PPB May 2022

Simple Style Go-To T-Shirts P. 14 Supplier Stars By Distributors’ Vote P. 20 Promotional Products Work In The Sports Market P. 36 Tina Berres Filipski Honoring Our Outgoing Editor P. 46 Crisis Or Opportunity? The promotional products industry walks a cultural, ethical and logistical tightrope doing business in China. Amid an uncertain economic and geopolitical future, some companies are exploring alternatives. P. 60


Lightboxx / BsWei / Elnur / Shutterstock.com Anna Marynenko / DDevecee / Mascha Tace / Shutterstock.com contents Promotional Products Business The Official Business Monthly of Promotional Products Association International MAY 2022 4 Perspectives Strategic Planning: What is it, and why should you do it? 8 Feedback 11 INNOVATE 12 Question My Client Deserves A Thank-You For Referrals, But Indefinitely? 14 Eye On Apparel T-Shirts 28 Marketing Pantone Connect Brings 15,000 Colors To Designers’ Fingertips 31 GROW 32 Profile Lunar Branding, Greg Gregorian 36 Promotional Products Work Sports 42 Editor's Picks Awards & Recognition 54 Sales The Art Of The Upsell 57 THINK 58 Viewpoint Sparking Brilliance 69 Fast Forward Chili’s Grill & Bar Celebrates 47 Years With First Ecommerce Store 74 Five Minutes With Javier Melendez, Walker-Clay, Inc. 77 CONNECT 78 Close Up Sandra Kelley, MAS 82 PPPC Communiqué 85 Inside PPAI 91 New Members 94 Datebook 98 The Creative Calendar 46THE EXIT INTERVIEW: TINA BERRES FILIPSKI After 26 years heading publications—including PPB magazine—for PPAI, Tina Berres Filipski departed the Association in January. 60CRISIS OR OPPORTUNITY? The promotional products industry walks a cultural, ethical and logistical tightrope doing business in China. Amid an uncertain economic and geopolitical future, some companies are exploring alternatives. 20 SHINING EXAMPLES OF EXCELLENCE PPAI’s Supplier Star Award empowers distributors to vote for the best suppliers in the industry based on their own experiences. | MAY 2022 | 3

perspectives Have you ever been on a road trip where you aimlessly drove around with no set destination or path in mind? It’s a wonderful thing to do on a warm Sunday afternoon in the spring. But it isn’t the most reliable way to get where you are going. Likewise, strategic planning is a key element of success for any individual, business or association. Those who attended The PPAI Expo or Expo D2U earlier this year may remember PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham sharing a preview of the pillars of the Association’s new plan. If you were unable to attend or slept in that morning in Vegas, the last two issues of PPB have covered elements of what it stems from, PPAI’s new vision: “Promotional Products are universally valued and essential to every brand,” along with the Association’s newmission to “Be the voice and force to advance the promotional marketplace for the benefit of our community.” Your PPAI Board and leadership team go through a process every few years to refresh the Association’s strategic plan. There are many ways to tackle developing a strategic plan, but it generally involves the following: • An honest self-assessment with feedback fromboth internal and external points of view. If you are in sales, get input from your customers, suppliers and support team. Businesses often use a SWOT format to organize the assessment, outlining the firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. There is a ton of content on the internet about SWOTs if you are unfamiliar with this term. • An action plan to highlight strengths, remediate weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities and weaken threats. Using a Lean Six Sigma Affinity Diagram (Google this—it’s a great multi-use tool!) is an easy way to organize your team’s brainstorming ideas on this point. Use sticky notes on a conference roomwall for old-school flair. • ROI statements, priority lists and resource plans. Remember that you can’t do everything at once, and if you divert a resource to something new, you’ll have to give something else up. This is a great time to think about things you need to stop investing in so you can make room for new initiatives. If you are investing time or treasure, be sure to include a return of investment analysis in your priority evaluation. How much will I spend? How many months will it take for this investment to pay for itself? Spread things out between the short- and long-term, in order to get boosts all along the way. As a Board, we often invest several days into strategy planning. If the plan comes quickly and easily to you, it probably isn’t something that will move the needle or has not been viewed from diverse enough perspectives. Who doesn’t like to look around every once in a while and dream about a new destination? If you have not taken time out to do this in a long time, whether as a leader or an individual contributor, I encourage you to do so. Who knows how far you will go? If the plan comes quickly and easily to you, it probably isn’t something that will move the needle or has not been viewed from diverse enough perspectives. Dawn Olds, MAS+ Chair-Of The Board Strategic Planning What is it, and why should you do it? 4 | MAY 2022 |

