If you’re lucky enough to work with Jenny Straub, you’d better like to shop. Straub, IMAGEN Brands senior director of product development, admits to an obsession with retail trends, which translates to hours on the hunt for product ideas and innovations.

Straub has a solid foundation in retail, earning her degree in fashion merchandising
and working in a variety of retail settings—including a mall t-shirt printing store—where she developed her work ethic and learned about brand management.

Growing tired of retail’s long weekend hours, Straub answered an ad for a regional sales manager position at supplier Vitronic—a position she held for five years. She then worked for a distributor for a year and a half, which gave her a deep respect for the distributor sales process.

Straub returned to Vitronic as the new product manager, traveled to China and India to learn about product manufacturing, and later took on a marketing management role. With the integration of Vitronic and Crown under the IMAGEN Brands umbrella, she moved into her current role and office out of the company’s headquarters in Mason, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
One of the reasons I love the promotional products industry is that no two days
are the same. My primary responsibilities include creating and implementing the annual IMAGEN Brands product development plan, spearheading our trend hunting activities and leading the collaboration among the supply chain, marketing, graphics and sales departments. For example, I held a product development camp in May to strengthen relationships with our supply chain team. We all felt rejuvenated by the increased sense of cohesion and teamwork.

I am also the liaison between our retail brands and continually look for new growth opportunities.

What part do trade shows play in the company’s overall marketing strategy?
Trade shows solidify our brand message and support our overall marketing and new product strategy. Our goal for every trade show is to deliver to our distributors an experience that is personable and filled with enthusiasm. We showcase our collections and demonstrate the connection between the Crown and Vitronic brands.

How do you prepare for each trade show?
Throughout the year, we attend multiple non-industry trade shows to get ideas and stay on top of trends. Since we have so many product categories, you will find us at toy fairs, gift markets, outdoor shows and everything in between.

Formal preparation begins in July with the product development, graphic and marketing teams working together to create a vision and storyboard for the upcoming year.

We hold a series of brainstorming and design brief meetings with the teams, as well as with our marketing coordinators, who design the merchandise layout of the booth. We have very firm timelines so that we are ready for the trade show season.

How is your exhibit changing for 2019?
We have increased our PPAI Expo booth space by 20 feet this year to showcase a new partnership that is in the works. It’s going to be huge! We designed Crown and Vitronic’s booths with modular systems that complement one another but still showcase the uniqueness of each brand. I love it when someone walks into either of our booths and says, “Wow, this looks like a boutique.”

What advice would you give to new suppliers in the industry, specifically about maximizing the benefits of exhibiting at trade shows?
I believe you can have the best-looking booth in the entire Expo, but your salespeople really need to make it come alive by engaging with distributors about the products.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to play ping pong, tennis and board games. I also like to read and stay connected with friends on social media. My husband, Brian, and I enjoy taking our son, Ian, on adventures like day trips to a city we haven’t visited, hiking, or going to events around Cincinnati. We love to visit local breweries where we play games or cards and laugh a lot. I also volunteer at Ian’s school as much as I can.

We are huge fans of all the Cincinnati sports teams, and we’re very excited that Cincinnati will have a Major League Soccer team in 2019. 


Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.