PPAI Magazine January 2024

MEDIA.PPAI.ORG 01.24 IN THIS ISSUE Outlook 2024 Understanding The Present And Future In Promotional Products p. 60 Color Trends p. 14 CSR Steps For Any Distributor p. 36 Smarter Self-Promo p. 42 Icons: DeGreeff & Petrie p. 52


distributor.stormcreek.com ASI: 89879 | PPAI: 438091 | SAGE: 50007 | DC: 824117

4 From PPAI This Is Your Year 8 Feedback Essentials 13 Creative Calendar 14 In Style Colors Trends 20 Good Taste Multisensory Kits 24 Use Case Quiet Luxury Voices 34 Solutions Is The Fee Worth It? 36 Responsibility CSR Steps For All Distributors 40 Innovation A Multifaceted Phenomenon 42 Your Business Self-Promo Pro Tips Must Read 46 Promotional Products Work Health And Wellness Community 80 Book Club 83 PPPC Communiqué 85 Inside PPAI 88 Buzzworthy 91 New Members 95 Datebook 100 Perfect Promo CONTENTS 01.24 VOLUME 48, ISSUE 01 Outlook 2024 A SWOT analysis from PPAI Research offers a greater understanding of the industry's present and future. 60 The 2024 PPAI Icon Awards Headlining The PPAI Expo Conference with a panel discussion and celebrating their honors with family and close friends, Hall of Fame inductee Dave DeGreeff, MAS, and Distinguished Service Award Winner Bill Petrie are set to be the toast of The PPAI Expo 2024. 52 60 58 54 PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 3

From PPAI Andrew Spellman, CAS Chair-Elect of the Board 01.24 This Is Your Year THE FIRST FEW DAYS of 2024 may be the most important. This is the best time of the year for self-evaluation. As the calendar turns, now is your opportunity to create a strategic plan for achieving all your goals in the new year. My advice is to start by looking back on what went right – and what opportunities were missed – in 2023. I hope you recall what your goals were over the past year. Did you track your progress against those goals as the days and weeks went by? If so, you have a great starting point for reaching more success in 2024 because you’ll recognize the wins and the losses – and you can learn from both. PPAI itself has made this a practice each year, creating goals throughout its departments with established checkpoints and timeframes. And everything the Association does is truly aligned with the strategic plan established by the Board of Directors in 2021. There are five pillars to PPAI’s strategic plan: • Drive member and community value. • Ensure economic sustainability and scalability. • Elevate CSR in the industry. • Facilitate the industry’s digital transformation. • Be the voice of the industry. Those five pillars, driven by PPAI’s mission and vision statements, are guiding lights for the Board and staff. Do you have a strategic plan in place for your business? Like PPAI’s, it may span more than just one year, allowing you to create yearly or quarterly intentions that will bring it closer to fruition. I challenge you to strive for this level of clarity on where your business is headed. What are the outcomes that will be most impactful to your organization? If you haven’t already identified them, you should gather your most trusted advisers and establish these crucial measurables. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you ever expect to get there? Once you have those pillars established, it becomes much easier to break things down into what can be accomplished in 2024 – better yet, what can be accomplished by the end of January? And how does that set the stage for what you’ll do in February, and so on? Or, if you don’t hit this target by the end of March, how will you react to make sure you’re staying on track? This level of strategic planning is a strength of leaders who guide their organizations with intention. No matter the industry, too many owners and executives allow themselves and their teams to be tossed around like a sailboat, going wherever the day’s wind takes them. Now is the time to make a plan and chart your course. Do that, and you will be closer to removing circumstances and luck from the equation. This is your year! Spellman begins his one-year term as PPAI Board Chair following The PPAI Expo, January 15-18. Do you have a strategic plan in place for your business? Like PPAI’s, it may span more than just one year, allowing you to create yearly or quarterly intentions that will bring it closer to fruition. 4 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI

PPAI® PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Josh Ellis JoshE@ppai.org DEPUTY EDITOR James Khattak JamesK@ppai.org NEWS EDITORS Jonny Auping JonnyA@ppai.org John Corrigan JohnC@ppai.org ASSOCIATE EDITOR Rachel Zoch RachelZ@ppai.org MARKET ECONOMIST & SENIOR MANAGER, RESEARCH Alok Bhat alokb@ppai.org RESEARCH MANAGER Robert Fitzpatrick RobertF@ppai.org ART DIRECTION SPARK Publications SPARKpublications.com 704-844-6080 ADVERTISING MANAGEMENT ACCOUNT MANAGERS Connie Brazil 972-258-3064 ConnieB@ppai.org Taylor Coward 972-258-3033 TaylorC@ppai.org Heather Mangold 972-258-3067 HeatherM@ppai.org Sandy Mendoza 972-258-3019 SandyM@ppai.org ADVERTISING CONTACT Danah Dean 972-258-3031 DanahD@ppai.org PRESIDENT & CEO Dale Denham, MAS+ 888-I-AM-PPAI DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Lindsey Davis, MAS SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT Alan Peterson DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY & SUSTAINABILITY Elizabeth Wimbush VICE PRESIDENT, REVENUE AND EXPOSITIONS Ellen Tucker, MAS, CAE DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Keith Vincent DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION CW Karstens BOARD OFFICERS CHAIR OF THE BOARD Kevin Walsh, CAS Showdown Displays IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR Dawn Olds, MAS HALO CHAIR-ELECT OF THE BOARD Andrew Spellman, CAS Therabody VICE CHAIR, FINANCE SERVICES Denise Taschereau Fairware BOARD MEMBERS TERM EXPIRING 2024 Tom Goos, MAS Image Source AT-LARGE DIRECTOR TERM EXPIRING 2024 Melissa Ralston, Koozie Group TERMS EXPIRING 2025 Karie Cowden, MAS Connect the Dots Promotions Andrew Spellman, CAS Therabody TERMS EXPIRING 2026 Chris Anderson HPG Denise Taschereau Fairware TERMS EXPIRING 2027 Dan Pantano alphabroder Joshua White BAMKO REGIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE DELEGATE TERM EXPIRING 2027 Kara Keister, MAS Social Good Promotions 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 PPAI MAGAZINE: 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 PPAI MAGAZINE: Download a media kit with rates and specs for all PPAI print and digital publications at media.ppai.org, or call 972-258-3019 or email mediasales@ppai.org. WRITE FOR PPAI MAGAZINE: 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 PPAI’s Writer’s Guidelines available at media.ppai.org/submit-content. Promotional Products Association International 6 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI

