Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cotton Prices Going Up

Interesting link forwarded by one of my suppliers last night via Twitter. Chinese cotton prices will be rising:

Here's the link

Not sure what that's going to mean for the shirts, jackets etc that we sell, but I'm going to ask around. On a side note...this is an example of why I love Twitter.....


Monday, December 28, 2009

Product Safety & Promotional Products - Again

Product Safety in the promotional products industry is once again in the news....and frankly this issue is not going away. If anything, it's going to become even bigger as we move forward and and issue that I, as a seller of promotional product advertising, needs to consider every single day and with every single order that I process.

The latest case was made public on December 22 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 19,000 promotional knives were voluntarily recalled by distributor 5.11 Tactical because a number of them failed to lock in their 'open' position. The CPSC investigation is ongoing, and there has been, to date, one reported incident of an end user of the knife suffering an injury (a minor one) due to the issue. The knives were manufactured by a supplier in China, and the recall was voluntary.
When I heard about this, a couple of thoughts immediately came to mind. First, it's a real good thing that both the supplier and distributor of the knives stood behind the products they sold. In this industry, that's not always going to be the case. Ours is a very competitive business -- and often in the quest to win business, distributor companies will take risks -- for example, they'll be willing to roll the dice with a foreign manufacturer they haven't worked with before in order to be able to sell the product at a price a few cents below a competitor. Another thought is that not all overseas manufacturers have the commitment to product safety and quality that's expected here in the United States. With some of these entities, caveat emptor most definitely applies.

In some instances, when a problem like this occurs, the supplier won't always stand behind the products they sold. Maybe there's little or no prior relationship between the distributor and manufacturer. Maybe the manufacturer required a deposit of half down with the balance due before the order shipped -- or maybe even to be paid completely up front -- trust me this happens. Suppliers have been known to walk away from situations like this leaving the distributor holding the bag and on the hook big time in terms of liability. Smaller companies without the financial resources of say, a Geiger, are one situation like this away from being put out of business.

This is where the relationships between manufacturers and distributors are key. We at Geiger insist that our core suppliers (we call them our Gold and Silver level Production Partners) provide complete documentation on safety compliance for the products they sell. That's one little bit of peace of mind you're going to get when dealing with us that you won't necessarily receive from most other distributors in our industry.

And this is just the latest incidence. Are you familiar with Proposition 65? If any promotional products you're buying are going to be handed out in California, you had better be. And if promo items you're handing out are going to be primarily targeted at kids ages 12 and under, the guidelines for lead content in those items recently got tougher.

These are all examples of what's going on with the current regulatory climate both in Washington and at the state level. And its affecting the promotional products industry big time.

Know however, that Geiger is committed to ensuring that the products we recommend and that you purchase from us either will be fully compliant with the tighter product safety regulations that now exist - or if they're not, we're going to tell you that up front. We are continually working with our production partners in this area and its one of the value added benefits that we provide our clients.

My pledge for 2010 is to continue to monitor this issue so that should a situation with one of you arise where we need to consider safety and liability issues, Geiger and I will be able to steer you in the right direction.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More on the Erosion of Brand Tiger

Just this morning I noticed this article from Adweek on this subject.

Check it out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Demise of Brand Tiger

Plenty has been written and said about Tiger Woods and his current challenges, but the one thing that I've been curious about throughout is whether his sponsors will stay with him.

Certainly there has been no better pitchman in sports or maybe in general since Michael Jordan retired from basketball. Tiger was identified by Corporate America while still a child and as he grew into adulthood, his name quickly equalled dollar signs for the likes of Nike, Titleist, Gillette, Electronic Arts, General Mills and Buick among many others.

The list of companies doing business with Tiger practically reads like a 'Who's Who' of corporate America. We at Geiger are even in on this act -- though in a very small way. Sanmar, our top wearables supplier, contracts with Tiger via Nike. We can sell you 'Tiger Woods' brand golf apparel because of that relationship -- not that I'll be recommending those items to any of you anytime soon.

Brand Tiger is in a heap of trouble and this past weekend one of those major sponsors, the global consulting firm, Accenture, officially cut ties with him. I would imagine that more may be following suit.

What I find really interesting is that Woods has not 'come clean' so to speak, in the manner that David Letterman did immediately following his recent transgression. Given that Tiger has world class handlers, it leads me to speculate that possibly there's too much there to come clean about. And if that's the case, then how long can these corporations afford to have their brands associated with him?

If I had to guess, the two companies likely stick with Tiger the longest will be Nike and Acushnet, the makers of Titleist golf balls. Nike because of what they have invested in him and because they've dealt with pro athletes for decades. Their brand may also be a bit more resistant to the bad stuff associated with an athlete's off the field activities. And Acushnet only because Tiger IS golf, and is arguably the greatest golfer of all time -- it's either Woods, Nicklaus, Hogan or Bobby Jones -- and personally I think it's Tiger.

But there are limits to the resiliency of any brand and I'm wondering whether this thing will eventually pass the point of no return for even those two companies.

It's fascinating, but not in a good way. The demise of Brand Tiger is very much in play and that's something I would never have thought possible.

Just think of what it took to create that brand....all the work Tiger put in to become the greatest golfer of his era, the incredible, off the charts performances that helped create the Tiger legend, the time and money that these major corporations all devoted to make Tiger's brand what had been up till mid November of this year. All of that could be flushed down the drain because of Tiger's alleged problems.

I guess it's proof that no brand is indestructible. And the marketing lesson that I take from all this is that a brand - any brand - has a certain degree of fragility, and needs to be fiercely protected at all times.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Brand Building

When people ask me what Geiger is all about, my response is 'we specialize in brand building via promotional products'. And a reply that I sometimes get a back is 'What do you mean by branding building?' It's a good question. So I'll answer it.

Definition of a brand- The emotional bond created between an individual and a company, product or service. It is created through the delivery of consistent messaging and actions around an easily identifiable consumer promise.

Or in the practical application:

I believe that Volvo builds safe cars.
I believe that when I'm playing with a Titleist golf ball, I'm using the best golf ball on the market.
I believe that Nike enhances my athletic achievement.

Volvo, Acushnet (makers of Titleist) and Nike all understand that every contact with a customer or prospect is an opportunity to build their brand. Accordingly, every time you interact with their brand - for example when you see a polo shirt embroidered with their logo -you will find that that the companies key brand messages are reinforced again and again. Example- you'll never see a screen printed Titleist logo on a cheap polo shirt.

If your company brand is something that has real value, think long and hard about how it appears in the market place. Not everyone in an organization is programmed to think in marketing terms. Yet it's everyone's responsibility to protect the brand.

If you're ordering anything that features the company logo -- whether is business cards or $100 jackets -- don't overlook basic stuff like the correct PMS colors or the correct type font for logotype. You could be wasting precious marketing dollars that have already been spent to develop what your company's brand defines in the minds of your customers.

Promotional products are a key branding tool and we at Geiger have the expertise to help you build, protect and/or enhance your brand.