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Top 5 Competitor Threats to Promotional Product Distributors

Filed under: Uncategorized

E-commerce ThreatsThe 2013 Counselor State of the Industry is hot off the press, and — as usual — it’s filled with tons of useful information including how-to strategies, data analysis, insights, trends and business tactics.

One of the best parts of the report is the imagery — charts and graphs really nail home some of the stats, and each article has them. The most glaring? Under the article titled “The Competitor You Can’t See” Counselor lists the top 11 perceived competitor threats to distributors. Here are the top 5, including percentage:

  1. Websites selling promotional products (41%)
  2. Other local distributors (12.7%)
  3. Crossover distributors (9.1%)
  4. Large distributors selling in your territory (8.7%)
  5. Industry suppliers that sell direct (8.3%)

The dropoff from the top spot is stark, and it’s clear distributors fear websites that sell at the lowest possible margins. Want to know how to combat them, as well as the rest of the threats on the list? Click here now.

How’d They Do That? The Making of an Etched Wine Bottle

Filed under: Education, Fun

Promotional products themselves can be quite clever, but sometimes the process of adding logos to a product can be just as clever. Case in point: an etched logo on a wine bottle.

The August issue of Advantages magazine contains a Strategy feature that explains in visual detail how a logo is etched onto a wine bottle. It’s not as easy as you would think, and there’s a lot involved, including sandblasting. Compliments of supplier A+ Wine Designs (asi/30223).

Etched Wine Bottle

Click here for a larger PDF.

Promotional Products at ASI – An Intern Investigates

Filed under: Fun, General

Sam PhillipsFrom guest blogger and intern Samantha Phillips  …

The things that decorate my tiny cubicle include a few framed photographs, two plastic orchid plants (I would love real flowers but I struggle to keep even myself healthy and thriving), a gnome figurine and a fake autographed photo of Christopher Walken: a gag Christmas gift from a close friend. I questioned every item I brought in to adorn my work space, convinced that they would define me as a person. All it would take was a single troll doll with dirty neon hair and a gem belly button and I’d be haunted by it forever.

Fortunately, my desk accessories (deskessories? Genius!) are mild, even amateur, in comparison to the oddities that dress the desks of some of my co-workers. As MVP’s of an industry that thrives on wacky products, ASI employees often receive free promotional items that are … shall we say … unique? Do you need a Gangnam Style figurine that doubles as a flash drive? No. But it makes one hell of a conversation starter. I decided to conduct an in-depth investigation, and expose the dirty truth about ASI’s desk decorations. Thus, here they are!: a few of my favorite ASI deskessories in no particular order:


Online editor Vinny Driscoll works tirelessly to upkeep our social media presence while his Mr. T bobblehead watches from atop the cubicle wall, nodding eternally in agreement. “#pitythefool!” cries the tiny intimidating figurine.

Mr. T.


Copy writer Chuck Zak is pictured here with his McDonald’s French fry golf club head cover. Does Chuck Zak play golf? No. Why does Chuck Zak have a fast food inspired golf club head cover? It is one of the many mysteries that lie within those cubicle walls. Legend has it the fries are a device he uses to communicate with the editorial gods. Of course, no one can ever know for sure. You see that perfectly trimmed beard? It’s full of secrets.



While Patty Cangelosi slaves over the pages of copy she edits daily, she is surrounded by an array of odd items including giant highlighters and magnets shaped like slices of pizza. But perhaps the strangest of all her deskessories is the photo drink coaster pictured here, a sample gift from one of ASI’s suppliers. Why is this the top of the wacky food chain, you ask? Because Patty has no idea who those people are.

Drink Coaster


Managing editor Joe Haley’s office is a mecca of promotional oddities. It’s got everything you can dream up…a plastic pig that shoots pong balls out of its mouth, a trail hitch ball cover shaped like Barak Obama’s head, a plastic shot glass that includes a turning mechanism which allows for no-mess jello shots, an electric guitar branded with the “Joe Show” logo … I could go on. Joe is pictured here with one of his most precious office accessories: a caped monkey that doubles as a slingshot. Don’t make him angry; his office is an arsenal of weaponry that might not injure, but has the power to severely annoy.



C.J. Mittica, editor of Wearables magazine, proudly shows off the miniature bale of cotton that he acquired while conducting story research in Texas. A normal bale of cotton weighs approximately 500 pounds and holds enough cotton to make 325 pairs of denim jeans. After completing a few Good-Will-Hunting-esque mathematical equations (who am I kidding, I majored in English), I concluded that this bale holds enough cotton to make at least three denim bowties for Canadian tuxedoes.



