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New ASI Study Shows What Buyers And End-Users Really Think


First study to tell suppliers and distributors if they're delivering the right products

TREVOSE, PA – November 8, 2011 –The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) today released a landmark study that documents the discrepancies in attitudes and opinions between buyers, sellers and end-users of promotional products.

Defining the Disconnect: An Analysis of Channel Beliefs vs. Customer Needs in the
Advertising Specialty Industry” was released at the fifth annual ASI Power Summit, an exclusive gathering in Dana Point, California, of more than 250 business leaders from around the globe.

“This is the very first industry study to cut through the clutter and tell suppliers and distributors straight out if they’re delivering products end-users really want,” said Timothy M. Andrews, president and chief executive officer of ASI. “ASI’s detailed analysis lays out a plain case for paying attention to customers’ wants and needs - rather than your own, sometimes misguided beliefs. At the same time, it points the way to new selling opportunities.”

The most significant findings of the study show:

  • Quality counts. Overall, distributors understate the importance of high-quality shirts to males. In fact, males have consistently higher expectations than females about the quality of promo products across each of the seven categories studied.
  • Generic rocks, too. Three-quarters of distributors and suppliers felt consumer-branded items were important for promo products, but just 32.3% of end-users and 41.3% of end-buyers agree, suggesting a major disconnect between their beliefs and those of industry members.
  • Give me canvas or give me ... canvas. End-users and end-buyers overwhelmingly prefer canvas for bags/totes (85.1% and 76.0%, respectively), with very little interest in any other type of material.
  • Color my world. Nearly everyone surveyed likes traditional colors such as black, blue and white. But ASI focus groups show teens and children prefer brighter, non-traditional T-shirt colors.
  • “Like” me. Contrary to what many suppliers and distributors think, end-users would take a survey (82.5%), go to a trade show booth (70.6%), take action on a social networking site (41.8%) or buy a gift with purchase (33.2%) to get freebies.
  • Decorate this. Newer forms of decoration, such as applique and garment printing, are much more popular among end-users than distributors think, presenting potential new sales opportunities for distributors and suppliers.
  • Image is important. While 30% of suppliers think the primary reason calendars are displayed is for advertiser contact info, only 1.3% of end-users agree.

The study compares opinions about ad specialty preferences and usage patterns from suppliers through to end-users. The study also examines overall opinions about ad specialties as well as specific product types: shirts, caps/headwear, bags/totes, writing instruments, mugs/glasses, desk/office/business accessories and calendars.

Key study takeaways include:

  • Suppliers with consumer brands should emphasize product quality over brand name. For suppliers without consumer brands, messaging to distributors can be more about product parity and lack of end-user and end-buyer interest in many branded items.
  • Premium brands are expected to advertise on exceptional promotional products. Higher-quality items with potentially higher margins should be pitched by distributors to clients that have premium logos, like Lexus, Grey Goose or Harley-Davidson.
  • Distributors should showcase themselves as consultants, leading end-buyers to products preferred by end-users, such as students in the lucrative education market who prefer brighter colors.
  • Mugs and glassware items are used by end-buyers almost as much at home as at work. This means the design needs to withstand long-term use in an environment where decoration and style are key.

For a downloadable PDF of the study, click here.

ASI’s research studies are the most influential in the industry’s history, continuously cited throughout the B-to-B industry and across the advertising and marketing spectrum. To complete its research, ASI conducted a series of four focus groups of 60 end-users of promotional products. Then, ASI conducted a series of quantitative online studies among 544 end-users, 834 end-buyers, 582 distributors and 182 suppliers for a total of 2,142 participants.

For more information, contact Larry Basinait, ASI’s executive director of research, at 800- 546-1416 or lbasinait@asicentral.com.

About ASI
The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) is the largest media, marketing and education organization serving the promotional products industry, with a network of over 26,000 distributors and suppliers throughout North America. ASI leads the industry in technology solutions, providing cloud-based e-commerce, enterprise resource planning software (ERP) and customer relationship management software (CRM). ESP Web is the industry's leading tool for sourcing hundreds of thousands of products. A family-owned business since 1962, ASI also provides online research, marketing, advertising opportunities, trade shows, education, award-winning magazines, newsletters, custom websites and catalogs to help members sell, market and promote their brands. Visit ASI at www.asicentral.com and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and the CEO’s blog.

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