PPAI Pyramid Awards: Marketing Magic
As the world slowly emerged from the worst of the pandemic, the promo industry helped bridge the gap between in-person and online interactions with innovative ideas and programs. The best of the best promotions earned PPAI Pyramid Awards. These exemplary marketing campaigns highlight the talent and imagination of our industry in making connections, growing sales and providing inspiration.
For 65 years, the PPAI Pyramid Awards, sponsored by Pacesetter Awards Co., has been the industry’s most coveted recognition. Here, we recognize this year’s gold and silver award winners in six categories: branding, cause advocacy marketing, digital self-promotion, self-promotion, supplier sales support materials and – new this year – content marketing programs.
Objective: The goal of the “HPG United” campaign was to grow awareness of the value of all brands in the HPG portfolio by creating a frictionless shopping experience through the launch of an all-brands HPG website and promoting the new site.
Strategy & Execution: HPG offers nine brands with over 15,000 SKUs and dozens of decoration and delivery options – however, the company suffered a lack of recognition that these all belong together under the HPG umbrella. Thus the team decided to build a single HPG website hosting all nine brands to better partner with the distributor audience. The company conducted research to better understand the needs of its distributor partners, then engaged an advanced website development firm to build a website and email platform to support those needs. The communication campaign to promote the new approach combined all email lists across the HPG brands but identified content tailored to the individual needs of distributors in order to avoid redundant or irrelevant communications.
Results: The program transitioned HPG from operating multiple brand-specific websites to one site to help customers better understand and leverage the company’s offerings. Site and email performance in the first few months exceeded goals, with 72.6% traffic transfer, 14.9% open rate increase and 61.9% click rate increase.
Objective: The Rebrand Mixie program sought to establish a leading promotional health and wellness brand of USA-mixed personal care products.
Strategy & Execution: Early in 2021, HPG set out to rebrand the former Webb Company into a leading health and wellness promotional brand. The name Mixie was chosen because it reflects the new focus and conveys the company’s expertise, and the comprehensive rebrand included new colors, communications and imagery. Facility upgrades included the purchase of new machines to increase capacity and speed, a retail-style showroom and a studio to host virtual events. Mixie launched in October 2021 with a press release, a hype video and a microsite, plus a custom hype box featuring top products that was mailed to influencers. Mixie was unveiled industry-wide at The PPAI Expo in January 2022 with flavored lip balm samples and a hand sanitizer wall dispenser with six signature scents and a “Guess that Scent” contest.
Results: The Mixie rebrand achieved increased email open and click rates and doubled the company’s social media engagement over 12 months. The company also doubled its liquid fill capacity for sanitizers, lotion and lip balm, and the showroom and guided tours have brought in top customers, resulting in increased orders.
CAUSE ADVOCACY MARKETING
San Diego, California
Objective: Kindly by Terry Town was created to consolidate the company’s efforts to make a positive impact and spread joy and kindness.
Strategy & Execution: Terry Town designed a flexible campaign to support different causes by partnering with a new organization suggested by employees every six months. One product would be selected each season as the featured Kindly product, and part of the proceeds from sales of that item then donated to the designated organization. This approach made customers and end users part of the effort, and the company created a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the program. This included an explanatory hang tag attached to every Kindly product, as well as email, social media, podcasts and more to spread the word. The company first supported Fred Finch Youth and Family Services in San Diego through sales of one of its bestselling blankets.
Results: With the help of its distributor partners, Terry Town donated $15,000 to help children through the Fred Finch organization over the course of the holiday selling season, and sales of the designated blanket increased 107% from the previous year.
Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada
Objective: The SJA Promo team wanted to do a unique fundraiser for the Fort St. John Firefighters Charitable Society and show off a product customers may not have been aware was available.
Strategy & Execution: SJA Promo engaged two sponsors and a local graphic designer to produce a custom Advent calendar as a fundraiser for the local firefighters charitable society. The unique design featured community-specific imagery, as well as firefighters and both partner company logos, and firefighters contributed 24 holiday fire safety tips to be printed inside the individual windows. The company also worked with a candy supplier to develop the sponsor logo and firefighter symbol chocolates to go inside. Thanks to the sponsors, all proceeds from the sale of the 500 calendars went to the charity.
