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HPPA Industry News

  • 15 Jun 2022 6:05 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Starline is thrilled to announce a new and exclusive partnership with retail drinkware brand Frost Buddy®.

    Frost Buddy was created by two brothers, Mitch and Brock, from a tiny farm town called Newton, Illinois. Inspiration hit in 2020 when they realized that people were buying 3-4 insulators to accommodate all the different-shaped cans & bottles on the market. They set out to create a universal insulator that fit nearly all shapes/sizes. The Universal Frost Buddy was born, and it became an instant success. It reached the #3 spot in Thermocoolers on Amazon within 4 months of being on the marketplace. The line has expanded to accommodate larger-sized beverage containers as well as wine bottles, and now even includes a collection of insulated dog bowls!

    “Today in corporate America, where the quality of a product is sought above all else, we’ve found an amazing partner in Frost Buddy", says SVP of Sales & Marketing Brian Porter. "Mitch and Brock have built a proven, high quality retail line with the sleek design and, most importantly, functionality, that fits right in with Starline’s core values. Frost Buddy is an outstanding addition to our current stable of brand partners."

  • 13 Jun 2022 9:20 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    When the C-Suite of Tennessee-based supplier Gold Bond periodically held meetings during some of the tougher stretches of 2020, they kept asking themselves the same question.

    “We started hunkering down and going, ‘What do we want to be when we grow up?’” says Gold Bond’s Chief Revenue Officer, Britney Godsey.

    It might seem a strange question for a company that’s been around for over 75 years. But the pandemic forced a reexamination for just about every company in the promotional products industry, and Gold Bond remained positive.

    It came down to a simple question: Gold Bond knew what it was, but did the rest of the world?

    It was time for, perhaps not quite a rebrand, but a refresh. Godsey got with the marketing team, and the result is Monday’s official launch of Gold Bond’s new look and feel.

    “It was very much a metamorphosis,” Godsey says. “We’ve always had this sort of heartbeat and pulse that we lived and died by internally, but externally, you couldn’t see that.”

    Features like logos and mission statements tell stories, no matter whether it’s intentional. It was time for those things to combine and tell the story Gold Bond wanted them to.

    “If I had to put it in one sentence, this refresh is going to show Gold Bond experienced through the lens of our own narrative,” Godsey says.

    A “Painful At Times” Process

    Inna Nasledova, Gold Bond’s director of marketing, was tasked with leading the transformation from an idea to something tangible, but Godsey was there with her every step of the way.

    “I feel like we were Bonnie and Clyde for the last several months,” Godsey says of her working relationship with Nasledova through the refresh.

    Nasledova was adamant that her whole marketing team be involved in the process, lending ideas from each person’s perspective. It all came out of a long series of brainstorming sessions projected onto a digital board. Everyone had to come to these sessions with three ideas or visuals that inspired them or that they associated with what they believed Gold Bond was through their eyes. They would all talk through these visuals; what they liked, what they didn’t like. This included Godsey, who committed herself to the project, despite it being outside of what many CROs would consider their responsibilities.

    “She has a lot of meetings,” Nasledova says of Godsey. “She’s pretty busy. The fact that she was able to join every single brainstorm and come up with ideas with all of us, it was just fun. Overwhelming at times, but it was absolutely fun.”

    The team began to almost speak their own language, chipping away at what to do with the logo that had served them so well for years. They became better at knowing what they didn’t want than articulating what they did, somehow never wearing down the patience of graphic designer Justin Wright, who sometimes had to remind them they need to actually tell him what they wanted as opposed to speaking in abstractions that only they understood.

    Gold Bond president Mark Godsey managed to avoid the chaos of those brainstorming sessions, but any images or ideas with potential would always reach him before any final stages.

    “I would describe it as painful at times,” Nasledova jokes about the trial and error of bringing ideas to the leader of Gold Bond.

    “Mark, our president, is very protective of the brand in general,” Britney Godsey says. “It's funny because it’s like nothing tests your relationships with your colleagues like creative brainstorming. Everybody’s got an opinion, right?”

    Both women had their president’s full support, however, and they trusted each other to keep being wrong until they were right.

    “It was so easy to collaborate with her because no idea was off the table,” Britney Godsey says.

    “Same Vibe, Different Feel”

    The challenge facing the rebrand was balancing the past against the future. Gold Bond was founded in 1947, and experience means trust, so how do you tap into that trust without seeming antiquated?