Victorinox is thrilled to be back at PPAI in 2024, we hope that you will join us to see our best-selling products. We offer Swiss Army Knives for every day use, Swiss-made cutlery, Epicurean cutting boards, premium travel gear and watches. Visit us at Booth #915. To reserve an appointment simply scan the QR code or email salesplanning.na@victorinox.com. JANUARY 16 –18, 2024 WE’RE BACK AT PPAI EXPO 2024 FROM THE MAKERS OF THE ORIGINAL SWISS ARMY KNIFE™ ESTABLISHED 1884

Send feedback on articles in PPAI Magazine or opinions on industry issues to JamesK@ppai.org. Feedback 01.24 Visual Generation / Shutterstock.com The Post-Pandemic Labor Market Claudia St. John, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, president of Affinity Group HR, shared a rundown with PPAI Media in November on the state of the U.S. labor market, which has lost about 8 million workers since the COVID-19 pandemic. The right decisions can ensure a business can maintain the workforce it needs to thrive for years to come. Excellent read and very insightful statistics – thank you. I would agree wholeheartedly. Treat employees as valued assets – I cannot emphasize this enough – consider utilizing quality offshore teams to augment staffing needs and improve your technology. To this, I would add taking a hard look at your internal processes, but with fresh eyes. In my experience, too many companies operate within a legacy of “tried and true” processes that may have outlived their usefulness. Internal staff, managers and even leadership tend to go with what they know or make only incremental adjustments. Industry experts are available to help these people see opportunities in overall process improvements, which they may otherwise overlook. Improved processes can reduce staffing requirements, lower costs and improve overall performance. Scott Nussinow, MAS Executive Vice President ArtworkServicesUSA Auburn, Maine PPAI 231735 The Emotional Quotient In November, Brian Swift, president of Miami, Florida-based Swift Sourcing and a former PPAI board member, shared his perspective in a column on PPAI Media on the value of emotional intelligence in being a good leader and building an effective team. I agree 100%! Emotional intelligence is the best predictor of success, not IQ! Scott Opper Co-Owner Clothpromotions Plus Boca Raton, Florida PPAI 359202, S4 Growth In The Industry PPAI Magazine’s December issue highlighted findings from the Association’s research team on the state of growth in the promotional products industry, for both distributors and suppliers, and highlighted some standout performers. The new client revenue numbers seem to be pretty consistent across the board, which is interesting. The gross margin sweet spot is the $1-10 million range, small enough to have the relationship, but not too big where profitability suffers. Overall, it seems like the industry is fairly healthy, even though we hear differently on news sources. People are spending money! Paul Zafarana, MAS Owner Pica Marketing Group Dearborn, Michigan PPAI 394875, D2 8 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI

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PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS TO BE UNIVERSALLY VALUED Essentials 01.24 GOOD TASTE BETTER TOGETHER Add candy, snacks or other edible items to your next kit project for a multisensory unboxing experience. page 20 CREATIVE CALENDAR p. 13 IN STYLE p. 14 USE CASE p. 24 New Africa / Brainstorm331 / Shutterstock.com PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 11


Creative Calendar | Essentials If this calendar is helpful or if you have ideas for ways that we can better provide this information, email the editors at magazine@ppai.org February 10 NATIONAL UMBRELLA DAY 18 NATIONAL DRINK WINE DAY 27 NATIONAL STRAWBERRY DAY March 10 NATIONAL PACK YOUR LUNCH DAY 12 NATIONAL PLANT A FLOWER DAY 24 NATIONAL COCKTAIL DAY April 11 NATIONAL PET DAY 14 NATIONAL GARDENING DAY 18 NATIONAL EXERCISE DAY Exceptional Promotions NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH Product idea: Keep your lunch and snacks fresh and cool for hours with the Bring Your Own: The Go Green Set, which includes the Osaka Bento Box and the Bento Cooler. The bento box is made of BPA-free plastic materials, includes a complete utensil set and is microwave-safe. The cooler has a PEVA heat-sealed lining, interior mesh compartment and plush neoprene top grab handle. Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 / gemline.com SPECIAL OBSERVANCES CALL FOR NATIONAL PICKLEBALL MONTH Product idea: This JOOLA Essentials Pickleball Set comes with two paddles, two balls and a brandable JOOLA sling bag. The paddles have a fiberglass surface that provides great pop. This pickleball set is great for recreational players looking to play with family and friends. HIRSCH / PPAI 221823, S10 / hirschpromo.com Use these special occasions to ignite your imagination for relevant – and distinct – client promotions. Compiled by Kristina Valdez NATIONAL EMBROIDERY MONTH Product idea: Perfect for grocery stores and farmers markets, recipients can fold this Morph Sac StrawberryTote into its own strawberry-shaped drawstring pouch. Southern Plus / PPAI 110918, S4 southernplus.com PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 13

