Promotional Industry Social Rock Stars? The Envelope Please.

We set out on a journey a month ago. The destination was to identify the Top 25 content producers in the promotional products industry. There has never been a comprehensive, data-driven list of online influencers created for the industry and we set out on this initiative because we think it’s important. There is much for all of us to learn from emulating the thought-leaders providing digital leadership in our industry, and having a list based on a methodical review and analysis seems like a great place to start. We worked with one of the top big data firms doing “netnography” in social media, The Social Studies Group. We wanted to make sure the effort was absolutely objective, so we excluded the accounts managed for the Quality Certification Alliance, as well as the personal accounts of our staff. Additionally, while QCA-accredited suppliers and Distributor Advocacy Council members were included, we made it clear that they were not to be given any preference — there was not going to be any home cooking on this list. The Social Studies Group combined several extensive Twitter lists of North American industry players, including over 1,300 accounts on the PromoPeople list from industry recruiting firm, PromoPlacement.com, and removed all duplication. To make sure we didn’t miss anyone, organizations and individuals in the industry were invited to submit their names for consideration. Many, if not most, of the manual submissions were already on the list, and the total had grown to nearly 2,500 accounts! Wendy Scherer, managing partner at The Social Studies group, explains, “We set up social media monitoring in Brandwatch to collect the 2015 content for everyone on the list. There were so many, it took four queries to fit everyone in. The top 150 authors were selected based on their Impact Score, which is a normalized calculation of the sum of the number of mentions by the Author and the maximum values achieved for Potential (how much potential a mention has to be seen) and Engagement (how often a mention has been viewed, shared or retweeted). Impact Scores were given a score of 1 to 5.” “Next, Social Reach (number of followers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube) was calculated for each author, again giving a score of 1 to 5. Next, our analyst reviewed the top 50 authors for content quality and industry topics (rather than personal or off topic content) for...

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Is it Really Made In China…Perhaps Not

China’s border town of Dandong is dotted with a large number of factories that produce “made in China” goods. These factories are similar to thousands of other factories across the country churning out a wide range of products; these exports are shipped to the U.S. and other European nations under foreign company labels. The only difference is that these factories are owned and operated by North Korean traders and workers. Running along the fringes of the Yalu River, across the North Korean city of Sinuiju, Dandong is “North Korea’s gateway to the world” and is contributing significantly to the nation’s economy. A South Korean research firm estimates that the North Korean economy will witness seven percent growth this year. Much of that fueled by the nexus of Chinese and North Korean businesses that thrive in Dandong. According to a South Korean news agency, nearly 70 percent of China’s trade (both legal and illegal) with North Korea runs through Dandong. For an average North Korean worker, Dandong is the city of dreams – the place to make money. Since North Koreans are good at manual labor and intricate handworks like lace-making or beading and stitching, they easily find jobs in Dandong’s factories. As with other industrial provinces in China, the problems of unregulated trading exists in Dandong. Most factories offer poor working conditions and low salaries; however, a few business-owners are now implementing better working environments as a means to improve productivity and business profits. For instance, in one textile factory, women laborers slog for nearly 13 hours a day and are each paid $300 a month. On top of this, two-thirds of monthly wages go to the government in Pyongyang. What then keeps Dandong attractive to business? Most of North Korea’s population is in the throes of extreme poverty; the country’s insular economy offers only a smattering of opportunities. Dandong, on the other hand, presents workers with a much broader scope to earn their livelihood, and naturally, that’s profitable for business owners, many of whom are focused on profitability, not details like social responsibility or the safety and wellbeing of their work force. Marcus Noland, an expert on the North Korean economy at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington says of these business owners, “These guys are out there to make a buck — they’re not the World Food Program — and as long as these opportunities...

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Want to Know Who’s Really Influential? We’re going to use Data to find out

While marketers in other industries hone their social media skills, I believe our industry is still lagging behind a bit. Data that streams in from the technology we use and the social sites we hang out on has made it easier than ever before to find customers and identify prospects, and gather insights about them. One way to learn more about how social media best practices work is to “follow” the best of the best on Twitter, as well as connect with them on LinkedIn and Facebook. Once connected, you can watch and learn how these leaders work, see what kind of content they’re creating and sharing and how they engage with their audiences. Very recently, we embarked on the most comprehensive search of the promotional products industry’s top content providers that anyone has ever done. Our goal is to share the top 25 accounts leading the way in our channels in hopes of improving the results for all. Let’s learn how these leaders are making an impact in our industry and what we can do to grow to their level and raise the bar for our industry in the process. To maintain objectivity, accounts created for the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) will be excluded from the research, as will my personal accounts. The Social Studies Group will include the accounts, but not give preference to, suppliers accredited by QCA and members of the QCA Distributor Advocacy Council. So, what do you think? Do you want to know who the top 25 influencers in the promotional products industry are? The data is being analyzed and our top 25 list will be ready very soon. Reach out to me on Twitter (@jeffreypjacobs) and I’ll make sure I share the influential list with you. I look forward to connecting with you! If you’d like to read more, please check out my column at Promo Marketing Blog. photo credit: A sampling of words via photopin...

