In 1950, a grad student, named Joe Segel, was working his way through school selling promotional products. At the time, the industry had no central resource for finding products and the suppliers who made them. Segel researched and published his own directory, calling it the Advertising Specialty Register®. ("Ad specialty" is another term for promotional product.) He named his company the Advertising Specialty Institute.
Segel sold ASI in 1964 to Maurice Cohn, at the time the owner of the largest advertising specialty supplier. While Segel went on to found other companies, like the Franklin Mint and QVC, Cohn sold his supplier interests and dedicated himself to improving and expanding ASI. The Cohn family, now headed by Maurice's son, Norman, still owns the company, which has grown to 450 employees. For over 50 years, ASI has continuously led the industry in research, publications and developing marketing tools.