Brighten Up Color trends for 2024 highlight the middle of the rainbow, with vibrant oranges and earthy greens complemented by cool blues. By Rachel Zoch ALTHOUGH PANTONE NAMED its 2024 Color of the Year, Peach Fuzz, in early December, the color experts released a whole palette based on New York Fashion Week trends earlier in the fall. These hues include some of the earthy colors that have been popular in the past couple of years, but perhaps most notably, the palette points to the middle of the rainbow, focusing on oranges and greens, plus a bright yellow and a handful of blues. When it comes to promo, though, your client’s needs always come first, says Katie Grimes, an account executive with distributor Red Promotions and a PPAI 2023 Rising Star. “If my client’s branding is not going to work with [the trend], it doesn’t really matter,” she says. “At the end of the day, the promo product has to work with their branding guidelines.” That said, Grimes thinks younger buyers are more open to embracing trends in their branded products – and the majority of the workforce is expected to be millennial or younger within the decade. “You just don’t know who you’re selling to anymore,” she adds, “so if you do go in with, let’s call it the generic black quarter-zip, and somebody goes in with this on-trend green or gray piece, that might be perceived higher by somebody that’s younger or in a different demographic or who keeps up more on trends, so I would anticipate a shift in the coming years.” 14 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | In Style

This unisex Adult Crewneck Sweatshirt offers classic style in a relaxed fit with multiple color options that meet the moment. Made of 80/20 ring-spun cotton/ polyester, each sweatshirt is garment-dyed with OEKO-TEX certified lowimpact dyes for a lived-in, vintage look. Available in 19 colors (butter shown) and sizes S-3X. Gildan Activewear PPAI 250187, S13 comfortcolors.com Heidi Koch, product development manager for Cap America, the PPAI 100 No. 11 supplier, says it’s important for promo pros to keep an eye on retail to monitor color trends and keep their product offerings fresh and relevant. Understanding your target audience is also crucial, she adds. “Different age groups, cultures and industries may have varying preferences when it comes to colors,” Koch says. “If your audience is fashion-forward or has a strong connection to design and aesthetics, staying updated on color trends is important.” When it comes to the recent Pantone palette, Koch says her personal favorites are the bright peachy Desert Flower, the earthy green Watercress and deep redorange Rooibos Tea. “They stay in line with the popular earth tones, which are on fire right now, with a unique spin in depth and color range,” she says, adding that promo pros should also keep an eye on updated neutrals and various shades of blues in 2024. “It does depend on the industry that you’re in and what you’re looking for,” Koch adds. “Some people really want to play it safe because they know that those safe staple pieces will sell and they’re timeless. ... But I think a little shift in a neutral color really goes a long way, because it does give people the opportunity to give fresh product without a big risk.” That said, she thinks bright colors and earth tones will remain popular, as the dark days of the pandemic left us craving experiences that make us feel good – including what we wear. “Post pandemic, we are truly in unprecedented times, with more people embracing their own style and comfort level and, most importantly, their individuality,” Koch says. “Color truly plays a role in personal expression. I believe people will embrace the joy of bolder, brighter colors but stay true to the deep earth tones that connect them to nature.” Here are a few options for promo apparel in trending colors for 2024. Oranges can be hard to find in promo, but they figure prominently in the Pantone NYFW palette. This crew-neck Unisex Jersey Short Sleeve Tee comes in 86 colors (sunset shown). Made of 100% Airlume combed and ringspun cotton, it’s available in sizes XS-5X. BELLA + CANVAS PPAI 304892, S6 bellacanvas.com PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 15 In Style | Essentials

Give your clients’ merch a trendy look with a Women’s Festival Scoop Neck T-Shirt in one of 15 earthy colors, such as ash or red (shown). Made of a soft poly/cotton blend, this tee features a stylish exaggerated drop tail hem, open scoop neckline and relaxed, draped fit. Sizes XS-2X. Next Level Apparel PPAI 272027, S3 nextlevelapparel.com Add a vintage touch on top with a Poly/Cotton Trucker Mesh Back Cap, available in 26 color combinations (Nantucket Red/charcoal shown) with flat or 3D embroidery (shown) Cap America / PPAI 111597, S10 / capamerica.com Update your outerwear with a Unisex Bomber Jacket in a fresh color. This classic silhouette, available in black or army green (shown) recycled polyester or black or brown vegan leather, features medium fill for yearround wear and comes in size XS-3X. Threadfast Apparel / PPAI 622344, S6 threadfast.com 16 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | In Style

