A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Las Vegas to participate in the American Marketing Association’s 2017 Annual Conference, held at Caesars Palace Hotel. It was a small group – only 300 attendees – but the gathering attracted some big names.

Keynote and session speakers included Nancy Poznoff, Starbucks VP of Marketing; Andrew Keller; Facebook Global Creative Director; Andrew Swinand, Leo Burnett CEO; and Brad Batesole, LinkedIn Marketing Consultant. Also, representatives from Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase and Content Marketing Institute attended. Like I said: big names, small group.


Most of the attendees were from senior management – presidents, vice presidents, CMOs and marketing directors. To my surprise, despite the small attendance size, this was the most active conference I have exhibited at this year in terms of wanting a deeper knowledge of brand protection strategies.

For the first time, a representative from QCA’s Distributor Advocacy Council (DAC) joined me at the event. This allowed us to explain how our most ardent supporters interact with QCA. At the same time, we assured attendees that brand protection would not be a huge burden on them as it would not require major changes on their behalf. We explained to attendees that they just needed to have the conversation with their promotional distributors to determine their knowledge and awareness in the responsible sourcing space. Even so, they wanted to know who was on the council in their area of the country, in case their distributor did not get it. This was a win for our supporters on the DAC as we were able to share the list of those companies.

Attendees were drawn to the booth by a simple question, “IS YOUR BRAND SAFE?” The brand safety question piqued people’s interest, and we talked extensively to various marketing leaders throughout the day. Sadly, I was not stunned by the lack of consideration previously given to protecting brand reputations by key marketing professionals. However, it did not take long for these C-suite and senior-level marketing leaders to grasp the importance of brand protection.

I was even approached by other exhibitors who wanted to talk about brand protection and promotional products. One exhibitor shared a story about an issue they had with a non-compliant tech product and how they will look to use tested tech items in the future.


Discussions centered on the connection between building their brand reputation and the need to protect it with a kind of insurance – and that insurance is compliance. As the message sank in, they were interested in what the best practices were in this area of brand protection.

This allowed us to provide them with questions they should be asking their distributors. End-buyers (users of promotional products) have the most to gain and lose with a product containing their logo. Therefore, they need to know the appropriate ways to mitigate risk, what questions to ask, and how to hold their distributors accountable for providing safe, quality, and socially compliant products.

Some shared with us that they were concerned about the procurement department having too much control of promo products and sourcing based on the lowest price. Several of those people said they were going back with our information to gain more control of the process in the name of protecting their brand.

Many preferred the simplicity and additional assurances provided by an independent third party and mentioned that they were going to begin insisting on proof of compliance from companies providing their promotional products. They also seemed to appreciate accreditation to five pillars of compliance rather than merely one or two compliance categories (typically social and environmental).

At the same time, some were concerned about potentially limiting themselves creatively. In these instances, we talked about the value of education, awareness, and professionalism. We informed them that while third-party designations typically provide greater assurances, they are not the only means by which to address brand protection. This allowed us to share details of what to look for in a distributor and their suppliers (ex: CAS/MAS designations, PPAI’s Product Safety Aware proficiency, attendance at events like International Consumer Product Safety Organization (ICPHSO) events, the PPAI Product Responsibility Summit, and so on).

All told, it was a very successful event. As with previous events, we knew the question – “IS YOUR BRAND SAFE?” – Would create a buzz. Clearly, it’s a question whose time has come.