Peak Of Power

A Recap Of The 2013 ASI Power Summit

ASI Power Summit

The ASI Power Summit brought together influential industry minds to brainstorm, share successes and discuss challenges.

Employee engagement. Video marketing. Changing demographics.

What do these three things have in common? They were among the hot topics of discussion at the seventh annual ASI Power Summit, held last month at the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City, UT. Indeed, between keynote speakers and industry panelists, it's clear that companies in the promotional products market are trying to tackle multiple challenges at once: how to appeal to shifting buyer habits, how to get staffers more motivated than ever, and how to create new marketing programs that excite audiences.

"It's a new market out there," said BYU Professor Gary Rhoads, one of the keynoters at the conference. "Companies need to find ways to appeal to a new set of employees and a new set of customers."

With that sentiment as a backdrop, some of the most influential and successful executives in the ad specialty industry met for three days last month at the Power Summit to network and learn from each other, as well as plot industry and individual company strategies for the next year. Read on to check out the scenes, as well as the advice, insights, and tactics offered during the 2013 ASI Power Summit.

The Link Between Culture And Performance
Sixty-seven percent of workers say their moms could run their businesses better than their bosses, Adrian Gostick, best-selling author of The Carrot Principal told a packed room at the ASI Power Summit's keynote session. Want to have a more productive workforce? The key is to embrace the three E's: engage, enable and energize them, he said.

Most managers know how to engage people by giving them opportunities to grow, Gostick said. But few understand the link between enabling them and actually creating a more positive culture. "You need to give them the right tools, support and empowerment, and they'll work much harder for you," Gostick said.

A company also needs to make sure it energizes its workforce by constantly delivering praise and positive reinforcement. He cited a Harvard Business Review study showing that in high-performing teams, a manager would give five positive comments for every negative one. By contrast, managers who give three negative comments for each positive one historically have very low performance among team members.

The bottom line? "Get employees excited about coming to work," he said. "The culture you create is the absolute key to building a high-performance workforce."

Motivating Young Sales Reps
In the "What Motivates Me: Young Industry Sales Reps Speak Out" panel discussion, keynote speaker Adrian Gostick joined the stage with Supplier Global Resource Editor Michele Bell and the following industry sales reps, all of whom are in the Gen Y Generation: Jill Albers, business development director at Shumsky; Josh Ebrahemi, partner/sales exec with Jack Nadel International; Brittany David, national sales manager with SnugZ/USA; and Krista Taylor, supplier digital sales rep with ASI. Collectively, the four industry panelists were responsible for more than $15 million in sales in 2012.

Noting that with Gen Y in particular, while not just one strategy for motivating, retaining and rewarding successful young reps is the right one, it's critical to custom tailor incentive programs around each rep's needs. "It would be incorrect to assume that it's all about the money for everyone," Gostick said.

SnugZ's David concurred. "I actually find money to be a little bit of a demotivator. I expect to get paid for a job I do well, but it's recognition and accolades that really motivate me to perform."

JNI's Ebrahemi and ASI's Taylor both noted that while the thrill of getting sales bonuses was initially an effective and exciting incentive to keep succeeding, for Ebrahemi, maintaining a good quality of life with a healthy work/leisure balance is key. "I love the lifestyle that I have now because of selling promo products," he said.

Taylor pointed out that garnering accolades like being named ASI's Employee of the Year in 2011 gave her the confidence and momentum to grow her sales 111% over four years. "Getting that was really a turning point for me and my sales career insofar as I realized what I was able to accomplish."

The Changing Face Of Today's Buyer
Changing demographics in the United States are leading to a sea-change for buyers of promotional products, according to Gary Rhoads, professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Brigham Young University. "There's a new face of buyers in America – not just consumers but business-to-business buyers as well," Rhoads said during his Power Summit session. "African Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans represent all of the population growth that the United States will experience in the foreseeable future. Those are demographics that marketers will need to appeal to."