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The stylish and functional Topo Designs Daypack Classic, made of recycled nylon, comes in four colors (olive green shown) and features a spacious main compartment, side water bottle pockets and an external laptop sleeve that fits most 15-inch laptops. Spector & Co. / PPAI 168328, S10 / spectorandco.com “Camos are super interesting right now,” says Koch. “We’re seeing a lot of gravitation away from just the functional camo, and country music singers and other niche industries are taking the Realtree or the Mossy Oak and … making it trendy.” This classic Premium Pullover Hoodie, made of a mid-weight poly/cotton blend, comes in 22 colors, including two camo options (sage camo shown), and unisex sizes XS-3X. Lane Seven Apparel / PPAI 630869, S1 lanesevenapparel.com Blues and grays will always be in demand, and the super-soft OGIO Pixel Men’s Quarter-Zip and companion OGIO Pixel Ladies Full Zip offer modern takes on each hue. Both are available in Optic Blue (men’s shown) or Blacktop (ladies’ shown) 100% polyester pique with moisture wicking and a dyed-to-match zipper. Available in sizes XS-4X. SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 / sanmar.com Zoch is associate editor at PPAI. PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 19 In Style | Essentials

New Africa / Brainstorm331 / Shutterstock.com Better Together Add candy, snacks or other edible items to your next kit project for a multisensory unboxing experience. By Rachel Zoch THE BEST PROMO creates a connection with the recipient, and kits are a great way to provide an experience that sticks with your target audience. The best kits are built on thoughtful selection and combination of items, plus clever packaging and personalized messaging. Promo suppliers have increased their offerings of pre-curated kits in recent years, but distributors who choose to design and assemble their own should start by asking clients the same key questions as any promo project: • What’s your budget? • How many recipients? • Who are they and what do they like? “Those three things in our industry drive every question after, because that immediately is our filter to decide what supplier do we want to partner with on this opportunity and what items do we want to pitch to be inside the box,” says Trevor Hyssong, director of business development at Blink Marketing in Tennessee. Don’t forget about messaging and packaging, he adds. “There always needs to be some type of messaging inside the box to really drive home whatever the point is,” says Hyssong, “… and a huge component of it is the custom packaging, which can be anything from a standard box with minimal decoration to something that’s 100% custom. But that really is that chef’s kiss at the end of it that says this is a sealed and delivered experience.” No matter how they’re packaged, kits should create an experience with the goal of engagement, whether that’s a post on social media, a sale, increased employee satisfaction or all of the above. In particular, brands can leverage the popularity of influencers with a carefully curated gift box, says Carolina Junghans, CAS, managing partner of Blink Marketing, one of Promo’s Greatest Companies To Work For In 2023. “We want it to feel like a gift experience,” she says. “If you allow them the opportunity to have an unboxing experience, you’ve provided some content for the influencers, too.” Here are some kit-worthy brandable items, as well as an example of a ready-made, supplier curated kit that includes both snacks and hard goods. 20 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | Good Taste

Drinkware is a popular kit item, and this must-have 40-oz. Stanley Quencher H2.O FlowState Tumbler is a great wow piece to anchor a welcome kit or appreciation gift. It’s available in charcoal (shown) or cream, and your client’s brand can be imprinted on the opposite side from the Stanley logo. PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 / pcna.com For a super-simple kit or a sweet surprise within a larger gift box, stuff drinkware with customized candies like these Starlight Mints or Green Striped Spearmints, the perfect non-melt options for yearround shipping. NC Custom / PPAI 111662, S7 / nccustom.com Another great stuffer is a Kettle Corn Snack Pack with custom four-color label. This tender popcorn is the perfect combination of sweet and salty – and gluten free. Made in the USA. Maple Ridge Farms / PPAI 114165, S8 / mapleridge.com Hungry For (Edible) Promo A 2021 survey of 2,000 Americans found that nearly 3 out of 4 people would prefer a food gift over other things, so including something snackable in your kit is a smart strategy. Be sure that whatever you include is food-safe, won’t leak and has all the ingredients clearly listed, as about 20 million people in the U.S. alone have food allergies. Milk Bar Crunchies Pretzel-y Chocolate Chip Cookies have become a cult favorite, and now you can bundle this name-brand sweet treat with other items for added impact. The resealable cookie pouch is packaged in an eco-friendly reusable cotton gift bag ready for decoration. Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 / gemline.com PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 21 Good Taste | Essentials

A notebook or journal and pen is a practical and useful gift for any welcome kit. This 5x7 Huntington Notebook with Pen includes 70 wide-ruled sheets and a ballpoint pen with Glide-Write black ink. The front and back covers feature die-cut swooshes for added flair. Available in five colors (red shown). Evans Manufacturing / PPAI 110747, S1 evans-mfg.com Include an interactive element with custom stickers like the Tech Tattoo Custom Size & Shapes Custom Sheet. Your own unique designs printed on white vinyl with strong-on, easy off, ultraremovable adhesive make it easy and fun for recipients to personalize their gifts. Gill Studios / PPAI 114157, S11 / gill-line.com The eco-conscious Act Natural Kit features reusable office essentials and upcycled, allergy-friendly snacks, plus a handwritten, personalized card at no additional charge, making it perfect for welcoming new employees or gifting ahead of a big meeting. HPG (Batch & Bodega) / PPAI 110772, S11 hpgbrands.com/batch Zoch is associate editor at PPAI. 22 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | Good Taste