    “How do we maintain and pay respect to what we’ve had in the past and twist it in a way where it’s still the same vibe, but it’s a different feel?” Nasledova says.

    Gold Bond’s offerings have adapted with the times, including influencer kits and pop-up shops, but Britney Godsey felt the logo and mission statement said too much without really saying what they wanted. The old logo, a globe that Gold Bond had become known for, showed off a lot of colors, something Godsey referred to as a “buffet” that “almost watered down the brand unintentionally.”

    Revealed Monday was the new logo, stripping down some of those colors and focusing on a charcoal, orange and cyan.

    The globe is 3D, intended to suggest depth that represents the new products Gold Bond has developed over the years.

    “It’s breathing,” Britney Godsey says. “It’s almost like it’s pulsating, right? We wanted somebody to experience the brand, not just notice the brand.”

    And of course, there is the new mission statement: “We strive to spark brand connection at the intersection of people, passion, and branded merchandise.”

    The final product passed the Gold Bond president’s test. “While our globe represents our worldwide commitment to service across the world, we decided a new brand was due,” says Mark Godsey. “With that said, you will see a new logo, new commitment to service and, as always, a firm dedication to delivering more than you expect.”

    It took a lot of planning to get the message perfect.

    “We’ve been slowly building up to, ‘I know what I want to be when I grow up,’ Britney Godsey says. “So now we’re like, ‘Hey, this is the coming out ceremony.’”

  • 13 Jun 2022 2:57 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE, the leading provider of information, marketingand business management solutions to the promotional products industry, announcethe accumulation of one million verified products in the SAGE Total Access product database.

    SAGE has the only Verified by Supplier database in the industry. As a SAGE Advantage Member, suppliers are encouraged to verify product information and pricing through the SAGE Supplier Center in real-time. Products can also be verified through SAGE’s Bulk Product Update and real-time APIs. When a distributor sees the Verified by Supplier icon, they know they can trust that the product’s data and pricing are up-to-date and accurate. Over 80percent of active products in the SAGE database are verifiedand many distributors choose to only search for verified products. Additionally, verified products have an increased chance of showing up first in search results.

    With the supply chain issues and market fluctuations we’ve been seeing that are not likely to be resolved in the immediate future, the ability for suppliers to verify their product data and for distributors to be able to rely on that data’s accuracy for their customers is paramount for our industry,” said David Natinsky, President of SAGE. “We are thrilled to have reached a million verified products in our databaseand we will continue to work with our suppliers to ensure that as many products in our database as possible remain verified.”

    Distributors can limit searches to only verified products in SAGE Online, SAGE Web, or SAGE Mobile by going into the product search tab and selecting the VERIFIED checkbox in the “Other Filter Options” at the bottom of the search screen. Within search results, verified products display a red checkmark in the right top corner of the tile view. To see if a product is verified, locate the red verified logo next to the product’s pricing table. To view the most recent date of verification, hover over the verified logo.

  • 2 Jun 2022 8:43 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Importers continue to struggle as the supply chain’s woes continue. While down from their peaks earlier in the year, ports are still dealing with ships stuck at anchor and overcrowded container yards that they’re unable to clear.

    And disruptions are set to grow, as freight’s “peak season” begins this month with the influx of goods for the back-to-school and holiday seasons.

    Peak Season: Shipping’s peak season typically begins in late June, but importers got a bit of a jump on it this year. Imports at major U.S. ports were up 6.6% in the first quarter year-over-year, according to Beacon Economics, a research and consulting firm, and that added container volume is expected to further snarl congested ports.

    • Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, told the Wall Street Journal, “They will continue to be tight until early next year if we don’t increase the velocity of getting them off the ships and off the port.”

    Historically, getting goods from a factory in China to their recipient in the U.S. has taken about 45 days. Supply chain congestion has grown that timeline to more than 100 days, shippers say.

    The Promo Perspective: Shipping and “peak season” has been as chaotic for promo importers as it has for other industries, but they are managing the disruptions. Trevor Gnesin, CEO of Tustin, California-based Logomark, says, “This is traditionally the case every year, so we are used to it, but yes, with the situation that we have at this time, it does put additional pressure to the supply chain.”

    Bill Barrett, senior vice president of programs at Sterling, Illinois-headquartered HALO, says, “The supply chain disruptions that have impacted all industries over the past few years have diluted the ‘traditional’ peak shipping seasons. Delays due to manufacturing challenges, lockdowns or port congestion have delayed shipments and compressed shipping schedules so that the seasonal peaks seem to be one consistent flow of goods.