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PRESIDENT & CEO Dale Denham, MAS+ 888-I-AM-PPAI EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT Robert I. McLean, Jr., CPA, CAE, CEM VICE PRESIDENT, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Alan Peterson DIRECTOR OF FINANCE Brigitte Rousseau, CPA, MBA DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Paul Elfstrom DIRECTOR OF ADVOCACY, EDUCATION AND MEMBER ENGAGEMENT Anne Stone, CAE DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Keith Vincent DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION Edwin Gonzalez PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Josh Ellis 972-258-3028 JoshE@ppai.org NEWS EDITORS James Khattak 972-258-3052 JamesK@ppai.org Jonny Auping 972-258-3044 JonnyA@ppai.org ASSOCIATE EDITORS Danielle Renda DanielleR@ppai.org Kristina Valdez 972-258-3094 KristinaV@ppai.org ART DIRECTION SPARK Publications SPARKpublications.com 704-844-6080 ADVERTISING MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND EXPOSITIONS Ellen Tucker, CAE 972-258-3095 EllenT@ppai.org SALES MANAGER AND NATIONAL ACCOUNTS Melissa Massey 972-258-3029 MelissaM@ppai.org MAJOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Brandon Dunaway 972-258-3090 BrandonD@ppai.org ACCOUNT MANAGERS Connie Brazil 972-258-3064 ConnieB@ppai.org Taylor Coward 972-258-3033 TaylorC@ppai.org ADVERTISING CONTACT Mimi Duong 972-258-3025 MimiD@ppai.org BOARD OFFICERS CHAIR OF THE BOARD Dawn Olds, MAS HALO IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR Todd Pottebaum, MAS+ Quality Resource Group, Inc. CHAIR-ELECT OF THE BOARD Kevin Walsh, CAS Showdown Displays VICE CHAIR, FINANCE SERVICES Andrew Spellman, CAS Therabody BOARD MEMBERS TERMS EXPIRING 2023 R. Renée Jones, MAS+ A Creative Touch David Nicholson Polyconcept NA TERMS EXPIRING 2024 Dawn Olds, MAS HALO Kevin Walsh, CAS Showdown Displays TERMS EXPIRING 2025 Noah Lapine Lapine Associates, Inc. Andrew Spellman Therabody TERMS EXPIRING 2026 Chris Anderson HPG Denise Taschereau Fairware AT-LARGE DIRECTOR TERM EXPIRING 2024 Melissa Ralston, Koozie Group REGIONAL ASSOCIATION COUNCIL DELEGATE TERM EXPIRING 2023 Lindsey Davis, MAS Raining Rose, Inc. PPAI HEADQUARTERS 3125 Skyway Circle North, Irving, Texas 75038-3526 Phone: 888-IAM-PPAI (426-7724) www.ppai.org, pubs.ppai.org READER RESOURCES SUBSCRIBE TO PPB: Subscribe online at pubs.ppai.org or send your name, title, company name and mailing address, along with phone and fax, to PPB Subscriptions, 3125 Skyway Circle North, Irving, Texas 75038. Or phone in your subscription to 972-258-3019. Include payment with your order. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted, along with checks. Additional member subscriptions are $58 for PPAI member companies (U.S.), $70 (Canada and Mexico) and $75 (international). Nonmember subscriptions are $72 (U.S.), $82 (Canada and Mexico) and $92 (international). Please allow four to six weeks for start of subscription. ADVERTISE IN PPB: Download a media kit with rates and specs for all PPAI print and digital publications at pubs.ppai.org, or call 972-258-3019 or e-mail mediasales@ppai.org. WRITE FOR PPB: The magazine regularly accepts articles from both professional writers and industry experts—like yourself. Find out everything you need to know about submitting an article or an idea by reading PPB’s Writer’s Guidelines available at pubs.ppai.org/submit-content. 6 | MAY 2022 |

feedback Send feedback on articles in PPB or opinions on industry issues to JamesK@ppai.org. Shawn Hempel / shutterstock.com Defining The Industry’s Value In the Perspectives column in PPB’s April issue, “What Is A Distributor, Anyway?,” PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, advised that it was time we recognize the value added by all the firms in our industry and ensure the terms we use reflect this value while also reducing confusion for the clients who purchase promotional products. Through its Promotional Products Work initiative—learn more about it at PromotionalProductsWork.com—PPAI is expanding its messaging to reach out to and educate buyers on the industry’s value. You are spot on! Your comments and initiative both echo and validate what I have been preaching and sharing with marketers in our industry for years. When we look at where we have come from, the vast majority of “distributors” have elevated their games to a more sophisticated level. Why shouldn’t the marketers in our industry get paid for their innovation, creativity and ingenuity? Agencies do it all the time; what makes our folks any different? If you need any, and I mean any, assistance in pushing this message, I’m all in. It is now time for us to get our industry practitioners to finally realize their true value in this sales and marketing chain. Bravo for your having the foresight to move this forward. Bravo! CLIFF QUICKSELL, MAS+ President Cliff Quicksell Associates, An iPROMOTEu Affiliate Walkersville, Maryland PPAI 140922 Coming from the client side, working for a top-10 recognized brand for 25 years, I can better see the value of this industry now. I have been using the phrase “promotional products agency” when referring to what we do. Like advertising, PR, social media and activation agencies, we have a strategic approach to creating lasting branded value for our clients. I am not looking to charge for our creativity and research services. Still, I would like the same professional approach to working with us that brands have with the organizations above. Often, we cannot deliver the best options and products to our customers because our piece of the marketing mix is not brought in until the very last minute. If branded wearables and promotional products were considered and included at the start of marketing plans, we could deliver an even better brand impression and ROI for our clients. TODD WALLACE Vice President of Marketing SourcePromo Billerica, Massachusetts PPAI 628594, D5 I agree with Todd Wallace that “agency” is the way to go—“a business or organization established to provide a particular service, typically one that involves organizing transactions between two other parties”—that’s exactly what we do. When I describe what we do to prospects I use “promotional marketing agency.” With Proforma, we offer services beyond promotional products, so I find “marketing” more comprehensive. However, I struggle a bit with the overlap of the academic definition used for promotional marketing—this tends to include special offers to raise interest and awareness, contests and other typical strategies like promoting a free soda with the purchase of two slices of pizza. It’s a broad spectrum of strategies that are considered promotional marketing beyond the products in our industry. I believe that the real objective as this new wave takes shape to re-frame our agency position is to change our position within academic circles. Reach out to those who are training new marketers. They can help define our position in the marketing mix, research more and teach the value of using promotional products as a powerful part of the students’ future marketing strategies as they go out into their careers. JULIE RAFEEDIE HAAR Managing Partner Proforma Strategic Promotions Westerville, Ohio PPAI 737053, D1 8 | MAY 2022 | INNOVATE

