Talk to any marketing executive or procurement professional at major brands and you’ll know that protecting their hard-earned brand equity is paramount—especially when using promotional products.
In order to continue meeting buyer demands for brand safety and responsible sourcing, Franklin, Tennessee-based Blink Marketing has applied to participate in the QCA Compliance Certification Program developed for distributors by Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the only coalition dedicated to ensuring accountability and independent validation of corporate responsibility throughout the promotional product industry’s supply chain.
“The building and establishment of a brand is no small endeavor, and all of our clients have high regards for their respective brands,” says Kyle Earing, Blink Marketing’s quality and operations director. “As an extension of our clients’ brand marketing team, Blink takes tremendous responsibility in ensuring the items and the associated supply chain used to elevate our client partner brands do not jeopardize the integrity or equity being established.
“While there are negative pressures placed on every brand that enters the marketplace, our clients have partnered with Blink Marketing due to our unwavering commitment to item quality, regulatory compliance and supply chain safety,” he continued. “Pursuing QCA Certification will help us to further refine our programs and increase the level of brand protection available to our clients. After all, in this age where news travels quickly, we all have a responsibility to do our very best when sourcing items, as it only takes one mistake to permanently damage a brand and significantly tarnish the reputation of an entire industry.”
Obtaining Certification: Why The Time Is Right
End buyers have more sources from which to buy promotional products than ever, and it seems like the larger the organization, the more vendors are being used. How can distributors compete—not only with each other but also with online retailers—to win the business? Hint: It’s not by dropping price (there’s always someone willing to cut corners and do it cheaper).
It’s about delivering value, and what’s more valuable than being able to product clients’ brands through compliance and responsible sourcing—with the side benefit of helping them streamline their procurement processes.
“In an age of countless products, product options, sourcing origins and ever changing compliance requirements, the QCA Certification Program is designed to evaluate and ensure a distributor’s commitment to quality is fully supported by solid processes,” Kyle explains. “By undergoing the evaluation and certification process in the spirit of continuous improvement, we believe that our already premier quality and compliance program will be further enhanced.”
Beginning The Process
Built in response to a demand from the Advocacy Council, the Certification Program is designed specifically for the needs of distributors and decorators, allowing them to further their commitment to brand safety and responsible sourcing. Thus, Blink Marketing will begin the process by completing a thorough self-assessment, which includes a gap analysis to identify process and procedure voids and requires supporting documentation for review by the QCA Compliance Committee.
From there, the company will use the structure of the self-assessment to develop a comprehensive compliance manual that ensures it has an effective program for detecting and deferring unsafe or non-compliant product before it enters into the supply chain. Upon successful completion of this process, a series of third-party audits are authorized for the company’s headquarters, where corrective action may be required before Certification is granted.
“Obtaining QCA Certification is a way for Blink Marketing to continue demonstrating and validating our dedication to quality,” Kyle says. “Our current clients choose Blink because of our established programs and proven track record of building brands in the most responsible manner possible. QCA Certification is simply another way of ensuring our program remains at the forefront of the industry.”
To ensure the QCA Certification Program is comprehensive, it’s actually more robust that people expect. “The expansiveness of the focus areas and the level of compliance that has been outlined has been eye-opening,” Kyle says. “This program has certainly raised expectations in order to create a unique value proposition relating to brand protection and consumer safety within the promotional products industry.”
Building A Roadmap, Together
The promotional products industry is built upon partnership. Embarking on QCA Certification can actually strengthen the supplier/distributor relationship because both are using brand safety and responsible sourcing as a roadmap to not only build better products and promotions but also strengthen our industry as a whole.
“QCA helps lay the groundwork for what compliance means in the promotional products industry, the compliance road map if you will,” Kyle says. “QCA’s role within the industry is to provide a framework and educational tools for its participants to successfully protect brand reputations and ensure consumer safety. We all have a responsibility and a key role in ensuring the quality and safety of our products. Through distributor/supplier collaboration, QCA continues to leverage industry expertise to be the leader in the marketplace. Together, we can make a better product, while ensuring brand safety for our clients.”