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Alphabet Soup of Promo Products Industry: CPSC, WBENC, ETS and QCA Webinar

Two former Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) commissioners, Nancy Nord and Inez Tenenbaum, recently appeared in the news talking about two contrasting safety compliances issues. Ms. Nord expressed her thoughts about the testing burden of phthalates and what the CPSC is doing to lessen those burdens on suppliers. Simply put, if the CPSC can determine that a product will never contain phthalates then testing would not be required. Nord observed that while that may be fine for simple products like wood or fabrics where it’s easy to predict reliably that phthalates are not being used, it could be more complicated elsewhere. On a different topic, Ms. Tenenbaum talked about the benefits of having a third party conduct a recall required by the CPSC. As you’ll read in the article, one of the platforms in which she chose to publish her views was a curious (and perhaps even questionable) choice, due to their involvement in third party recall services. Commissioner Tenenbaum points out that the precautions taken regarding an in-house recall may divert attention away from other key parts of a recall plan. These parts include things like public communication, ongoing public relations efforts, and a media plan. This is in addition to the procedures involved in actually locating any defective product. Also read about QCA Distributor Advocacy Council member and SwervePoint principal Juli Sinnett, who was featured in the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) President’s Report and a notable achievement for ETS Express Inc. In the report, Sinnett talked about QCA accreditation and utilizing it to tier SwervePoint’s supplier base. Sinnett went one to say, “Big brands care about making sure they are not going to put their logo on something that might potentially be recalled—right now there is no vetting process in place to make sure that the vendor base is safe.” Lastly, if you missed our live webinar on corporate social responsibility, you can join Jeremy Lott, Brandon Mackay and Jon Levine for a lively and informative 55-minute session on how safety and social compliance work together in the day-to-day activities of their respective organizations. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about how you can make this happen for your company. This webinar will be available on demand until September, so make time to watch it when you can. Read the full story in my column for Promo Marketing here: The Alphabet Soup of the...

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Product Safety: The ONLY Way to Do Business Today

Running a safe, compliant and socially responsible business isn’t just the right way to do business — it’s the only way to do business. Three QCA-affiliated organizations will share how they’ve brought this belief to life during “Product Safety: Not just the right way to do business, the WAY to do business.” If you work in the promotional product industry, don’t miss this FREE webinar! Tuesday, June 17, 2014 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT Register for access information Kyle Richardson, chief editor of Promo Marketing, will moderate the discussion between three industry leaders: Jon Levine, president of The Image Group Jeremy Lott, president of SanMar Brandon Mackay, CEO and president of SnugZ USA On the forefront of social responsibility, these speakers are excited to talk about the only way to do business in this day and age. During this one-hour discussion, you’ll find out Why protecting a business, and its brand, is imperative for survival in the modern global economy. How product safety and social responsibility is a focus of their own companies, which specialize in hard goods, soft goods and distribution of promotional products. Get perspective into the challenges of meeting the high expectations of todays increasingly sophisticated end-user clients. Register today! Corporate social responsibility matters, whether you’re a consumer, producer or business professional. Join Jon, Jeremy, Brandon and Kyle for this hour-long free webinar – all you have to do is click here to register. Registration is simple: fill out the form and your access information will be emailed to you. This event is sponsored by Quality Certification Alliance and Promo Marketing. See you in...

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Product Recalls; Fixing a Problem That Doesn’t Exist?

Just back from the Promotional Products industry’s largest trade show, PPAI Expo, which is reporting the best attendance since 2009, and reflecting that there were two frequent points of conversation. First, the continuing positive direction of the industry:  larger budgets and more end-users interested in ramping up projects. Second, product safety is becoming a part of more and more conversations. In an effort to bring that discussion even more into the industry mainstream, we applaud the launch of the PPAI Product Safety Awareness Initiative. One of the ongoing discussions at the show with members of the QCA Distributor Advocacy Council, was the methodology of a recall. The reality of product failure for a supplier is not “if,”, but “when,” so the ability to demonstrate the protocol for the process of a recall is just one of many components of the QCA accreditation process. But now, companies considering a product recall may be facing a legal minefield following a recent rule change proposal from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The proposed changes, which will require companies commencing a voluntary recall to implement a compliance program as a part of a legally binding corrective action, mark a radical change in direction by the commission. But are they trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist? The system of voluntary recalls has been operating for over 30 years under the auspices of the CPSC, during which time a climate of trust has grown with many common practices being incorporated into the recall rules. Informal cooperation has led to most firms agreeing to recall and address potential product hazards with little recourse to law. Indeed the CPSC’s Fast Track program, which incentivized companies to cooperate with the government without fear of an adverse determination regarding the safety of their product, has won an innovation in government award. Now though, we are seeing a change in the approach of the commission that substantially modifies the established practices. Rather than the current regime where corrective action plans are not legally binding, the commission plans to move to a position where, “once a firm voluntarily agrees to undertake a corrective action plan, the firm is legally bound to fulfill the terms of the agreement.” This says the commission addresses concerns about “recalcitrant firms” that have “deliberately and unnecessarily delayed the timely implementation of the provisions of their corrective action plans.” Former CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord...

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