Guest Viewpoint: From Best Practices To Industry Standards

— This article was originally published in PPB Magazine Defining Risk For The Promotional Products Industry Compliance with manufacturing standards continues to be a hot topic for the promotional products industry. It is regularly on the agenda at industry-sponsored training and education forums and written about by our industry media. As the industry’s first and only third-party validated compliance accreditation organization, the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) frequently receives inquiries from industry professionals concerned about standards, standards-development bodies and industry self-regulation. Confusion and misunderstandings often reside at the core of these questions. As industry peers, we would like to address some of the more common points raised: Why would an industry be satisfied with self-regulation? Does self-regulation really make an industry more compliant and disciplined? What does a standards organization do? Is QCA a standards development organization? Some have implied that QCA appears to be intended for large industry companies only. Why is QCA structured the way it is? How can the board of a nonprofit entity be made up of for-profit industry companies and not have anti-competitive designs? Does an industry of our size really need third-party solutions like QCA? Industry Practices That Became “Standard” The very essence of a standards organization is to make life easier, safer and improve overall efficiency. Industry-based standards organizations have long existed. Some standards provide compatibility for improving the utility of a product, while others establish management practices that positively affect consumer safety, port security and environmental issues. Whether product or process, industry standards are simply best practices. Best practices are, by their nature, voluntary. When an industry best practice gains momentum, frequently the government or the market will adopt those best practices as standards. Examples of industry-based standards that have gained acceptance in law and the market include: ASTM F-963 Originally defined by the Toy Industry of America, this standard is now embodied in U.S. law as a component of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. FLA Labor Standards An outgrowth from a White House-sponsored initiative, the Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP) is a roundtable comprised of a handful of large apparel labels, non-governmental organizations and college students addressing concerns for labor rights in a manufacturing setting. QCA benchmarked its social accountability standards and audit processes with FLA in 2015. What Are The QCA Pillars Of Compliance? The QCA Compliance Accreditation Program is comprised of Five Pillars of Compliance© that include Product...

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New Solutions for Identifying Emerging Risks 2017

By Don Mays and Greg Swinehart — This article was originally published by Product Safety Letter on 6/20/17. Companies that make and sell products, and the agencies that regulate them, are inundated with massive amounts of data received from a wide variety of sources. Whether the data come from a company’s customer service department or from postings on social media, the voluminous amount of data has become an overwhelming task to manage. But managing it is critical; often buried within those mountains of data are faint signals that can indicate emerging issues that may pose significant safety or quality issues. It has always been challenging to detect emerging risks before they become crises, but our former reliance on spreadsheets, disparate databases, and unaided human judgment has given way to more sophisticated methods for extracting, analyzing, and visualizing emerging risks. Early detection of emerging issues can save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce property damage. From a manufacturer’s standpoint, early detection can also reduce the scope of a recall, reduce warranty claims, and lessen the potential of product-liability lawsuits. In fact, if a safety problem is caught early enough, it may obviate the need for a recall altogether. The challenge is to separate valid signals from the noise. New technologies can extract and organize data from multiple channels and apply advanced statistical techniques to help analysts see previously hidden patterns. Once a tool for marketing teams, big data analytics—also called advanced analytics, predictive analytics, and sensing analytics—has made its way into the product safety world. The technology involves integrating “structured” data, from, for example, the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database, with “unstructured” data, such as comments on social media platforms, to expose potential emerging product safety concerns. Natural language processing methods can parse key words and phrases, recognize their relationships, and create richer datasets than were previously available. Sometimes it is not what your customers say but how they say it. Big data analytics can process context through sentiment analysis. It can discern the difference between a “hot” product that customers are raving about and a “hot” product that will burn you. Furthermore, the technology can process the data in near real-time, and intuitively display the data on computer dashboards, making it much easier to spot trends or emerging issues. The technology allows analysts to sift out meaningful clues and deliver the early warning insights that are needed...

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Here’s the Skinny on How to Rock Your Incentive and Recognition Program

I’m working on doing a series of interviews with folks in the promotional products industry and there’s no better place to start than with Paul Hebert, Vice President of Symbolist, one of the industry leaders when it comes to recognition and reward systems in general, and known for delivering a myriad of solutions that people love. I wanted to follow up with Paul on a conversation we had as a result of a blog post I wrote recently about incentives and awards, specifically award strategy in general and how that differs, based on industry. Let’s get started. As a promotional products distributor, you’re competing against vendors selling travel awards to clients sourcing awards. What’s the best way to move the discussion towards promotional products? From my point of view, travel awards and promotional products answer two very different needs in an award strategy. You can’t replace the need for travel awards – and you shouldn’t try. The travel award allows the company to recognize top performers and allow them to celebrate together. In some cases it may just be a meeting – with no recognition involved but in either case the experience is something they all cherish and if guests are involved, it really amps up the emotional value of the event. No promotional item in the world will every replace that experience – and creating those kinds of experiences for your employees is a key component of keeping them happy. But, when I’m working with clients who have travel as part of a reward or incentive strategy, the big question I like to ask is this: “After the participants get home, is the huge pile of dirty laundry strewn about the floor the only memory of the trip? How can we create something that identifies the event sponsor, communicates the importance of the event and is something they will want to talk about and show off to guests in their home for years to come?” It’s not unusual that clients are up to their eyeballs with logistics issues surrounding the trip and haven’t had the opportunity to think through the long-term ramifications of the travel event. As a promotional products expert, one of the best things you can help them do is to select the appropriate tangible reminder of a special event. The reality is that that $50 item may be the one thing that continues to reinforce...

