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Better Safe Than Sorry

Compliance and product safety are becoming business critical issue for promotional companies. Andrew Hill explains why it matters and how the BPMA can help.

Q. Why are big brands becoming more focused on compliance and product safety?

A. With brand equity at stake, buyers and marketers are well aware of the potential damage to a brand through bad publicity driven by the media. With promotional products being ‘brand ambassadors’ as such, it is becoming more important that the products are in alignment with the brand’s own values, hence the need for the confidence that safety and compliance can bring to the process.

Q. Does the promotions industry have a good enough knowledge about product safety? How can it be improved?

A. Most suppliers are aware of the dynamics of the products which they offer to the market. Some have the safety and compliance angle completely covered and promote this with confidence, often providing certification as and when required. Others prefer to look the other way or say they were not aware that a product was non-compliant when challenged. The majority seem to sit somewhere in the middle, which suggests there is a future need for a pull-push (distributor/supplier/distributor) process if safety is to climb up the business agenda.

Q. How can distributors and end users be sure that they are buying compliant products?

A. They should ask, and be specific. Often, a distributor, or even an end user, will not know exactly what it is that they want (i.e. the nature of the compliance request). This largely is the result of a box-ticking exercise and suppliers then have to try to get to the bottom of it. However, the fact that there is a box to be ticked in the first place indicates that industry is becoming more demanding. It will not be too long before those boxes contain more elaborate information, as many of the larger brands do already.

Q. Why should more companies consider the BPMA charter status?

A. It is really important to ‘get with the programme’ if companies within our discipline want to look at their longer term prospects and develop their business in an area which is growing dramatically. The charter is not easy to achieve but does reflect confidence and surety right through the supply chain, bringing with it not only gravitas but also rewards in terms of new business gains.

Q. What is the cost of non-compliance in your eyes?

A. If the industry is to significantly grow then it is essential that all areas of safety and compliance are adhered to. The actual cost of not doing so is that brands will not consider promotional products as being a satisfactory medium for their marketing spend. One bad non-compliance experience could signal the end of expenditure going into seven figures, allied to a perpetual perception of the industry as being merely ‘trinkets and trash’. It really isn’t worth it?

Q. Some EU regulations are difficult to understand, so the BPMA is creating a guide to product safety next year. Do you think this is a good thing?

A. Product safety is, really, common sense writ large. EU regulations are often considered ridiculous but they are becoming more commonplace in brand purchasing programmes, to the extent that our industry needs to be aware of the consequences of non-compliance. It is difficult to say how long it will it be before all suppliers have to ‘sit up and take notice’ or run the risk of losing business. Being in a position to do something about it sooner rather than later is, clearly, the better line of approach.

Andrew Hill is the MD of Senator Pens in the UK and an advocate of driving a greater awareness of the industry by raising of standards in the supply chain. 

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