Promotional Food Tips & Trends

If you make your money selling food, should you give it away as a promo product? The connection seems like a natural fit, but the reality is that the food service industry looks first to apparel and hard goods when it comes to their promotional needs.

Still, don’t discount food as a powerful gift, especially as suppliers offer the capability to integrate it into a kitted package. Mosinee, WI-based Maple Ridge Farms (asi/68680) has added logoed mugs, beach bags, towels, tumblers, cheese boards and office accessories to its food baskets from suppliers that distributors already trust. “The great thing for our distributor partners is they get to utilize those same supplier relationships and pair it together with our food gifts,” says Jodie Schillinger, director of customer care for Maple Ridge Farms. “Suppliers are trying to be more agile in competing with e-commerce. We’re competing with insta-click and ship. We need to ask ourselves, what are you doing to disrupt it back?”

As far as food trends, Schillinger says spice-infused foods and candies are popular now, echoing the National Restaurant Association report that saw ethnic spices come in at number 10 on its Top 20 Food Trends list for 2018 and number two on its Condiments and Accouterments forecast. Sea salt is also on-trend, Schillinger says: Maple Ridge Farms’ sea salt chocolate caramels – a “rookie product just a few years ago,” she adds – is now its bestselling chocolate.

Wood is also trending, she says, in the form of crates to hold food and cutting boards inside food-gift baskets.

ANNOUNCING THE PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR 2019 PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral

An animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge

Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.

In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy. Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.

Representing the fusion of modern life, PANTONE Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.

Pantone Color of the Year 2019, Leatrice Eiseman Quote.

PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral emits the desired, familiar, and energizing aspects of color found in nature. In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive, display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, PANTONE Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.

About Pantone Color of the Year

For 20 years, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product, packaging, and graphic design.

The Color of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis. To arrive at the selection each year, Pantone’s color experts at the Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films in production, traveling art collections and new artists, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles, and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures, and effects that impact color, relevant social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.

APISource Inc. Founder and Mentor, Charles G. Brown Passes Away

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness and heartfelt sympathy that we inform you of the passing of API’s founder, Mr. Charles G. Brown. Mr. Brown passed away peacefully with family by his side the morning of November 21, 2018.

Charles, or Charlie, as we all know him, opened the doors of Charles G. Brown Inc. in Maryland, 1965. Operating as a sole proprietorship in the formative years of the company, Charlie eventually brought on additional team members, including his son Michael Brown and longtime family friend Leo Boone to help grow the business, which included a name change. Originally focusing on emblematic jewelry, Charlie and the team eventually added additional products and services to the API portfolio, including branded merchandise, screen printing, and embroidery to name only a few. Over the years API has continued to evolve into one of the top Branded Merchandise Companies in the United States, receiving top awards from both clients and respected industry publications. API currently sits at number 31 on the Promo Magazine Top 50 list.

Always quick with a witty retort as well as an intelligent solution to any challenge, Charlie always made an impression on whoever he met. Charlie was a mentor and friend to many and kept an active role behind the scenes over the years for which we are all appreciative and grateful.

Charlie is survived by his loving wife, Mary, six children, Michael Brown and Sherrie (wife of Michael), Robert Brown, David Brown and Cindy (wife of David), Cindy Wendt and Pete (Husband of Cindy), Jennifer Stone and David (Husband of Jennifer), and Julie Brown. Charlie is also survived by his grandchildren, Michael, Lesley, Shelby, Hannah, Claudia, Hunter, Elliot, and Lucas as well as Great Grandchildren on the way.

We will have a celebration of life get together at API which is being planned now. Once plans are finalized, we will be sure to let everyone know, as you will all be welcome to join us for some refreshments and some stories about Charlie. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society in Charlie’s memory. American Cancer Society Donations.

API would not exist if it were not for Charlie. The relationships that we have built with our clients, our suppliers, and our friends on the API team all started with him. For that, we are eternally grateful.

Rest in Peace Charlie.

Obituary: Charles G. Brown, APISource Inc.

