It's Tested, Right?
Trust, but verify. Three simple words that form the best advice I can offer when talking about sourcing safe product from suppliers in our industry.
An author reportedly suggested to then-president Ronald Reagan that he learned some Russian parables as a way of better communicating with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Among the parables Suzanne Massey suggested was "doveryai no proveryai"—trust, but verify—which became Reagan's signature line when discussing U.S. relations with the USSR.
You do business with suppliers you have a relationship with, and I can assume one of the criteria for increasing that business is trust. Over the years, you probably have received great service and prices, which is the reason you kept coming back. But now, if you are a distributor, you find that your end-user clients are turning up the heat on requirements of product safety and compliance. You may be tempted to accept a simple "yes" when you ask, "it's tested, right?" After all, you've done business for a long time together; surely the supplier wouldn't do anything to put your client's brand at risk.
Let's suppose that your end-user client is in the automotive space. Everybody loves their pets, and to take them along for a safe ride with a branded pet-restraint promotional product might seem like a good idea. That would really help express the brand, and boost the love for the brand with an added emotional appeal.
Of course, you would expect that the supplier with whom you're sourcing this product would test it, and would provide the results as a standard matter of protocol, right? Well, let's take a minute and consider the pilot study that drives the mission of the Center for Pet Safety (CFPS). In 2011, the CFPS tested several readily available pet car restraints. Some of the restraints referenced in their product marketing materials evidenced results of testing to standards for a child restraint system. The CFPS set out, using a 55-pound canine crash test dummy (and no live animals), to test the general effectiveness of canine restraints, as well as whether or not the pets could become a secondary danger to human passengers in an accident.
You've probably already figured out where I'm going with this. Not surprisingly, the study revealed a 100 percent failure rate. 100 percent failure rate. That's right, none of the harnesses were deemed safe enough to protect both the dog and the humans in the event of an accident. There is even a slow-motion video providing evidence of what happens to a large, harnessed dog in a simulated collision of a car traveling 30 miles per hour (again, no live animals were used). The video demonstrated that not only did the animal have little chance for survival, it was a significant danger to other passengers in the car as well.
So, while it's great if the answer to your "it's tested, right?" query is yes, consider this your reminder to trust, but verify. Your clients, their kids and their dogs deserve it, don't you think?
Which brings me to a shameless plug for our webinar coming up next week. "Product Testing: A Basic Understanding for Suppliers and Distributors" starts at 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Nov. 4, and there is still time to register. Joe Cade from BIC Graphic, Leeton Lee from ETS Express, and Patrick Donovan from Sunrise ID will be presenting and taking your questions live. You'll learn the basic things you need to know about product testing, including both distributor and supplier tips, as well as the insights you need to ensure that the products you source and sell are made of safe materials.
Along with the basics, this webinar will cover:
• Product testing best practices for suppliers
• Tips to help overcome the challenge of the lack of a common platform for distributor information
• Questions distributors need to ask suppliers
If you work in the promotional products industry, this webinar should be on your "Don't Miss" list. Even better? It's free! Register now!
Jeff is executive director of the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA). Prior to that, he was responsible for developing safe and compliant brand merchandise for Michelin. He has worked with brands in publishing, consumer products, broadcasting and film for over 30 years. Follow Jeff on Twitter, and QCA on Facebook.