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KRISTINA DAVIS Account Executive Brand Advantage Group PPAI 206126, D3 Plymouth, Minnesota Davis says her favorite quiet luxury products feel like gifts. “When I think of quiet luxury, I think of high-end retail brands that maybe a person wouldn’t buy for themselves but would love to receive as a gift. [This long-sleeve] TravisMathew Ladies Crew is the perfect comfort item for traveling or lounge wear.” Relax any day of the week in this versatile, comfortable TravisMathew Ladies Crew pullover that can be worn in the office or at home. Shown in blue, it’s also available in light or dark gray. SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 / sanmar.com It’s Luxe Industry pros reveal the products they use, the products they want and the products they would suggest. These product picks focus on a growing trend – quiet luxury. Compiled by Kristina Valdez Davis says brand names are her go-to for luxe products. “Quiet luxury isn’t just apparel. Brands like Stanley, JBL and RTIC, Igloo and YETI still have a strong hold on consumers and are high perceived value items, too.” The RTIC Day Cooler Backpack is perfect for toting on-the-go items 24 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | Use Case

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out to the gym, pool or park. This backpack has plenty of room to keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours. Two mesh side pockets allow easy access to and storage of water bottles. Diamondback Branding / PPAI 655170, S6 diamondbackbranding.com Davis suggests elevated wearables for her clients’ company stores. “For outerwear pieces, I [recommend] Storm Creek’s Woman’s Artisan Jacket and alphabroder’s Spyder Vest. Also, a Brooks Brothers briefcase with its classic design can be a staple for a long time to come.” Crafted for life on the go, from early morning dog walks to date night, the Artisan Jacket offers a modern take on classic street style that is both versatile and stylish. Made of recycled polyester, it’s also windproof and water-resistant. Storm Creek / PPAI 438091, S6 stormcreek.com The perfect blend of traditional design and iconic styling, this Brooks Brothers Wells Briefcase can be carried as a briefcase or as a crossbody bag. Made of 12-oz. cotton canvas in black, khaki or navy, it has leather details and a padded laptop compartment. SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 sanmar.com This Spyder Ladies’ Venom Vest is available in black or gray. The vest offers warmth in a modern fit with princess seam details and invisible seam front pockets. alphabroder / PPAI 156993, S16 alphabroder.com “The vest offers warmth in a modern fit with princess seam details and invisible seam front pockets.” PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 27 Use Case | Essentials

NICOLE KACHMAREK Director of Merchandising Corporategift.com PPAI 754939, D1 Tenafly, New Jersey Kachmarek says quiet luxury means comfort. “I live in cozy but classic clothes year-round. Winter is my favorite time for dressing because I have a whole closet full of cowl-neck sweaters and sweatshirts that keep me warm but also add a bit of sophistication. I think quiet luxury is also about being confident in your clothes, which is easy to do when you feel comfortable and stylish. OGIO offers a ton of cowl-neck options.” This OGIO Ladies Luuma Sherpa Full-Zip joins sherpa fleece with performance polyester for the ultimate in coziness and mobility, and its exaggerated cowl neck and front zippered pockets provide extra opportunities for warmth. Available in black or ivory. SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 / sanmar.com Kachmarek says she wants to try this chic jacket. “I love the look of English country outerwear. … It screams ‘quiet luxury’ and ‘old money.’ Stormtech has options that hit that look. You can just tell the materials are quality, the earth tones and plaids are incredibly classic, and the styling is so chic. This jacket reminds me of the royal family’s Scotland wardrobe on [Netflix’s] The Crown.” When the temperature unexpectedly dips, this Women’s Bushwick Quilted Jacket with a snap closure, center front zipper and zippered hand warmer pockets is guaranteed to keep you warm and protected from the chill. When it’s cloudy, use the adjustable hood and draw in the adjustable waist. Stormtech USA / PPAI 260245, S4 stormtechperformance.com Kachmarek would suggest effortless pieces. “Sweater fleeces are a great option for a client wanting the quiet luxury look. The cozy and textured materials give such an effortless look. While Patagonia has become the gold standard of this style, there’s also tons of other options available. This one from Fossa is timeless.” The Villa Sweater Fleece Jacket is a perfect sweater hybrid that promises comfort and fashion 28 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Essentials | Use Case

in one. Decked out with pockets on the arms and side body, the Villa gives a nice touch to urban office wear in heathered stone (gray), navy or obsidian for easy and fashionable pairing in any situation or environment. Fossa Apparel / PPAI 330885, S1 fossaapparel.com KRISTINE AJAMI Senior Brand Specialist Promotional Source PPAI 632319, D3 Oakville, Ontario Ajami says she can always depend on this product. “I use my Hydro Flask Flex Cap Water Tumbler every day. I love water with ice, and it’s such a great bottle that keeps my water super-cold from the moment I fill it in the morning to having it by my bedside with ice still in it. It’s an item I can’t do without.” PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 / pcna.com Ajami wants to try this athleisure set. “I would love to try out Next Level’s Laguna Sueded Sweatshirt and Sweatpants. Working from home, I mainly go for comfort, but with elevated and tasteful style, so I love my athleisure pants and sweater sets. I love the earth and neutral tones that Next Level offers in this style, so I can see myself going for the desert pink and rocking it out and about!” Next Level Apparel / PPAI 272027, S3 nextlevelapparel.com Ajami would suggest a cooler perfect for any festivity. “I would recommend the Igloo Seadrift Switch Backpack Cooler. Available in three gorgeous colorways, the ability for it to be used as a backpack or tote makes it such a versatile gift that can be used in any season or climate. This is a great recognition or holiday gift – I would even pair it with a charcuterie board and cheese and knife set to make an unforgettable outdoor outing gift package.” Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 / gemline.com Valdez is a writer for PPAI. PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 31 Use Case | Essentials