APISource Inc. Founder and Mentor Charles G. Brown Passes Away

Will Smith’s Top Video Tips

Video is a great way to market your business. According to Vidyard, 70 percent of marketers say that video creates more conversions than any other type of content. However, as effective as video is at marketing products and services, it is increasingly difficult to be noticed—especially in a world where more content is uploaded to YouTube in 30-days than was created during the first 30 years of television.

Actor Will Smith knows a thing or two about building an audience. When he posts a new video on YouTube, he attracts four million viewers. Smith recently spoke at Advertising Week about strategies marketers could use to build their own video audiences. Today, we’ll share these fun and effective video tips from the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Be flexible. When Smith was making Fresh Prince in the 1980s, the show stuck to a rigid formula. In today’s climate, where reviews of shows and videos are released instantaneously, a rigid plan can do more harm than good. “You have to be paying attention,” he told his audience.

Be deliberate. Focus on quality over quantity. “The quality of the storytelling leads the engagement and then how much you’ll be able to carry people along with you,” Smith said. People are not going to be interested in viewing content that is not captivating, or does not have a message to communicate. But if a company films a commercial that tells the story of a product in a particularly interesting way, it may catch your attention.

Be daring. “I know if I post something on Saturday night with me dancing, it’ll be my biggest post for the week,” Smith said, emphasizing that the biggest wins happen when you venture outside of your conference zone. (But don’t go too overboard, as it may turn off customers.)

Be human. “The question is ‘How do my products, and how do my services, improve lives?'” Smith said. Reading the comments can help to gauge how people are receiving the content. “Staying in touch with people and not in touch with numbers and products has been really helpful for me over the past year.” Humans build relationships; computers do not. Stay in touch with the people in your network, even if the topics of conversation include non-business-related issues.

Be authentic. According to Smith, “Authenticity is going to be at the center of being able to create and succeed with this next generation.”

Source: Krystle Davis is a senior manager for Forbes BrandVoice.

Five Smart Marketing Tips For 2019

Today marked a typical milestone for this marketer: planning for the coming year. Planning involves assessing all that was, or wasn’t, accomplished over the past year, and prioritizing the focus for the coming year, along with the tools and resources needed to reach these goals. It also requires being thoroughly honest about accomplishments and shortcomings—hey, we all have them—and the new strategies in place to resolve them.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we are sharing five key points to consider when developing your 2019 plans, as according to Billee Howard, founder and CEO of BRANDthropologie.

1. Focus on emotion. Successful brands succeed in anticipating what consumers will do. Howard says these brands also succeed in anticipating how their consumers will feel, and how to encourage them to take action. We live in an “emotional economy”—an economy based on people and their relationships with each other and the brands they love—and recent advances in technology have moved the economy even further towards this. Marketers who understand this and learn how to draw value from it will become vital to the success of any organization.

2. Sharing is caring. According to Howard, we also live in a we-conomy, which involves a greater focus on finding solutions to problems rather than mass-producing products. People entrust the opinions of others, as well as reputable sources of information, but are gravitating less to traditional ads. The launch of Uber, Airbnb, Yelp and other highly consumer-driven resources has created an environment for sharing. These companies are structured by new business models that use trust as their foundation. As marketers and storytellers, we must build this trust by creating content that is authentic, reputable and purpose-driven. By doing so, this also leads to content that others will want to share with influencers and advocates.

3. Empathy continues to be important. Howard points out that we also live in a time of purposeful business, which is driven by the desire to make the world a better place. This requires successful leaders to focus on the world they live in as much as their own bottom line. Here are some things that Howard suggests when building a purposeful brand:

  • Clearly articulate your brand’s purpose. Purpose is different from a mission statement or company values.
  • Be aware that purpose is not cause and cause is not purpose.
  • Brands must demonstrate empathy by valuing consumers and demonstrating an understanding of their needs. They must place their managers and employees in the customers’ shoes. Purpose is about what a brand is doing for someone else, not what the brand is doing for itself.
  • Make purpose motivational, because it connects with the heart as well as the head.
  • Use emotion-driven storytelling to bring your brand’s mission to life.