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INNOVATE Shining Examples Of Excellence PPAI’s Supplier Star Award empowers distributors to vote for the best suppliers in the industry based on their own experiences. page 20 Photography by Sean Badger. 12QUESTION: MY CLIENT DESERVES A THANK-YOU FOR REFERRALS, BUT INDEFINITELY? 14EYE ON APPAREL T-SHIRTS 28PANTONE CONNECT PANTONE’S FIRST-EVER DIGITAL COLOR-MATCHING PLATFORM | MAY 2022 | 11

Orla / Shutterstock.com compiled by Danielle Renda QA Distributor Asks: A client of mine wants to refer business my way, but they are requesting something in return like commission or discount pricing. While I’m willing to do so once, I don’t want to give him special pricing indefinitely. What strategies do you use? Give them 10-20% of the profits for that new business for 12-14 months. You’d be surprised how much more business they find for you. BRANDON KENNEDY CEO BrandCo Marketing Simi Valley, California PPAI 105922, D3 When I pay a referral fee, my rule is 10% of the price of the product paid after the order is paid, delivered and accepted, and it only applies to the first order placed by that company/person. My explanation is that after the referral, it’s on me to earn the continuing business. RAMA BEERFAS, MAS, CTSM Owner Lev Promotions Santee, California PPAI 218331, D1 I have a referral page onmy site. If someone gives a referral and they become a client, they get a gift. GREG MILLER Owner BRAND-Tastik Lakemoor, Illinois PPAI 576761, D2 Most of my “friends” pass referrals because they want to see me succeed, not because they’re looking to profit. I’m big on offering to take them out for dinner or something fun to show appreciation. At the end of the day, our business relationship should be positive and mutually beneficial. If it’s not, why bother? NENETTE LUSK GRAY Owner Lemonade Creative Marketing, LLC Baton Rouge, Louisiana PPAI 468267, D1 QA Distributor Asks: I billed a client for shipping and handling on an order. The client emailed me back requesting the invoices of the shipping cost to compare what I paid against what I charge. This has never happened to me and I want to reply with, “No, this information is confidential,” but I wanted to see what other distributors have done in similar situations. They are welcome to use their shipper number in the future. I had one wanting to see what my supplier invoices. She deducted money fromwhat she paid. I marked it off to firing a customer I didn’t need. Her father was the owner and I did business with him, but she stepped in at payment time. I didn’t show her anything. In over 30 years, that’s the one [customer who has done this.] Do not show people the inner workings of your business. I don’t markup shipping. KAREN MITCHELL BISHOP, MAS Owner Impressions Promotional Advertising & Tupperware Brands Henderson, Tennessee I have always charged [a certain amount] for handling, andmy reasoning withmy customers has always been that I pay a weekly service fee toUPS to have thempick up deliveries and that is a reasonable fee. I do not make a profit on shipping, but I do not want to losemoney either, so I just covermy expenses of the UPS fee over and above the shipping fee. This is just another observation: If a customer does not trust me regarding shipping fees, it raises a red flag and I put themonmy do-not-sell list because that means I haven’t done a good job of establishing a relationship. Just for the record, I haven’t had a customer My Client Deserves A Thank-You For Referrals, But Indefinitely? I recently had a client refer business my way, which I truly appreciate, but they’d like something in return. What is the most ethical and reasonable way to go about this? 12 | MAY 2022 | INNOVATE

valdis torms / Shutterstock.com inquire about shipping fees in at least 25 years. Themain reason is because when I first begin to develop a relationshipwith a client, I spell everything out upfront as to howwe do things andwhy, and this usually eliminates any challenges with future orders. JOHN HOYLE, MAS Sales Associate Geiger Boston, Massachusetts PPAI 105182, D12 My approachwould be too seek understanding. If you are interested in maintaining the relationship, I’d probably reply back with questions that will help you understandwhat motivations and concerns are driving them to inquire about this. It Do You Have An Answer? A Distributor Asks: Does anyone have experience with a client who’s also interested in NFTs? Or have you been in a marketing campaign where NFTs are involved? If so, I’d love to hear about it, as I’m looking to expand my knowledge in this area. A Distributor Asks: I ammovingmy home office to a larger workspace—note: not a retail space, but a workspace—and I’m interested in suggestions fromother promotional products companies on how to display, store product and format the layout of this space. What’s Your Answer? Email your response(s) to Question@ppai.org for the chance to be featured in a future issue of PPB. PPAI: 111248 | ASI: 35375 | SAGE: 50327 | UPIC: ACCENTS | DC:101273 www.americanaccents.com 888.287.7883 PERFECT FOR... Interior print optional ѭ 8FRUQJ PNYX ѭ 5WTIZHY UFHPFLNSL ѭ 8ZGXHWNUYNTS GT]JX ѭ <JQHTRJ PNYX ѭ FSI RTWJ We have over 60 sizes to choose from! Full color digital imprint No die cut fees Quick turnarounds Easy to assemble Self locking Need Mailing Boxes? Made & printed in the USA Packing tissue paper available 5 Piece minimums will help you direct your answer in a way that makes them feel heard, helps alleviate their concerns andmaintains the relationship. SARA BISCHOFF KNEPPER Owner and Manager Jumping Ink Promotions Sherwood, Oregon PPAI 282069, D1 Send them the bill for shipping. The markup is the handling charge. Honesty is always the best policy. CHRIS MCCOY Account Executive American Solutions for Business Madison, Mississippi PPAI 678510, D2 | MAY 2022 | 13 INNOVATE