Results: Sales of the calendars raised $8,050 for the Fort St. John Firefighters Charitable Society, the program received significant media and social media coverage, both partner companies expressed interest in repeating the project with a new calendar, and SJA Promo was able to showcase a custom product that many customers didn’t know could be produced.
DIGITAL SELF-PROMOTION CAMPAIGN
Raining Rose Promos
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Objective: The goal of this product launch program was twofold: to generate anticipation about the DIY Lip Balm Kit and to create sales traction.
Strategy & Execution: Raining Rose Promos developed a multi-channel campaign to build anticipation for the company’s new DIY Lip Balm Kit. A drip communication campaign stirred interest without divulging details, and the company invited top customers attending The PPAI Expo to participate in a hands-on unveiling event where they would be the first to see the product and invited to provide testimonials. Attendees got to see and use the product for the first time, as well as spread the word among fellow attendees. Raining Rose sent a follow-up email officially announcing the DIY Lip Balm Kit shortly after the show.
Results: This campaign drew the most web traffic and drove the most sales-interest related performance of new product releases for Raining Rose, with a higher-than-average number of product samples requested and an estimated campaign ROI of over 950% in the first month after the product launched.
Spector & Co.
Champlain, New York
Objective: Spector’s Non Bummer Summer Show Stunner program was designed to generate awareness of Spector & Co.’s outdoor and summer products while increasing visibility of its recently launched custom book solution, Scribl, and demonstrate the importance of mix-and-match kitting.
Strategy & Execution: Spector & Co. chose to focus on creative storytelling rather than pushing product features to promote awareness products for a variety of summer activities. Four individual media kits were created with festive summer themes – Road Trip, Company Recipe Book, Tourist in Your Own City and Wellness Program – including banners, flyers, lifestyle images, videos and case studies. Each featured a themed Scribl book to highlight the customizable and interactive features of that product and demonstrate potential promo applications. For example, the Tourist in Your Own City Scribl book highlighted local landmarks and restaurants, as well as including company-specific promo codes.
Results: This campaign garnered many positive results, from almost doubling weekly unique users on scriblbooks.com and increasing social media followers to boosting engagement across all platforms and achieving a 29% average open rate on email broadcasts.
Objective: Gold Bond’s Influencer Package program targets distributors and industry influencers by granting early access and the chance to try out new products in order to build interest and trust in Gold Bond as a supplier, as well as provide insights to help drive sales activity.
Strategy & Execution: Gold Bond began releasing a new Influencer Package box every four to six weeks with “coming soon” items inside. The company partners with vendors to speed up small batches of preliminary inventory to offer distributors the ability to have the latest and greatest at their fingertips. The kits are assembled in house and sent to a curated list of roughly 3,000 recipients, and the Gold Bond team follows up after the kits are received. The program provides information distributors can use immediately to establish further trust with their clients by showing off not just what’s new but what’s to come.
Results: Gold Bond reaped increased social media followers and engagements over the first 12 months of the Influencer Package program, and ROI was estimated at almost 350%. Customers have raved about the program because it gives them the ability to grab the attention of buyers by offering a sneak peek and first access to new products.
Objective: With its “Share the Love on Valentine’s Day” program, Thumbprint sought to wow 200 clients and prospects with a high-end appreciation gift, enhanced with digital media. By telling the story of the artisans who crafted the blankets, the company hoped to inspire customers to incorporate “promo with purpose” items into their own campaigns.
Strategy & Execution: The Thumbprint team discovered Meraki Movement and its fair-trade alpaca wool products made by an artisan family in Ecuador and selected a uniquely patterned blanket, which was sent to clients the week before Valentine’s Day in a custom box with a QR code linking to a video with information about the family and their traditional weaving techniques. To help recipients create that same experience for their customers and employees, Thumbprint also shared a “Gifts that Give Back” digital idea book and launched a social media campaign highlighting products and makers featured therein.
Results: Within the first year, clients purchased over $20,000 worth of goods attributable to the gift campaign and the “Gifts that Give Back” idea book. Clients loved the blanket and appreciated the cause and story, two clients immediately added a version of it to their employee recognition program, and the Thumbprint team is working to help Meraki Movement become a listed promotional products supplier.
Objective: HPG launched a pair of self-promotion campaigns to drive awareness and sales of the Batch & Bodega brand and to help distributors connect with their customers.
