If you ask industry experts about the status of the corporate awards market,
theyll tell you its strong and growing. The corporate market
continues to thrive while other less established markets tend to be hit
a little harder. Businesses in the corporate sector always need ways to
motivate employees, no matter what the economic climate, and the best
way to do that is through recognition. For these reasons, the corporate
award market is potentially one of the most profitable markets that you
customers tell us that selling corporate awards is very profitable,
says Diana Shih, Topmost Designs, Montclair, CA. As long as you
can find something nice that fits in the corporate award budget, the business
will come year by year.
E. Ilaria, Tropar Manufacturing Company, Florham Park, NJ, says that the
value of corporate recognition cannot be underestimated. Almost
every corporation in America buys recognition awards. Business managers
know that pay alone does not ensure satisfied workers. The need for recognition
in team building is a well-known strategy to many successful managers,
the corporate award market can be a major money maker, it is also made
up of some of the most discriminating customers that will ever walk through
your door. Corporate award buyers look for a variety of essential elements
when selecting products and the dealers they buy from, including high
quality and premium service. Awards need to reflect the values of
the corporation as well as the level of achievement being recognizedan
award that is perceived as cheap will send the wrong message to the recipient
and to the rest of the organization, explains Ilaria. Thats
why higher quality goods are demanded by corporate buyers. Furthermore,
service is paramount to corporate buyers. If you make their job easy and
make them look good, theyll continue to use you for their award
is the key to retaining the sales contracts for corporate awards programs,
Shih agrees. You need to understand the corporate culture and present
the products that will attract the decision makers. The companies that
pay attention to employee recognition or motivation buy corporate awards.
They are looking for something that will present their corporate image
and make recipients feel honored and appreciated. So the awards should
look high value and unique.
DAndrade, ATdesigns, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, says that everything
from the product to the price to the service needs to come together to
successfully sell to corporate clients. Everyone is buying corporate
awards and theyre looking for the same thing all of us look for
when considering awardsthe highest perceived value of award that
they can use to motivate and reward their best customers or employees.
It has to be done on budget and on time. Thats it.
award dealers find it well worth their time and effort to pursue the corporate
market. But doing so successfully requires just that: time and effort.
A major part of selling corporate awards involves keeping your finger
on the pulse of current trends. Whats happening today? Whats
in? Whats out? How do you find a good supplier? Following is a look
at the state of the corporate awards market today and a peek into what
we might expect in the future.
Material & Marking Trends
ago, the major substrate used to manufacture high-end awards was wood.
Walnut plaques and desk accessories personalized with mechanically engraved
plates could be found on the walls and desks of every major corporate
award recipient. Today, that trend towards high quality wood products
continues, but we are seeing more options as well as other materials being
used in the manufacture of premium awards. This expanding repertoire of
substrates opens up the market for new styles and more choices that will
please a wide variety of customers.
Wood® is still very popular, says Edward Gusfield, Time Products
International (TPI), Wheeling, IL. Gusfield says that TPI was the originator
of Piano Wood, and options in this line have grown to include other species
such as rosewood and black walnut. They laser and color fill beautifully,
and acrylic continue to grow enormously in the awards arena and have become
a major choice for creating ultra-high quality corporate products. The
glass and acrylic areas of the industry have gotten quite big, says
Urtaza, Acrylic Idea Factory, Norcross, GA, concurs with this industry
insight. The biggest trend we have seen in the industry is that
more and more award dealers are looking to acrylic as their best option
for corporate awards, he says. We have seen a steady and considerable
rise in the demand for acrylic awards. The versatility and ease of use
of acrylic allows dealers to be more innovative in the creation of their
addition to plain glass and acrylic, high quality optical crystal has
made a major impact in this market and has become very popular among corporate
customers. Topmosts Diana Shih says, Optical crystal is popular
to make corporate awards because of its clear perfection and sparkling
reflection. Recently, blue and black optical crystal has been introduced
to the market for combination with clear optical crystal to create stunning
traditional materials are still in style for corporate awards. Bob DAndrade
explains: Pewter is still a very dependable and recognized level
of quality that is popular with anyone looking to add something truly
impressive to their award program.
