"Surf's Up": Our Industry Is At A Tipping Point
This week, I attended the PPAI North American Leadership Conference (NALC) and inaugural PPAI Product Safety Summit, where it became evident the promotional products industry has arrived at a critical industry tipping point.
Wikipedia defines, and I paraphrase, a tipping point as "the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development." Journalists apply the term to almost any change likely to lead to additional consequences. Marketers see it as a threshold that, once reached, will result in additional sales. In some usage, a tipping point is simply an addition or increment that might not seem extraordinary by itself but that unexpectedly is just the right amount of additional change necessary to make significant impact.
The 2011 PPAI NALC seemed to pick up where the 2010 event left off, with a great deal of discussion on the need for our industry to evolve in order to more effectively compete while simultaneously protecting and growing our collective livelihoods. This year, however, there was a noticeable change in tenor of the discussions.
Every session included a chorus of feedback supporting a shift toward selling our value propositions and raising the industry standard. There was widespread recognition of the need for more collaboration between suppliers and distributors to resolve our common challenges. As one company president asked, "Why are we in a race to the commodity bottom rather than a race to the value proposition top?"
Product safety and compliance is one of those joint challenges, and the topic came up in nearly every breakout or general session. Unlike last year, there was less fear and little resistance to the concept with a greater understanding of the requirements and a growing sense of urgency to improve our industry's ability to deliver safe and compliant products.