2013 New Products

I went to the PPAI (Promotional Product Association International) tradeshow in Las Vegas back in January.  All of the partner’s that we can work with were there, over 2000 booths showcasing the latest and greatest promotional products.

One of my to do’s there was to create a list of new promotional products that I thought our higher education marketing professionals would be excited to know about.  I came back to the office with a long list and narrowed it down with my staff.

We picked out 12 products that we wanted to showcase and put them on a separatephpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg_1 webpage on our site.  In addition we held a webinar to share why we were excited about each of these products and explain the unique features of these items.

Please let us know if you want to see any samples and have any questions.

Branding Lessons From Harley Guru Ken Schmidt

I had the opportunity to hear Ken Schmidt speak on branding at the PPAIbio-pic (Promotional Product Association International) show in January.  He worked in marketing when the company almost went bankrupt and was the director of Harley’s corporate and financial communications when they made their incredible comeback.  The Harley brand is legendary and he told an interesting story of how the company is successful.  With our company located in Milwaukee, we get to see firsthand the power of the Harley brand, especially this summer with the 110th anniversary celebration coming to town.

Below are five insights that I took from Ken Schmidt’s speech that I want to share.

1. What is your story? This is a theme that Ken Schmidt kept coming back to.  If no one shares with others that they worked with you, it might as well as never happened.  You might have had a transaction, but the long term value is the testimonials and experiences being told by others.  If you have no story to tell yourself, then you fail to differentiate and your clients/students/donors/prospects will see no difference between you and your competition.  Brands are built person by person through experiences, marketing and personal testimonials.   Have a story, tell it and create positive experiences where it will be retold.

2. Brain = Pain – Ken Schmidt described the sin Best Buy commits with how they sell flat screen TVs.   You see a row of twenty 56″ flat screen TV’s from different brands and all of them look good.  When the Sony is $1000 more expensive than the rest, you need to go to the specs in order to learn why.  This requires the consumer to engage their brain and when they do that, they have pain.  So when faced with pain, the consumer will often take the easy way out and go for a less expensive model.  He then transitioned to Harley vs. Honda. If you compare specs, looks and dependability, they are extremely similar (and admitted the Honda is better is some ways).  Then you look at the cost, and the Harley is significantly more expensive.  So why do people overwhelmingly purchase a bike that is so much more expensive than a comparable product?  Harley learned to stay away from the brain and not compare specs of their bikes, but engage the emotion of owning a Harley.

3. Personal Engagement is Key – One lesson Harley learned in the dark days was the value of asking potential/current customers what they thought of their motorcycles.  They allowed test drives (never been done before with bikes) and then openly engaged with their riders to get feedback.  Through this they received valuable information on how the riders would change the bikes and learned what custom features they would like to have. Most importantly, this gave them a chance to actively engage with their disciples (Ken calls their clients disciples, not customers).  Harley did not grow to be the number one motorcycle company because of great marketing.  You cannot charge that much more than your competition and expect to dominate the market through innovative marketing.  Ken Schmidt said they are successful because how the company engages with their riders.  He talked about their employees, going to events with Harley/non-Harley riders and how they interact with the crowd.  This interaction creates personal stories and valuable opportunities to engage with their riders.

4. Attraction – Humans are attracted to energy and then mimic that behavior energy.  When someone is excited, it is not hard to be excited with them.  When someone is energized, the people around them are often energized.  The lesson here is make sure your brand agents (your staff) send off the right signals.  Be excited about your company, products an services and others will mimic that excitement.  How your staff engages with potential and current disciples is the easiest to positively or negatively affect your brand.

5. Differentiation – When in a competitive marketplace, you have to be different in order to survive.  Ken Schmidt talked about how Harley would do the opposite of whatever their competition did with their marketing.  If the competition had a black theme, they would go with bright colors.  When their competition switched to bright, they would go black.  Do not get lumped in with your competition, follow them at your own peril.  Go your own way, be different and become memorable.

So here is a quick summation in two sentences: Have a unique story based on emotion, engage your prospects/clients/community with passion and individual attention.  Do that and you will separate your company/school/department/service and you will build a strong brand.