The Hottest Gift, Literally

In a previous article, we talked about Apple and their efforts to eliminate the sale of third party power cords and chargers designed to be used with Apple products. The company then reached out directly to major distributors asking that they pull their inventory and even dangled the threat of a lawsuit for patent infringement. As we have discussed in the past, this whole thing was much more about preventing damage to the Apple brand due to faulty knock-offs and less about potential lost sales. Because margins are so tight, understandably you may have been tempted to source a knock-off of a hot item at some point. The recent Hoverboard craze tempted many this past holiday season, and not long after that we began hearing about Hoverboards catching fire almost every day. As is typical, the real problem was the effort to save a few bucks over making safety the priority. If there is one word to take to heart about sourcing knockoffs because the original is more expensive, that word is “don’t.” Staying with the safety theme, let’s revisit the AnchorIt! Campaign initiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that QCA is helping to publicize. The objective of the AnchorIt! Campaign is to inform parents about the importance of anchoring furniture to avoid the risk of injury to children. As part of the campaign, the CPSC asked three moms who lost children in tip-over tragedies to discuss their experience in a video to help increase awareness of the issue. You can see that video here: http://bit.ly/1QkXgYw. The sad fact of the matter is that every two weeks a child is killed because of furniture tipping over or TVs falling. Please take a few minutes to watch the video linked above and then be sure to conduct a safety survey in your own home to ensure everything is anchored down properly. Also, please help us spread the word to your customers, family, and friends. If you’d like to read more on this and related topics, please check out my column on Promo Corner Blog.   photo credit: Self-balanching board via photopin...

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Solution to Toxic Toys: Ban Them All

Since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became law in 2008, the dangers of heavy metals contained in promotional products, particularly ones targeted at children, have become well known. Even with this increased awareness, New York’s Rockland County is taking the additional step of enacting a brand new “Toxic Toy” law, which essentially bans all toys that contain any of these seven chemicals—benzene, lead, mercury, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt—in any amount “greater than zero.” According to county executive Ed Day, “This is serious. Beyond the disappointment children have when perfectly safe “Happy Meal” toys are now banned by an absurd law, we now have significant economic issues, such as toy stores who are mulling over pulling other toys, clothes and even child car safety seats off [the] shelves too!” The Safe to Play Coalition, which represents the Toy Industry Association (TIA), fought against, and successfully turned back, a similar law passed in Albany. According to coalition attorney Rick Locker, “there is no way to test these chemicals down to zero.” And TIA officials add, “Nothing is more important to toymakers than preserving the safety of children at play. Unfortunately, Rockland County’s so-called ‘Toxic Free Toys Act’ is inefficient, unnecessary, illegal, and does nothing to strengthen toy safety.” What do you think? Too much or justifiable action on the part of Rockland County? Along similar lines, frequent complaints against Alibaba involving the sale of counterfeit goods popped up ahead of an expose´ published in a recent issue of Forbes magazine that asserted that Alibaba’s huge counterfeit issues will never be eliminated. According to the Forbes article, “The scale of the fakery is enormous–at any given time Taobao (Alibaba’s online bazaar) offers millions of suspect goods for sale, from handbags to auto parts, sportswear to jewelry. When Forbes searched for listings on Taobao with the word ‘Gucci’ and set the preferred price range under 300 yuan, (less than $50), well below the price of real Gucci products, 30,000 results popped up.” While the products may not be real, the problem certainly is. Would you agree? If you’d like to read more on these topics, please check out my column at Promo Corner Blog. photo credit: Roswell Incident via photopin...

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Wash Your Hands, or Not

Branded pens, notepads, and goofy sunglasses – these are just some of the promotional items we all are routinely see at events and conferences. In recent years, the types of promotional items we see at conferences have evolved to include more personal products, like lip balm and even first aid kits. Among the most popular promotional products, hand sanitizers have become a prime product offered by distributors because of their decent imprint areas, and branding opportunities. We wrote on PromoCorner that some hand sanitizers contain Triclosan, an ingredient linked to cancer. And we applauded our industry for self-policing the use of potentially dangerous ingredients in promotional items. After that post went live, I heard from Paul Christensen, president of Natural Trends, LLC, one of the first suppliers to bring sanitizers to the promotional products industry. He suggested that we make a clarification regarding so-called ‘instant sanitizers’ and I think it is worth mentioning here: “While some have certainly imported or produced non-FDA compliant product of poor quality and without proper drug facts labeling, I am unaware of a single supplier who has ever offered an instant hand sanitizer in the promotional market containing Triclosan.” Christensen continued, “USA-made instant hand sanitizer, produced in compliance with FDA requirements, and used as directed, is very safe and effective. All instant hand sanitizers must contain one of two active ingredients in their proper percentages – ethyl alcohol or benzalkonium chloride.” According to Christensen, “By definition, instant hand sanitizer is waterless, meaning it does not need to be rinsed off with water after use. The FDA requires products with Triclosan to carry a statement on the label instructing that hands are to be rinsed off after use.” We appreciate Paul’s comments as we strive to provide the most complete information on product safety. On a different topic, I read an article recently about small loaders, also known as “skid-steers.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune, in a series of articles titled “Tragic Harvest,” referenced a trend of deaths and injuries in the Midwest caused by disabled safety devices or bypassed safety features. While I’m sure these skid-steers are not offered as promotional products, a quote from Mark Hagedorn, a Wisconsin agricultural agent, got my attention: “They have built in a boatload of safety features, but ingenious people find ways to work around safety.” It makes me think about the many cases in our industry where the...