4. View attention as your customer’s most precious resource. In today’s busy world, the most valuable commodity we have is time—and many of us don’t have much of it to spare. Do you treat your customer’s time with high value? A customer experience strategy should translate into the creation of an engaging and memorable experience for your customer. At every interaction or encounter brands must ask: are we seizing the customer’s attention?

5. Finally, invest in digital technology, not just digital marketing. Today’s technology and digital tools can be overwhelming, so it is important to first focus on those areas of the business that will drive growth as direct result of improved consumer relationships. This includes characteristics such as loyalty programs, personalized customer experiences and other types of high-touch opportunities. Then, invest in the technology that supports those experiences while also providing you with the data and insights to continue building on those personalized experiences.

Review these recommendations and allow 2019 to be your most personalized and profitable year yet.

Source: Billee Howard is the founder and CEO of BRANDthropologie, a consultancy firm that harnesses creativity and technology to solve business problems. Howard works with clients to identify their purpose and then creates the content experiences that will help define distinction and positively impact their bottom line.

Market Efficiently With Segmentation

When launching a new product or service, it may seem very limiting to narrow your market, but it will work in your favor. If your target is too broad, it will be difficult and costly to develop effective promotional messages or reach your more active end users.

Targeting a specific market does not mean that you are excluding people who do not fit your criteria. Instead, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific pool of prospective clients that are more likely to buy from you. Think of the brand Huggies, which sells a line of disposable children’s diapers. The people most likely to purchase from Huggies probably have or care for young children. For this reason, it would make more sense to market this product to new families as opposed to single Millennials. Relevance of the product to the consumer is just one of the reasons why target marketing is both an affordable and effective way to reach prospective clients and generatemore revenue.

Here we share three steps developed by Jill Johnson, president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, to help you establish effective target markets for sales results.

1. Clarify Your Market Segments. The first step is to start identifying patterns in the attitudes, desires, concerns, and decision-making criteria of your prospective consumers. By understanding these characteristics, you can tailor your marketing approaches to reach your target audience and influence their purchasing decisions.

A common step in identifying these patterns is to assess the demographics of your consumers base. There are many demographic variables that can be identified and measured in a consumer market, such as age, gender, income and marital status. Business consumers can consider aspects such as number of employees, revenue, or years in operation. Knowing where your consumers live or work is another method of evaluating your target market.

Understanding your consumers’ intentions, buying motivations and interests also provides powerful opportunities to develop messages designed to trigger a buying response.

2. Mine Your Data. The critical step to developing your target markets is to quantify your market size. You can do this by data mining. Data mining involves analytically reviewing your internal consumer and comparing this to external market information. Look for patterns and relationships to help understand your consumers’ buying patterns, which present opportunities to influence them at each stage of their buying decision-making cycle.

Start by reviewing your internal consumers data. Prepare historical summaries reflecting several years of data. Most people only look at one year of data—this is not sufficient to help you determine whether your market has achieved its maximum potential or whether it is declining. What types of consumer profiles can you create about the end users that buy from you? When do they buy? Who is most profitable to you? Start evaluating how effectively your marketing approaches reach them and match their purchasing decision approach. Then, conduct a detailed review of the available external data. Assess how your current consumer profile aligns with the real market opportunity. Do the demographics show a potential for long-term growth? Does the data show anything else that might impact your sales?

3. Tie Your Target Market To Your Promotional Activities. Your promotional activities must be consumer-oriented and align with how, why and when the consumer buys. Where do they look for information to solve their problems or meet their needs? Who or what influences your buyer? It is not only about the product. You will need different marketing messages for those who are at the awareness stage, which consists of gathering information, then those who are ready to make a final purchase.

Help your prospective consumers understand how you will help them solve a problem or meet a need by using your target market insight to customize your promotional messages. Tie your promotions to their decision-making cycle and move them through their purchasing decision-making stages.

Source: Jill J. Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the Compounding Your Confidence.

Johnson helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.

