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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Not As Safe As You Think

Before our industry became “BPA-Free,” BPA used in drinkware was frequently teaming with phthalates, the chemicals used to make plastics more flexible. Now, a report from a research team at McGill University Medical Center finds that a widely used replacement for phthalates, called DINCH, may not be as safe as initially thought. DINCH, used as a plasticizer in everything from children’s toys, to food containers and medical devices, may actually work in the same harmful way that other phthalates do if ingested – by acting as a “metabolic disrupter.” Metabolic disrupters change the way the body processes fat. What can you do to avoid the risks of BPA and phthalates replacements? Currently, the best thing to do is look at the recycling code number found on the plastic item. According to advice from Livestrong.com, you’re safe with Type 2 plastic, High-Density Polyethylene, which has no BPA or phthalates. Type 4 plastic (squeezable condiments) and Type 5 are also considered safe. As for plastic bearing any Type 7 or any other recycling code number, BPA or phthalates may be present. While the report on the safety of plastic is concerning, there is better news regarding lithium-ion batteries. A study from eurekaalert.org, suggests that adding two chemicals to the electrolyte of the lithium batteries could pave the way for lithium-sulfur and lithium-air batteries. While this new technology could mean safer batteries, it also holds promise for creating batteries that can store up to 10 times more energy per weight than current batteries—promising for the future of our electronics and battery powered cars. Finally, we recently shared “8 Strategies to Keep Your Supply Chain Safe and Compliant” at the ASI Show in Chicago. We provided real-world insight into the ever-changing landscape of rules and regulations from our panelists representing both suppliers and distributors. ASI’s Michele Bell moderated the panel. Were you able to join us there? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the lively discussion. If you’d like to read more, please check out my column at Promo Corner Blog. Photo Credit: CombiUSA via Compfight...

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A Risk by Any Other Name

If you purchased food from the grocery store lately, it likely had a “free-from” label on it. Consumer product marketers like to trumpet that you aren’t being subjected to “genetically modified organisms” when enjoying their food products. And if you’ve sourced drinkware within the last couple of years, you’re likely buying “BPA-Free” products. It seems that consumers have bought into the idea that the thing we are freed from is actually bad for us. GMO’s must be bad, for the media tells us so, and hence the move by companies to remove these pesky things from their products. Speaking of the GMO issue, consider the case of Post Grape Nuts and General Foods’ Cheerios. Both companies have removed GMO ingredients, like those from corn, soybeans, and sugar beets. But, in the case of Grape Nuts, that wasn’t all they removed. Vitamins A, D, B-12, and B-2 (also known as Riboflavin) which once packed a healthful punch are now significantly lessened or removed altogether. Riboflavin also disappeared from Cheerios. Dr. Wayne Parrott, a professor of crop science at the University of Georgia, says the cereals are now actually less healthy than before, given the decreased vitamin content. “Cheerios went from being a major source of Vitamin B2 to being almost zip” the professor told Food Navigator. How about you, did you make the connection – GMOs are bad, so removing them makes the product automatically better? Since studies have raised consumer awareness about the safety of BPA, the reality is that it may well be replaced by something even more dangerous. However years of research and assessment have not proven BPA to be unsafe. One such study by the European Food Safety Authority even says that BPA poses no threat whatsoever to consumers of any age given current exposure levels. So when all is said and done, eating products with less GMOs and drinking from “BPA-Free” cups may not be necessarily better for you, but attending a Taylor Swift concert could save your life. Just ask the three teenage girls who were saved after a car accident by the promotional light up bracelets they were given earlier at her show. What do you think, does slapping a label on anything (everything) that could pose a risk, negate the warning altogether? If you’d like to read more about these stories and our industry, please check out my column at Promo Corner...

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Promo Items: Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

Perhaps you heard about one kerfuffle that happened in minor league baseball. The Tampa Bay affiliate planned to have a little fun at the expense of a Yankees affiliate by giving away 500 boxes decorated with the text “100% juiced,” “tainted records,” “inflated ego,” and “Hall of Fame Omission.” The references, of course, were to Alex Rodriguez, who served a Major League Baseball drug suspension for all of the 2014 season. There are a lot of good choices to make to positively promote the brand of the home team, but this certainly wasn’t one of them. Once the Yankees found out about the plan, they called the Charlotte front office, and contacted the commissioner of baseball to protest. As a result, the event was cancelled and the team issued an apology. Certainly the question about whether or not A-Rod’s record breaking career came as a result of taking performance enhancing drugs wouldn’t be settled by passing out 500 “juice boxes.” And if someone thought it was funny, nobody else was laughing. Here is a not so subtle reminder that we should be using our “powers for good.” Switching gears a bit, I wanted to share some news from the Board of Directors of the Quality Certification Alliance. The directors announced they have taken steps to enhance the cooperation and communication between accredited suppliers and the 13 members of the Distributor Advocacy Council. Jon Levine, president of The Image Group, has been added to the QCA Board’s marketing committee. Congratulations to Jon, I know he will speak both with the voice of distributors, and the end-user clients. Speaking of accredited suppliers, The Magnet Group joined the ranks, bringing the number of active QCA certified suppliers to 34. “It was extremely important for our customers, our company, and our collective peace of mind to achieve the QCA accreditation. We are thrilled!” said Bill Korowitz, CEO and owner of The Magnet Group. So, how about you? Are you going to use your powers for good, work more cooperatively with your vendors, and be thrilled with the result? If you’d like to read more on the topic, please check out my column at Promo Corner Blog. Photo Credit: LexnGer via Compfight...

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