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Duck Dynasty: The Dangers of Tying Your Brand to Celebrities

For years companies and brands have been in love with the notion of associating their brands with celebrities. Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to browse the Internet, read a newspaper or magazine or turn on the television without seeing a celebrity endorsing a product or brand. Let’s face it, celebrity sells. This is the main reason brands are quick to leverage the popularity of celebrities to create impactful and effective campaigns around them. With huge marketing budgets allotted to such campaigns, the question remains: Is it really worth it? While these types of campaigns are often successful for many brands, there are always risks associated with aligning your brand or product with a celebrity—and plenty of horror stories out there. One such story in today’s headlines is Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s indefinite suspension by A&E after an anti-gay rant that recently appeared in a GQ’s interview, “What the Duck.” Walmart and other retailers carrying Duck Dynasty merchandise have raked in a massive $400 million dollars in sales due to the rabid passion of A&E’s Duck Dynasty fans. Almost as soon as the rant became publication, GLAAD called upon A&E and its advertisers to rethink their ties with the show and its characters. A&E quickly responded with the indefinite suspension and it remains to be seen what, if any, response we’ll see from Walmart. And here’s the thing. Celebrities are great. They’re great as long as they don’t do or say anything stupid. Look at the Tiger Woods sex scandal and how sponsors and advertisers scrambled to divest themselves from Tiger and his tarnished image. And today, Tiger’s still dealing with the ramifications of those choices and losing sponsorship deals as a result. Look at double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius, one of the most in-demand sports personalities in the world who, when charged with shooting his girlfriend, naturally saw sponsors dropping like flies. So, before you decide to partner with a celebrity, be they musician, actor, reality show star or athlete, it’s a good idea to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. And if you’re pitching a celebrity tie-in for a promotional products campaign to one of your clients, it’s good to have these conversations, both internally as well as with your clients, right up front. The Benefits of Hiring Celebrity Endorsers It is no surprise why brands hire celebrity endorsers. Celebrities can enhance brand equity and increase recognition for a product. For...

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The Dangers of Celebrity Endorsers and The Wisdom of Crisis Planning

You work hard to bring unique promotional products to the marketplace every day. Ideas that help differentiate your customer from their competitors. At the same time, whether you are a supplier or a distributor, a little of that differentiation rubs off on you, too. After all, you want to be viewed as a “Value-add” partner in the industry–someone who always has something to catch a customer’s eye. You always hope the attention is positive, of course. But, just when you think nothing could go wrong with your brilliant idea, it does. Due to something totally out of your control. As a random example, let’s say that you’ve worked closely with a transportation company. You’ve provided a wide variety of brand merchandise for their taxi division, and the customer is really pleased. Even better, ridership is way up. The customer decides to take a real chance and goes for a celebrity endorsement. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say they secure one of the stars of the popular TV series “Taxi,” none other than Danny DeVito. You’re instructed by the client to gear up for a whole new campaign–soft goods, die-cast taxis, drinkware, etc., all bearing his likeness. You find out that the launch of these products will luckily coincide with Mr. DeVito’s appearance on the national TV morning show “The View.” This could be exciting—not to mention profitable. But then, you find out that the TV appearance you thought would be such a good thing, was actually a disaster. In real life, Danny DeVito was doing some TV appearances recently and behaved very oddly. According to several news reports DeVito appeared to be suffering the effects from the previous night out on the town. In the midst of the discussion on live TV, he mentioned an overindulgence specifically of Limoncello. Then, in a really bizarre twist, rather than choosing a strategy of public relations damage control, he apparently decided instead to launch his own line of Limoncello. While the Taxi-related celebrity endorsement campaign is fiction, the antics of a real-life TV celebrity isn’t, and this example shows how one misstep on the part of a celebrity endorser or brand ambassador could potentially put you, your client and your merchandise at risk. So, what can you do to protect your great ideas and brand campaigns? Here are some easy, yet important things to do: Monitor the Web You need to...

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[Webinar] How to Sell Awards and Recognition

[Webinar] How to Sell Awards and Recognition

For employers, awards and recognition programs are a key component of keeping employees happy and motivated and also help foster employee pride and loyalty. Add in the potential for higher average orders and profitability for these items and it’s no surprise this is a big area of focus for promotional products sales teams. How to Sell Awards and Recognition, a free seminar presented by Promo Marketing and QCA-accredited supplier Norwood & BIC Graphic as part of their “Selling Series,” will set you on the path to greater success with your awards and recognition programs. Register now to secure your spot on Wednesday, November 6, 2pm EST (11am PST). This seminar will help you to learn how to build program business, find unknown sales opportunities and keep in touch with the latest trends in the market. Presenter Eileen Lynch, Regional Manager-East for Norwood & BIC Graphic and moderator, Colleen McKenna, Managing Editor of Promo Marketing, will guide you through the numbers, sales and strategies critical for moving your awards sales into the winner’s circle. The session will cover:  Market overview Benefits – guaranteed annual revenue Opportunities How to sell Trends How to build program business There’ll be time to quiz the panelists directly during the one hour session so be sure to come armed with your questions. Registration gives you on-demand access to the seminar for 90 days after the event, so if you can’t make it or would simply like to revisit the topics and refresh your memory, you’ll have plenty of time to catch up at your leisure. This webinar will present a valuable opportunity to boost your awards and recognition sales strategy, so do yourself a favor and register now. And if you attend, pop back in and let us know what you thought. We’d love to hear about it. Register Here: How to Sell Awards and Recognition Other Resources On This Topic: Research Study: The Value and ROI in Employee Recognition About: HR: 5 Tips for Effective Employee Recognition Forbes: New Research Unlocks the Secret of Employee...

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