Why Rituals Matter To Your Success

In business, rituals play an important role. The famous business and life coach, Tim Ferris often talks about his five morning rituals: he makes his bed, meditates for 10 to 20 minutes, does at five to 10 reps of a light exercise followed by some strong tea and finally, he finishes his routine by journaling for five to 10 minutes.

Since we are creatures of habit, rituals can set the intention and tone of our day. Like running through scales, rituals can be mindless ways to clear our minds and allow us to listen to ourselves.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership development firm, says that there are five benefits to rituals, which we’ll explain here.

First, Hyatt points out that the whole point of the ritual is as much mental as physical. He uses the game of golf as an example. He has a set of rituals, or steps, he goes through every time he approaches the tee box. He says, “I’m not just fine-tuning my stroke, I’m also conditioning my mind for the best possible shot. By dropping into the groove, I get out of my own way.”

Hyatt points out five benefits of optimized rituals:

  1. Help put you in a mental and physical groove for high performance, whatever you’re doing. You’re lined up for the workday with far fewer distractions.
  2. Allow you to perform at a predictably high level. The routine leaves less to chance, so you can focus on performing your best.
  3. Stop you from overthinking, so you’re not constantly engineering and reengineering your entire performance. This frees you up not to worry about whether you can perform but helps you focus on simply how best to do so.
  4. Allow you to upgrade your performance because you’ve broken apart the individual steps. Now, you can focus on tweaking them individually.
  5. Give you a sense of purpose and confidence. By working your ritual, you set your mind and body at ease and take control of what you can control.

That’s why even the most seasoned musicians run their scales before performing. So what are your rituals?

Source: Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership development firm specializing in transformative live events, workshops, and digital and physical planning tools. Formerly chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Hyatt is also a New York TimesWall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of several books, including Living Forward and Platform.

Customer Service Vs. Customer Experience

When I need to return an item to Nordstrom, I know I’m not going to encounter a problem. The company’s return policy makes me more willing to shop online and in-store. In my opinion, this is great customer service. But this quality alone doesn’t make the entire customer experience package—that includes the store setting, retail staff and all the other elements that create the total experience.

The difference between customer service and customer experience is that while customer service is one piece of the puzzle—focused on human interaction and directly supporting customers—customer experience is the sum of the entire customer journey with your business.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we’ll look at these differences in more detail and why it matters to your business.

Customer Service. This is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed. Customer service requires your customer-facing team to possess a particular set of skills, including product knowledge, and tenacity, so they can provide the answers and assistance a customer needs. It’s the human element in the customer journey and the voice your customer will recognize as representative of your organization.

Customer Experience. This refers to the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business. Customer experience involves all the ways your business interacts with a customer, including traditional direct, customer-facing service and all approaches outside of it.

Customer experience includes three main components:

1. Customer Service: This includes customer support, customer success, and self-service support—the points at which your customer interacts with your team.
2. Technology: This is the product itself—how it works and the interactivity points.
3. Design: This is the brand touchpoint—the marketing, the design and the feelings your brand creates for your customer.

While those three areas are quite distinct, there are no hard lines between them. All of the pieces combine and work together to make up the customer experience.

The key difference between customer service and customer experience is that the latter involves the whole customer journey, including customer service. Customer service is limited to the interactions a customer has when seeking advice or assistance on a product or service. Understanding the customer experience, on the other hand, can involve analyzing data from non-customer-facing teams who contribute to a customer’s overall experience with a product or service.

The line between how customers use a product and how they interact with the people supporting it are more blurred than ever. It’s important to understand the distinction between both customer service and the broader customer experience in order to create a memorable, engaging interaction and profitable customer interaction.

Source: Sarah Blackstock is a freelance writer specializing in technology and customer support and a former happiness engineer at Automattic.

How to Drive Decision-Making Across Your Team

One of the basic elements of the Toyota Production System—the automaker’s foundation for lean manufacturing—is the Japanese term nemawashi. This term means “preparing the soil,” as you would before planting a tree. Nemawashi is a kind of informal consensus-building technique. The idea is to have all preparations done properly (hole dug, water available and so on) prior to planting the tree instead of trying to just slam it into the ground.

