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Counselor PromoGram
Vol 1157, September 18, 2014
Hullinger Forecasts Alphabroder Future
In a wide-ranging interview during this week’s ASI Power Summit in Arizona, alphabroder (asi/34063) CEO Norm Hullinger discussed his outlook for both his company and the market overall.
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Ultimately, Hullinger said he's very bullish on the industry today, and he predicted that his company would nearly double its revenues within the next five years.

In fact, Hullinger said he's shooting for alphabroder to reach $1.6 billion in sales over that time, a jump from the company's nearly $700 million in North American ad specialty sales that it reported for 2013. Also, Hullinger explained that the growth would come from both acquisitions – of which the company already added Ash City to its coffers at the beginning of this year – and organic growth.

Hullinger even said some of that growth could come from alphabroder – solely an apparel company – expanding into hard goods, as well. Counselor caught up with Hullinger following his session to find out more of his strategies and predictions for his company. Click hereto watch the video interview. 

Zappos Reveals Customer Service Success Secrets
Not only do companies need to think progressively today when it comes to their operations and sales strategies, but they also need new approaches to how they deal with customers.
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The highlight of the "Build A Better Culture Of Customer Service" session during the ASI Power Summit was insight from Tami Lemke, a customer service manager with online shoe and clothing seller Zappos, which is hailed as one of the best providers of customer service today.

The session started with an audience poll. Attendees were asked how they rated customer service in the industry. The majority (65%) give it a grade of A/B, while 35% rated it a C/D/F. At Zappos, Lemke said, reps are empowered to do what's necessary to keep customers happy. There are no sales quotas or talk-time restrictions, and if something goes awry, reps can offer Wow Packages which include coupons or discounts or even tins of cookies or flower bouquets. In fact, she said they often send flowers after a customer has passed away. Those personal connections are what endear Zappos to its customers. In addition, each rep takes 15 minutes every day to write out cards to customers. Some draw pictures, others write poems, and each week someone wins the Whiz Bang Card of the Week Award.

Recognition comes in other forms too. "We actually have a Hero Award and a Manager of the Month Award," Lemke said. "And, we also have a Sidekick Award which goes along with the Hero Award." Not only is the recognition appreciated, but it goes a long way toward solidifying the customer service culture that's prevalent at the company.

Heroes, Lemke explained, have leeway to solve problems – lost items, items never showing up, defective items, etc. – how they see fit without fear of management second-guessing the decision. In one example, a Hero was trying to help a little girl with leukemia who wanted a pair of shoes the company didn't sell. The rep wanted to buy them from another company, but the customer service manager talked to the kids' shoes department and together they crafted a package that included promotional items from vendors, a handwritten card, shoes, and more. And even though she didn't get the shoes she originally wanted, she got an experience she never could have imagined.

But the customer service culture at Zappos is not limited to the reps who work the phones. It is the core of the company. Every employee receives customer service training and they answer phones for four weeks before they are trained in the job they were hired to do. And everyone does it, including CEO Tony Hsieh, who once hung up on a customer only to call her back and offer her coupons. "Culture is everyone's responsibility," Lemke said.

Counselor caught up with Lemke after the session to find out more of Zappos' customer service secrets. Click here to watch the video.

Power 50 Panel Looks To 2015
In the final 2014 Power Summit session, four of the industry’s most influential leaders offered their views on the current ad specialty market and on the 12 months ahead. Much of the discussion centered on the topics of consolidation, sourcing, margin pressures, and rapidly evolving technologies.
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"After hearing the futurist talk this week, I realize we have some work to do as a company," said Bill Korowitz, CEO of supplier The Magnet Group (asi/68507). "We need to make even more tech improvements. We'll get there."

Kim Newell, another panelist, spoke extensively about mergers and partnerships. In the years ahead, she feels more suppliers especially will combine strengths to better serve customers. "We recently made the deal with Gold Bond (asi/57653) and it was attractive to us because they have a physical presence in China and we don't," said Newell, president of World Wine Line (asi/98290). "I think you'll see companies partnering in the future." 

Alan Chippindale, a third panelist and the chief business development officer at distributor BrandAlliance (asi/145177), said he continues to see growth opportunities in large accounts. Meanwhile, panelist Dave Thompson is gearing his firm's strategy toward smaller customers. "We target small businesses and our average order size is $200," said Thompson, president of National Pen (asi/281040). "We are expanding globally, though, with this model. In fact, in 17 days we're even going to try to sell to small businesses in China."

Following the session, Counselor caught up with Thompson to learn more about his firm's 2015 plans. Click here to watch the interview.

