Advertising Specialties That Make a Difference

The Advertising Specialty Institute released its first-ever list of top 10 eco-friendly giveaways for Earth Day 2010. Earth Day was celebrated on April 22 around the world, and more companies than ever before used eco-friendly giveaways to promote their commitment to caring for the environment.

Promotional products, or advertising specialties, are items imprinted with logos or slogans to market a company, organization, product, service, achievement or event. They are frequently purchased as gifts to employees and clients for occasions year-round, and marketers often include them in their campaigns to dramatically increase response rates.

Products made from renewable resources continue to gain momentum, including dinnerware made from bamboo. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, growing up to four feet in one day, and it is 100 percent biodegradable.

According to Timothy M. Andrews, president and CEO of the Advertising Specialty Institute, “Companies are hungering for eco-friendly products to help tout their earth-friendliness to customers and employees. In fact, these items are so popular that we now have an exclusive pavilion at our five super regional trade shows dedicated to showcasing new eco-friendly products.”

In an interview with Andrews last week, Printing News found out how the ad specialty market is faring and what’s in store for the remainder of 2010.

PN: What ad specialty products sold well last year?

TMA: According to ASI’s Counselor magazine and its State of the Industry Report for 2009—the latest available—the top 10 product categories are: • Shirts • Bags • Head wear • Desk/Office Accessories • Writing Instruments • Other Wearables • Glassware/Ceramics • Computer-Related Products • Health and Safety Products • Electronics

PN: What will be the big sellers for 2010?

TMA: T-shirts are popular and all wearables continue to be a staple in the industry. Eco-friendly items, like products made of renewable bamboo, are some of the innovative products growing in popularity this year.

PN: How is the industry affected by the downturn?

TMA: Our research shows that promotional products industry sales were off by about 9.7 percent in fourth quarter 2009, versus the same time in 2008. However, the good news is that the rate of sales declines has slowed consistently throughout last year. I’m expecting 2010 to be a rebound year and for companies to start investing in growth again.

PN: Are your members struggling to stay in business?

TMA: Like many other businesses, some distributors and suppliers are experiencing sales declines. But, now is the time to ramp-up marketing efforts. Some members have been successful by trying to capture the market share that their competitors have stopped pursuing right now.

Also, I think you need to be even more flexible in an economic climate like this. If you can offer a current customer a discount on shipping in order to keep the business, then do it. If there’s a new customer or market segment you can go after, then now may be the time to try it.

Our education efforts are now second to none, and attendance at our education sessions at our shows in 2010 has been strong. In Dallas, for instance, more than 700 attendees participated in 55 workshops. Education day in Orlando attracted nearly 1,200 distributors and suppliers, down slightly from last year’s record, but up 10 percent from 2008. Also, every week our editorial and education team hosts an Internet radio show with tips and tactics for businesses. Tune in live every Tuesday morning, at

We’ve worked closely with our members to provide the best marketing tools in the industry for their business and to offer flexible monthly payment options.

PN: Are the ‘green’ products selling well now and will they continue to sell?

TMA: Yes. Counselor magazine’s 2009 State of the Industry Report shows that 29 percent of promotional products suppliers surveyed offered green products in 2007, and that percentage increased to 46 percent in 2008.

We have also dedicated a section at our five super-regional trade shows to showcase only new eco-friendly products. More companies that are buying promotional products want to tout their environmentally friendly practices to their customers and to their employees.

The Top 10 Eco-friendly Giveaways

  1. Elephant-Poo Notebook—The ultimate recycled item, great for colleges and trade shows.
  2. Bamboo Dinnerware—Perfect for office picnics, outdoor concert venues and fairs.
  3. Seed Paper Postcard—Ideal for environment-themed mailings and print promotions.
  4. Shower Timer—Municipalities and utilities can promote water conservation.
  5. Recycled Tires Jar Opener—Auto dealerships and mechanics can give these to customers.
  6. Pine Tree Seedling—Employees can participate in a tree-planting day at the office campus.
  7. Organic T-shirt—Give one to each Earth Day event organizer and volunteer.
  8. Compostable Pens—Hotels, banks and shops can use these biodegradable pens.
  9. Nonwoven Bag—Local grocery stores can eliminate plastic and paper.
  10. Hemp-Blend Polo—Companies can use this earth-friendly shirt for summer uniforms.