Noting that Hispanic-Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in the country, Rhoads told his Power Summit audience that they should be devising ways today – in both who they hire and the companies they target – to capitalize on this sector. "There's a huge opportunity for marketers here, but you need to be able to communicate effectively with buyers in this market," Rhoads said. "You need to hire right to be able to do it."

Rhoads also focused his talk on buyer shifts as the Millennial Generation gains in influence. To target this group, Rhoads said, companies need marketing efforts that are compelling, fun and community-driven. "If you're just using traditional media with this group, you can't be successful," he said. "Buyers today are tired of the ordinary; they want an experience and to be entertained," he said. "And, you have to appeal to them quickly, because they're making purchasing decisions in seconds, not hours or days or weeks."

It's something industry companies know that they need to focus on. "As an industry, we need to better match the needs of buyers today," said BIC Group's Edgar Hernandez during another Power Summit session. "We need to position our offerings better, so we increase the visibility of the market and really sell against other media."

Graham Captivates Power Summit Audience
YouTube filmmaker Devin Graham – whose original work consistently generates millions of online views – showcased his video talents during a highly energetic session. Playing several video clips, Graham explained to attendees how he approaches each project. "I'm always looking for things the world hasn't seen before," he said. "Or, I'm looking to show things in a new way."

Graham's latest videos are short, each no more than a couple of minutes long, but are known for fast-paced action, unusual backdrops and subtle product placements. From shooting high-flying water jet packs to violins playing in front of ice castles, Graham has produced spots for Ford, Mountain Dew and video game company Ubisoft. Smaller companies have benefited as well from Graham's work, including Utah apparel maker Vooray, which quickly doubled its sales after its items appeared in a human slingshot video Graham produced. "They were able to take their products to 20 countries and had a 300% higher brand awareness after we did the video," Graham said.

Graham, 30, gave attendees several tips for creating compelling YouTube videos. "Length of videos is important," he said. "Originally, I would do videos that were three to six minutes, but I found looking at Google Analytics that people wouldn't always watch until the end."

Another key point Graham made is that simple equipment can have a powerful impact. "I started shooting videos with my phone and then I went to better gear like a Canon T2i," he said. "I thought I needed to get even better equipment, but I found when I used better gear, my views went down. People want to relate to what you're doing on YouTube. They want to be able to do what you do."

Graham also spoke about linking YouTube videos to other social media platforms. "I put just about everything on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram," he said. "I post everywhere. At the end of YouTube videos, you can link to whatever you want." Finally, when asked how to get videos to go viral, Graham told attendees to look to current events and what's popular. "It's about being timely," he said. "I go on Google Trends to see what people are watching. Lately, cats and humor are big. If you can take a product and add comedy, that's working right now."

The Interconnected Promotional Products Marketplace
In a keynote interview on the final day of the ASI Power Summit, Polyconcept CEO Michael Bernstein described how industry companies operate in an interconnected, global economy today. And, as the head of one of the largest suppliers in the world, Bernstein said the economies of other countries definitively impact business operations in North America. "We're looking to be a globally-oriented supply chain expert," Bernstein said about his company. "There are lots of shared services across different countries because they can all work well together."

The wide-ranging interview, conducted by ASI President and CEO Tim Andrews, touched on Polyconcept's North American business, the company's expansion into decorated apparel, his plans – still in the infancy stage – to become a supplier in Asia to local consumers of promotional products, and the significant decline in European business for industry companies. "It's far more challenging in Europe than what I would have expected," Bernstein told the audience. "While some areas have stabilized, we've seen 24 consecutive months of double-digit declines. The hard-goods business in Europe has solidified, but apparel has been very challenging and the economies in Southern Europe have made business there quite difficult."

Ultimately, though, Bernstein said that his company is focused on global expansion and growing his company both in North America and overseas. "Every day, we try to determine how we can allocate and expand our investments so that we can grow globally," he said. "There are many different ways to do that. In North America, acquisitions can have a place but they're not a big part of our strategy moving forward."

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