T-Sh i r t s by Danielle Renda It’s Not ‘Just’ A T-Shirt Branded T-shirts express individuality just as much for the brand as they do for the wearer. Tees can be anything we want them to be, from time capsules, souvenirs and team uniforms to fashion statements, fundraisers, safety measures, and self-expression. Its unique versatility is precisely what makes t-shirts a continual success for both end buyers and recipients. Very few promotional products have staying power akin to t-shirts. From when fashion t-shirts went mainstream in the ’60s to now, custom-printed tees have stuck for more than six decades as one of the most-popular clothing items ever. In a world where businesspeople are buckling down on innovation and consumers are busy adapting, the simplicity and effortlessness of t-shirts is what makes this medium one of the most-successful products in promo history. T-shirts can be designed to stand for anything, really, from ads and self-promo to politics, souvenirs, fundraisers, safety, hierarchy, team uniformity and sheer style, and can interplay with self-expression. “Tees and apparel are so unique in that you can turn your customers into 14 | MAY 2022 | INNOVATE

walking billboards,” says Michael Johnson, director of marketing, American casualwear, with supplier HanesBrand in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “T-shirts are the perfect inexpensive way to promote your brand, an event, convey a message or unite your team,” adds Eric J. Rubin, president of Long Island City, New York, supplier Blue Generation. “Everyone loves to wear a t-shirt and we all have our favorite one. It is no doubt the No. 1 selling piece of apparel in the market.” Despite having a few dozen t-shirts in his own closet, Rubin says he always gravitates to the same ones. This habit of reaching for certain t-shirts may be due to preference, but it’s also because t-shirts serve as tactile reminders of memories. Browsing through a t-shirt collection is akin to flipping through a scrapbook, and it’s the reason why people keep old t-shirts for many years. Some companies, such as Project Repat in Boston are dedicated to creating custom quilts from old t-shirts so customers can hold onto these memories indefinitely. Wearing an old t-shirt is also something that perpetuates t-shirt trends and also shows how designs that stick can influence generations. A popular and widely recognizable t-shirt, for example, bears The Rolling Stones’ iconic Hot Lips logo inspired by Mick Jagger’s mouth. The design was created in April 1970 by a college student and more than a half-century later, it remains popular with department stores such as Kohl’s, Target and Walmart selling these logoed tees. One of Johnson’s favorite t-shirts is one that advertises Portillo’s, a Chicago chain that serves popular area street food like Italian beef sandwiches. He’s been wearing it proudly for years. “I’m a huge Portillo’s fan and when they opened their first Florida location, they gave away Portillo’s tees with a creative single-hit graphic,” Johnson says. “As a fan, I’m excited to wear a Portillo’s shirt I’ve had in rotation for years, and have been a walking billboard. He adds, “Apparel is especially perfect with your organizations’ happy customers. With a little love on design, they can become big promotional vehicles themselves.” T-shirts can remind wearers of the places they’ve been, what they hold important to them and the events they’ve been a part of, collectively showcasing their journey to the person they are today. And no matter how many tees consumers have, they’re always happy to receive another as times, movements, popular colors and experiences change. PromoCares Recruits Industry Leaders For Ukraine4Good T-Shirt Of the millions of people harmed, displaced or otherwise affected by the crisis in Ukraine, many are children. PromoCares, a volunteerdriven group of industry members dedicated to corporate, social and environmental responsibility, has rallied promotional products companies to work together to design and release a limited-edition t-shirt to raise money for Save the Children to provide aid to the children affected by the humanitarian crisis. Coining the term “Compassion over Competition,” PromoCares created a t-shirt of high quality and aesthetic appeal by partnering with industry leaders. S&S Activewear donated the shirts, Vantage Apparel decorated them and they are distributed by alphabroder Prime Line in a reusable, compo stable shipping bag donated by Chameleon Like. Additionally, Gemline will match donations up to $25,000. The t-shirts, which feature a heart on the front and the words “Our Hearts Are With Ukraine” on the back in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, are available with a minimum $50 donation to Save the Children through PromoCares #Ukraine4Good. The donations will go toward medical supplies, nutritious food, emergency shelters, blankets and more. | MAY 2022 | 15 INNOVATE

