Don’t Stagnate, Innovate

How does the UK promotional industry keep innovating and what we can we learn from other industries, asks Diane Anderton?

There’s one question I am always asked every time I meet with a customer, whether at an event, site visit or meeting: “What’s new?”

The pressure on promotional product suppliers to keep on innovating and introducing new products and processes has never been greater, as distributors seek to increase the appeal of promotional products to end users.

But I don’t see the need for innovation as a problem or hassle. For me, it’s one of the things I love about this industry. After more than twenty years working with all things promo, I love that we can still fi nd bright new ideas to bring to the market.

So what does it mean to innovate? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”. Now that can be taken quite loosely in our market, as taking the idea of a promotional product and adjusting the function, shape, style or colour. But for me, it’s important to get down to specifics. What’s the next step for the promotional pen? Where do we go next in promotional drinkware? What will be the next big tech gadget?

The first place I would suggest anybody looks for completely new ideas is retail. What are the big trends there? Not all retail trends will translate to the promotional market, but some do and can be hugely successful. In drinkware especially, we’ve been inspired by the trend for healthy drinks and fruit-infused water, which led to us launching a fruit infuser for our water bottles.

This is a great example of innovation because it involves adding something to an existing product to add value while combining inspiration from the retail market. Some other trends won’t translate quite so well, perhaps the product is amazing, but where would you add a logo? 

I have a checklist for new product ideas:

  • Can we make it?
  • Can we make it better?
  • What options can we offer for colour, print and packaging?
  • Can we price competitively?
  • Is it a fad?
  • Can I instantly think of five customers who would buy this?

As a supplier and manufacturer, one of the other great sources of innovation comes from our distributors, and I want to encourage you to keep on challenging your suppliers. What is it your customers want that you just can’t find? Tell us and we can probably make it. And for suppliers, talk to your distributors, bring them products that they can sell and everybody will be happy.

In the long run, a lot of innovation simply comes down to gut instinct. Sometimes you just know that a product is going to fly. And that comes with experience, research and a passion for all things new – if you have those characteristics, then just keep on dreaming and creating. If you haven’t, it’s time to find them.

Diane Anderton, is sales and marketing director, SPS

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