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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Wrap It Up! Package-Printing Conference Headed To U.S.

This November, Packprint Summit Americas, sponsored by Mark Andy & Hewlett-Packard, will come to the U.S. and will be the country’s first-ever package printing industry conference. The two-day conference and exhibition will be held at the JW Marriot Marquis Hotel in Miami, Florida on November 5 & 6 and will be a great new resource for technical developments, industry trends and advice for business owners who are looking to get into the package printing business. More than 20 exhibitors, who hail from all corners of the globe, will be at the conference, and include such companies as Harper Corporation of America, Epson America Inc., Labels & Labeling Magazine, Hewlett Packard, Xeikon and Stork Prints. If you are interested in exhibiting, contact one of the conference team members here. The conference is a fantastic opportunity for business owners, digital press manufacturers, flexible packaging and carton converters, international brand owners, packaging designers; packaging buyers and specifiers, packaging technicians, and, in short, anyone who has anything to do with the package printing industry. It’s the perfect event for networking and getting the inside scoop on new technologies, driving down costs, and increasing profitability. During the conference, attendees will get the chance to learn about global label trends and technologies; meet the world’s leading industry experts; and hear case studies from printers and brand owners. The conference program includes discussion topics, such as: –       Brand development and positioning –       The new realities of package design –       Digital package printing –       Making the move from label to package printing –       Product redesign to maximize shelf appeal –       New printing technologies –       Implementing an effective MIS/ERP software system to increase enterprise-wide profitability –       And more There also will be a panel discussion led by Danielle Jerschefske from Labels & Labeling with guest speakers David Pittman from Packprint World, Tom Polischuk from packagePRINTING and Robert J. Moran from FLEXO Magazine. This discussion will cover industry trends, challenges in the industry and the future of package printing. Attendees will have plenty of time to network and share ideas with peers: the conference includes a networking lunch each day as well as an hour-and-a-half long boat tour on November 5 (when in Rome, err … Miami, right?) Participants will get a chance to tour the South Florida harbor and enjoy drinks and snacks while networking. Space may be limited, so it’s recommended to sign up prior to the...

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Brand Loyalty and Brand Affinity: What’s The Difference?

Promotional products are all about raising the level of awareness of your brand in your target market. Regardless of the product or industry, we’re all looking to build brand loyalty and find the dream customer or client who loves what you offer and keeps coming back for more. Here’s a question to consider, however: should you take your strategy a step further by building an emotional connection with the consumer and turning brand loyalty into brand affinity? Understanding Brand Loyalty And Brand Affinity The digital world that we live in offers marketers and businesses the opportunity to go beyond mere brand loyalty. By engaging with online communities in a meaningful way and forging a personal connection with consumers, a brand can build a powerful (and potentially beneficial) affinity with customers. First, however, it’s imperative that businesses understand the difference between brand loyalty and brand affinity. After that, they can begin to consider ways to take that extra step. Debbie DeGabrielle, CMO of Visible Technologies, offers a succinct definition of brand loyalty: it’s “about buying a product because it stands for something, such as purity, or because it is a known quantity (e.g., familiar to you). The consumer thinks, ‘It works, I like it, I buy it.’” Making that sort of connection with a consumer is a good thing, but keep in mind that it can only go so far. Your customer likes what you do and comes back for more, but what if this “loyalty” is just a habit? It’s sometimes easy to mistake apathy for loyalty—and it’s an important distinction to make. If your customers are loyal only out of habit, you run the risk of their loyalty being swayed by competing price promotions or a change in your merchandising. When that happens, you’ve lost the potential to grow your business with that customer (and, by extension, that customer’s network—in today’s increasingly digital business climate and the ease of social sharing, word-of-mouth marketing has never been more important.). What if you could forge a stronger, more emotional tie with that customer? That’s where brand affinity comes in. When you achieve brand affinity, it means your customer has made an emotional connection with your brand. Think of Apple, for example. People wait in line hours for iPhones. Many Apple fans won’t buy any tech gadgets except Apple products. And they’re vocal about them, too. In this instance, consumers aren’t...

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