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Observations of ODD Things in This Crazy Season

When Nothing Is Close to Normal…

Here we are in month ?? of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The reality of what our lives are like now is setting in. This varies around the country, but almost everyone is feeling the economic impact. If the promotional marketing industry ends the year being down by 40% or ? a significant number of jobs will be lost, and unfortunately, some companies won't make it.

Successful businesses of all types are being crushed and lives destroyed.

We've been talking to many people. In the best-case situations (if you can even say that), some management is taking pay cuts. In worst-case situations, we find many of our beloved colleagues looking for new opportunities. With industry sales down significantly, and limited live events for salespeople to work, their situations are perilous.

A few things seem odd to me as part of our journey to our current or new reality.

Under the new, Ford Promise Program, customers who lease or purchase a vehicle with Ford Credit financing and then lose their job within a year can return the vehicle. Interesting marketing approach. Going into a business transaction and assuming financial liability may seem odd with the possibility of losing your job. You get out of the liability, but you lose what you put in, and Ford gets their vehicle back, which they can resell. If that stimulates sales, so be it. I'll pass.

California, where I live, like other states at the time of this writing, is in crisis. Restaurants, gyms, salons, and other companies are trying to work outside. Pop up canopies in a Denny's parking lot does not seem like an ideal dining experience. It's odd, and obviously not too popular, especially in our 100-degree heat.

The drive-in concept for concerts and movies is a thing. This is not a bad idea and a throwback to a different time. As a drummer, I love live music. We are so starved for it, we may go to a live drive-in concert, but it's odd.

TV commercials bombard us with ads for sanitizer and masks. They hype these products in true infomercial fashion, touting all kinds of claims about their effectiveness. You can get masks with "three layers with Nano Silver Technology." What's that? And of course, the copper businesses are on it, offering masks with "Copper Fiber Matrix Technology." I'm sure their business is booming. These new "As Seen on TV" commercials seem odd.

In the promotional products industry, "Personal Protective Equipment" (PPE) is saving the day for many companies. Our industry is well-positioned to provide needed BRANDED products like sanitizer, masks, signage. But it's odd that something we would have considered medical supplies last year are now the top seller in our industry.

Masks. Love them, or hate them, they are here to stay. At least for a while. Many great companies have stepped up to offer a variety of masks. Our industry is doing a good job focusing on providing reusable quality masks that are being imprinted with logos, which does create an excellent branding opportunity. This is how the promotional marketing industry brings to the value to products used in this Pandemic. But still, masks as a branding item? Odd.

In this inspirational #PromoGoodNews video, Ryan Moor from Allmade-SanMar offers three good points to consider. Ryan mentions an article noting that there may be more disposable masks in the ocean than jellyfish. That's not only odd but a very disappointing consequence of using these items. These products have their purpose, of course, but the eco-impact of them is significant. I believe we should be focused on selling reusable imprinted masks.

An odd, but a seemingly needed product, is a plastic "jail for children." I joke, but that's the way I see this. I assume this supplier has these in adult sizes as well. It is odd, but another way companies are "pivoting" to make products for our new reality.

I've found a challenge in this season is the lack of customer service from our suppliers and businesses in general. I'm sure this comes from reduced and remotely working CSR teams.

I've not done much distributor business these days, but recently I did have some opportunities. I've stayed out of the PPE market for various reasons; however, when I got an inquiry for masks, I replied to an e-mail from a company that sold and was heavily marketing masks. Since I knew someone in management there, I also copied them on the inquiry. There was NO response from management or the sales team. Why even try to market for business if you are not in a position to take it? That's odd.

What's NOT odd is that our trade association, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), has stepped up and done an excellent job providing a variety of resources. They have offered free education and certifications that many took advantage of. The Advertising Specialty Institute has done this as well. If you haven't checked out what PPAI and ASI have been doing to help during this season, it's worth your time.

PPAI has put together the PPB Playbook to Restart Businesses. From dining to salons and retail to the classrooms, the Playbook gives you the ideas and tools you need to help your customers re-open and re-energize their businesses.

It was a pleasure to share Coffee & Conversation online with PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone. We talked about the impacts on the Association and the PPAI Expo. The Expo funds much of their legislative work and other things they do that are not income-generating. You are invited to join us for Coffee and Conversation. Paul's video is here.

Tim Andrews, President and CEO of ASI, also joined me in a conversation over coffee and Pepsi. We discussed supporting worthy causes, talked about business, life, and what's happening at ASI. Tim's video is here.

There is NOTHING normal about the so-called new normal. The New Normal is what you make it. This just an odd time. I'm now even more grateful for all the trade shows, concerts, and sporting events I've attended. These things will be different going forward, but we will get used to these odd changes and someday get back to something closer to life as we knew it.

I look forward to those days!

© 2020 Jeff Solomon, MAS


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