Merchandise Monday: Trends from the Trade Shows

PART 2 - PPAI Expo

We continue our trade-show wrap-up with a visit to the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo, which took place in Las Vegas on Jan. 14-18, the week following CES. The PPAI Expo is the largest promotional products show in the industry, and if you’re looking for something new, you’ll find it here – along with over 11,000 promotional consultants and 1,400 suppliers in the grand exhibit hall.

PPAI is all about branding. By definition, a brand is the "name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's goods or services as distinct from those of other seller's." Initially, branding was the act of burning a symbol into an animal’s skin with a hot iron stamp as a means to differentiate one’s cattle from another. This tactic was subsequently adopted in business, marketing and advertising – albeit somewhat less painfully.


Top Emerging Trends

From colors and textures to lifestyle and entertaining, new trends were out in full regalia at PPAI this year.

Let’s focus on fashion. As they say, everything old is new again. Neon from the ‘80s and brilliant pops of color ignite everything from clothing to accessories in 2013. Gold and black jewelry are on the rise, along with chunkier watches and bangle sets. Black diamonds are back, and rose gold is a must have.

Fashion handbags are getting bolder and brighter, as well. Patent leather is hot for spring, and cross-body style bags, which are perfect for commuters and multi-taskers who need their hands free, are trending right now. Pick one up with a pop of neon and you’ll be the trendsetter of your social group!

Are you a thrill-seeker? Well 2013 looks to be your year. Experience and lifestyle options were a big trend at PPAI. Everything from outdoorsy activities to unique adventures is emerging as popular categories. Coinciding with this, the health and wellness category is trending with products for working out on-the-go and staying healthy while traveling.

Speaking of outdoor living, backyard entertaining was also a big trend this year at PPAI, and portable and space-saving grills are all the rage. The latest grills are lighter-weight and easy to clean but still offer all the grilling space and quality you need when creating an outdoor meal for your family or your whole block.


This is just a smattering of the trends and products emerging this year. Check back frequently for updates via our weekly “Merchandise Monday” column right here on Hinda Blog!

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Employee Engagement Helps Brand Ambassadorship

Surprisingly, most people don't associate employee engagement as part of a marketing tactic. According to an article from Advertising Age a couple of months ago, incorporating the internal workforce as part of brand marketing strategy is a growing trend. The recession decreased most of the population's trust in Corporate America and tapping into employees to spread your brand message is becoming a crucial part of marketing.

How are companies doing it? By empowering their employee base.

One way companies tap into employees as brand ambassadors is through making them social media evangelists. Southwest Airlines is one of the best examples of this. Their blog, Nuts About Southwest, is employee run with over thirty different contributors. In addition to the company blog, Southwest taps into their intranet to gain feedback from their employees in regards to topics like "most frequent customer complaints" to "what do they love most about Southwest." They also field out advertisements on that intranet to gauge feedback from their employee base.

In addition to social media ambassadors, all employees are ultimately real-life ambassadors. They represent your company on the front lines and outside the office when talking to friends. How they talk about your company and brand in regards to treatment and engagement will eventually reflect on your company. Utilizing clear communication with your employees on your overall strategy, taking in feedback and even using some recognition and rewards in that process can have a positive effect on your brand.

How are you all engaging employees for marketing purposes?

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Why It Pays to Care

Our readers out there know that we like to talk about treating your employees right. How employee engagement is crucial for business success. Sure treating people right is something most anyone should try and practice no matter what. However, is how your company treats its employees crucial to your corporate branding and overall sales

Let's take a look at some notes from a recent Brand Conference. We weren't attendees but did have some good takeaways from the event hashtag on Twitter. Of all the bits of branding knowledge shared through that stream, this one really jumped off the screen at us:

@kufarms (or more formally Keith McIlvaine) is a social media consultant out of Pennsylvania and hit a crucial point. Consumers are interested in how you as a company treat your employees. We've seen this from rapidly rising companies such as Zappos or Southwest Airlines. They've received a ton of attention from their individual company cultures. As a result of that attention, they've seen increased brand exposure, positive PR and most likely increased revenues as a direct result of how they treat their employees. 

Why are consumers so interest in company cultures? Customers see how companies treat their front-line staff as a correlation of how they will be treated as customers. If I'm considering making a purchasing decision with one company but know that they treat their employees poorly, what makes me think that I will receive any better treatment? How many companies have you heard of that have a poor employee culture but amazing customer service?

Employees have the potential to be your company's most influential brand advocates. How you treat them will influence how they verbally treat your brand.

What do you think? Does employee treatment directly reflect customer treatment?

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Why Incentive Programs Are Essential To Branding

In many of our blog posts, we've discussed numerous times (along with other blogs outside of ours) on how employee incentive and recognition programs are vital to boost engagement and improve productivity among your workforce. We all know that good morale will boost productivity which in turn should have a positive influence on results. However, how does all this affect your corporate brand?
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