If anyone has keen insight into the promotional products marketplace, it would certainly be Scott Loehrke, key account manager for Brighter Promotions, a leading incentives company. Scott’s career path has taken him from the distributor side of the business, as a senior account manager with The Image Group, to his current position on the manufacturing supply side. We had a quick chat with him on a variety of topics related to employee recognition and the incentives industry.
What trends are you seeing in the promotions industry?
Most products are sourced through a third party. Because of logistics and the “need it yesterday” mentality, the supplier network has diversified and strengthened to the point where a lot of products can be completed and shipped out next-day. That was impossible 20 years ago; now, if you’re not providing that service as a supplier, you’re missing an opportunity. It’s all about efficiency and getting products in customers’ hands as quickly as possible.
Any particularly hot items for 2017?
The focus is on high functionality/high visibility. Tech accessories have been vital over the last few years, and now they are the industry standard. Think about it: everything we do revolves around our smart phone…headphones, chargers, styluses, screen cleaners….items related to digital technology are where we’re seeing the industry heading. Also, wellness is important to a lot of customers, even outside of healthcare. Common popular items include branded water bottles, step counters, hand sanitizers – things that are associated with keeping people healthy.
How does employer branding come into play?
We’re seeing a lot more of full-color packaging. On the promotional product itself, you have limited print space for your messaging. Suppliers are now sourcing and providing full-color packaging for the majority of their products, which is great for the marketer, because with a box we’ve got six full-color imprint spaces. We can enhance the messaging with a website address, images, QR codes…the opportunity for extended branding is through the roof. Pens are still one of the largest segments in our industry, but we’re seeing more people using full-color packaging with them.
Has new technology expedited the process?
More suppliers are providing full-color imprint, because technology has caught up and we’re able to do it affordably. For a long time, the imprint standard was one color/one location. Now, we can be much more creative on promotional product graphics with a full-color imprint. For apparel, we’re seeing companies doing high-res heat transfers in different locations instead of standard left chest. We’re seeing more of a retail-focused approach to the items were producing.
Any other noteworthy industry trends?
The biggest trend in our industry is about compliance and safety. All of the major suppliers have become QCA-certified (Quality Certification Alliance). Any product being used by a child under the age of 12 needs to undergo federal testing for chemicals, flammability and consumability. It might make a product a bit more expensive, but we can guarantee its safety. The more our end-users and customers become aware of safety, the more they’re going to demand it.
Has the widespread availability of promotional items on the internet changed things?
People can source on the internet, but they have no personal relationship with the seller and no bargaining power as a buyer, even if they’re a large customer doing serious volume. Plus, there is a time commitment to doing it yourself. That’s why many organizations still seek the advice and assistance of a vendor like NAS or the companies I work for. We are able to use buying power and strength in purchasing to negotiate better deals. It’s a very interesting and exciting time to be in this business. Those who adapt will continue to be prosperous, and I’m happy to be a part of it.
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