Michele Bell is the editor of Supplier Global Resource magazine and people cannot keep their hands off of her deskessories. This silver twisty-thingy (excuse my use of industry jargon) is a favorite among her visitors. It reminds me of a hitchhiker outside of a Phish concert: it could possibly strangle you, and it is always picked up.



And ah, of course, the infamous bowling pin water bottle: the wild card that blew this investigation wide open. It requires no lavish witticisms to introduce it. It is the answer to possibly the most important scientific question of all time: how do you combine America’s favorite sport (besides competitive chess of course) and hydration? It is the product of years of struggle for researchers who were hungry to create something incredibly subtle and yet still so majestic. Its owner requested to remain anonymous in this investigation report, as to avoid torment from the paparazzi and constant media attention. “Yes I have a bowling pin water bottle,” she says, “But I just want to live a normal life!”

Bowling Pin

Well, that concludes this episode of “An Intern Rants about Nothing of Importance.” Tune in next week, when I will rate the office toilets in descending order based on comfort level, timing of the automatic flush, and amount of creativity used in stall door graffiti.

…That’s a joke people. C’mon, did you really think I have the seniority and power to make those kinds of judgments? I’m just an intern for Crissakes.

Lesson #1: The Face-Plant

Filed under: Uncategorized

Samantha PhillipsFrom guest blogger and intern Samantha Phillips  …

With everyone away at the Chicago tradeshow, the ASI office feels like one of those deserted towns in old western movies. I keep expecting to see a tumbleweed bouncing aimlessly through Supplier Sales, or Clint Eastwood leaning up against the vending machine, a revolver twirling around his index finger.

But, the quiet office has made for a pretty productive week for me. I pumped out my fair share of copy, went on a few internal interviews, and found time to catch a drink with new department friends. There was one terrifying intern moment for me this week, however. I’ve been working with ASI’s public relations team on a few assignments over the course of my time here. One of these assignments was plugging data into the script that was to be read at the Counselor Award show in Chicago, which took place this past Wednesday. The task was simple: plug in the sales figures and rankings of 2013’s top 40 suppliers and distributors. Easy, peasy. Took me about twenty minutes and then I sent it off, thinking how impressed they would be with my speedy assignment delivery. Bad move.

I got a phone call this week from the PR manager saying that the teleprompter caught some mistakes in the script, and could I please review it. This was one day before the awards show was set to occur. Thankfully, the crisis was averted and I caught the mistake I had made: A few numbers were mixed up in the script and certain rankings were out of order. I was horrified. A nightmare kept playing in my imagination: enraged, bloodthirsty supplier reps holding pitchforks and torches, blasting through the doors of ASI, and demanding revenge for being incorrectly represented in front of the entire industry.

“Where’s the intern?!” they’d shout, snarling at the sweet receptionist who guards our humble office.

Thankfully, the mistake was caught, corrected, and I wasn’t even scorned. But internal anguish inevitably followed. How could I have screwed up like that? I thought, my confidence temporarily wounded.

Unfortunately, this is something we are all, at some point or another, forced to face. Whether you’re an intern, a new employee, or someone with years of experience under your belt, we all…to speak crassly for a moment…eff up sometimes. I’ve learned that the only way to face these pitfalls is with grace, elegance and a good perspective. It’s like jogging. You’re in your new stylish workout outfit, your butt looks fantastic, your form is perfection and you’re thinking to yourself: I must look like a freakin’ Olympian, as you prance athletically along the sidewalk. And then you trip over a tree root and all of that glowing confidence dies right there on the concrete. The key is to get up, laugh it off, and be more careful on your next go-around. Tree roots are everywhere, waiting devilishly to shame you. But learning to keep up the pace while also maintaining a sense of careful attention is the only way to get anywhere, in both jogging and business.

Interning is littered with moments like this, where you feel completely inadequate, defeated, and down on yourself. But these are the most important instances to gather whatever confidence you have left and trudge forward, understanding that sometimes in life, lessons have to be learned the hard way: even if it means face-planting in front of your hot neighbor.

Another Example of What It’s Like to Be An Editorial Intern At ASI

Filed under: Education, Fun

Grace BennettGrace Bennett is a full-time student in her senior year at Rowan University majoring in Writing Arts. When not writing for the school paper or riding for the equestrian team, you can find Grace listening to Michael Buble, drinking coffee or kicking butt in karate class as a first-degree black belt.

“It’s a fun business to be in. We’ve got crazy towels, electric guitars, and if you throw that monkey through the air, it screams. Welcome aboard!” As I sat across from Joe Haley, editor of The Counselor magazine, I remember thinking that I must have walked into some kind of dream that surely I would wake up from at any second. No internship is this fun, I told myself, and no employers are this cool. After about the first week of working here at ASI, I realized I had been wrong.