industry-proven marking methods are still being used to personalize corporate
awards; the method of choice largely depends on the product being personalized
and the look desired. The methods of personalization depend on the
material used for awards, says Diana Shih. For example, sandblasting
is excellent for crystal awards to create deep etching and an attractive
artistic look for a company logo and the recipients name. Laser
engraving can accommodate several different materials, like lead-free
optical crystal, aluminum, acrylic, wood and plastic. Many engravers use
a combination of sandblasting and laser engraving to create unique corporate
Peter E. Ilaria agrees that methods such as sublimation, mechanical engraving,
laser engraving and sandblasting are all alive and well when it comes
to personalizing corporate awards. The laser engraver has now permeated
the awards market, so most dealers are looking for laser-friendly materials,
he says. Sublimation is gaining a lot of momentum due to the sharp,
four-color reproduction now available. And with the rise in demand for
glass, more dealers are adding sandblasting to their list of personalization
Urtaza says that a combination approach to personalizing awards is a major
trend right now. We believe a combination of various methods is
being used to personalize corporate awards, he says. Most
of our dealers use laser technology as their main choice for personalization,
although acrylic can also be personalized by using rotary engraving, sublimation,
screen printing, sandblasting and vinyl.
has taken a unique approach when it comes to materials and marking methods
by combining the use of pewter with various in-house technologies, such
as 3D sculpturing, multi-level accents and photo etching to create a personalized
piece without the dealer ever having to lift an engraving cutter. Our
custom capabilities allow us the benefit of offering personalization right
from the beginning, explains Bob DAndrade. In other
words, we create the piece to reflect specific dates, event names and
corporate logos, and the resulting award requires very little, if any,
further personalization before it reaches the final recipient. This is
all provided with the further benefit of very low minimum quantities,
sometimes 25 to 50 pieces and most without any setup charge.
about the products being purchased by businesses to recognize employees
and customers? What types and styles of products are the current rage?
corporate sector will always be in need of corporate designs and the current
and future market demand will be driven by the creation and availability
of unique and elegant designs that give the award dealer the best bang for
their buck, Luis Urtaza answers. Our customers are constantly
telling us what their end users are looking for in a corporate award and
we take this into account during the development process of all of our new
In The StarsRight now, stars are big, says Edward
Gusfield, TPI, referring to the star designs we are seeing in such corporate
creations as acrylic awards. TPI, for example, has introduced a 4"
gold and silver star design with a clock embedded in it. Gusfield says that
the company is also introducing a brand new star clock that features a stand
so it can be propped up on a desk or shelf.
Shih from Topmost Designs agrees that stars are a product trend right now,
along with globe motifs. Crystal awards with star or globe themes
are popular now, she says. Awards with a star theme are ideal
to recognize top performance and are most appreciated by recipients. Awards
with globe themes are ideal choices for the global corporation.
the 2004 ARA Awards Gala in Las Vegas, Acrylic Idea Factorys StarDomeJ
awards series won the 2004 Best New Product designation, says Luis
Urtaza, giving more credence to the trendy star style. This new design
has been a very popular corporate award. It involves new and unique manufacturing
techniques that provide its domed appearance with a three-dimensional look
and a spacious engraving space.
A TraditionPerhaps more so than other award markets, corporate
buyers are traditionalists at heart. On average, corporate buyers
stick with tradition, explains Tropars Peter E. Ilaria. They
prefer plaques and clocks as well as glass and acrylic awards.
are an excellent award item that continues to be popular, says TPIs
Edward Gusfield. For corporate applications, primarily upscale clocks
that sell anywhere from $15-$30 or more are big sellers. One of TPIs
most popular corporate awards is a round quartz clock featuring Roman numerals
set in a polished brass star on rectangular marble base. Personalized
with a metal plate, this product makes an excellent corporate award,
meet the changing needs and desires in corporate recognition, award manufacturers
continue to look to current market trends and introduce new designs to meet
those trends. Topmost Designs, for example, has launched more than 10 new
corporate award designs with star and globe themes and TPI has introduced
a new line of wood boxes, including an elegant desk box shaped like a book,
boxes with plush linings that fit naturally on a desk to hold golf balls,
cigars, candy, etc., and a new shadowbox that takes a 5" x7" insert,
such as a brass plate.