The Ladies’ Value Wicking V-Neck Tee is ready for a day of activity with BLUX-DRI moisture-wicking, antimicrobial protection. It’s lightweight and made from 100% snag- and wrinkle-proof polyester, and features a double-needle-stitched V-neck collar. Shown in neon pink. Available in a complementary men’s style. Blue Generation / PPAI 174655, S11 www.bluegeneration.com T-Sh i r t s What’sThere To Do With Old T-shirts? There are many programs that collect and rework consumers’ old t-shirts into something new, and California-based supplier Marine Layer is one of them. The supplier’s Re-Spun Program has so far upcycled more than 300,000 t-shirts sent in from over 60,000 donors, and breaks the t-shirts down to the fiber level to sell in its Re-Spun Shop. Donors receive $5 per t-shirt, up to $25, though of course donations are limitless. The Sport Crew Graphic Tee in salsa heather, shown below, is one of many items in the stop and retails for $48. The Unisex Jersey Short Sleeve Tee is light and casual with a retail fit, and it’s available in a stunning selection of 76 colors. Details include shoulder taping and a crew neck collar. Shown in lavender blue. BELLA + CANVAS / PPAI 304892 www.bellacanvas.com The Next Level Apparel Ideal Crop Tee is a cropped style, especially popular for summertime concerts and festivals. It’s lightweight and features a one-byone-inch baby ribbed collar. Shown in desert pink. Staton Corporate and Casual / PPAI 170839, S12 www.statononline.com 16 | MAY 2022 | INNOVATE

Tees That Make For A Custom ‘Fit’ The Gildan Softstyle Ladies’ T-Shirt is a casual tee that’s perfect for layering or wearing alone. Made from 100% cotton, details include a rib-knit neck and hemmed sleeves and bottom. Shown in heather purple. Vantage Apparel / PPAI 113235, S10 www.vantageapparel.com The Core 365 Adult Fusion ChromaSoft Performance T-Shirt is built for activity. Made from 100% polyester jersey, it’s moisture-wicking with antimicrobial properties and a soft feel. Available in 16 colors, shown in acid green. alphabroder Prime Line / PPAI 156993, S12 www.alphabroder.com The Women’s Relaxed Fit Short Sleeve Tee, available in a complementary men’s style, is roomier with a longer body length, and its super soft cotton jersey is perfect for adding customization. Made in the USA. Shown in heather gray. Royal Apparel / PPAI 269959, S1 www.royalapparel.net You’ll find a t-shirt for everyone with the unisex Basecamp Classic Tee. Made from 100% cotton, it’s pre-shrunk and features a ribbed neck band and crew-neck style. Shown in black. Sweda Company, LLC / PPAI 113914, S11 www.swedausa.com | MAY 2022 | 17 INNOVATE

The Women’s Space Dye Performance Tee, available in a complementary men’s style, is made from yard-dyed polyester treated to have a unique textured effect. With fabric that’s moisture-wicking, antimicrobial and blocks 95% of UV radiation, it’s athleisureinspired for everyday adventure. Shown in royal. Charles River Apparel PPAI 111644, S10 www.charlesriverapparel.com The new Alternative Apparel Modal Tri-Blend Crew tee is the perfect airy pairing to a hot day. Made from an eco-friendly blend of recycled polyester, TENCEL modal and U.S.-grown cotton, it features set-in sleeves and a one-inch ribbed neckband. Shown in desert tan. Hanes / PPAI 191138, S10 / www.brandwearunited.com T-Sh i r t s The Kastlfel Unisex RecycledSoft™ T-Shirt features an eco-enzyme finish, which acts as an antimicrobial. It’s made from recycled polyester and cotton, and features a water-based, pad-printed neck label and Kastlfel’s mark of sustainability on the back hem tag. Shown in moss. S & S Activewear PPAI 256121, S12 www.ssactivewear.com Described as being “absurdly soft,” the Re-Spun Signature Crew is made from a tri-blend of recycled old t-shirts, recycled polyester and sustainable Tencel Lyocell. The standard-fit tee is assembled in the U.S. and available in three colors. Above is the Sierra Club Giving Tee, a limited-edition t-shirt that donated $15 from the sale of each shirt to the environmental organization. Shown in pacific blue. Marine Layer, Inc. / PPAI 590355,S1/ www.marinelayer.com Renda is an associate editor at PPAI. 18 | MAY 2022 | INNOVATE

Shining Examples Of Excellence PPAI’s Supplier Star Award empowers distributors to vote for the best suppliers in the industry based on their own experiences. Compiled by Tina Berres Filipski Every year, PPAI distributor members get to let their voices be heard on the best suppliers in the industry based on quality of communication, customer service, products, decorating and packaging. The past year presented perhaps the toughest environment in which to compete given the supply chain challenges that delayed raw materials and finished goods from reaching supplier factories, coupled with severe labor shortages that stretched workforces thin and tested their ability to meet delivery commitments. Even still, these 24 companies persevered to not only get the job done and impress their clients, but their consistent excellence won them top honors as this year’s PPAI Supplier Stars. Anna Marynenko / DDevecee / Mascha Tace / Shutterstock.com FEATURE | PPAI Supplier Star Award Winners 20 | MAY 2022 |

