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In January of every year we take off from Edmonton down to Las Vegas for the annual PPAI EXPO.  This year’s expo featured over 3100 vendor booths and more highlights than ever before.  The goal of our trip is to make deeper vendor relations, take part in industry education and find great products for specific clients.  In the education we learned about discharge printing, turning promotional items into an experience (not just a giveaway thanks to Saul Colt) and how to define client personalities and our own personalities better.  For vendor relations, there were breakfasts, lunches, dinners and parties (thanks CommonSku, Party Rotten, AlphaBroder, PromoKitchen, BamBams) and the show itself…… but I know you’re not reading this annual blog for that!  You want to know what my favorite 20 items were from PPAI EXPO 2017 so here we go…

These items are in no particular order because they are all cool promotional items for different budgets and purposes that are awesome in their own way.

#1 Ember Coffee Mug

The first item to be truthful isn’t even a promotional item yet.  It’s the Ember Coffee Mug.  I saw it at Starbucks when I was in Vegas, but they were sold out so I couldn’t buy one.  It’s basically the ultimate travel mug.  It’s designed to get your coffee down to optimal drinking temperature fast and then keep it there.  It’s powered by a battery and has built in Wi-Fi, so you can control the temperature of your coffee from your phone.  They are about $150USD and they are on backorder right now worldwide.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see knockoffs start popping up in our industry within a year.

#2 Custom Power Banks

For the last couple of years rubber moulded custom USB flash drives have been very popular, as have been power banks, but now you can put the 2 together.  With minimums as low as 100 units you can get a 3-D mold of something that represents your business or your logo done as a power bank with varying powers and sizes available.  This is a pretty awesome way to make sure that your promotional power bank stays at the forefront of your clients mind even after they’ve received a newer one.

#3 Custom Shaped Cutting Boards

Epicurean a high end name brand for cutting boards.  This year at the Vegas promo show they introduced a line of cutting boards in the shapes of different states.  This is a great promo item to represent your company based on where your company is from.  IE. They had a California shaped cutting board with the Google logo on it.  So depending on where you are from, find out if they have a state in your shape and it’s a great way to build local pride with your employees and customers.

#4 Butter Washed Clothing

Yes I will say it again Butter Washed Clothing.  A decorator was showing off some game changing t-shirt altering technology.  They print your t-shirt using discharge printing or water based screen printing technology and then put it in a special wash they call a butter wash (they joke that they only use Parkay, but they wouldn’t tell us the real secret).  The t-shirts come out of the wash with the softest feel you can ever imagine.  The owner of the decorator told us that the way it works is that it wears the shirt down and raises the fibers to make a cotton shirt feel softer than a triblend.  It was pretty cool and I brought a few home from the show, and they feel great!  I can’t wait to pitch my clients on this upgraded t-shirt technology!

#5 Sublimated Shoes

I think some people call these types of shoes “chucks” and they are pretty popular and comfortable with the millennial crowd.  The concept behind these shoes is pretty simple, take a white polyester shoe and sublimate it.  The results are so much more because shoes are something that have been scarce in the promotional products industry since I got into it 7 years ago.  Now with these relatively inexpensive, full custom items I think you will see them pop up more and more in the near future; they also have super low minimums (i.e. You can order 12 pairs for your team to wear at their next tradeshow)

#6 Marijuana T-shirts

No they are not made of Marijuana, but they do have some hemp fiber in them… they are marijuana shirts because they are rolled in paper and wrapped in a koozie to make them look like a joint.  I personally do not smoke the stuff and the legality of it varies by region, but it appears that the wave is coming and as marijuana becomes more legal and more mainstream, I applaud this manufacturer for attempting to get ahead of it with this cool packaging for t-shirts.

#7-11 Origaudio 

Origaudio….. what can I say about these guys.  Their minimums are 1 on most of their items and they offer great customer service, and they are constantly innovating and finding cool new stuff. I wish I could pick 1 item from them, but this year they launched a tonne of new stuff so I narrowed it down to just a couple. 