Strategy & Execution: The Batch & Bodega team chose two of its snack kits to represent the brand experience in two email giveaway campaigns, with a free personalized sample kit to be sent to themselves or a client on their behalf as the prize. The “Did Someone Say Cookies” email was sent to 96,000 subscribers, and the first 1,000 to claim the offer – all within three hours – received a Cookies & Crumbs kit. Traffic to the Batch & Bodega website spiked over 2,000%, and requests for virtual kits increased by over 350%. Next, the “Blaze A Trail” email was sent to 106,000 subscribers. The first 1,900 to claim the offer received a Trailblazer kit, all claimed within 10 minutes. Traffic to the spiked 1,900%, and requests for virtual kits increased by over 412%.
Results: Following each campaign, traffic to the Batch & Bodega site increased significantly, as did requests for virtual kits and other distributor inquiries. More than 106,000 users engaged with the campaigns, 2,900 distributors or end users received complimentary kits, $248,000 of direct business was generated from the campaigns, and overall sales increased by 20%.
Proforma Expansion Marketing
Objective: Atlanta-based Proforma Expansion Marketing targeted 50 human resource directors at large manufacturing and software companies to encourage them to refresh their employee initiatives with creative solutions.
Strategy & Execution: Prospects were identified and contacted through LinkedIn to gauge interest and begin a drip campaign with information on the power of promotional products and a video explaining how Proforma Expansion Marketing could help them. Those who provided a mailing address received a rocket-themed Re-Launch Kit containing useful items for engaging with future, new and existing employees and QR codes for more details. The custom box included an audio card, water bottle, phone holder, journal and pen. The outside of the box featured a countdown from 10 to 4, and when the box was opened, the audio card played the 3-2-1 countdown from a NASA recording followed by the thunder of a rocket launch to finish.
Results: The company sent 49 kits, yielding 19 meetings and nine project quotes, with six new sales and four repeat orders totaling over $89,000.
SUPPLIER SALES SUPPORT MATERIALS
Keepsake Products USA
Carlstadt, New Jersey
Objective: The ongoing Keepsake Made In The USA program is designed to communicate and visually articulate all the company’s products and services with a tangible tool distributors can use in meetings with clients and prospects to show rather than tell.
Strategy & Execution: The Keepsake Products USA team designed a sample kit demonstrating the company’s capabilities so that distributors and their customers can see, touch and engage with the custom boxes. The kit and enclosed brochure highlight the “made in the USA” aspect and showcase elements such as sustainable packaging, custom printing and the company’s kitting and fulfillment capabilities. Also included is smart box technology with a chip that sends the user to a designated website when a smartphone is waved over the box.
Results: Recipients kit report that they find the tool helps them articulate what is normally a very complex discussion into an easy, hands-on discussion.
Objective: The Infinity Her Sample Kit was designed to create distributor awareness of a new women’s headwear brand.
Strategy & Execution: To launch the brand, Infinity Her designed a feminine logo using a script font and selected a periwinkle color proven to be a favorite among women. The company designed sample kits to send to distributors that were wrapped in tissue paper of the same periwinkle color for added impact. The kits included a dust bag with the company’s seven headwear styles, as well as a detailed tri-fold brochure introducing the company, highlighting key product features and describing all the styles and colorways available. These were packaged in a branded white box bearing a QR code sticker directing users to the Infinity Her website for further information.
Results: Infinity Her provided a memorable sample kit and unboxing experience for its brand launch.
CONTENT MARKETING PROGRAM
Hasseman Marketing & Communications
Objective: The Thirsty Thursday program was launched to promote Hasseman Marketing and its branded drinkware solutions to clients, prospects and social media followers with fun videos highlighting the creativity and personality of the team.
Strategy & Execution: The concept behind the Thirsty Thursday series is to showcase branded drinkware in an entertaining and relatable way. The short videos showcase the personalities behind the Hasseman Marketing brand and culture as team members try to guess what flavors and beverages they are sipping from the featured drinkware. A new Thirsty Thursday is posted every other week or and distributed through social media and email newsletters. Video production is done in house, supplier partners donate product samples to be featured in the videos, and drink expenses are minimal.
Results: The Thirsty Thursday series reached over 30,000 people in the first year, with over 19,000 engaged views – and more than $30,000 in net drinkware sales, making the program a low-cost but high-impact effort.
