Once known as the purveyor of gimmicky gadgets, the advertising specialty business has evolved into the very sophisticated promotional products industry. Music cards for students who open a bank account, or gas cards for customers who take a new car for a test drive; aromatherapy sticks that spread a whiff of energizing fragrance, or a dozen sheets of antibacterial paper soap in a novelty package; an eco-clock that runs on liquids, or a portable solar charger - these are some of the hot new items in the universe of give-away merchandise.
And despite an uncertain economy, the industry is going strong, reports Gary Dinman, senior account manager at the Hacienda office of Jack Nadel International (JNI), a global player in the promotional products arena. Even as marketing budgets are subjected to increasingly close scrutiny, promotional products still make the cut. The reason is simple: they work, and they are cost-effective.
Especially in tough times, employee recognition and gifts that show appreciation to existing customers can be a very productive part of the marketing mix. "The items tend to be things that remain after the contact has been made," observes Dinman, explaining why the category has such sturdy legs. An award typically sits on a desk, is hung on a wall, or is displayed in the home, as a thoughtful - and frequent-reminder of the way a relationship is valued. So in a "crazy" economy, business is actually up. "It's not just giving away tchotches, but bringing benefits to the organization implementing the promotion," he points out.
Established in 1953, JNI has built up a broad repertoire of services, from "branded merchandise and non-branded premiums to the creation and implementation of branding campaigns and marketing events." Over the past 55 years, the company has expanded its operations to include 20 locations around the globe, Recent additions include an in-house import division in Culver City and two sites in China that allow JNI to work directly with some of its 3,000-plus manufacturer partners. Its merchandising team scours premium and gift shows worldwide to make more than 40,000 products available to clients looking to adopt an incentive, reward, or recognition program to accomplish some very specific business goals.
"Unlike many organizations that just have products to sell, we really do sell solutions for client-specific needs," Dinman remarks. "There is always a place for us to help companies keep themselves in front of their customers or employees and maintain a relationship. A thoughtful promotion, especially if it's a fresh, creative idea, helps others see you in a very positive light."
One of the latest trends is branded merchandise for employees, offered through the company stores that organizations like Sun Microsystems set up for a worldwide workforce. "We won that campaign because we were able to meet the requirements for international service," Dinman comments, adding that JNI's extensive line of eco-friendly products have proven very popular in such venues. For a look at what's available, go to www.eco.nadel.com. For general information, visit www.nadel.com or call the local office at (925) 224-7220.
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