    “We work with our account executives, supplier partners and manufacturers to accelerate our production timelines whenever possible so that we can account for any unforeseen challenges and deliver to our clients on time.”

    Gnesin says, “We plan our shipping around the situation, so we do have a consistent volume of product arriving daily.”

    Part of equation is keeping customers informed on how shipping challenges affect their timelines. Barrett says, “Our global sourcing, import compliance and logistics teams maintain contact with our account executives during the importing process so that they can keep their clients updated and manage commitments.”

    The Port Situation: Conditions at ports have improved in several different ways. The number of ships waiting outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has dropped from a peak of more than 100 vessels at the beginning of the year to approximately 30 ships today. The cost of shipping a container to the U.S. has dropped considerably. Freight rates are averaging around $8,000 per container this year, less than half of what shippers were paying late in 2021.

    But challenges remain:

    • Warehouses are full and trucking companies and railroads don’t have the equipment or workers they need.
    • About 40% of the containers that arrive at the Port of Los Angeles are moved out via rail, but only about half of those coming in each day are loaded onto trains.
    • Making matters worse, rail companies let a lot of their workers go during the pandemic and are having trouble restaffing as many have since taken better-paying jobs.
  • 31 May 2022 10:38 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    It’s hard to talk about the current give-back program by Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based supplier without stumbling into a pun. It’s certainly making a buzz with their customers. But really, the people behind it are just trying to be(e) responsible citizens of the world through the Honeybees and Humans program."

    In 2022, 1% of all profits earned by Raining Rose will be donated to help farmers and families in Central and South America scale their beekeeping operations through a program with Heifer International, a non-profit based in Arkansas.

    “Being a supplier that uses a ton of beeswax annually and monthly even, we thought this was a really great way that we could continue acting as good stewards towards these communities that are similar to those that we source our ingredients from,” says Stephanie Garland, marketing lead and promotional sales for Raining Rose.

    The program is more than just a thoughtful way to remember and be supportive to the kind of materials Raining Rose is sourcing for products such as lip balm. It’s actually essential work. Honeybees are dying off at an alarming rate in recent decades, and their pollination patterns are a crucial part of our food systems all over the world. Albert Einstein once said that, if bees disappeared, humans would only have four years to live.

    In the process of supporting Heifer International, the non-profit has educated members of Raining Rose on why this cause is so crucial. “One of the things we learned is that bee pollination actually impacts or supports one third of the food that the entire world eats, or consumes,” Garland says. “And so basically without honeybees and not supporting them, people would probably starve.”

    In one way, an unintended benefit of Raining Rose’s commitment is the education that it provides. Many corporate social responsibility, sustainability or give-back programs understandably tend to focus on issues that the general public already knows are grave problems that needs to be addressed. Those causes do need to be financially supported, but much of the public isn’t fully aware that saving the bee population is about something much greater than showing compassion for insects.

    “I think as time goes on, we definitely will be probably more evangelists and advocates for this because it is really important,” Garland says,

    Nothing expresses that advocacy than the sheer commitment of their program. “We’ve heard from our customers, people that are working with us for the first time, ‘Wow, this is all-inclusive,’” says Ellen Bardsley, marketing automation and content lead for Raining Rose. “It is 1% of our annual profits. It is not just, ‘If you buy lip balm..’ It’s not just ‘If you buy a certain type of lip balm.’”

    The leadership team at Raining Rose quickly got behind the cause for its big picture necessity, its educational practicality, and the people it helps directly. As a Certified B Corporation, Raining Rose Promos was going to be involved in a 2022 give-back program in one form or another, but it’s happy to find a unique cause to get behind.

    Heifer International helps families set up business plans in their communities so that they can make a sustainable living through honeybees. It all starts with helping those people. It might lead to beeswax for the type of promotional products available through Raining Rose. But it might lead to so much more.

  • 20 May 2022 3:50 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    American Solutions for Business raised $3,500 for non-profit, Reading4Research, at their inaugural Accelerate event in Minneapolis, MN. ASB’s supplier partner, The Book Company, also donated 50 children’s books in conjunction to the monetary donation.

    “We’re proud to uphold the culture of giving within ASB,” expressed Dana Zezzo, ASB’s VP of Marketing, Vendor Relations & Events. “We have established philanthropy as a foundational element of our organization and are committed to incorporating this spirit into all ASB events as well. Thank you to all suppliers and attendees who helped make this a success.”

