lose sight of your cash flow needs. Accounts receivable without appropriate planning cannot pay your expenses. Only the collection of your receivables will do that.
A 1975 graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvey enjoyed a 20+ year career in commercial banking, exercising his “golden parachute” in 1996. In his volunteer life, he is a past chair of the Small Business Banking Unit of the American Bankers Association, Easter Seal Society of New Jersey, the SAAGNY Foundation, PPAF EXPO, and Supplier Committee of PPAI. He is also a past President of PPAF. PPAI awarded him the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award in 2013.
"What if, like Superman, everyone is born with powers to discover and grow into?” Jolene Stockman, award winning writer & speaker.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, like a Super Hero, we could fly, spin webs, become invisible, or change our shapes in an instant? I’ve always found it fascinating almost all Super Heroes are regular people who also happen to have a certain power that makes them special. Spiderman is Peter Parker, Batman is Bruce Wayne, Iron Man is Tony Stark, Wonder Woman is Diana Prince… and on it goes.
Well, I’m here to tell you each of us does have a superpower, something that sets us apart and makes us special. While we may not be able to fly, spin webs, use mind control, or become invisible, we each have a unique skill we were born with that can help us do good in the world in which we live.
A superpower is nothing more than an inherent dominate strength we each possess, whether we know it or not. The question then is how do we go about finding the force within us that makes each of us unique and marvelous? For some it might be very obvious, and for others, a bit harder to determine. Below are four ways I’ve found to help determine what sets you apart:
What’s easy for you? I’ve always been bad at math and can say with certainty math is not my superpower. The question is, what puts you “in the zone”? For some, it might be when you’re writing or giving a speech. For others it might involve science, engineering or playing a sport. If you’re doing something you enjoy and lose track of time, that’s a good indicator you’ve found a strength. Something that seems effortless to you may be completely daunting to someone else. Sometimes though, when something is easy for us, we discount it as a strength when in reality we should be nurturing it and learning how we can use it to be of service to others.
“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” Marilyn vos Savant
What do others say is your most outstanding ability? It’s important to listen to those around us to help determine our superpower. What do your friends and co-workers say you do well? Do people come to you for advice on a particular subject, ask you to look over their work to make it better, or to help them figure out what’s wrong with something mechanical? If you receive performance reviews at work, what are you always getting stellar reviews on? Don’t be afraid to ask others what they see as your strengths to help you find a common thread in their opinions. Sometimes we need an objective opinion to see what it is we’re good at and to better understand how we can best use our superpower.
“I really believe everyone has a talent, ability, or skill that he can mine to support himself and to succeed in life.” Dean Koontz
What are you passionate about? Our youngest son has become passionate about skydiving with over 125 jumps. Does that mean he should pursue jumping out of perfectly good airplanes as a full-time career? Probably not, but our hobbies can give us insight as to what our passions might be. For Max, sky diving involves risk taking (important for entrepreneurs like him), seeing the bigger picture cause he’s 15,000 feet in the air (leadership) and being detail-oriented to ensure each jump is as safe as possible. What is it that makes you feel alive? Answer the question, when you (fill-in the blank) time just seems to fly by. Your passionate hobby may not be your superpower, but if you can break down the elements of what it is you love about that hobby, you might uncover some clues that will lead you to discover your superpower.
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey
When do you feel the most confident? I love to write and when someone tells me something I wrote really touched them, I’m on Cloud 9. For you, maybe it’s when you’ve built something from scratch, when you’ve aced a test, built a beautiful website, made a big sale, reached a goal, made someone smile, or solved a customer’s problem. Whatever it is, that’s most likely a big hint as to what your superpower is. Confidence is derived when we do a thing that makes us feel good and that good feeling is usually tied to something we’re really good at a.k.a. our superpower.
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Don’t feel bad if you’ve not yet discovered your superpower. Keep searching and you will uncover it, as there are so many possibilities where your power may lie. Are you musically or mechanically inclined? Are you a whiz at science, are you curious, are you service oriented, or perhaps you love to crochet? Do you like to teach, to build, to take pictures, or write grants? Without exception, all of us, each and every one of us, has a superpower. And while very few of us will change the world, we can each work to change our sphere of influence.
One translation of Luke 12:48 says, "To whomever much is given, of him will much be required” which mirrors the more modern, “With Great power comes great responsibility” from Spiderman’s Uncle Ben. Knowing what your superpower is and using it wisely will give you a sense of satisfaction and in turn will lead to more opportunities to use it. Just as each of us has a unique fingerprint, unlike anyone who has ever lived, we also have an extraordinary superpower that can touch the hearts of those around us.
Use it wisely, use it often, and may the force be with you always.
After several decades on-the-radio as a DJ, news anchor and traffic reporter, Steve Woodburn MAS, stumbled, as most do, into the world of promotional products. He spent 29 years on the distributor side and five as a supplier, which gives him a unique perspective on this crazy business and life in general. He currently creates and writes content for industry websites, is writing and hosting a new podcast for PromoCorner called ProFiles and is the Chief Adventurer of Marvelous Moosey Adventures LLC.
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