Why 2K?

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Ask yourself: After it’s over, what are you going to have to remember it by besides the Y2K debacle?

Corporate premium buyers are asking themselves that question, or will soon be, fueling a run on ad specialty items labeled to remind their consumers and customers they lived through the millennium. Demand for 21st century-themed merchandise over the next two years will drive distributor sales growth as high as 40 to 50 percent compared to the already healthy 20 percent growth of recent years, some insiders predict.

“We will see growth above and beyond normal. I’ll bet dollars to donuts you’ll see special campaigns tying into the millennium,” says Leonard Saffir. “Whether you have 50 employees or you are Philip Morris, you have to be thinking about what you are going to do that is special.” Saffir heads up Adventures One, a company formed to develop Florida franchises for the Quincy, MA-based ad specialties chain, Adventures in Advertising.

Saffir believes the transition is a once-in-a-lifetime selling hook for public relations, advertising, and promo agencies who want to help clients celebrate.

Perhaps predictably, countdown timers and millennium clocks are already finding buyers. At Sweda LLC in Los Angeles, demand for those items has boosted total business by 5 percent, says Sweda president Marvin Ruwin.

Sweda will sell $2 million worth of the items from June through this year and millions of dollars more next year, Ruwin predicts. Prices range from $1 to $200.

Not everyone in the industry is as sanguine as Saffir over the propects at century’s end, however.

BICENTENNIAL BLUES? Premium distributors may do well to hold off putting deposits down on those Key West condos. If the industry’s bicentennial experience is a taste of things to come, specialty ad vendors should plan to stay home and watch Dick Clark on New Year’s Eve 2000, says Advertising Specialty Institute president Marvin Spike. “The bicentennial was one of the biggest flops this industry has ever had,” says Spike.

The promotional products industry isn’t the souvenir market. It thrives not on one-shot events, but on meeting individual needs with solutions, says Spike. That’s not to say there won’t be scads of premiums with millennial themes. It’s just that Spike doesn’t see companies scheduling more programs than usual and ordering more prizes.

Don’t tell Joe Brodsky that.

“Millennial madness will hit the nation like a category-five hurricane. We plan to be the rope for companies to use to tie onto the new century,” says Brodsky, Saffir’s partner at the Boca Raton-based Adventures One and a former sales and marketing manager at Bacardi Martini USA.

Adventures One plans to open 25 new AIA outlets in the state by the middle of next year to add to the five existing offices, through ownership, joint ventures, and franchising.

Florida is seeing brisk growth in new companies, and people will be clamoring for items linked to the change of century. The average franchisee can only handle about seven companies, says Saffir. Adventures One offers marketing services including sales promotion, public relations, and special events.

“Companies don’t know how to cut the millennium pie. There are many middle-sized companies out there that have never purchased promo products,” says Saffir, a former executive vp of global public relations for Porter Novelli International.

Others aren’t so sure. The only millennium bug John Garrity sees is lurking around customers’ MIS departments. “Our clients are more concerned about protecting themselves from Y2K computer inefficiencies,” says the sales and marketing chief of Maumee, OH-based premium distributor Boise Marketing Services.

Hmmm. Has anybody been on the phone to Silicon Valley to see about a commemorative, bug-killing, Intel Milennium Pentium chip?

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