Getting to know the building, which is really more of a challenging rat maze (without the cheese prize upon arriving at your destination – well, maybe. You never know here) than an office space, and becoming familiar with the personalities of the editors and other fellow coworkers was nothing short of overwhelming, but it was most certainly an adventure worth having. It didn’t take me long to realize that all of the varying identities in the editorial department at ASI come together to form something of a successful, crazy and sometimes berserk-but-functioning family.  It’s a family of blue hair, vampire puppets, green fuzzy chairs and a lot of kickass talent. When my boss, Michele Bell, assigned Sam and me the task of writing these intern essays, she told us not to hold back. She encouraged us to throw in here the things we don’t like and aren’t exceptionally fond of; things like how the Starbucks barista always puts too much caramel in my coffee and how the pigeon outside the window next to my cubicle distracts me with its futile attempts to stay awake despite its exhaustion. Yeah, working here is a real pain.

Admittedly, the process of garnering information for articles can be somewhat trying. Contacts aren’t always chomping at the bit, eager to dish out all of their product information in online or phone interviews. Sometimes weeks will pass without hearing a single word, and we end up having to improvise. But to be fair, isn’t this the problem in many fields? Contacts are people, and people like to do things on their own terms…which could be at 5:58pm three days after your deadline. No biggie! My phobia of phone calls with strangers probably only added to my strife, but after the first few chats and a couple technicality mishaps – “I’m writing an article for Stitches magazine-“ “I thought it was Wearables magazine?” “…Yeah, that one.” – I found little more to fear.

Obviously, keeping the all of the five magazines straight was a task of its own, and learning the voice of each took some time, but not much. Soon enough, I was cranking out pieces from plain-Jane product captions to talky articles on pet apparel, which left me picturing my teacup boy Chihuahua in a hot pink fleece hoodie. How is that not fun?

Fun in the workplace might seem like the butt end of some bad joke to the general legal intern sweating it out in a rented tux as he scoots his broken rolly-chair towards a puttering fan in the corner of his tiny office window (excuse me while I pause to stretch my now cramped fingers), but it’s kind of a regular visitor in the editorial department of ASI. I had messaged a new employee a while back to introduce myself and to see how he liked working here. “Any company that lets its employees play kickball is alright in my book. I have no complaints,” he said. Truly, I wish I had more dirt to dish to level out the amount of sunshine-y descriptions in this essay of mine, but at this point, I honestly have no complaints, either. Come on…we have kickball tournaments.  Enough said.

What It’s Like to be an Editorial Intern at ASI

Filed under: Education, Fun

Samantha PhillippsFrom guest blogger and intern Samantha Phillips  …

Two years out of college, and my degree was beginning to yellow at the corners like an old treasure map. Except it didn’t lead to the hiding place of unfathomable riches; for me, it seemed that it would most likely lead to years of paying off student loans with a measly diner waitress salary. When I encountered the ASI summer editorial internship, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The job description promised an array of experience and opportunity in the publishing world. The sound of dinging slot machines rang in my head. Jackpot.

The first day I stepped into ASI, I felt like a fraud. I walked in, attempting to appear as the young, modern professional: donning my ironed pencil skirt and first lady inspired hairstyle. I was sure at any minute I was going to be found out. I was convinced that the intern supervisor would walk through the lobby, take one look at me, and have security guards fireman-carry me shamefully through the front doors shouting “Back to the restaurant business for you missy!”

But, the woman who came to greet me was not the terrifying business executive I expected with cold eyes and razorblade heels. Instead, Michele Bell wore leopard print stilettos and welcomed me warmly into her office, which appeared to be an eclectic shrine to the Rolling Stones. Michele was quirky, funny, and possessed a subtle snark that she often used to playfully poke fun at her office neighbor, Joe Haley.

And Michele was only one of the many characters I have grown to know and love over the course of my internship thus far. As a loyal, if only temporary, member of the editorial department, I am proud to be part of what I lovingly refer to as “The League of Extraordinary Editors”: a merry band of creative types who collaborate to create a staggering 50 print publications each year. Instead of the demanding and impossible-to-please superiors I had been expecting, my colleagues turned out to be my teachers, my mentors, and my friends. Instead of being ordered to make seven Starbucks runs in one day like some Devil Wears Prada nightmare, my assignments include helping with photoshoots, writing industry articles, participating in radio show broadcasts, and occasionally indulging in a cocktail from Michele’s office margarita machine. I am treated as an equal and a partner in the department’s mission to create informative, interesting, and well-designed publications.