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IDEAS TO ADVANCE THE MARKETPLACE Voices 01.24 Romolo Tavani / Shutterstock.com INNOVATION INNOVATION IS A MULTIFACETED PHENOMENON page 40 SOLUTIONS p. 34 / RESPONSIBILITY p. 36 / YOUR BUSINESS p. 42 By understanding the sources of innovation, we can foster a culture that encourages creativity and problem-solving to ensure that ideas continue to flow and enrich our lives. hamza hazam / Shutterstock.com PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 33

Is The Fee Worth It? Industry pros are quick to share expertise, insights and opinions on all things promo. Amid this batch of answered questions, distributors discuss fees – whether they’re worth it, when to add them and how to avoid them. Compiled by Kristina Valdez Q A Distributor Asks: When a client objects to a screen reset, saying, “I already paid for it, why do I have to pay again? It seems like a rip-off,” how do you reply? Even after gently informing her that the fees are from the supplier, not me, she insists that she shouldn’t have to pay. Would you remove the fee or charge her? It’s a small, twice-a-year order for 200 bags, so I’m not making tons of money on her account, but I don’t want to lose any business if I can avoid it. Instead of looking at how to explain the charge to her, you could consider that she’s trying to tell you what matters to her. She may not be interested in the who and why of the charge, she just wants to have it gone and that item stands out to her. Did she mention the cost per bag? If you want her business, then frame the quotes in the way it matters to her and not in the way that speaks to your business. How much is the reorder screen, maybe $40? That’s only $0.20 more per bag, so next time up the cost per bag or whatever to cover your future charges. For this order, you can frame this for yourself in customer retention – you might spend $30-$40 taking her out to lunch, so instead make her happy this way. And then, this is vital, thank her for telling you what matters to her. Other clients might just stop ordering from you, but this client took the time to question and discuss. Be sure to let her know her business relationship, not orders, is important to you. ISA COCALLAS Owner 3Koi Kihei, Hawaii PPAI 240572, D2 Explain that the initial setup has two parts: a film and a screen. The vendor keeps the film in file but needs to remake the screen with every subsequent order. Otherwise, just build it into the price if they don’t get it. CRAIG WEISS VP of Sales and Marketing Initial Impression PPAI 102875, D5 San Diego, California I roll the basic setup fees right into the product price in both the SAGE presentations I create and the order approvals I send the clients. It removes that friction. I do call it out if additional setup fees or run charges are needed as separate line items – sometimes that helps them decide that a one-color or single-location imprint will work better for their budget. RAMA BEERFAS, MAS, CTSM Owner Lev Promotions Santee, California PPAI 218331, D1 Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock.com 34 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Voices | Solutions

Q A Distributor Asks: Recently, I did mugs for the first time and proofed them to the client with the logo only on one side with the handle on the right, and they were approved. I had the option of doing the logo on both sides, but that didn’t occur to me. Now the client says his CEO realized it’s a lefty mug –meaning the logo only faces out if you hold it with your left hand and is wondering if there is any recourse. I see now that I should’ve put the logo on both sides. How would you handle this, since the proof was approved that way? Do I offer to redo them or offer a discount on a future order? I would explain to the CEO that this is by design. The right-handed person drinking out of the mug will see the message over and over as they’re sipping. It’s all about impressions. It’s all about being top of mind. Also, there are some mug companies that will charge you for a two-sided print. It’s not always included. RICH GRAHAM Chief Imagination Officer BigPromotions.net Dallas, Texas PPAI 256367, D2 If customers approve the proof as is, it’s their fault. I’d suggest they order doublesided next time and maybe offer a small discount on the redo. Otherwise, you’ll have customers expecting you to eat their order every time they can think up a complaint. Make sure your proofs have a disclaimer that says something to the effect that once the proof is approved, you are not liable – similar to the disclaimers the suppliers use. RAY BILLOCK Owner Perfect Promotions Wadsworth, Illinois PPAI 143327, D2 Q A Distributor Asks: Does partnering with companies like HALO, iPROMOTEu, AIA, etc. actually help with costs to run the business? I am not just talking about the financial perks of order financing – that’s not a concern. We are currently at a crossroads where our time is maxed, and we can stay at this pace or make a change and see what happens. Is giving up X percent per order worth it? Depends on what the large partner brings to the table. I’ve been independent and then affiliated with one large national consolidator and moved to another. The differences between them are night and day. I moved from The Flintstones to The Jetsons. Company Two brings tons of things to the table that I can sell, warehousing and fulfillment, automated company store programs that toss orders directly to warehouses and decorators, and 5,000 vendors who have no ASI or SAGE supplier number and produce everything under the sun. So, through Company Two, I can sell tons of things that I couldn’t on my own and can also offshore both manufacturing and business support functions so I can focus on selling. There are tons more benefits, too. It’s worth it to me. CRAIG SAHLI CEO Graphics Network Tulsa, Oklahoma PPAI 670721, D1 I’ve been with [one company] almost two years. I absolutely adore it! It’s just a set fee, no surprises or additional fees. And the benefits I’ve gotten definitely outweigh the fees. AMBER SANDERFORD Owner Miss Printing Ocean Springs, Mississippi PPAI 800275, D1 PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 35 Solutions | Voices

