Welcome to plastic free July. What does that mean exactly? If you decide to take part you join other millions of people around the globe who are agreeing to reduce their plastic waste. The movement started was started in 2017 by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz (founder of the Plastic Free Foundation) and a small team in local government in Western Australia. It is now one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world.
Whether you are a believer in Climate change or not, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flowing into our oceans every year from coastal regions (published by National Geographic in May 2019) is not good in anyone’s standards. From my own personal experience, on a recent trip to Ireland I witnessed the exuberant level of pollution in their beaches and bays. Something I had never seen before. The locals told us this beautiful part of the world has become an ocean waste deposit.
Looking at our own home front, Australia (according to War on Waste statistics), Australia is one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world. We use over 10 million plastic bags a day. 85% of soft plastic from bags and packaging ends up in landfill.
It’s an interesting time for all of us. The choices we make in our lives, both personally and professionally. Recently Coles launched their latest ‘little shop’ campaign, ie, plastic toys … and have received backslash from the likes of change.org – who have started a petition which says – “Are you gobsmacked that Coles has brought out a new range of ‘little shop’ toys during Plastic-free July?”
This is something I have thought a lot about in our business. The promotional product industry produces a lot of plastic products. It is changing. Can it change faster ? Of course. I think it comes down to education, product availability and business/brand positioning. In the last 10 years, sustainable / eco-friendly products have evolved from novel / niche to being in high demand. This growing movement has been driven by:
Changing consumers attitudes: “25% of consumers are extremely concerned about plastic packaging, 42% think manufacturers should prioritise making packaging recyclable and 21% think the industry should work toward entirely plastic-free packaging” (Kantar).
Educational programs and the rise of influencers: David Attenborough, “The War on Waste”, Leonardo Dicaprico Save the Whales
Educational precincts – UTS is working on eliminating the most common single-use plastic items in their campus.
Businesses – Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands accounted for 60% of growth in 2016 and grew 50% faster than the rest of the business. Lego has committed to building its toys entirely from plant-based or recycled materials by 2030. They are investing over $2.18 billion in this project.
Availability of environmentally friendly products.
Through my research over the years of environmentally friendly products, I see the trend of reverting back to ‘the way we were’. We sold ourselves the dream of fast and convenient, only to realise that it’s not good for us or the environment. So slowly, we are changing things and going back to basics. That’s why you will see promotional products that don’t feel necessarily new… but the sourcing, the materials, the logistics … has changed. Here are a few I would like to share with you:
WHEAT STRAW – Is the stalk left over of harvested wheat grains. Previously it was categorised as a waste product – where in some countries they would burn off the starch. The material is now reclaimed to make wheat products.
BAMBOO – The fastest growing plant. It can be easily substitute all known wood applications without having to cut down entire bamboo groves or plantations. It also continuously grows after harvest without having to re-plant it. Bamboo converts about 35% more CO2 into oxygen than a regular tree.
RICE HUSK – A waste product with little value, so recycling will not reduce air pollution and the amount of plastic used! Biodegradable and reusable.
GLASS – A natural choice for a clean, pure taste and offers a safe and eco-friendly alternative.
SILICON – Made from silica found in sand, lasts longer than plastic, both in respect to the environment and product usage. It’s high durability, makes it more ‘ocean friendly’. Silicone can take extreme variations in temperature (cold to hot) without cracking, melting or falling apart.
My not so hidden secret is my absolute love for stationery. I used to dream of owning a filofax when I was young!
I only recently thought about the connection with my business. A lot of the promotional products I work with clients on, are in actual fact, stationery products. My love for stationery, however did start from a very young age. (“Show you the child at 7 and I show you the adult!.”)
If you know me well, you know how much I am in love with my TurnKey Promotion pens. Since the day these pens were delivered they have come into conversation more times than I can count!
I know for sure I am not alone with this borderline obsession. Which got me thinking, where does this world wide fixation on stationery come from. In the times of ‘paperlessness’ (so we thought!), stationery stores are not going away. If anything, in the last 10 years we are seeing more stores pop up.
Thanks to thepaperdashery.com they have shed some light on where the obsession with stationery comes from:
New stationery represents a fresh start
Stationery provides an alternative to digital communication
Stationery puts power and control into your hands – literally
There is a belief that stationery makes us more organised and creative
Stationery provides a channel for us to express our true selves.
Who thought a pen and notepad or diary could deliver so much!
So it appears there are a lot of emotions and feelings, consciously or subsciously flying around in stationery stores. A place of self reflection, clearing the past and ‘potentialising’ the future. Stationery stores are limiting their marketing potential… we are no longer talking about paper and pens, we are talking about people’s lives in big ways! Kikki K (Australia born, starting in Melbourne in 2001 and now has 100 stores) has run with this notion, offering in-store self development workshops. ‘Saved by the ballpoint pen!’
Stationery stores have definitely upped their game, which is most certainly the reason, for those who once watched their love fade away, have since reunited. The choice of stationery products, the colours, the luxuriousness… these are no longer boring places we paced for office supplies. They have become the kind of stores that you think twice about, before entering, because you know for certain, you will spend longer than you initially plan to. An adults toy world!
To be honest I am not sure if this is a gender specific obsession. I know a lot of women who have stationery obsession, but I don’t know of a lot of men. Enlighten me if you have some examples.
For me personally, stationery provides a tactileness, that I increasingly crave – post the computer taking over our lives. Stationery without even realising helps me to connect and focus on what I am doing right now. You definitely don’t want your mind wondering when you write the first word, line, paragraph in your brand new diary!