The Socket2Me is a plug that converts your outlet into a plug and a USB; when I saw it I thought it was cool; then I found out that it’s a game changer.  The plug itself connects to Wi-Fi to make it a “smart plug”, you can control the plug power through an App on your phone.  So if there is a lamp in your bedroom you like to have on before bed but then hate getting up to turn it off, boom…. Socket2me, you can now turn it off using your smart phone.Germ Buster is another great product from Origaudio.  Last year our top selling Origaudio item was the Phone Soap, this box works the same way by having a closed in area with UV lights to clean bacteria off your stuff.  This Germ Buster is just WAY bigger, you can fit your laptop, tablet or even your shoes in it!Sonosphere is a huge metal Bluetooth speaker with a GIANT imprint area, a great way to highlight your logo or branding.  They are a little on the pricier side for Bluetooth speakers, but the weight, sound quality and overall staying power of an item like this makes it worth every penny. Videometry is a promotional video brochure, it has a 7 inch screen and over 1GB of capacity for video storage.  Your logo is printed on a plate inside the brochure, it’s a guaranteed way to make your clients or prospects see your promotional video and have a lasting keepsake from important events or promotions.

Last but not least, they revolutionized the wireless earbud with their upcoming release of their proprietary Pionears Earbuds.  These true wireless technology earbuds come with a 4400MaH power bank charging station and have a 3 hour playback with integrated microphone.

Maybe when Origaudio see that I included 6 of their items in my top list they will send me a free sample kit, haha.

#12 Boardroom Custom Clothing

Boardroom has been a fixture of Canadian Clothing Manufacturing for years, but this year they really made a big impact on me.  They had some mind blowing custom samples at the show with custom colour blocking and full custom pieces that were really cool.  I should have taken more pictures, but with low minimums under 50 pieces, this brand is a great chance to get a custom piece of clothing to really accent your brand instead of paying to advertise for a big sports retail company.

#13 Beagle Scout Luggage Tracker

This luggage tracker works on a similar technology to the popular crowd funded project TILE.  Basically using an app on your phone you can tell how close you are to your luggage or if you are getting closer or farther away from it, so you can essentially tell when your luggage is going to arrive at the luggage carousel at the airport.

#14 Custom Belts

These guys make custom belts; I think they are sublimated rubber because they are definitely printed 4 color process throughout.  I bought a couple of samples and wore them out in Vegas one night; it was a sweet pink Dunkin’ Donuts belt.  They have relatively low minimums and the pricing is also good, so I think custom belts could be a hit this year, especially for companies with hard to re-produce logos or companies that want branding somewhere other than the left chest of their customer facing staff.

#15 Recycled Skateboard Sunglasses

These promotional sunglasses are made from recycled skateboards.  In the past few years promo sunglasses have become more and more popular, so it’s nice to see them taking a green swing and start to be made out of fun recycled products and still look pretty darn cool.

#16 Wireless Charging Pads

Most phones nowadays come with wireless charging capabilities, but I don’t know anyone that actually owns a wireless charging station… not 1.  This is a great opportunity for companies to get ahead of the curve and start giving them out before they become more popular at retail.  No more fumbling with charging cables or cords that are broken or frayed, just rest your phone on the dock and you have power.

#17 Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard That Folds Up Like A Book

This super lightweight foldable Bluetooth wireless keyboard makes working on the go even easier.  Seems to me that more and more people are starting to work off of tablets and their phones, but it’s pretty nice to have access to a full keyboard when you want one.  These have been around for a few years, but the technology is getting better and better with longer battery life, bigger imprint spaces and more connectivity.

#18 1TB External Hard Drive

I remember when Napster had gigabytes of music across it’s whole network, and now you can buy a promotional 1 Terabyte external hard drive to use as a giveaway.  How the times they are a changing.  This gift is one of security and assuredness.  I don’t think my work computer has a terabyte of hard drive space, so now I have the ability to back the whole thing up thanks to that supplier that truly values my business.

#19 Custom Ceramic Mugs

There were 2 different manufacturers of custom ceramic mugs at PPAI this year.  I had seen them in passing over the past years but never seen one in person.  People are always asking for cool and new products, and there is nothing cooler in my opinion than making something full custom. I saw a Death Star mug and a CAT bucket mug, both of which I would be proud to drink out of.  Now I just have to convince Daryl Katz to make a Rogers Place shaped mug.

#20 Custom Monopoly

This item has super high minimums at around 1000 boards per order, but for larger companies it’s a relatively small investment to tie their brand to a pop culture iconic brand like Monopoly.  We also saw custom Jenga and Rubix cubes and other games, but for some reason the Monopoly always jumps out at me. 

As you can see this list only just scratches the surface of the range of products that we did see, but we try to pick a few highlights.  If you don’t see what you are looking for here, just call us or take a look at some of our top lists from the last few years.  I hope we inspired you to find a way to help us Make Great Promo! #PROMOYEG