12 Ways Any Distributor Can Improve Corporate Social Responsibility In 2024 WITH JANUARY BEING A time for reflection and planning, you may be asking yourself: What are my objectives this year, and what will I accomplish? Sometimes, our big-picture goals feel enormous and far away. If you’re a distributor who’s looking to improve your corporate social responsibility impact in 2024, I’d like to offer some help by breaking down transformational change into 12 steps that anyone can take. You can pick one each month to focus on, which all adds up to consistent effort and impact. 1. Ask Your Suppliers Ask your top suppliers what they’re doing in the realm of CSR and use their knowledge to help educate you and your sales staff. So many suppliers in our industry have been working hard in the background on their ESG initiatives and would love to tell you about them. 2. Ask Your Clients Start by asking what their CSR/ESG priorities are so that you can best match your efforts to what matters most to them. Taking the initiative to proactively talk to your clients about this will show you’re forward-thinking, and you’ll also have an extra reason to check in with those you haven’t landed a deal with recently. 3. Measure Figure out how you can track your spending with diverse-owned or sustainably certified suppliers. Will your order management platform keep track? Having a baseline understanding of your spending with these groups will enable you to make strategic decisions in how you vote with your buying power. Increase your impact with 12 steps, one for each month, that add up to consistent effort and effect. By Elizabeth Wimbush Butterfly Hunter Peach / Shutterstock.com 36 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Voices | Responsibility

4. Get Involved What local initiatives can you get involved in to better your community? Some examples are sponsoring a local sports team, giving your employees time to volunteer with a local organization aligned with your values, or donating merch to an organization in need. Your impact locally will have the most immediate return – and you know the saying: Act local, think global. 5. Check In When was the last time you sent out an internal employee satisfaction survey? This is a great tool that not only ensures any HR initiatives you have planned will land well, but also helps you prioritize what’s most important to your workforce. 6. Encourage Speaking of employees, encourage anyone on your team who’s passionate about sustainability to start an internal CSR committee or task force. Folks who are passionate about this really want to help, and research shows that this is an increasingly important topic to the generation currently entering the workforce. 7. Review Review your recycling, waste and packaging programs. Can you transition to digital documentation to go paperless? Where can you reuse packaging more efficiently? Is there an opportunity to eliminate single-use plastics in your office or lunchroom? Even encouraging more recycling through education can be very impactful. Reach out to your local municipality to confirm exactly what can and can’t be recycled so that you can share that knowledge with everyone from your shipping department to your accountant. 8. Create We all work in marketing, right? Build a cause-related marketing campaign by offering a set percentage of your sales to support charitable organizations that are aligned with your company mission and values. Ensure you educate your team on the thought process behind your decision so that they can properly pitch it to clients and speak about what you want to accomplish with the campaign. 9. Expand Increase your reach by hiring and recruiting from underrepresented groups. Look to job boards or websites that attract a range of diverse job seekers to give you a competitive edge. 10. Avoid Reduce any potentially deceptive advertising and commit to ethical marketing practices in your sustainability claims. Simplify your clientfacing communication to highlight your wins rather than sharing vague long-term goals, and invite conversation instead of making standalone statements. 11. Provide Educate your clients on the benefits of ecofriendly and sustainable promo items, which ties back into asking your suppliers questions about their CSR/ESG initiatives. 12. Solicit Ask for feedback. This can be as formal as engaging a third-party auditing company or using one of the many assessments available online (notably, the B Impact Assessment is a great tool, and free) or as informal as putting the question to your team in a group discussion. Elizabeth Wimbush is the director of corporate responsibility and sustainability at PPAI. PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 37 Responsibility | Voices

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Innovation Is A Multifaceted Phenomenon IN MY LAST COLUMN, I discussed the different forms of innovation and the innovation process. Both of those are dependent on innovative ideas. That leads to the question: Where do innovative ideas come from? Innovation is not a mystical force but rather a result of a complex interplay of factors and influences. Observation And Everyday Life Innovation often begins with a simple act: observation. Everyday life is rife with opportunities for keen observers to identify problems, inefficiencies and unmet needs. Innovators who start with the world around them, paying attention to the inconveniences they face or gaps in the market, can come up with inventive solutions. For instance, the ridesharing industry emerged from the observation that many people needed convenient, affordable transportation options. Listening to challenges and inconveniences that employees and co-workers deal with can identify the need, and finding a solution is the innovation. Cross-Pollination Of Ideas Innovation is not always about creating something entirely new – sometimes it involves combining existing ideas and concepts in fresh and unexpected ways. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was a master of this approach. He famously said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” By synthesizing ideas from diverse fields or industries, innovators can create unique and transformative solutions. Having worked in the industries of manufacturing, telecommunications, financial technology for healthcare By understanding the sources of innovation, we can foster a culture that encourages creativity and problem-solving to ensure that ideas continue to flow and enrich our lives. By CW Karstens hamza hazam / Shutterstock.com 40 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Voices | Innovation

