As the pandemic slowly receded in 2022, promo pros helped clients of all stripes get back to business. Entries from the latest PPAI Pyramid Awards demonstrated the boundless creativity of the promo industry, as well as its ability to provide memorable experiences that yield measurable results.
The PPAI Pyramid Awards, sponsored by Pacesetter Awards, have identified the leading achievement in promotional product marketing for more than 60 years. PPAI salutes the 2023 winners, chosen from campaigns created between April 1, 2021, and April 1, 2022, for the innovative and forward-thinking programs they developed to help clients build lasting and lucrative relationships with customers and end users.
Here, we take a closer look at 12 winners of this year’s competition for client programs.
Gold Winner: Cliff Quicksell Associates
Cliff Quicksell Associates drafted the “Make It A Home Run With KMK” program direct mail campaign to “pitch” the client’s team as a new baseball season approached. The program targeted 100 prospects with a goal of 25% making a sales appointment with the client. A box decorated inside and out with custom baseball graphics was filled with custom baseball cards of each member of the KMK team that listed relevant “stats” and experience, plus logoed baseballs signed by the salesperson sending the kit. Each box was equipped with a custom light-activated sound chip that, when opened, played a series of ballpark souds: an umpire yelling “Play ball!”, the crack of a bat, a crowd cheering and an announcer declaring “That’s a home run!” The multi-sensory box produced an 80% appointment rate, generating 52 new clients at a cost of $86.54 each – a home run, indeed.
Silver Winner: Cliff Quicksell Associates
When the client wanted a low-cost, high-visibility direct mail piece to reactivate 79 dormant accounts, Cliff Quicksell Associates created a punny puzzle to physically engage recipients with their message. The loose pieces were delivered in a custom box bearing a teaser on the outside to build intrigue and an invitation to schedule a meeting on the inside lid, featuring the sender’s business card. Underneath the puzzle pieces inside the box was a printed maze bearing the slogan, “We can start you on the right path to improve your bottom line.” Once assembled, the puzzle let the recipient know, “We have all the pieces to elevate your marketing.” Nearly 9 in 10 recipients said they assembled their puzzle, and the program beat the standard 2-4% return for direct mail, achieving an outstanding 68% engagement that ultimately yielded 17 reactivated accounts (31.4%) – far exceeding the client’s goal.
Client Branding Programs
Gold Winner: Hillary’s
Construction company Greiner engaged the promotional professionals of Hillary’s to fully refresh their brand. The project, which began in January 2020 and launched fully in September 2021, encompassed everything from the company’s logo and companion graphics to a tagline, website redesign and branded products to promote the updated look and feel of the company and its marketing. Although the scope and length of the project expanded beyond initial expectations, Greiner was pleased with the insights gained into their position in the market, as well as the broad range of practical and functional promotional products that reflect the brand in memorable ways for a variety of end users, from hard hats and notebooks to a snack gift box and portable speaker.
Gold Winner: IMAGEN Inc.
IMAGEN Inc. helped entertainment website Fandor re-establish itself as “The Home for Cinephiles,” attracting and engaging users with the goal of growing its paying subscriber base. Fandor-branded prizes were awarded to trivia contest winners to make wearing and carrying Fandor gear a badge of honor for cinephiles wanting to show off their knowledge of film. IMAGEN helped the client curate a diverse yet cohesive collection of items to offer multiple Fandor-branded options. An online Fandor Gift Store allowed winners to select their gift, enter their address and submit their selection for fulfillment – all handled by IMAGEN. Through the use of the carefully selected branded merchandise, in conjunction with regular online trivia contests and other activities over the course of seven months, Fandor more than doubled its online community activity, grew its membership base and increased premium paid memberships by 10%.
Silver Winner: WHOOPLA
WHOOPLA helped Agency Guacamole and Matrix hair care invite 125 social media influencers to try the Unbreak My Blonde hair care product line and post about it to generate buzz. The client wanted an interactive “Break in Case of Hair Emergency” box, similar to a fire alarm box. The emergency glass component raised safety concerns, but the WHOOPLA team came up with a paperboard box with perforated lid and custom insert tray to hold the products. The box was fully sealed, so the only way to open it was to “break” the top of the box, which was designed to “break” in a shattered glass pattern. A small mallet was included to enhance the experience. The campaign reached nearly 4 million people through high engagement on TikTok and Instagram, with over 400,000 views for the top TikTok video.
