(Editor's Note: This article appeared as the cover story of the June issue of PPAI Magazine, explaining the PPAI 100 program. The rankings debuted June 20.)

According to market researcher Statista, the world’s largest company in 2022 was Walmart, which pulled in more than $600 billion in revenue. Yet for all its sales last year, Walmart faces something of an uncertain future.

Brick-and-mortar commerce has been losing ground for years. Even the company’s vast real estate holdings may be less valuable as shoppers continue to shift their purchasing online. The big box retailer is hardly beloved by many consumers, particularly millennials and younger generations. Employees have an unfavorable perception of Walmart, too, giving the experience a C- according to human resources data house Comparably.

Walmart may be the largest company in the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best, the strongest, the most influential or powerful. Walmart is massive. But who would call it a leader? Amazon took in nearly $100 billion less in 2022. Which of the two companies do you believe is the future?

Consider the same question in our own industry. Who are the leaders?

Other promotional products media outfits have long ranked industry companies based on the previous year’s revenue alone. PPAI Media is taking a different approach with its own industry rankings to come this month.

Introducing PPAI 100: The Industry Leaders.

Fully backed by research, PPAI 100 will weigh many factors relevant to corporate leadership. Revenue remains a key aspect of the scoring, but also taken into account are business growth over time, corporate social responsibility and technology practices, the strength of firms’ workforces, employee happiness, industry faith and beyond.

Placement on the new annual list will become the highest recognition PPAI bestows on its most exemplary member companies.

More Data, More Value

As a not-for-profit trade association with a mission to advance the promotional products marketplace for the benefit of our community, PPAI exists to elevate the industry as a whole. By identifying the top companies in promo, PPAI Media is serving as the voice and force to do just that.

The overall goal of PPAI 100 is not only to celebrate the best in the business, but to simultaneously shine a light on the practices that make these companies leaders.

Our entire industry – more than 25,000 companies – will have an improved vision of how business is done at promo’s leading edge. As part of the program’s research, PPAI Media is also creating benchmark reports on these leading companies, allowing competitors of any size to understand and replicate the top companies’ successes. Additionally, all companies will have the opportunity to take the same surveys that help to underpin the PPAI 100 rankings, and PPAI Media will release those aggregate findings later in the year so that firms of all sizes will be able to understand how they compare to their peers in key areas.

Savvy challengers will mine the rankings and content for ways to emulate the best practices that have made the PPAI 100 companies so successful. Armed with this information in 2023 and even more data in the years to come, the industry will have the opportunity to experience a virtuous cycle of collective progress.

Creating PPAI 100

PPAI Media spent more than a year studying what defines a top company in the modern promotional products industry. As we solicited industry feedback and held internal debates, one idea came to the forefront again and again: It’s about more than last year’s top line.

To be called a leader in the industry, a company should be forward-looking and well situated for the future. Its holistic strength and positive positioning should be a model to competitors large and small.

With this idea in mind, PPAI Media went to work identifying tangible metrics that would encapsulate the most admirable traits of a leading company in promotional products or any industry.

Numerous categories and scoring scenarios were modeled by the Association’s research staff, which ultimately unlocked a proprietary scoring rubric that allows for apples-to-apples comparisons of one distributor to another and one supplier to another.

As companies closed their books on 2022 – a record $25.5 billion year for the industry – PPAI began to contact companies with potential to rank among the 50 leading suppliers and 50 leading distributors based on available data. Although much of the information inherent to scoring the program and benchmarking the leaders was previously available to PPAI, some is more private for companies. Surveys were sent this spring to nearly 200 companies, helping PPAI understand their business fundamentals and adherence to best practices in both the technology and corporate responsibility categories.

Taken alongside data already at hand, each company’s answers provided insights on whether it belonged among the PPAI 100, and where it should rank.
While these categories and scoring methods are crucial to understanding the top companies in the industry for 2023, they may not all be as valuable in future years. PPAI Media will evaluate the categories and scoring system each year to make sure that they create the most relevant picture of the leaders in promotional products.

The first-ever PPAI 100 rankings will be unveiled to attendees at North American Leadership Conference in Washington, June 4-6, and published later in June via PPAI Media online.

The full list will be included in the upcoming July issue of PPAI Magazine, alongside the annual Greatest Companies To Work For special report.

Ellis is the publisher and editor-in-chief at PPAI.