New Supplier Supplier Star Fill it Forward Guelph, Ontario The team at Fill it Forward believes that choosing to reuse is a simple act of generosity showing love for the planet and the people on it. The company inspires the world to reuse by creating interactive technologies, global giving initiatives and reusable tags, cups, bottles and bags smartly designed to eliminate single-use waste. Award of Merit Logojojo Custom Label Craft Coffee Hopkins, Minnesota Logojojo partners with award-winning Folly Coffee Roasters to offer highend specialty coffee beans with full-color custom labels. The coffee is small batch, roasted to order and offered in 4- and 12-ounce stand-up resealable pouches. The venture is a mother-son collaboration between Ellie Bathe, who owns Logojojo, and her son, Rob, who owns Folly Coffee Roasters. $50,000-$250,000 Supplier Star Soft Stuff Creations Surrey, British Columbia Soft Stuff Creations is a custom plush toy supplier specializing in unique, fun and creative toys for retail, marketing and promotional purposes for customers worldwide. Distributors can choose from a menagerie of in-stock plush cuddlers or custom design exactly the item needed. In addition to loveable plush toys, the company offers embroidery-ready golf head covers—including one design that features a cute animal head. Award of Merit BoxUp Terra Haute, Indiana BoxUp was founded by Curt Stephens and Ward Hubbard, two box plant veterans, who saw a gap in the level of service available to small- to mid-sized businesses due to prohibitively high set-up costs for custom-imprinted corrugated boxes. They used web-to-print technology to create a wide selection of boxes and sturdy packaging that help brands tell their stories. $250,001-$500,000 Supplier Star Rocketbook Boston Rocketbook notebooks and planners provide a classic pen and paper experience but are built for the digital age. The products feature a synthetic paper that allows the user to write smoothly with a Pilot FriXion pen, connect to a choice of cloud services, scan the page and then wipe it clean to reuse endlessly. These winning companies received the most votes in PPAI’s annual competition where distributors cast their votes for one supplier in each of 12 categories. The annual competition is open to all PPAI supplier members in good standing who update their sales volume every two years as required and maintain a SAGE supplier rating of A or higher. The Supplier Star is one of four PPAI Pyramid awards, the industry’s pinnacle of achievement since 1958. Voting for the 2023 competition opens May 23 and closes June 17. Find details at ppai.org/members/awards/company-recognition. PPAI Supplier Star Award Winners | FEATURE | MAY 2022 | 21

Award of Merit Liqui-Mark Corporation Hauppauge, New York For over 47 years Liqui-Mark has been manufacturing quality writing instruments and school and office supplies for the retail and promotional products industries. Many products are made in the USA, including pens, highlighters, dry erase, permanent and washable markers, crayons, pencils, coloring books, stylus pens and accessories. The company also offers custom packaging capabilities. $500,001-$1,000,000 Supplier Star EMT Indianapolis EMT has been delivering unforgettable brand and recognition experiences with its line of custom- made lapel pins, patches and emblematic jewelry for more than 40 years. The company says it’s committed to a singular vision: to delight, unite and inspire the world, one emblem at a time. Award of Merit A+ Wine Designs National City, California A+ Wine Designs creates unique wine gifts and wooden box gift sets featuring custom deep-etched and custom-labeled wine, liquor and olive oil products. It is a previous winner of PPAI Gold and Silver Pyramid Awards and won a 2019 Counselor Distributor Choice Award. For more than 30 years it has been the toprated wine company in the industry, based ratings from SAGE and ESP. $1,000,001-$2,500,000 Supplier Star Bentcil Company Indianapolis Bentcil got its start in the promotional business over 35 years ago with a unique, custom-bent pencil and today offers custom-bent pens, lighted products, calendars, magnets and edibles along with custom, full-color packaging, direct mail and fulfillment services. Award of Merit California Tattoos & Promotional Products Tucson, Arizona California Tattoos & Promotional Products specializes in custom temporary tattoos and printed promotional products, including stickers, drink coasters, scratch-off cards, watercolor paint sheets and booklets. $2,500,001-$5,000,000 Supplier Star Shepenco Shelbyville, Tennessee Since 1933, Shelbyville Pencil Company (Shepenco) has provided the industry with the highest quality, affordable writing instruments. The facility, located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, is home to the fourgeneration, family-owned and operated company and its awardwinning customer service team. Award of Merit Jornik Manufacturing Stamford, Connecticut Jornik is a multi‐award-winning, five‐star, A+ rated, second‐ generation, family-owned and operated supplier. In 2020 it was named Counselor’s Family Business of the Year. Jornik strives to provide a fun, unique and fresh line of hardgoods, including made-in-the-USA items and packaging, that are designed, engineered, manufactured, tested and inspected to exceed all expectations. FEATURE | PPAI Supplier Star Award Winners 22 | MAY 2022 |