Gold Winner: Arid Zone
Arid Zone designed Kinder Kits, a bright and engaging collection of resources for 3-year-old children, for the Victoria State Government Department of Education & Training in Australia. The kits were distributed to about 60,000 kindergarten students to encourage learning at home through play. An expert panel evaluated the kit packaging and contents to ensure that everything was age-appropriate, safe, engaging and inclusive, and the multi-use activity case was designed to be both robust and light enough for a child to carry. Contents included colored markers with washable ink, a whiteboard panel and eraser, and an animal magnet puzzle – all intended to help recipients develop language skills, social skills, emotional expression and creativity. Feedback from Early Childhood Services and recipient families was extremely positive, and funds have been approved to extend the program for two more years.
Employee Incentive & Recognition Programs
Silver Winner: IICON Creative Strategies
The leadership team at Carpenters Local 494 Skilled Trade Union in Windsor, Ontario, Canada wanted to reconnect on a personal level with as many of the more than 500 active members as possible and thank them for their dedication and loyalty. IICON Creative Strategies had previously developed Local 494’s winged logo to appeal to the many motorcycle enthusiasts among the membership, and they built on the previous year’s well-received Union Made in Canada full zip hoodie with a “Welcome Home” campaign featuring new long-sleeved tees and beanies. IICON sourced the union-made garments from a Canadian manufacturer, and the beanie featured a small red maple leaf label to acknowledge the union’s Canadian roots. Union leadership was delighted that roughly 90% of members attended the event, held at the union hall shortly before Christmas 2021, to claim their gifts and visit with fellow members.
Internal Communication Programs
Gold Winner: Martket Branding
Visier, a workforce planning software company, engaged Martket Branding to help introduce the company’s five key values – Roll up our sleeves, Play to win, Never stop learning, Make it easy and Be proud – to its 500 employees. The values were launched at a company-wide meeting, and Visier employees were invited to order a variety of fun and functional products celebrating those values. The branded apparel and accessories include five T-shirts, one for each value; a clear tumbler with straw; a five-pack of pens (plus bookmark), each highlighting a different value; hoodies; a ring light and cellphone holder; and a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Martket Branding built and manages the online shop and fulfillment across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and the values collection drew more than 450 orders in its first year.
Gold Winner: Render Ad Service
Render Ad Service helped the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and Henry County Sheriff’s Office launch a community car show to raise money for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes nonprofit organization, which supports at-risk children. The event committee wanted a distinctive award to create buzz and attract participants. Render Ad Service recommended a full-sized basketball, autographed by former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who had agreed to donate $5,000 as a grand prize, as the trophy. A local news station reported that the top 25 cars would receive an autographed basketball, and calls came from around the Southeast to enter. The venue lot was filled, with 550 cars entering the contest and more than 1,500 people attending. The fun, all-ages event raised $32,000 – over three times the original goal – and will be held annually in a much larger venue.
Silver Winner: Martket Branding
Martket Branding designed and produced custom playing cards for the BC Hydro Power Pioneers, a nonprofit group representing more than 5,000 BC Hydro retirees and their families in western Canada. The goal of the product was threefold: to provide a unique and engaging way to preserve and share the legacy of the utility company’s history; provide members with a safe, stay-at-home activity during COVID-19; and to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital. Each of the 54 playing cards, printed on premium casino-grade linen playing card stock, features interesting historical facts and imagery. More than 100 decks were sold online via the PowerPioneersGear.com shop; another 200 decks were sold or gifted to museums, libraries and community groups; and all sales proceeds were donated to BC Children’s Hospital.
Social Responsibility Programs
Gold Winner: Arid Zone
The Kinder Kits designed by Arid Zone, a bright and engaging collection of resources for 3-year-old children in Australia, were also recognized for sustainability. In addition to ensuring that everything was age-appropriate, safe, engaging and inclusive, the kits were also carefully designed and sourced to be as durable and eco-friendly as possible. The Arid Zone team spent six months sourcing recycled and recyclable materials that also met strict compliance standards. For example, the kit’s custom washable markers designed especially for small hands were made from recycled plastics and filled with washable ink. The final product was 100% carbon neutral thanks to carbon offsets, with the credits benefitting the Tasmanian Native Forest Protection project of Australia. The colorful case received high praise for its engaging, functional and environmentally-friendly design.
Silver Winner: The Dunstan Group
After its successful survival kit program, Duke Energy again engaged The Dunstan Group to supply vulnerable customers with tools to keep up with critical alerts, call for help or report an outage if a storm knocked out electricity to their homes. The Dunstan Group helped select and deliver 7,000 handheld emergency tools (weather radio with LED flashlight, power bank, solar and hand crank power) branded with the Duke Energy logo to customers in coastal Florida and the Carolinas at the start of hurricane season. Also provided was a manual including a phone number and directions in English and Spanish to report outages. By sourcing a multi-function product likely to be put in a prominent location and used as part of storm preparation and recovery, rather than kept in a drawer, The Dunstan Group helped Duke Energy boost brand awareness and make sure its customers know their power provider and how to reach them.