I found a list (thank you Gena-mour Barrett at BuzzFeed) that has confirmed my stationery obsession is real – “Anyone who’s slightly obsessed with stationery has secretly done:
Organised your pens by colour, type of pen, etc.
Taken the line width of your ruled paper seriously.
Practised your handwriting before making that first sacred mark in a new notebook.
Lied and said you didn’t have a pen because you didn’t want someone to take it.
Been excited by the prospect of starting a new job or term at school because it means having to go stationery shopping.
Refused to use a beautiful notebook for way too long because you still haven’t found a good enough reason to use it.
Convinced yourself that new stationery is the key to organising your life.
Winced when someone asked to borrow a piece of paper because it means ripping a page from your precious notepad.”
Lucky for me I have turned my obsession into a business, and so researching, sourcing, reviewing, testing, selling, stationery products for my day-job is a perfect fit.
These are some of my latest obsessions that you may also find yourself becoming obsessed with:
If you need a sample, don’t hesitate. Nothing would bring me more joy!
Whilst you were summering it up in Australia during January, I was trumping it up in America!
This was travel for both work and play!
The Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo was the main purpose for the trip – the biggest industry expo in America. We are talking 11,000 distributors representing 4,000 companies and 30 countries, attended by over 20,000+ people. The Everest of Expos, both in respect to the variety of products, the exhibition space … and trying to get through it in three days. Then throw in the Las Vegas location – the epicentre of ‘can you make it bigger and better’!
With something as big as this, you have to plan and be selective from the start, or you could find yourself lost in the noise, hype and excitement.
The opportunity to attend this Expo in Vegas was a milestone for not only my business, but also for me personally …. as I extended the time to experience America is a completely different way.
We, my husband and I, experienced Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco and then drove to Las Vegas via California Highway 1 for a stay in San Simeon, home to the amazing Hearst Castle. We miraculously stumbled across over 3,000 elephant seals that come to the coastline every year to give birth and mate….But that is for another time and something I would be happy to share if you are thinking about travelling to America.
So, back to the show.
We had a plan and it worked very well.
The first two to three days were purely education in sales and marketing, specific to the promotional products industry. I attended a lot different educational sessions. I think it was 16 in total. Customer Service online and offline, continues to be top of mind. There was also a lot of education around high performance selling, unifying sales teams and the latest trends and topics related to social media, metrics, branding and positioning. A great opportunity to immerse myself in how the world is seeing business and integrating promotional products to further extend and leverage marketing communication and programs.
For the following three days I walked the Trade Show floor on the lookout for new products or a new and fresh approach to existing lines and found the segments with a lot of momentum are:
1. ENVIRONMENTAL PRODUCTS are big and only getting bigger. Which is great to see. Recycled straws, recycled materials, less materials, reusable straws, bags, containers for food and drinks.
2. BLING AND MORE BLING! What I mean is bling decoration on anything and everything – bags, drink bottles, in cars, books, clothing, phones. I don’t think this is going anywhere soon. The asian influence in our markets continues to grow, and anything bling acts as a means of creating your own signature add on. Click on the image below to view the Sequin Artwork.
3. SOCKS has turned into a means of self expression. We are seeing a lot of branded socks out there. If designed with the customer and positioning in mind – this is very effective.
4. DENIM. The days of denim are definitely not behind us. There is a lot of denim still to be lived. It’s exciting to see the different ways in which this material is being integrated with other materials – and bringing new life to products we haven’t seen before.
5. THE EXPO LIVE ‘GET IN TOUCH’ interactive stage was also a good bit of fun. There is where live product demonstrations and interviews with industry leaders were streamed. A non-guilt rest break!
Also throw in the very talented, knowledgeable and ENGAGING KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:
David Goggins, the closing speaker, was a stand out for me. He spoke on the topic “Stop Talking Yourself Out of Being Great”. An inspiring talk about personal accountability and building momentum. He spoke about in the early challenges in his life, becoming a Navy SEAL in most elite unit in the American military, and the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training. He also was in the U.S. Army Ranger School, where he graduated as Enlisted Honor Man, and Air Force tactical air controller training. A few years later he became one of the greatest endurance athletes in the world.
Scott Stratten was also another great speaker . Who was named a top five social media power influencer by Forbes. He has completely changed how corporations do business. During his presentation, he shared his ‘radical’ insights on how to engage better with customers through social and viral marketing and blended real-world strategies with memorable stories to rethink the way we market and sell.
Connie Podesta … well I have not laughed so much at this stand out presentation on sales as I’ve never heard it being presented before. As an award-winning author, Podesta is an expert on the psychology of sales, leadership, change, life balance and getting your act together, which helped to inspire industry professionals to do what it takes to increase sales, attract and retain more customers, build longer-lasting relationships, strengthen leadership skills and become more profitable, happier and successful.
So back to our plan for the show. It worked well. Or we thought it was working well. Until….we heard about the ‘Pop Up Puppy Stand’. (Which was amongst foodie pop-ups chocolate-dipped bacon, meatballs and rolled ice cream and caricature artists and an illusionists). In a flash we made a run to cuddle the most beautiful puppies.
This is genius marketing distraction and also drove traffic to less populated areas of the venue … and the perfect reminder that we are fundamentally, as humans, emotionally driven. Which brings me back to why promotional products continue to work.
Paul Bellantone, CAE, PPAI president and CEO said. “Promotional products are the only medium that allow us to connect with consumers on a tangible level”.
The benefit of tangible connections, is increasing emotion, trust and engagement – which are the foundation for establishing sustainable business and brands.
If you would like more information about the show and the latest promotional products please get in touch – email@example.com