PPAI Supplier Star Award Winners | FEATURE $5,000,001-$10,000,000 Supplier Star Raining Rose Promos Cedar Rapids, Iowa Raining Rose Promos is a fullservice manufacturer and supplier of personal care products, including high-quality lip balms, hand sanitizers, sunscreens and lotions, based in America’s heartland. The company has achieved status as a Certified B Corporation, which means it meets the highest standards of accountability, transparency and social and environmental performance, and it operates by the values of service, people and planet, integrity, expertise and a focus on the future. Award of Merit HandStands* Salt Lake City Since 1983, HandStands has offered a wide variety of promotional products from phone, tablet and computer accessories to air fresheners, stress relief products and awardwinning automotive accessories, and it has expanded into electronics with Bluetooth speakers, power banks, wireless chargers and much more. Handstands’ mission is to manufacture and aggressively market innovative and quality-based products. $10,000,001-$20,000,000 Supplier Star Maple Ridge Farms* Mosinee, Wisconsin When someone receives a gift from Maple Ridge Farms, they’re getting more than mouth-watering gourmet food and beautiful packaging, they’re getting a sensory experience they will remember long after they’ve enjoyed the contents. The proof is in the pudding—or, in this case, the chocolate, nuts, cheese and all of the other delicious options. Since 1979, Maple Ridge Farms has prided itself on providing high-quality food, exceptional gifts and award-winning service. Award of Merit Illini Vernon Hills, Illinois Illini is a 60-year-old family-owned, Midwest-based supplier that maintains a tradition of product quality and outstanding customer service in the promotional products industry. It offers a large selection of hard goods in 16 product categories, including wellness and eco-friendly products, with more than 80 products made-in-the-USA. $20,000,001-$35,000,000 Supplier Star Evans Manufacturing Garden Grove, California Evans Manufacturing specializes in “Products for Better Living” for the promotional products industry in categories including health care, household, drinkware, bags, writing instruments, pet, school, office, tech, travel, auto, outdoor and more. Nearly half of the product line is manufactured in Evans’ California facility, so it’s never out of stock on those items and the majority of its entire product line is available in three to seven days. Award of Merit Goldstar* San Diego Goldstar is a manufacturer and supplier of customized writing instruments, drinkware and bags, servicing over 5,000 promo distributors across the U.S. and Canada. The company differentiates itself with its commitment to simplicity, an award‐winning promise for easy transactions and all‐inclusive pricing with no setup charges or hidden fees. | MAY 2022 | 23

FEATURE | PPAI Supplier Star Award Winners $35,000,001-$50,000,000 Supplier Star Gold Bond, Inc.* Hixson, Tennessee Gold Bond was founded in 1947 as a small pencil company and now has operations on two continents offering hard goods, apparel and accessories. The supplier prides itself on being large enough to handle demanding orders while small enough to be flexible in accommodating customer requests. Gold Bond says its greatest asset is its ability to adapt to the everchanging needs of its partners, and its tagline, “More Than You Expect,” accurately represents the company’s culture. Each team member strives to exceed customer expectations at every customer touchpoint. Award of Merit Cap America* Fredericktown, Missouri Family owned and operated, Cap America has been providing quality headwear to the world for more than 35 years. It strives to make the purchase of headwear a confident and easy experience, and is dedicated to providing the best retail‐inspired headwear products in the industry. It offers a wide variety of styles to meet every headwear need and ensures that each order receives top-quality attention to detail and service. From offering free tapes and samples, to shipping just three days after sample approval, Cap America is willing to go the extra mile to earn and keep its customers’ business. $50,000,001-$100,000,000 Supplier Star HPG* Braintree, Massachusetts HPG has stood for value, growth and integrity since Frank and Rita Fleming began selling pens door to door in 1954. In the 68 years since, HPG has grown Four Customer-Centric Ways To Make Your Company Shine Serving the growing needs of B2B customers in today’s challenging business environment requires creating a personalized, human experience, says Abe Awasthi, senior manager, digital customer, writing in Adweek. He says there are four elements that are not only important but are vital to companies looking to truly make headway in today’s marketplace. And he says that the sales approach must address customers’ business and emotional needs. Here’s a quick look at Awasthi’s four recommendations and this author’s suggestions for making these approaches a reality in the promotional products buying process. 1 Create a frictionless, personalized buying experience. In short, don’t make customers jump through hoops to find what they want on your website or in your catalog, whether that’s a specific product, pricing, delivery details or artwork specs. Simplify and streamline the process to remove the frustration and get the sale. 2 Ensure a successful outcome. Help the customer feel confident in what they are buying by offering product reviews and testimonials. Identify the root causes of any problems, react quickly to any obstacles and clear the way for the results your client is looking for. 3 Craft a partnership based on trust. Working with a trusted partner is nothing new, but customers want more these days than a company that 24 | MAY 2022 |