    The donation process included a raffle in which attendees purchased tickets to enter to win their desired prizes. These prizes were donated by supporting suppliers of American Solutions for Business. These suppliers included A+ Wine Designs, BEL Promo, Compass, Elemental Bottles, Gemline, Hit Promo, HPG Brands, Idol Memory, J Charles, Links Unlimited, Refresh Glass, Rustico and S&S Activewear.

    “We are beyond grateful that American Solution for Business generously supports our mission to change the narrative for pediatric cancer patients by funding groundbreaking research at the University of Minnesota” founder of Reading4Research, Andrea Wagner stated. “Your partnership is truly exceptional, and we are so grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
  • 16 May 2022 12:48 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    American Solutions for Business recently hosted its first-ever Accelerate event in Minneapolis, MN on May 10-12. This format included 27 supplier partners hosting suite-style meetings with a targeted group of 60 qualifying ASB sales associates. This allowed for personalized conversations surrounding product, trends and how to best service end-user customers.

    “Early feedback indicates a positive experience for all involved,” expressed Dana Zezzo, ASB’s VP of Marketing, Vendor Relations & Events. “After relying heavily on virtual resources the last couple years, it’s so exciting to see valuable in-person engagement between ASB salespeople and our supplier partners.”

    Attendees were invited to an exclusive facility tour at personal-care product supplier, Mixie (HPG) and tasting experience at the hotel featuring Maple Ridge Farms. The event also included organized socials where attendees could network and relax after a day of education. ASB also hosted charity efforts to support non-profit organization, Reading4Research, in which attendees participated a in supplier-supported raffle.
  • 10 May 2022 9:54 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Most professionals in promotional products agree that the industry needs to continue on its rapid path to digital transformation in the coming years.

    What exactly that might look like in execution, however, and the path to reaching it is more difficult to pin down from company to company, or even person to person. The inherent risk of that reality is that digital transformation remains a vague idea that is objectively positive, but never takes a specific shape.

    Turning digital transformation from an industry term into actionable methods, processes and results is a front-facing mission for PPAI. While distributors and suppliers work to make strides of their own, the Association has committed to working with business and technology services firms to facilitate the necessary advancements.

    Last week the Association took a big first step in that facilitation by way of a meeting that included some of the industry’s top business service providers. Included for the round table conversation at PPAI’s headquarters in Irving, Texas were representatives from Antera Software USA, Bright Stores, commonsku, DistributorCentral, eXtendTech, OrderMyGear, PromoLink, SAGE and ZOOMcatalog.

    Denham emphasized that PPAI’s interest in the conversation was to solve a major industry problem, and that those in the room and beyond have a hand to play in the progress that all agree is necessary.

    However, some voices in the room brought different perspectives to what solutions need to be prioritized.

    Morning discussions kicked off with an open question: “What does digital transformation mean to you?”The answers and opinions on the topic may create a template for how the change that will take shape in coming years.


    “The most important thing, I think, is to educate the distributors and suppliers,” says Robert Guler, president of Promolink.

    Many agreed that suppliers and distributors are running businesses with a focus on products, meaning that it isn’t always reasonable for them to be fully caught up on the technological tools and practices at their disposal. It’s fair to expect any individual company to simply do what “works for them,” and it might be tempting for the rest of the industry to assume those who don’t adapt will be left behind. But this thinking only slows down the growth of the industry, and in a business-to-business model, creates hurdles for everyone.

    To Guler, it’s important not to put inflexible models in front of these companies because, by nature, they want to differentiate themselves from each other.

    “The first thing is to advocate [for better digital practices],” Guler says. “Show possibilities. Flexibility is the answer.”


    No digital conversation can happen without discussing cyber security. Unfortunately, security will be an ongoing challenge in the digital space because cyber attacks are likely to continue to evolve in strategy and sophistication over time.

    Everyone in the industry needs to be aware of current and evolving best practices in digital security considering the amount of data companies entrust with one another.

    “PPAI’s role in security can be to raise awareness,” says Mike Pfeiffer, vice president of information technology at American Solutions for Business and chair of PPAI’s Technology Committee.

    Digital Transformation in this realm means staying ahead of issues before they come up. “Once you’ve been attacked, then you’re aware,” warns Pfeiffer.


    Everyone present seemed to agree that the industry has come along way in terms of technology practices since 2019, spurned by the pandemic. Still, one word came up quite a bit in the meeting: antiquated. Doing a better job of designing things for the end-buyer’s convenience was stressed.