In order for teamwork to succeed, it is important to have consensus among team members. So nemawashi prepares the soil for effective decision-making by aligning the stakeholders around a proposal before they are asked to make a decision.

1. Identify the stakeholders. A thorough stakeholder analysis will enable you to gather a great deal of information about the stakeholders during the scoping of the consensus—building exercise. Gathering this information at the beginning of the exercise will help to develop a realistic plan to ensure the maximum level of involvement.

2. Determine customer requirements. It is imperative to understand customer needs and to define customer requirements. Many companies use the process of defining the Voice of the Customer (VOC)—a way to document service level targets and specification limits, and to identify improvement areas.

3. Concept selection and reaching consensus. Place the customer requirements into the first column of a chart and give a weight to each customer requirement, using a 1 – 5 scale (1 = least important, 5 = most important). Work down the list of criteria and rate them as a team. If a team member isn’t at least 70 percent comfortable with the requirement, then they can block it. This way, the final list will include criteria that each person buys into at least 70 percent.

4. Generating concepts. Next, get small teams or individuals to develop alternative designs or concepts. Search for different alternatives and benchmark them, using the following concepts:

Functional – a comparison to similar or identical practices within the same or similar functions outside the immediate industry.

Internal – a comparison of a business process to a similar process inside the organization.

Competitive – a comparison of your own industry and product lines; hard-to-get information but valuable when received; product and process-orientated.

Use the concept selection process to review these additional concepts and determine an additional consensus around them. Once the final list of approved concepts is established, then it’s time to develop an implementation plan.

Consensus requires time, active participation of all group members, communication and communication skills, creative thinking and open-mindedness. While it may take longer to establish consensus, this method ultimately provides better decisions and greater productivity because it secures every employee’s commitment to the concepts.

Source: The TRACC framework helps organizations build standardized and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world-class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organization itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable practices.

Top Three Things Employers Look For In Job Candidates

In a recent article, Forbes author Shelcy Joseph interviewed Michael Fraccaro, chief human resources officer at MasterCard. She asked him to share what he looks for in a potential hire. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we’ll share what he had to say.

Skills and culture fit. “We’re looking for people who can demonstrate the skills needed for the job they’re applying for—but, equally, if not more important, are people whose motivation and attitude fit with our culture. Candidates should definitely look into those aspects of the company beforehand. Just as you might check Yelp before trying a new restaurant, research the kind of work environment and culture you’re applying to. You can use resources like Glassdoor, Fishbowl, YouTube and other social sites to get an idea of what a company is like from the inside.”

Personality.“In the interview process, candidates who demonstrate grit, curiosity, optimism, a global mindset and a knack for problem-solving tend to make a positive impression. We also value people who are good at building relationships and have a healthy outlook about work-life balance. Being able to speak simply is also important. We deal in a very technical space, but we need to be able to translate what we do so people of all backgrounds can understand. Sharing stories and giving relatable examples are two good ways to make a complex subject simple and engaging. This shows not only that you know your content, but that you’re also able to help people connect with a topic they may not be familiar with. This is a kind of leadership that people at all levels of an organization can demonstrate.”

Agility. “Remember also that how you get things done is just as important as what you’ve done. Employers today take into account how you operate and make decisions in addition to what you’ve delivered. In this fast-paced, increasingly unpredictable world, we’re sometimes faced with new or never-before-seen circumstances. In those instances, it’s important for a company to be confident in the personal qualities such as integrity, fairness and decency that will guide an employee’s responses in situations that can’t be known in advance. They want to be confident that the choices you’ll make will be in line with the company’s values. Personal principles and intentions matter. Be prepared to reflect those in your responses during an interview.”

Fraccaro’s best advice to job candidates: “Be yourself and ask good, thoughtful questions. At Mastercard, as in probably most places, we want people who will bring their hearts and minds and authentic selves to work.”

Source: Shelcy V. Joseph is a contributor to Forbes. She is also the founder of millennial career website A Millennial’s Guide to Life and event series NYCxClothes & Friends. She loves telling stories that move and inspire people to explore their full potential and live their best life.