PPAI Supplier Star Award Winners | FEATURE to serve an ever-increasing market while maintaining the multi-million-dollar operation of today. With 250 million pens sold annually and 300 talented employees on board, HPG is proud to continue delivering the highest quality product to the promotional products industry. Award of Merit Gemline Lawrence, Massachusetts Founded in 1958, Gemline is an award-winning, design-centric supplier providing high-quality branded products to the promotional products industry. The company’s product line includes bags, luggage, business accessories, drinkware, electronics, stationery, writing instruments, gourmet foods and lifestyle gifts. In addition to its strong portfolio of house brands and Gemline-branded products, the company offers other indemand retail brands such as American Tourister, Igloo, RuMe, Samsonite, Moleskine, MiiR, Corkcicle, Modern Sprout, Paper Mate, Sharpie, Slowtide and Zebra. $100,000,001+ Supplier Star SanMar* Issaquah, Washington Family-owned since 1971, SanMar Corporation is a national supplier of 21 retail, private label and mill brands. It provides apparel and accessories to screen printers, embroiderers, promotional products distributors, athletic dealers, industrial launderers and more, whether they are outfitting a Fortune 500 corporation or the local bowling team. SanMar’s vision is to create a canvas for good using blank apparel as its canvas to improve the lives of people around the world, to positively impact its employees and to enable its customers who are often touchstones in their communities. Award of Merit PCNA* New Kensington, Pennsylvania For more than 20 years, PCNA has been a premier supplier of high-quality promotional products, with goods ranging from pens and drinkware to bags and mobile tech. With an in-house product development team and dozens of leading retail brands, PCNA continually introduces products with the look, feel and performance customers want while maintaining award-winning service and cuttingedge decoration capabilities that ensure a seamless experience from start to finish. *The asterisk denotes suppliers that won Supplier Star or Awards of Merit in the same category last year. Berres Filipski is the former editor and director of publications at PPAI. just stands behind what they sell. Customers want to feel they are the most important customer. Find out what the hot buttons are for your customer and work to deliver on those. Be honest, forthright and transparent from start to finish— especially if there’s a problem. Be more than available when the customer calls, be proactive. 4 Stay engaged beyond the sale. Delivery of the order isn’t the time to slow down your communications with the customer. Reach out to see if everything is as ordered, ask what they’ve heard from the buyer and continue to check in frequently, even just to say hello, to keep you and your company top of mind. –Tina Berres Filipski Be honest, forthright and transparent from start to finish—especially if there’s a problem. | MAY 2022 | 25

ne of the most important facets of marketing is color; more specifically, the consistent use of color to tell stories, evoke emotions and allow consumers to connect with brands. PPAI Affinity Partner Pantone is making the translation of color easier and faster for designers as they migrate to digital, with its first-ever digital color-matching platform Pantone Connect. Using the tool, creatives can access the Pantone Color Library of more than 15,000 colors all in one place, search for colors without reference numbers and send specific colors to design partners with the tap of a button. Launched last April, the platform’s latest update grants users access to color trend reports, commentary from experts and inspirational images. “It’s really establishing a connection platform to allow for color communication and inspiration,” says Elley Cheng, Pantone’s vice president and general manager. “It’s not all just about physical, but it’s about connecting physical with the digital design.” Pantone Connect allows designers to search for specific colors and be inspired by others, and combine them in a virtual Pantone Connect Brings To Designers’ Fingertips Pantone’s first-ever digital color-matching platform, Pantone Connect, provides designers with a communication tool to streamline their workflow, translate color between design partners and find inspiration—all in one place. by Danielle Renda Pantone Connect allows designers to search for specific colors and be inspired by others, and combine them in a virtual palette to share with design partners without having to open a Pantone book. PeamDesign / Shutterstock.com 28 | MAY 2022 | INNOVATE

palette to share with design partners without having to open a Pantone book. “You can just click and then send that exact color to your friend or a colleague who’s doing design work with you, or downstream in your workflow, to say, ‘This is the color I really, really need,’” Cheng says. “It makes it easier, instead of saying, ‘Do you have your book in front of you?’ ‘Do you have the latest version’ and ‘What is the page number?’” Using Pantone Connect, promotional products distributors working with clients who are unsure about the colors they’d like to use in a campaign, but know they want to use “light blue,” can access every light blue shade in the Pantone Library along with information on each of them. This feature will become more intelligent, as Cheng says that Pantone’s vision is to build out Pantone Connect as something of a roadmap, offering information on color psychology and the meaning behind each unique color, to support richly-informed designs and inspire mood boards. Coupled with access to the Pantone Library, designers can use color-capturing tools to extract precise colors from a photo or graphic and find its Pantone equivalent. Looking into the future and with technology headed toward the metaverse, Cheng says that Pantone’s long-term vision is to offer ways to “bridge the digital and the physical worlds” and create a uniformed experience for end users, no matter where they meet brands. “Right now with some of the biggest trends about the metaverse, when you strip away all the buzzwords and everything, it’s really about providing a consistent experience to consumers when a brand interacts with them,” she says. “It’s about this consistent look and feel. There shouldn’t be this big distraction when you go from one platform to another. Everything should look the same, in person or virtually or in an app. It shouldn’t be changing all the time, so you can feel connected to that brand when you use that color.” A new feature that launched on Pantone Connect on March 22 provides free access to color trend articles and trending color palettes, such as those pulled from fashion weeks around the world. “You’ll be able to see what some of the latest thinking is on trends, some imagery and commentary in terms of the psychology behind it,” Cheng says. As part of this offering, users can take the color palettes suggested in the articles to integrate into their own design work. As Pantone moves forward, it’s focusing on sustainability and equal representation, two of the most-important values expressed by the Pantone team during internal meetings, Cheng says. To accurately represent the different skin tones, Pantone is working to integrate its Pantone Validates and Pantone SkinTone Guide onto the platform. And by continuing to make its physical products available online, the company is dedicated to providing designers with more sustainable solutions. “We’re going to roll out more products that support digital design which then help designers think more holistically,” Cheng says. Renda is an associate editor at PPAI. A new feature that launched on Pantone Connect on March 22 provides free access to color trend articles and trending color palettes, such as those pulled from fashion weeks around the world. optimarc / Shutterstock.com Elley Cheng, Pantone vice president and general manager | MAY 2022 | 29 INNOVATE