Back from Las Vegas PPAI Expo

I spent last week in Las Vegas at the PPAI Expo, which is the largest trade show in the Promotional Products industry. It’s a great way to start off the year since we get to see all the brand new products our suppliers have come out with for 2007.

If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll know this is the place where I post and talk about the new promotional products I come across in my daily life as the owner of a promotional consulting business (Advance Promotions). There are lots of new items to keep me blogging for quite a while, and my goal is to highlight at least 3 new items a week… so keep coming back since there will be new ideas here for you.

The products themselves are what I’d call “the little picture” so I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about the “big picture” as I see it in the promotional products industry. In my opinion, promotional advertising is poised for significant growth over the next few years. Why? Because it’s getting harder and harder to connect with people through traditional advertising. Advertisers and marketers need to find ways to reach consumers who are becoming increasingly more jaded and actively avoiding exposure to ads in the mainstream media.

Coupled with that is the fact that promotional products just keep getting better and more sophisticated as time goes on. The thing that I really noticed at the Las Vegas show was the retail-quality, high-end look of so many of the products being shown. If your image of imprintable promotional items is plastic, cheap and cheesy…. well, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The cheesy ‘trinkets and trash’ are still out there, but by and large the suppliers in our industry are updating the look of nearly every product category. Bright splashes of color, the use of interesting textures like brushed stainless steel and suede and European-inspired designs add freshness (and higher perceived value) to tried & true items like tote bags, water bottles and padfolios.

And did I mention ELECTRONICS? Talk about a hot category. Anything that plugs into a USB port is hot right now… and USB hubs are also very popular. USB flash drives seemed to be everywhere and the pricing just keeps getting better as the capacity goes up – they are rapidly becoming a commodity item. There were also lots of cellphone accessories (another hot category) and tons of IPod related items like carry cases, skins, speakers and little doohickies to keep the cords from getting tangled up.

The other thing that was interesting to notice was what people DIDN’T seem to be interested in, like disposable cameras. A hot item just a couple of years ago, they now seem antiquated… in ten years I’ll be surprised if they’re still around as digital cameras continue to come down in cost. And speaking of digital cameras – digital photo frames were also a hot item.

The tsunami of promotional products made in China shows no signs of abating and there were a fair number of ‘direct from China’ suppliers at the show who seemed to be split into two camps – those selling stock items for super-cheap and those who are looking for custom business (creating completely custom promotional products overseas). If you’ve got a decent promotional marketing budget and a good imagination, the sky is the limit. Pretty much anything you can imagine can be sourced overseas, from flash drives made in the shape of your logo to squeeze toys that emit a custom scent when you squeeze them… to employee shirts designed and sewn to your specifications.

It was an exhausting, exhilarating and very educational week. I’m looking forward to sharing new products and new ideas with you over the coming year. Thanks for checking in and please feel free to post comments or tell others about my blog.

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