Like many of my fellow road warriors, my year started off with plenty of planes, trains and automobiles.

From the ASI Orlando show, I headed straight to Düsseldorf, Germany, to attend the PSI (Promotional Product Service Institute) Show with PPAI® President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE. The show was very impressive, featuring stands merchandised with an over-the-top retail feel. Some exhibitors maintained an exclusive appointment-only ambiance, but walk-ins were always welcomed.

I was back home for less than 24 hours before flying to Las Vegas for the show that truly kicks off the year: The PPAI Expo. As always, it was a high-quality, high-energy experience but the vibe at this show was even more positive than usual. The new pop-up experiences on the show floor helped to strategically drive traffic over the three days, and who could forget the puppies! Kudos to the PPAI team who put together another extraordinary reunion filled with networking, education, new products and timely collisions.

A short week later Paul and I met up with our friends from across the pond (and yes, they really do say that) to attend Merchandise World, a promotional products trade show in the UK that is organized by British Promotional Marketing Association (BPMA).

The day prior to Merchandise World, Paul and I attended an education session facilitated by Bryony Thomas, a captivating marketing speaker from Bristol, England. After a quick introduction she pulled out a plush cat named Buckets and I groaned silently. “Where is this going?” I wondered. She then asked her audience, “What would you do if you wanted to steal your neighbor’s cat?” People started raising their hands. Someone said to leave a bowl of food on your porch. Another said to leave a trail of treats like Hansel and Gretel did. The consensus of the room was to feed the cat, because if you feed the cat, you win it over.

Bryony explained that your customers are like cats. Dogs are loyal. You come home from work and they wag their tails in excitement like it is the best day of their lives. But cats, well, cats will brush up against strangers. They might still be a loving companion but, as Bryony pointed out, you never see a cat with a homeless person. Even the most loyal cat will leave for someone who shows it a little more attention.

Her message was that if you aren’t constantly feeding your customers with products, content and service that is valuable, they might leave you for someone who feeds their appetite for such things. But maybe your cat is different, and maybe your customers are too.

Bryony also asked the audience to map out where their customers fell on a line ranging from impulse buyers to considered purchasers. There was much debate as to which side of the line you want your customers to be on. Which is better—a well-informed buyer who takes their time to make sure the purchase will satisfy exactly what they are trying to accomplish, or a buyer who just buys quickly to save time and moves on to the next thing? So many of us spend energy trying to get people to behave the way we think is best or act as we would. But what if we didn’t try to change their behavior or preferences? What if we met them where they are?

She also reminded us that we should want customers to binge on our content. If they are impulse buyers, feed them more things to chew on after their purchase. If your customers take a longer time to make decisions, stay top of mind and feed them relevant content to help them along their thought journey—don’t just spam them with useless information. Sure, these are all fundamentals, but how often do we do these things with intention?

After education and exhibits, we attended the awards dinner where I shared a toast with Heidi Reimer-Epp, chair of Promotional Product Professionals of Canada (PPPC), and Angela Wagstaff, chair of BPMA—three women chairs! I thought this was rare and pretty cool.

The travel whirlwind wrapped up with a quick trip with Paul to Toronto, Canada, in February for  PPPC’s TOPS+ Show. We experienced spectacular hospitality everywhere we went.

Now I am happy to be back home in Utah where you can find me on the slopes or sweating it out in yoga classes when I’m not at the office. I hope everyone has had a wonderful start to 2019. And, oh, make sure you are feeding your cats.


Brittany David, MAS, is chair of PPAI’s Board of Directors, and the vice president of sales at SnugZ USA.