TO TAG OR NOT TO TAG
History alone does not make identification systems valuable. “An industry numbering convention provides a way for distributors and suppliers to know that they are doing business with a bona fide promotional products industry company,” commented Andrews.
Identifiers have helped, and continue to help,
companies locate potential partners. “Identifiers make [business] easier because the tradition of the industry is business transactions between suppliers and
distributors, and there needs to be some way for those companies to find one another,” said Burger.
ASI and UPIC also offer credit reports on member companies. This is touted by both organizations as a great member tool. Andrews noted the importance of credit checks for both suppliers and distributors. “New distributors can be researched quickly and extended credit, and seasoned distributors enjoy the reputation that quickly builds when sound paying habits are recognized,” he said.
Credit reporting does seem to facilitate business transactions. “There is some reliance on those databases. It’s important for [suppliers] to know that the
distributor they’re selling to has a good credit history and they can trust the order without requiring a deposit,” said Burger. “And, I think likewise, [it is important] for a distributor to know that a supplier has good credit history, to know [the company] can be relied on.”
ASI prides the exclusivity of its organization. Application for ASI membership does not ensure entry. As the company publicly comments, exclusivity protects the industry and strengthens the credibility of member companies. According to Andrews, “ASI assigns a number only after a distributor member firm proves it is doing business with other verified industry firms, or a prospective supplier member proves it has a North American presence. This process protects the integrity of the member network.”
ASI’s exclusivity leaves some legitimate businesses to look for other methods of identification. In this respect, ASI may be responsible for the creation of UPIC. As Burger explained, “In the late 90s, we were hearing from more and more companies [that] wanted to work in the industry—either as a distributor or a supplier—and they wanted to know how they could find other companies.” UPIC was created to fill this gap. “We decided to make it open, accessible and free to any company in the industry that could demonstrate [it was], in fact, working in the industry,” said Burger.