Objective: In 2021, as many people were still working from home and unable to attend in-person meetings and tradeshows, HPG created a Promo For The Holidays virtual trade show to reach distributors and their end-user customer guests – as well as individual, personalized sessions for its top 30 distributor partners – a total audience of over 5,000 individuals.
Strategy & Execution: HPG invited viewers to its online holiday showcase via mass email, as well as personalized invitations and social media posts. The company selected the streaming platform Be.Live to enable multiple presenters onscreen and broadcast live to the HPG YouTube channel for easy viewing. One show controller behind the scenes managed on-screen graphics, text and presenters, and another responded live to chat questions. Show hosts wore holiday attire to set the mood, and the 45-minute presentation featured more than 50 new and best-selling holiday products, as well as live-on-air giveaways based on holiday trivia questions. After the show, HPG sent a link to the downloadable deck of items from the showcase and a link to the show recording.
Results: The program reached over 500 distributors and resulted in 18 VIP show bookings for their end-user customers. Overall, it achieved more than 14,000 impressions at cost of about 10 cents each.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Objective: The nonprofit PromoKitchen focuses on industry mentorship and education. With the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, the group sought to address the experience of being Asian in the industry as part of its podcast series on diversity.
Strategy & Execution: While not its first time approaching a sensitive topic, the PromoKitchen group knew this particular podcast was going to be especially important, and the participants prepared as a group and as individuals to talk about how anti-Asian racism has personally and professionally affected them. Each spoke openly about their experiences with casual racism to help listeners understand how the headlines are personal. All five participants shared the podcast on social media and reported receiving messages from listeners for months about how much the episode meant to them and what they learned.
Results: The “Anti-Asian Racism” episode of the Diversity in the Promotional Products Industry podcast series has been played more than 700 times, with thousands of social media impressions and hundreds of engagements. Two of the participants have joined PromoKitchen committees, and when the group called for volunteers in November 2021, three of the new volunteers cited this podcast episode as motivating them to be part of the organization.
St. Louis, Missouri
Objective: The “National Beer Day” episode of Incentive Concepts LIVE, a digital video series, was designed to engage the audience in an authentic and personal way and promote Incentive Concepts’ messaging and products from featured brand Broil King.
Strategy & Execution: The ongoing live video series offers viewers exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at the promo industry and Incentive Concepts partner brands and solutions. For the National Beer Day episode, the company partnered with grill supply company Broil King and a local brewery to highlight grilling tools and tips, showcase local brews and share unique beer-infused recipes. In addition to pre-event promotion, the team published a highlight reel and blog post after the live broadcast and promoted them via social media, email and online ads.
Results: The “National Beer Day” campaign exceeded expectations and delivered significant positive results. The live event drew 183 viewers, and the full event and highlight videos drew more than 1,200 total views and over 230 landing page views in the first five weeks, placing it among the company’s top performing campaigns ever.
Objective: This episode of the PromoCorner “Insider Crew” webcast sought to educate viewers on how a multi-sensory approach to branding can create memorable experiences that leave recipients with a positive impression of the giver.
Strategy & Execution: Industry Insider is a live video series that runs weekly on PromoCorner’s social media platforms and reposted in the PromoJournal section on PromoCorner.com. During this episode, the hosts and guests discussed how receiving gourmet food as a gift appeals to all five senses and taps into emotion for a more memorable experience. Samples were sent to each host ahead of time, so viewers were able to watch their real-time, unscripted responses. They also discussed how suppliers and distributors can work together to curate the best gifts for their recipients, as well as the importance of customized packaging, drop shipping and asking the right questions.
Results: This episode reached a broad audience with more than 900 views, nearly 200 engagements and over 30 comments.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Objective: The Perfect Imprints team wanted to help an inspiring customer spread awareness of heart disease by sharing her story about how she used promotional products to help others remember her son.
Strategy & Execution: After losing her son, Delaney, to heart disease, Wini wanted to provide a tangible reminder that friends and family could take with them. Thus the “Wear Your Heart On Your Insulated Can Sleeves” project was born. The Perfect Imprints team found Wini’s story inspiring and encouraging and wanted to share it with their online audience, and Wini volunteered her time to be interviewed. The team posted the video to the Perfect Imprints YouTube channel and wrote the blog version, which was posted February 1, just in time for American Heart Month.
Results: Although not the most-visited post of the blog, the “Wear Your Heart” story achieved the primary goals of inspiring and encouraging, as well as expanding readers’ understanding of how promo products can be used.