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The Narrative Skill of Promo Products

According to Exhibit City News, 70% of collateral handed out at a trade show never makes it out of the host city. Does that surprise you? It should certainly serve as a wake-up call to focus more on how your product sample resonates with your customer. Denise Taschereau, co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Fairware, told SuccessfulMeetings.com, “buyers are getting more sophisticated, and they’re looking for the story. What’s the story of this product? What’s the story it’s helping to tell? What’s the story of the supply chain, or of the material?” When we become more mindful of how our products connect to buyers, and tell our story with the promotional products we choose, then buyers will leave with products in hand, not in the nearest trash can. In other news, a recent Deloitte article in the Wall Street Journal included some interesting points about using advanced analytics to identify quality and safety issues. These techniques can go a long way in helping protect companies from recalls, lawsuits, and regulatory action, as well as save lives. According to Samir Hans, the national leader for Deloitte’s Enterprise Fraud and Misuse Management team, “The proposition of quality and safety analytics is that you can employ advanced analytics to find problems you didn’t know existed, and that would otherwise catch up to you someday. If you catch a problem early on, you can course correct more quickly, and reduce the amount of inventory you may have to recall. Employing quality and safety analytics is not just about ‘doing the right thing.’ Companies see many financial benefits as a result.” While not yet integrated into the promotional products industry, I predict that analytics will play an important role in our future. In closing, we want to call your attention to a new video we’ve produced featuring Pierre Martichoux, the founder and CEO of QCA-accredited supplier Chameleon Like. We sat down with Pierre and talked about his experience with the accreditation process. Since starting the process, Pierre has seen his business grow almost 400 percent. As you’ll see in the video, he offers great insight into his experience and some of the most common misconceptions about becoming QCA certified. If you’d like to learn more on these topics, please hop over and check out my column at the Promo Corner Blog. photo credit: Red Touch Media Swag! via photopin...

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A Recall That Isn’t a Recall

Anyone who has been sourcing or manufacturing promotional products knows all too well that it’s not a matter of if, but when a recall will happen. In fact, it’s so important to have an action plan for recalls in place that the Quality Certification Alliance accreditation process requires performing a mock recall. Since 2013, the Consumer Products Safety Commission has made it clear that every corrective action be labeled as a ‘recall,’ including those involving promotional products, and every corrective action announced publicly since 2013 has been labeled a ‘recall.’ The main reason the CPSC formalized the naming of corrective actions as ‘recalls,’ is to encourage the media to publicize these actions so that consumers would be alerted, informed, and could take the appropriate action as noted in the National Law Review. Using the word ‘recall’ makes it more likely the notice will be read and will encourage action. This doesn’t mean that there haven’t been exceptions to using the term ‘recall.’ In July of 2015, the Swedish furniture giant, IKEA, was involved in a now famous case involving a recall of 27 million chests and dressers with an increased risk of toppling that resulted in the deaths of two children. Oddly enough, it turns out that this particular case wasn’t considered a recall after all. In a rare deal between the CPSC and IKEA, the action was labeled as a ‘repair program’ instead of a ‘recall,’ and to comply, IKEA sent a free “repair kit” to consumers so that they could anchor the furniture and eliminate the risk of tip-over. Critics were quick to declare that the exception made in the case of IKEA was not one of simple semantics. “The words mean something,” Pamela Gilbert, executive director of the commission in the 1990s, told Philly.com. “This furniture can tip over and kill your kid. And the word ‘repair’ does not convey the hazard and the potential tragedy.” In the case of promotional products, it’s always about doing the right thing for the end-user clients and the end user consumers. If getting the word out about the risk involved in the use of a particular product is amplified by the use of the word ‘recall,’ then, without question, we should use it. It’s not only our duty to admit that a product has failed and/or poses an inherent danger in some way, but also to know what to...

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When It Comes to Regrettable Substitutions, We’ve Hit the Trifecta

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed a concept called “Regrettable Substitutions.” Simply put, regrettable substitutions are characterized by a rush to replace product ingredients suspected to be harmful with something that turns out to be even worse. Parabens, used as a preservative since the 1950s in about 85% of cosmetic products, are the latest ingredients to fall from favor. As New York City dermatologist Fran E. Cook-Bolden told Real Simple in a recent article on this topic, “Parabens have a long history of safe use, and that’s why they’re commonplace. New preservatives have less of a proven track record.” The most common of the parabens are butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben, and they are used frequently in personal care products. The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that parabens are safe in concentrations of up to 25 percent. Typically, parabens are used at levels from 0.01 to 0.3 percent. So why are we now seeing more and more paraben-free products? In the late nineties, it was thought that parabens were xenoestrogens and were linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. A 2004 British cancer study found parabens present in malignant breast tumors. Critics of that same study pointed out that noncancerous tissue from healthy breasts hadn’t been examined to see if parabens were also present, thus the original cancer study doesn’t necessarily prove parabens caused the cancer. However all of the speculation leads to concern about the unknown, and another case of “regrettable substitution.” Switching your attention to what could be a real problem in your home, let’s consider laundry pods. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the biggest danger posed by laundry pods is with 1- and 2-year-olds, who are more inclined to mistake the colorful, squeezable, concentrated cleaning pods with candy. While the CPSC advises prevention, keeping the pods in original packaging, and stashed safely up and away from young children, there is a Poison Help number to call immediately in case of ingestion, 1-800-222-1222. Clearly, laundry pods are no laughing matter. If you’d like to learn more about the dangers posed by laundry pods, please hop over and check out my column at the Promo Corner Blog. photo credit: 590725796 via photopin...

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