Unless we can change how we view ourselves, no advertising campaign in the world will help.

PPAI’s new Get In Touch! industry branding campaign is extremely exciting and much needed. Launched last month, it’s a bold move by PPAI to change the perception of our industry from the outside in.

The campaign’s goal over the next five years is to change the world’s view of our industry to one that has its rightful place as a viable advertising medium and one that continues to tell the story long after the storyteller has left the room.

The Messaging

While the campaign’s overall message is about the power of promotional products and the importance of the promotional consultant, there will be several sub-messages, including:

  • Campaign tagline: ADVERTISING THAT LIVES ON
  • Campaign hashtag: #GetInTouch
  • Promotional products are a tangible representation of a brand.
  • Promotional products create excitement, surprise and delight.
  • Promotional products positively affect buying decisions.
  • Promotional products have staying power.
  • Promotional products, the only advertising your customers will thank you for.
  • Promotional products become a part of everyday life.

The campaign will also include messages focusing specifically on promotional consultants (that’s us):  

  • Promotional consultants help design programs that get results, and save time and money in the process.
  • Promotional consultants partner with you to promote and protect your brand.
  • Promotional consultants are industry experts and marketing pros.

We, as an industry, cannot solely rely on PR firms and advertising campaigns to change the perception of our industry from one of selling novelties and knicknacks to one that helps change brand perception and engage intended audiences. This is our job as professionals.

Unless we, as industry professionals (suppliers, distributors, multi-line reps, decorators and everyone else involved), change how we view ourselves, no advertising in the world will help.

We need to focus on why we do things, not just what we do. We need to think of ourselves as problem solvers. We need to learn to speak the language of brand, message, market, value, culture and experiences. We need to learn to listen to our clients’ stories and help them tell their stories better.

We also need to stop presenting clients with promotional solutions based solely on the fact that those solutions are blue, in stock and on sale.

As an industry, we need to start asking our clients better questions:

  • What does the company do?
  • What makes them unique?
  • What is your brand about?
  • If the project is internal, tell me about your company culture.
  • Who are your clients and what do you want them to focus on?
  • What is the purpose of giving out a promotional product?
  • How will it be given out?
  • What are you trying to achieve by handing out the promotional product?
  • Are people going to be traveling with this gift?
  • Will people at different job levels be receiving this gift?
  • Do we need different gifts for different levels of relationships?
  • Who makes the final decision?
  • What are your motivations for proceeding?
  • What else am I missing in order to help you be more successful?
  • How will success be measured?

If you notice, budget is not a question that should be asked until we are well within the conversation. Our focus should be on needs assessment and helping our clients achieve their goals.

Another item on sale 99.9 percent of the time does not help achieve that goal.

These are not just questions that distributors should be asking; suppliers should be asking them too. Suppliers should believe and drive into their company culture that they are just as much a part of the advertising industry as their distributor clients. Their job is not merely to be decorators of stuff, but to ultimately help the client achieve their goals.

To that end, supplier communication should be focused on telling success stories and how particular products have helped achieve real goals for real clients. Distributors should communicate those successes to the suppliers and the suppliers should market those successes without divulging the individual end-buyer name unless this has been previously agreed upon.

In the end, we all need to work to get better at what we do. Everyone in our industry should be reading marketing blogs and learning to speak the language of advertising. We need to show that we belong within that industry as a viable medium to engage audiences, drive brand initiatives and add value. If we can do that, the Get In Touch! campaign will succeed and be worth the money we are investing in it as an industry. However, if we do not change, and do not demonstrate our value in the market, how can we expect people to take us seriously?

Ben Baker is president of Your Brand Marketing, a strategic engagement marketing firm that believes in brand, message, market, value and culture. www.yourbrandmarketing.com Reach him at ben@yourbrandmarketing.com.

Get Involved

PPAI’s Get In Touch! campaign is a five-year, multimillion-dollar branding initiative designed to increase awareness and improve the overall perception of the promotional products industry while communicating the importance of the promotional consultant, thus resulting in a larger share of advertising dollars for the industry. PPAI members can get involved by providing case studies, a key component of the initiative. Contact Kim R. Todora, PPAI public relations and buyer outreach manager, at KimT@ppai.org.