payments and now the promo industry, I hope to bring innovation through a blend of solutions I have experienced. Collaborative Efforts Many innovations stem from collaborative efforts. Brainstorming sessions, interdisciplinary teams and collective problem-solving can spark creativity and result in groundbreaking ideas. Silicon Valley is a prime example of how a concentration of talented individuals from various fields working together has led to numerous technological breakthroughs. The PPAI Technology Committee is a great example of collaboration in the promo industry. Disruption And Necessity Disruption often goes hand in hand with innovation. When existing solutions become outdated or ineffective, necessity becomes the mother of invention. Innovators identify new ways to solve problems, sometimes through entirely different approaches or technologies. The rise of digital photography, for example, disrupted the film industry, forever changing how we capture and share images. Personal Experience And Passion Innovators who are deeply passionate about a particular field or problem often find inspiration in their personal experiences. They may have faced a challenge or recognized an unmet need that motivates them to find a solution. These personal connections to the problem can fuel a relentless drive to innovate and make a difference. Research And Development Innovation often relies on rigorous research and development efforts. Scientists, engineers and inventors dedicate their lives to understanding complex problems, conducting experiments and discovering new solutions. Breakthroughs like the discovery of antibiotics or the development of the internet are products of extensive research. Environmental And Societal Trends Innovation is closely linked to environmental and societal trends. Climate change concerns, the desire for sustainable practices and changing consumer preferences drive innovations in clean energy, eco-friendly products and social enterprises. Innovators who are attuned to these trends can capitalize on emerging markets and pressing global issues. Serendipity And Accidental Discoveries Sometimes, innovation emerges from serendipity and accidental discoveries. Iconic inventions like penicillin and the microwave oven were not intentionally sought but stumbled upon by chance. These unplanned breakthroughs underscore the unpredictable nature of innovation. Innovation is a multifaceted phenomenon with roots that extend into various aspects of human experience. Ideas can spring from observation, collaboration, necessity and even serendipity. The diverse sources of innovation remind us that everyone, regardless of background or profession, can contribute to innovation. The most successful innovators are often those who embrace the world with open eyes, are unafraid to crosspollinate ideas, collaborate with others and adapt to changing circumstances. By understanding the myriad sources of innovation, we can foster a culture that encourages creativity and problem-solving, ensuring that the wellspring of ideas continues to flow and enrich our lives. Upcoming articles will cover ideas around building a culture of innovation, identifying common pitfalls during innovation and how to avoid them, measuring success of innovation and innovation that can be applied to your business. Karstens is PPAI’s director of digital transformation. The diverse sources of innovation remind us that everyone, regardless of background or profession, can contribute to innovation. PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 41 Innovation | Voices

42 • JANUARY 2024 • PPAI Voices | Your Business Our Time To Shine Let’s apply the power of promotional products for ourselves. Self-promo is an invaluable platform for promo companies to connect with their clients, draw in new customers and show the world what they can do. By Lindsey Davis, MAS OUR BUSINESSES ARE built around our clients’ needs and finding the right products to fit their campaigns and meet their goals. That focus is where our success comes from. It can also be a blind spot. What about our needs? That’s why I want to talk about self-promo. Great self-promo makes sense. It fits the market and the needs of the distributor. It’s something that clients and prospects will hold onto and represents an avenue for follow-up or a call to action. Kolonko / Paul Craft / Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock.com

Self-promo is also an opportunity to do something different. You’re not constrained by your clients’ needs. Show off. Explore a little. PPAI • JANUARY 2024 • 43 Your Business | Voices Self-promo is also an opportunity to do something different. You’re not constrained by your clients’ needs. Show off. Explore a little. Self-promo highlights what you can bring to the table. Need some new ideas? Come to The PPAI Expo and see what’s out there and what’s new. Talk to exhibitors and see what’s hot in the market right now. A distributor investing in self-promo is ordering from a supplier to promote their own business. Suppliers are often willing to work closely with distributors on these orders, offering decoration options and favorable pricing. This is a wonderful opportunity! So, let’s explore what makes a great self promo. Designing The Perfect Self-Promo A close working relationship with your supplier pays dividends here, just as it does when you’re collaborating on the needs of your clients. The supplier will give you valuable feedback based on their capabilities, their knowledge of what works well and what they’ve seen out on the market. The right self-promo also makes sense in terms of your clients’ needs. You wouldn’t necessarily send the same piece to a client working on a construction site as you would to a client working in an office or at home. The design must also align with your goals. Does it communicate what you want it to communicate, and at the right time and place? For example, if you want customers to visit your website, your self-promo item should be something they’d keep at their desk. Giving Self-Promo The Right Way Your goals for your selfpromo also drive how you give them. You shouldn’t just be giving out promo to give it out. The product you pick and the message it includes should all support what you’re trying to accomplish – and how your clients or prospects receive it should support that, as well. Create a plan and be intentional with it to support your goal. An Opportunity To Follow Up The most important aspect of any self-promo campaign is the opportunities it creates after the product has been given out. And it’s often the most overlooked. Don’t just hand out the product and move on. How we handle this depends on whether we expect to see that person again. If you’re at a trade show or an event, make sure that your self-promo includes a call to action. Something like, “Visit our website and do this,” or “Book a meeting with me,” or “Subscribe to my newsletter,” or “Follow me on Facebook” –something that encourages them to connect with you in some further way. If it’s someone you already have a relationship with, like a client, or if it’s a warm prospect, treat what you’re sending them as a gift. It’s an avenue for you to follow up directly with them and a basis for a conversation on what you can do to meet their business needs. Davis is PPAI’s director of business development.