Being an intern in an industry that is completely new to you is a job that commands you to face those inner demons that make you doubt your adequacy. There is no better place to do this than the editorial department at ASI, where encouragement and positive feedback are daily rituals. My editors and fellow writers have taught me an immeasurable amount about publication, the promotional products industry, and most importantly, how to take time to laugh amidst the hectic chaos of the publishing world.  It’s hard to always be serious with a boss like Michele and colleagues that are just as concerned with getting everyone involved in kickball as they are dedicated to the amazing publications they help to create.

What is it like to be an editorial intern at ASI? Well, it’s kind of like learning to swim and finding out that you love the water. Scary at first, and a bit challenging. But then it’s fun, exciting and leaves you with an unmatched feeling of accomplishment. And to future editorial interns I’d say: come on in, the water is just fine … and the margaritas are delicious.

Counselor Awards 2013

Filed under: Awards

Counselor Awards 2013Here ye, here ye! The winners of this year’s most prestigious awards — the Counselor Awards — will be announced tonight from the Art Institute of Chicago between the hours of 6:30-10:30 p.m. CST. Want to know who receives the awards as they happen? Follow our Live Tweet on Twitter at @asicentral and use the hashtag #ASIAwards. We’ll post all winners after the ceremony on www.asicentral.com at 11 p.m. EST.

Award categories include:

  • Person of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Distributor and Supplier Entrepreneurs of the Year
  • Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Distributor and Supplier Woman of Distinction
  • Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award
  • Distributor and Supplier Family Business of the Year
  • Distributor and Supplier Top 40

So who do you think will win this year’s Counselor Person of the Year? Stay tuned … and good luck to all!

Poll Results: Facebook Rules the Ad Specialty Business World

Filed under: Poll Results

When I posted the June poll “Which Social Network Do You Use Most For Business?” I figured most of our ad specialty friends would vote for Facebook, and they did. Over 50% of the total votes went to the social network that now boasts over 1.1 billion users and growing. This definitely did not shock me …

However, what did shock me was that Pinterest, the social network that really lends itself to imagery, received just one measly vote! Given that this is an industry rife with new and interesting products, I personally believe that companies should be looking a little more closely at Pinterest as a platform to promote their products. But I digress …

The following is the breakdown of votes for the question: “Which Social Network Do You Use Most For Business?” (191 total votes)

  • Facebook, 103 votes (54%)
  • Twitter, 13 votes (7%)
  • YouTube,  7 votes (4%)
  • LinkedIn, 67 votes (35%)
  • Pinterest, 1 vote (0.5%)

Social Media Use In Promo Products Industry

ASI Radio’s 5th Anniversary Show!

Filed under: Uncategorized

ASI Radio 5th Anniversary ShowIt seems like only yesterday when the maiden voyage of ASI Radio hit the Internet airwaves back in July 2008. For that show, the five hosts discussed the newly announced pharmaceutical regulations and the hotly contested Barack Obama vs. John McCain race for the White House. (It’s a great little trip down memory lane, complete with a rant or two from Joe  … listen to the archive here.)

Fast-forward to July 2013 and ASI Radio is on the precipice of its 5th anniversary show! To celebrate this milestone, we will have cake and champagne in the studio on July 2, along with some special guests! And for our dedicated and devoted listeners, we will have ASI Radio Trivia! All our users have to do is be prepared to answer the following five questions live on air tomorrow at 10:30 EST:

  • How many ASI radio shows have we done as of this Tuesday’s installment?
  • Name three celebrities who have been guests on the show.
  • Which sardonic host has earned the nickname “Captain Killjoy”?
  • Which industry pro does the weekly “Product Safety Minute” segment?
  • Name three cities, other than our home-base of Trevose, PA, where we’ve broadcast the radio show from live?

To participate, simply call 215-953-4979 during the Tuesday, July 2, 2013 show at 10:30 EST and you could be put through live to answer one of these questions. If you get a question right you can win some great prizes!

Good luck, and keep on listenin’!

Top 5 Markets Where Made-In-The-USA Matters

Filed under: Uncategorized

July 4The Fourth of July is right around the corner — I know, where did the first half of this year go?! — and what better way to celebrate than with a primer on how to source “Made in the USA” products? This month’s Advantages magazine devotes an entire Strategy section to this topic, including tips on the following topics:

  • How to know if a product is really made in the USA
  • 5 reasons to buy American
  • Which product categories benefit most from a U.S. pedigree
  • Is the price worthwhile
  • What is “Made In USA Certified”

And finally, listed here, the Top 5 Markets Where American-Made Matters:

  1. Government/Political Organizations
  2. Automotive
  3. Military
  4. Unions
  5. Universities

Check out this article now, and Happy July 4th!


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