The Best of PPAI Expo 2019: Day One
Welcome to Vegas! All week long, Promo Marketing will be reporting live from the PPAI Expo 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. If you're at the show, stop by booth 3237 and say hello. If not, keep an eye on our newsletter for product information, session wrap-ups and a whole lot more, brought to you right from the show floor. Up now: Some of the cool stuff we saw on the show floor on day one.
The exhibit hall at PPAI Expo 2019 opened this morning, and there was a lot to see and do. Since it's impossible to get to it all, we figured we'd help out in the best way we could—by highlighting some of the cool products, interesting people and creative booth displays we spied on our travels up and down the show floor.
Here's what we found. Let us know if there's anything awesome we missed, and be sure to check back in tomorrow for our day two roundup. Let's hit it!
BamBams Keeps Evolving (Booth 913)
"We're not really in the business to stand still," Chelsey Wassel, creative director for BamBams, told us at the supplier's booth. "We want to continue to think of great ideas, because we know consumers are always considering what's best going to make them look and feel good." To that end, BamBams has added baseball hats and cut-and-sew apparel options to its product lines, with those goods joining socks and knitwear as in-demand options. Going for a more retail feel while also retaining its emphasis on classy looks, BamBams is poised to rail against the aforementioned thinking that stagnancy is a key to distinction. "We want to continue to win people over," Wassel said. "Really, though, shouldn't everyone?"
Compass Industries Gives Back (Booth 3855)
It's a cool product on its own—an inflatable, solar-powered floating lantern that, while we were standing at Compass Industries' booth, withstood a very technical looking crush test (an adult male standing on top of it). But what really caught our attention was the mission behind it. Keith Barbalato, marketing project manager for the supplier, told us that for every 10 lanterns Compass sells, it donates one to a place in need of electricity—Puerto Rico, places in California affected by wildfires, etc. That's an idea we can get behind, and we're happy to see more programs like this popping up in the promo space.
Tekweld Goes Retro (Booth 2057)
Over at Tekweld's booth, Ray Rodriguez, vice president of sales and marketing, talked about their hottest product for 2018, and an overall popular trend from last year. Retro is very in, so of course, lunchboxes are huge right now. While Rodriguez explained that the lunchbox was a top seller, he also brought up the neat idea of using them as a form of packaging. “2018 was a great year for our lunchboxes, because a lot of people just looked at that as an alternative to packaging,” he said. “We did a lot of it ourselves [with] our own kitting and our own products and then picking on clients, products from suppliers, and putting them in there too. I would say lunchboxes are priced right and [they leave] a lasting impression—and they’re retro."
AAkron Line's Color-Changing Drinkware (Booth 4343)
AAkron Line had a whole bunch of new drinkware on display, but our favorite by far was the 17 oz. Deluxe Illusion Bottle. That's because the bottle, which is available with a one-color or multi-color imprint, changes color in the light—a neat effect that absolutely did not captivate us for eight entire minutes. (What can we say, we still haven't lost that childlike wonder, you know?) The bottle also keeps drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours, both of which would be helpful as we traverse the enormous Expo show floor.
Showdown Displays Means No Worries (Booth 2537)
"The momentum keeps building for us, especially within the tension fabric category," Kent Dunham, vice president of sales for Showdown Displays, told us when we stopped by his booth. "We attribute that to understanding and valuing the diverse needs of our clients, as well as being mindful of changes in the industry." Dunham noted that the supplier's latest catalog items are not only Prop 65-compliant but also approved, which means no warning labels and no worries worries over California-based sales. Dunham was also excited about Showdown's illuminated tension fabric items. "They'll make a bright addition to any event you have in mind," he said with a smile.
iClick's Power Products (Booth 3563)
As fancy as smartphones have gotten, no one can figure out how to put a good battery in any of them. That makes charging products a smart bet for a lasting and useful promotional item, and iClick had a bunch of new ones to show off. While the supplier is going all in on Qi wireless charging—its new Qi 2-Go charger suction cups to the back of a phone so it can charge wirelessly on the go—it had plenty of new non-wireless power banks to show off, too. One of them, the 4-in-1 Flip, and it's little brother, the 3-in-1 Flip, boasts a James Bond-like collection of hidden cables and adapters for use with almost any device.
SnugZ USA's Tic Tac Fun (Booth 4550)
Orange is, objectively, the best Tic Tac flavor. But who knew the little mints could be so versatile? Turns out, SnugZ USA did. “We do a lot of work in product development to develop new and unique items," said Brandon Brown, vice president of marketing. "One of our bestselling items is lip balm. We sell a lot of lip balm, and everyone is familiar with a Tic Tac container. So what we did is we took a Tic Tac container and we modified it to hold a lip balm. And then you can either put mints or toothpicks in there. It’s just a perfect dual-branded product that takes your commodity and makes it unique, and it’s really just a really fun piece.”
Debco's Transforming Bottle (Booth 1449)
Thus far at the PPAI Expo, Debco, part of HUB Promotional Group, has won renown for the Metamorph, a two-in-one piece that can transform from being a seemingly ordinary bottle, albeit one blessed with impressive printing, to a "tumbler-style coffee traveler type of lid." It's the latest in a long line of innovative items for the supplier, which tries to stand out whenever and however it can. "There's incredible competition among us, and we always want to excel," Joshua Shaw, national business development manager for Debco, said of the promo industry. "We never want to miss a chance to make the public very happy, and that's why we've been able to achieve such success, especially in Canada."
Hospitality Mints' Fan Favorite (Booth 2744)
Hospitality Mints had a variety of delicious little mints on display, but there's one that remains King of the Mints. “Our top product, and our flagship, is our Buttermints," said Jennifer Domin, national sales manager. "You can do up to three colors on our wrappers, a customer’s logo on the front, up to three different messages on the back and up to five different wrappers with any case of 1,000. So it's a really great little inexpensive marketing tool." Hospitality Mints can print on the back of the wrappers, too, which is a nice touch.
HUB Promotional Group Has Some Good Advice (and Lots of Pens) (Booth 1532)
"People will always want amazing products for their writing endeavors," Mel Bettua, director of key accounts for HUB Promotional Group, told us. "We're proud that they quite often call on us to assist them with that." Thus far at the PPAI Expo, she and her peers have been fielding "lots of good questions" about the future of writing instruments, but Bettua had advice that went well beyond the pen. "This field always comes down to understanding not only how you can create business but also, and maybe more importantly, how you can sustain it," she said. "You have to be loyal to who you are to help them to pull off what's on their mind to do."
EMT's Smartphone Grips (Booth 5868)
At the EMT booth, we chatted with Tom Farrell, marketing manager. Farrell talked about how lapel pins are always EMT's most popular product (especially since you can toss it on any jacket for a neat look), but he also mentioned a new product EMT was excited about: phone loops. “They’re full color, they work with pretty much any phone with a case, they are low profile, so they don’t add any bulk to your phone, and they’re under $1.00 net,” Farrell said. “So they’re a perfect trade show handout, they’re perfect for direct mail campaigns, they’ve blown up in the past year and they’re a patent pending product that’s been awesome for us.”
JournalBooks' Shimmery Notebook (Booth 4225)
Everyone's notebook could use a glow up once in awhile. At least, JournalBooks thinks so. That's why the supplier launched its Luster Perfectbook for 2019. The notebook comes in three shimmery colors and multiple sizes, and the inside can be fully customized. There's also ribbon, elastic, pen and other available add-ons. Did we mention how shimmery it is? It's so shimmery!