The Joe Show: Pretty In Pink
In this episode of The Joe Show, Managing Editor Joe Haley shows off several items perfect for upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness Month promotions. Looking for a bag that charity walk participants would appreciate? How about pink-colored wearable items that would certainly inspire any audience?
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The Benefits Of Unorthodox Marketing
Cal McAllister, CEO of ad agency Wexley School for Girls, encouraged this week's ASI Power Summit attendees to take risks in marketing and live on the leading edge of creativity in promotions. Throughout his session, titled "Unorthodox Marketing: Why It Works," McAllister showcased several case studies of Wexley's top campaigns – which stood out by using video skits, snow-making machines, elaborate building projections, and even ad specialties in unique ways.

After his session, Counselor spoke with McAllister to get more of his tips for standout marketing. Click here to watch the interview.


NYC Plastic Bag Measure Encounters Resistance
While a growing number of American cities have instituted single-use plastic bag bans, it appears the nation's most populous metropolis is not going to do away with the disposables anytime soon. A bill that would impose a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper bags in New York City has struggled to gain support among elected officials, despite six months of stumping by several Democratic members of City Council.

Bill co-sponsors Brad Lander and Margaret Chin have added just one additional supporter to the list of 19 original sponsors that backed the bill when it was introduced in March. Aimed at protecting the environment and reducing unnecessary waste, the measure is meant to encourage consumers to opt for reusable bags, such as brandable totes.

Low-income New Yorkers would be exempt from the fee, which goes directly to store owners, rather than the city. The exemption, however, irked some City Council members. "If plastic bags are that harmful to the environment, they should be banned outright – not merely available to those who can afford them," Council member Rory Lancman told the New York Post. Meanwhile, others like Councilman Steven Matteo call the fee a backdoor tax. It "will disproportionately affect working and middle class New Yorkers," Matteo said.

Despite the wall of opposition, Lander thinks the measure could ultimately be adopted.  "This isn't a snap of the fingers, but I think it is something we will get to," he said.

Last month, California became the first state in the U.S. to pass a bill banning disposable plastic bags. If signed by Governor Jerry Brown and made into law, the measure will bar grocery and retail stores from giving out single-use plastic bags, while additionally requiring them to charge at least 10 cents for paper bags, compostable bags, and reusable plastic bags. The measure would also provide funding for Golden State-based plastic bag companies to develop reusable options.

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FedEx Announces Price Increases
FedEx this week revealed plans to increase shipping rates of ground, freight and express services by an average of 4.9%, effective Jan. 5. The announcement comes on the heels of a May decision to charge for box size as well as weight, which will effectively increase prices on some ground shipments. The dimensional weight pricing will also take effect in January.

Despite another announcement by the shipping company this week of strong first-quarter earnings, FedEx is facing increased competition, with the U.S. Postal Service cutting rates for some Priority Mail packages and tech companies like Google, Uber and Amazon experimenting with delivering packages themselves.

In August, regulators approved the Postal Service's plan to cut postage as much as 58% on certain Priority Mail packages for customers shipping at least 50,000 parcels a year. The Postal Service claimed its prices were too high to be competitive, but rivals FedEx and UPS disagreed. "[The cuts] do not reflect a minor cost-related adjustment in the postage that Grandma will have to pay to send a sweater to young Johnny," wrote FedEx in its filing with the Postal Regulatory Commission in July. "What USPS is proposing is an aggressive push to gain market share in the fast-growing business of e-commerce."

The decision is bearing fruit for the Postal Service, with a number of e-commerce companies considering them because of the price change, shipping strategy consultant Rob Martinez told The Wall Street Journal. "A lot of shippers are going to take another look at the Postal Service."

On Wednesday, FedEx announced strong first-quarter earnings, at $2.10 a share, up 37% from last year. The company attributed the growth to solid volume and revenue increases in its freight shipping division and healthy U.S. domestic volume. "More customers are relying on FedEx because they appreciate the competitive advantages provided by our broad portfolio of solutions," said Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corp.

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Call for Nominations: Supplier Sales Rep/Supplier CSR Of The Year
Supplier Global Resource, the industry's only magazine dedicated to ad specialty suppliers, is holding its 5th annual Supplier Sales Rep of the Year contest to recognize outstanding performance, exemplary service and top-notch professionalism. In addition, the magazine will recognize the best supplier customer service rep – a person who continually goes over-and-above for his or her distributor clients.

Distributors, do you work with a supplier customer service rep who makes your job infinitely easier, more streamlined and pleasurable to do? Do you have a supplier sales partner who always puts you and your customers' needs first and has a "do whatever it takes" attitude to make you shine? If you know the perfect contenders for both awards, e-mail the nominees' names and details regarding what makes her or him award-worthy to Michele Bell (, editor of Supplier Global Resource, by Friday, September 19, 2014.