    “What’s different about [digital transformation] this time is the focus on the consumer experience,” says PPAI Board Chair Dawn Olds.

    One attendee who joined the industry from retail almost a decade ago said he was initially “shocked” by how complicated the ordering process is for promotional products. Others agreed.

    “I think there’s an interesting customer journey to map out,” says Dustin Downing, chief product officer of OrderMyGear. “I do think there is room for us all to work better together and provide an experience that’s a more efficient and modern way.”

    Promo Data Exchange

    Data is a huge part of digital transformation, and PPAI is moving forward this month with Promo Data Exchange (PDX), in partnership with SAGE. PDX operates as a set of rules that are meant to create a universal way to input and search data.

    Several members present at the meeting asked why PPAI launched PDX when other standards, such as PromoStandards, are currently available. PPAI addressed the reasons that PDX was launched and the fact that the Association has attempted to collaborate with others on PDX standards for the overall benefit of the industry and remains willing to do so.

    In the simplest of terms, PDX could drastically reduce the phone calls or more tedious practices that industry members might rely on to check things such as inventory. This runs parallel with the Association’s commitment to developing internal digital tools and strategies that are transparent and can be shared with the industry as it adapts, says Edwin Gonzalez, PPAI’s director of digital transformation.

  • 6 May 2022 6:15 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    HALO, headquartered in Sterling, Illinois, has announced the acquisition of fellow distributor BrandVia located in San Jose, California.

    • The promotional products industry’s largest distributor, HALO was expected to generate roughly $850 million in revenue in 2022 before the announcement.

    The Acquisition: BrandVia will maintain its San Jose staff and presence and supports HALO’s advances into the global technology market.

    “BrandVia plays a key role in building the brands of an elite list of major technology clients, including Salesforce, Adobe, LinkedIn, PayPal and Nvidia,” says Marc Simon, HALO Chief Executive Officer. “They have built a strong reputation based on a keen focus on innovative promotional solutions, client-centric service offerings, and a skilled sales and support team.

    “Jim Childers, BrandVia CEO, and his team will infuse insight and expertise as HALO continues our expansion in the robust tech sector. We are thrilled to have them join HALO.”

    Childers says, “HALO’s resources and capabilities will have an immediate and positive impact on our ability create a more powerful brand experience for our clients. HALO’s expertise in global sourcing and distribution aligns well with the growing global footprint of our key clients. The breadth of HALO client services will allow us to provide clients with a deeper brand connection with key stakeholders domestically and around the world.”

    Jim Stutz, HALO executive vice president of sales and business development says, “The BrandVia team has built an impressive business based on understanding the needs of the top global brands in the rapidly growing tech sector. Our synergies will add value to clients and accelerate growth.”

    HALO has undertaken several significant acquisitions in recent years to expand its geographic footprint and reach into new markets.

    • It has added several larger distributors to the fold, including Axis Promotions in January 2020, Sunrise Identity in August 2018 and Caliendo Savio Enterprises in January 2018. Other recent additions include Chamberlain Marketing Group in October 2018 and Boost Promotional Branding in January 2018. Its most recent addition, prior to BrandVia, was Captiv8 in September 2021.
    • In October 2017, HALO acquired Michael C. Fina Recognition, which it has since rebranded as HALO Recognition. The acquisition supported the company’s expansion into the recognition, rewards, and incentive program market.
  • 6 May 2022 5:37 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    American Solutions for Business has completed its full integration with eCommerce partner, OrderMyGear (OMG). This integration positions ASB to offer customers a quick and simple solution for credit card and gift card online stores.

    “ASB’s success has always been based on valuing strong relationships,” says Miriah Cassidy, ASB’s VP of Sales Support. “This philosophy has played a major role in this project, as without the strong partnership between OMG and ASB, a successful integration would not be possible. We are more than thrilled to be able to provide this much-needed option to our salesforce and look forward to a successful future with OMG!”

    Not only does this offer an easy-to-use experience for the user, but order processing is also streamlined by automating order creation within ASB’s backend ERP system. This results in efficient, precise fulfillment for all parties involved.

    “OrderMyGear is ecstatic about the partnership with ASB,” says Sarah Goshgarian Unruh, OMG’s VP of Business Development. “The work behind the scenes between the two teams was the key to our successful integration and the beginning of a dynamic partnership. We look forward to helping fuel the growth of ASB’s online store business and are delighted to be a part of the ASB family!

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