TEDx speaker and expert on disruptive innovation Luke Williams challenged an audience of entrepreneurs and small-business owners at a trade show hosted by the Advertising Specialty Institute® (ASI)
to escape old ideas and embrace innovation to compete and thrive in today’s fast-paced business world.
“There’s nothing wrong with the ideas in the promotional products industry,” Williams told suppliers, distributors and decorators in the $24.7 billion promotional products industry on the last day of ASI Show® Chicago. “Does that mean they shouldn’t be challenged or changed? The ideas you’re using every day to think about your clients and the future – they’re the most important assets you own.”
ASI Chicago at the McCormick Place convention center opened Tuesday and closed Thursday, and was attended by 580 exhibitors, up 3%, and including 109 new to Chicago, up from 99 in 2018. Attendees came from 43 states and 12 countries, including 1,332 from Illinois, 240 women-owned companies and 239 minority-owned companies. All told, 3,744 distributors browsed a busy show floor and took advantage of free education, networking and fun activities.
According to ASI’s Advantages magazine, promo companies in the Midwest sold a total of $5 billion worth of promotional products in 2018, 3% more over 2017. Illinois follows closely behind Ohio, leading the Midwest region with $821 million in annual promo sales.
Also at the show, 19 distributors – 14 of which are top 40 companies, including HALO Branded Solutions, Proforma, Taylor Communications, Geiger, AIA Corporation, American Solutions for Business, iPROMOTEu, Kaeser & Blair, Safeguard and more – chose ASI Chicago, the largest promotional products trade show of the summer, to bring groups or host their sales meetings.
In his keynote, Williams said companies that fail to innovate or only embrace incremental change, may get stuck in a commodity trap, up against constant price pressures. “The work of disruption is doing the work of crisis without the crisis – when there’s no justified reason for doing it today,” he said.
The audience raved about the keynote, eager to put Williams’ ideas into practice at their own companies.
“He really made me think about and assess the things we are currently doing as a business, and to not be afraid of new opportunities that, if added in correctly, could really take your business to the next level,” said distributor Barbara Garvey, of Garvey’s Office Products (asi/548050).
James Pederson, of Yours Truly Marketing Incentives (asi/365490), said, “Luke Williams’ innovation piece was just incredible in regard to what the industry needs to do in taking a new approach, and to just always challenge yourself daily. Don’t be afraid of new ideas.”
The show also featured a motivational breakfast with Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott, who inspired attendees with her incredible story of triumphing over horrific injuries, losing a leg, finding purpose in life and paying it forward through the Heather Abbott Foundation, which raises funds for customized prostheses for those who have suffered limb loss after traumatic circumstances. To date, the foundation has raised more than $1 million and given out 28 prosthetic limbs. “We’ve really had the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” Abbott said.
ASI president and CEO Timothy M. Andrews was gratified so many people were motivated and buoyed by the keynote speakers. “In today’s digital world, when we’re increasingly glued to our devices, it’s wonderful to provide a space where people can come together to hear stories that touch their hearts and make them think,” Andrews said.
Rita Ugianskis-Fishman, senior vice president and general manager of ASI Show, said she was thrilled with the response to ASI’s last large trade show of the season and is already planning to wow attendees at ASI’s 2020 shows in Orlando, its new location in Fort Worth, and Chicago. Registration opens in early August.
“To further add to the show experience, we even offered beer tastings and popcorn from favorite Chicago-area hot spots right on the show floor, providing a much-needed break, along with the ever-popular New Product Preview Reception, which drew over 200 distributors,” said Ugianskis-Fishman, adding that the show also offered an expanded Fashion Zone that showcased the latest wearables and included presentations by apparel experts. “That’s why people keep returning to ASI Chicago – because we’re continually innovating.”
Numerous show-goers took advantage of ASI’s plentiful networking opportunities, with 324 party-goers enjoying a gorgeous summer night at the ASI Bash at I|O Godfrey, Chicago’s largest indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge at the Godfrey Hotel.
Exhibitors at ASI Chicago were happy with steady traffic and engaged distributors. “ASI Chicago pulls a large audience, which is wonderful for us,” said David Mikulecky, of Orbus Exhibit & Display Group (asi/75209). “It offers us a great opportunity to meet new customers, put a face to a name with a lot of people you only speak to over the phone, and is a fantastic way to introduce new products.”
Distributors enjoyed meeting new suppliers and learning fresh marketing ideas. “I come to the Chicago show because it’s great for idea generation and sourcing new products,” said Kirk Meyer, of Meyer Dunlop Group (asi/268990).
Ruth Ann Pederson, of Yours Truly Marketing Incentives said, “I attended Orlando, Fort Worth and now, Chicago. Attending all three shows sets me up for a great year. ASI Chicago allows me to identify the products I’ll need for the fourth quarter and holiday season. Thank you, ASI Show, for making my business successful!”
And on Wednesday, at a prestigious black-tie event at the Theater on the Lake event space that attracted 421 of the industry’s top leaders and companies, ASI announced the winners of the 2019 Counselor® Awards, including HALO Branded Solutions CEO Marc Simon as Person of the Year and Tom Hung and Michael Hung of Hong Kong-based manufacturer Headwind Group as International Persons of the Year.