Counselor Q&A: Recruiting Millennials
In just 10 years, population studies show, Millennials will make up more than 75% of the U.S. workforce. Your company's future could well rest on how you recruit top talent from this young generation. So how's it done? A big key is culture – one that's positive, interactive and fun.

"We make an effort to keep work life entertaining with happy hours, offsite meetings and much more," said Tom Havens, president of Catalyst Marketing (asi/159067). "Imagine a room with nine or so people under the age of 28 and four or five folks in their 30s. It's pretty cool."

Seattle-based Catalyst, a 2014 Counselor Best Places to Work company, actively markets its engaging office to potential hires – especially Millennials. Why? "They learn quickly, are eager to get up and running, bring in a whole new level of energy and are technology savvy," Havens said.

Want more ideas for ways your firm can attract young, talented staffers? Click here to read the latest Counselor Q&A and get Havens' hiring advice.


ASI Radio Podcast: Dealing With Difficult Clients & Employees
On this week's Tuesday Morning Show, the hosts gave advice to listeners for how they can deal with tough customers – and employees. Are some clients taking up too much of your resources? When is it time to take the drastic step of firing a difficult customer? Are difficult – yet productive – employees worth keeping around?

Click here to listen to the complete call-in segment. If you missed any part of the show, a recording is now available at And, don't forget to join us for our next broadcast on Tuesday, September 23. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show – and give us a call at (215) 953-4979 to hear your voice on the air.

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In The News
BIC Graphic (asi/40480) announced that it has awarded $39,000 in scholarship funds to the children of 32 employees during the annual 44th Annual BIC College Scholarship Program. BIC Corporation has awarded $110,000 in total to children of employees across the country. In addition, BIC Graphic now offers britePix full-color imprinting on two umbrella styles: the Large Golf Umbrella (15291) and the Ventilated Large 62" Golf Umbrella (62073). BIC Graphic offers britePix imprinting on more than 440 items, including watches, keychains, awards and more. Visit or for more information.

Ash City/alphabroder (asi/34063) is now the exclusive distributor of the Rabbit Skins, Code V and Tie Dye clothing lines to the Canadian market. Download the latest catalog here.

Penn Emblem Company (asi/77120) has launched an improved website at that offers an interactive design, easily navigable information and more.

LDK Marketing, a group of multiline representatives, has released its 2015 Southern Showcase schedule from January through April. Visit for more information.

Accent Embroidery Inc. dba Accents Unlimited (asi/102839) announced that it is now certified as a woman-owned business by the National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC.


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Global Ad Study Released
Groundbreaking global research proves promo products deliver commanding advertiser recall among 85% of consumers surveyed.
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Newest Ad Study Video Posted
ASI’s latest YouTube video illustrates results from the 2014 global ad specialties impressions study.
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Register by Monday, October 14 for your FREE Gala ticket to a Texas Bash at Eddie Deen's Ranch

As the first and biggest ad specialty event in the Southwest, The ASI Dallas Show, Tuesday, February 3 through Thursday, February 5 at The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, is perfectly timed to see everything that's new for 2015. With so many NEW things happening at next year's ASI Dallas Show, you can't afford to miss it!

  • 50 NEW education sessions (plus, workshops for more experienced ad specialty professionals)
  • NEW Keynote by Lori Greiner, star of Shark Tank and one of the most prolific inventors of retail products
  • NEW products – perfectly timed for the first quarter, thousands of items will debut for 2015
  • NEW suppliers – see your preferred suppliers and meet many new to Dallas
  • Back by popular demand, a Texas Bash at Eddie Deen's Ranch
  • NEW networking receptions perfect for developing valuable business connections

Members, register by Tuesday, October 14 using promotional code PROMOGRAM and get up to 2 free gala tickets! Plus, ASI distributor and decorator members can attend The ASI Dallas Show for FREE and receive a FREE hotel room on the evening of February 4 – overall, more than a $500 value! Visit for the full three-day schedule.

Follow The ASI Show on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook today!

The following are the dates and locations for The ASI Show in 2015:
Orlando, January 4-6, 2015
Dallas, February 3-5, 2015
Long Beach, March 24-26, 2015
New York, May 5-6, 2015
Chicago, July 14-16, 2015

Plus, don't miss the ASI Advantages Roadshow, the industry's #1 traveling show. Visit for the complete schedule and go to for information on all ASI Shows.

The Benefits Of Unorthodox Marketing | NYC Plastic Bag Measure Encounters Resistance | FedEx Announces Price Increases | Call for Nominations: Supplier Sales Rep/Supplier CSR Of The Year | Counselor Q&A: Recruiting Millennials | ASI Radio Podcast: Dealing With Difficult Clients & Employees | In The News
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