Andrew Hill, Listawood

In the hot seat is Andrew Hill from Listawood, he is the director of sales and marketing!

Q.How did you get into the merchandise industry?

A. While working in advertising I was put in touch with a very well established sourcing house based in central London. At the time, I knew very little about premiums other than the obvious things such as ‘widgets’ in cornflake packets, voucher redemption campaigns, and the odd footie coin collection. However, I quickly saw the attractiveness of enhancing a brand’s profile, and incremental business, by adding value through the product.

The company was looking for someone to direct things on the sales side and felt I fitted the bill. I accepted the position and it wasn’t long before I was totally hooked on the sheer range of possibilities and the excitement of matching bespoke products to target audiences. That’s when the world of promotional products really opened up to me and boy, did I have fun, working in the UK, Europe, and, of course, China.

Q.What were product standards like at that time?

A. Certainly variable. As with today, discussions on budget and perceived value were to the fore and it was important that clients and their agencies were fully aware of what they were getting. Sometimes operating ‘below the line’ meant that there wasn’t the initial intensity at the client end with some of the campaigns we converted back then, but the surrounding furor around ‘must-have’ premiums certainly changed hearts and minds.

The market for the product was in the throes of development and, as today, we needed to ensure that quality was maintained otherwise the fallout could affect brand equity. Good quality control procedures were essential, as was an agreement on product life expectancy, thus investment in those areas was critical. Without this internal pressure, it could have been a nightmare as promotional products, generally, were perceived to only last five minutes and, for many even that would have been an exaggeration.

Q.Why is the push for greater compliance a good thing?

A. The industry has come to a crossroads. We either have to accept that compliance will help to enhance and grow our industry, raising the profile of products and our expertise, or we somewhat covertly trade within a lowly perceived industry and take the consequences.

Those companies who have not yet switched on to the benefits of product compliance will find it harder to convert business and maintain an acceptable margin. Fortunately, we are seeing increased levels of internal investment across the board from both suppliers and distributors who are in it for the long haul. Good provenance is an important part of a business development strategy.

Q.Where will the compliance debate go next?

A. Quality/compliance is here to stay. Those who choose to ignore it will eventually have nowhere to go. The next stage will be two-pronged. Firstly, should we focus on engaging those who do not understand why it is important to their future and help them come on board? As consumers we are all aware of quality distinctions but, arguably, less so of compliance and environmental impact yet. So, secondly, should we now raise the question as to whether the industry should set its own minimum standards? Is this a step too far or is it long overdue?

Q.How can BPMA members get involved?

A. The BPMA is currently taking advice and opinions from its Charter members on a number of subjects and this one clearly has a defining context. All BPMA members operate within its Code of Conduct and are entitled to discuss the direction in which they would like the association to advance. We are all stakeholders and we are all entitled to our say, and whether it be through a BPMA organized event, discussion forum, or by email to the BPMA executive, I would recommend that you have your say.

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