SOI Report: Promotional Products, Featuring PPAI's Paul Bellantone
As part of Print+Promo's 2017 State of the Industry Report, we reached out to experts in four major market niches. Here, PPAI's Paul Bellantone discusses the present state of the promotional products sector and offers strategies for growth.
ON PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS
The Expert: Paul Bellantone, CAE, president and CEO, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), Irving, Texas
What are your thoughts on the current state of the promotional products industry?
Paul Bellantone: The $21 billion promotional products industry is healthy, dynamic and resilient, and continues to experience year-over-year growth as it has since 2008. While the talk seems to be focused on digital media, more than ever, buyers are counting on promotional products—physical advertising—to make one-on-one, meaningful connections with their customers.
While other media may ebb and flow, and as ad avoidance and blocking rise, promotional products continue to stand the test of time and fulfill a need for brands to connect with and touch consumers like no other advertising medium can. Dollar for dollar, marketers know that promotional products offer the highest return on investment.
Now that Donald J. Trump has been sworn in as America’s 45th president, what does that and, more importantly his agenda, mean for the promotional products sector?
PB: While there seem to be equal proportions of optimism and concern for what the policies of the new administration will bring, there is a renewed buzz and energy around getting things done in Washington, D.C. And no matter what your political bend, one thing is certainly clear: President Trump understands the power of building a brand, and promotional products were a key part of his campaign strategy.
The promotional products industry has been an important part of the political landscape since the founding of our country, and the Association has been in existence since the early 1900s. Regardless of the party or person in office, it is a primary focus of PPAI to grow and protect the industry. The Association, in partnership with promotional products industry leaders from around the U.S., will be delivering our message that Promotional Products Work! to Washington, D.C. during PPAI’s Legislative Education Action Day, April 26 to 27, 2017. I would like to encourage all industry stakeholders to participate in Promotional Products Work! Week, April 24 to 28, and the PPAI L.E.A.D. Fly-In to make sure our voice is heard in our communities and on Capitol Hill.
What are some other big changes that you believe will make an impact this year, and what will drive them?
PB: Well, the “big three” continue to affect all businesses and media: changing demographics, technology and globalization. I [am] optimistic that our members will continue to look for and capitalize on the opportunities these dynamics bring to the marketplace.
We are also seeing an increase in mergers and acquisitions that is being driven by the need for efficiency and the cost of investments in technology and compliance to stay competitive. We also continue to closely monitor the legislative and regulatory environment, but it is still too soon to tell the effect the policies of a new administration may bring.
How is PPAI bringing education to promotional product professionals?
PB: For more than 50 years, PPAI has been the standard bearer for industry excellence, best practices and product safety and responsibility through our publications, professional development and best-in-class professional certifications. PPAI offers a host of options to keep up with today’s highly competitive and fast-paced business climate. Our live events—including the Women’s Leadership Conference, North American Leadership Conference, Technology Summit, Product Responsibility Summit, Expo East and The PPAI Expo—and our online education, give industry professionals educational opportunities by providing content they need when and where they want it.
How can companies market smart in a tight economy?
PB: Successful companies continue to find ways to differentiate and add value. They work with buyers that fit their own business culture and support their value proposition. They find ways to position themselves as strategic partners and creative strategists. I am seeing companies flourish in a tight, competitive marketplace by moving away from selling product and providing customized business solutions. They are taking a multichannel approach to reaching, communicating, working with and building relationships with their customers.
Of the different misconceptions surrounding promotional products, which one frustrates you the most? Why?
PB: One significant challenge is that while many advertisers and marketers instinctively know the power of promotional products, they too often consider them as a discretionary spend or an afterthought. This is why PPAI, in partnership with the promotional products industry, has launched a first-of-its-kind, multi-year, multimillion-dollar industry branding initiative: the Get In Touch! campaign.
The Get In Touch! campaign is designed to build awareness of the proven power and the measurable success of promotional products among buyers, media and members. We’ve developed the #GetInTouch Toolkit to help the industry communicate that message, help raise awareness and educate buyers on the benefits of promotional products advertising.
Our goal has always been, and continues to be, to grow the industry and gain a greater share of the total advertising spend. For us, to do that it is important for buyers to understand that besides promotional products being ‘cool stuff,’ they deliver reliable, measurable and proven results.
Based on past trends, what are your expectations for the short-term future of promotional products?
PB: If past trends are any indication, the industry will continue to grow at a rate similar to what we’ve experienced over the past five years. We continue to grow faster than most other advertising media and have shown incredible resiliency regardless of the economic or political landscape. Personally, I am optimistic because I know that promotional products work, and industry companies find ways to deliver meaningful value and business success through products, services and amazing creativity.