DAndrade says that ATdesgins prides itself in being able to create
custom recognition with a variety of different products, including a new
twist on traditional plaques. Taking this ability to deliver a unique
and substantial product to the next level, we are finding tremendous interest
in our oversized plaque programs, he states. Now you have the
capability of providing 12" or larger plaques in various price points
and finishes. As offered in our medal programs, plaques can utilize any
of our in-house technologies, including photoetching, 3D sculpturing, multi-level
accents and full-color designs. Plus, the plaques are now available in vertical
standing designs with no further mounting or assembly required.
Tropar, we introduced walnut-stained, piano-finished plaques, says
Peter Ilaria. Corporate buyers tend to be very conservative. They
stick with traditional colors, shapes and themes. While many corporate buyers
were attracted to rosewood stained piano-finished plaques, some were hesitant
and stayed with traditional American walnut. Our response was to offer the
walnut-stained version as an upgraded product. Thus far, the response has
been very good.
traditional award plaques, functional items are still popular among corporate
award buyers. TPI, for example, offers a wood photo album with a mahogany
satin finish and velvet binding that can be easily laser engraved. Another
new wood picture album has a recessed area for a marble or brass plate or
a sublimated tile.
though the overall market continues to prosper, there are many corporate
customers who still need to recognize employees but are faced with a more
limited budget. Award manufacturers offer plenty of options in award products
for these types of customers. We have a low-priced recessed plaque
line that will accept an insert of 5" x 7", 6" x 8"
or 7" x 9", says TPIs Edward Gusfield.
is another factor that businesses look for when recognizing employees and
customers. TPI, for instance, offers thin (1/4" or less) marble inserts
in six different sizes as an alternative to traditional metal plaque plates.
These marble plates fit into the companys extensive line
of corporate awards (plaques, clocks, desk accessories, etc.) and they can
also be used on top of standard plaques and other products. According to
Gusfield, these marble inserts laser and color fill with beautiful results.
Idea Factorys Urtaza explains that there are many new corporate awards
to choose from this year. There is a wide variety of new corporate
awards this year ranging from acrylic awards to screen printed acrylic plaques
and new designs that incorporate two substrates in one design by using products
such as acrylic, wood, brass, steel, glass and resin.
are tons of great products available in the industry that make excellent
corporate awards. But sometimes, a customer has a more specific idea in
mind of what the award should look like before the search even begins;
in other instances, customers are looking for something different and
unique. In these cases, a custom award might be the answer.
custom awards, or awards with some unique characteristics, a current trend
in the corporate market? Absolutely, says Luis Urtaza, Acrylic
Idea Factory. Award dealers are constantly requesting more creative
and original designs as well as counting on the manufacturers ability
to produce inexpensive custom corporate awards. This past year we have
manufactured hundreds of custom corporate awards for our dealers in a
wide range of thicknesses, colors, shapes and screen-printing designs.
As a manufacturer, we have the opportunity to see first-hand the amazing
creativity of so many award dealers in the industry.
specializes in custom awards and, says Bob DAndrade, feels custom
is a vital part of the corporate market. Our business is built on
the desire to create something creative and original, he says. Gone
are the days of off-the-shelf designs if you have an astute customer.
There are still those that may settle for stock awards in
a pinch, but those dealers looking to build long-term relationships with
their customers are looking for that creative aspect to capture
the imagination and loyalty of those clients.
are numerous reasons why custom awards are an important part of the corporate
award market, says DAndrade. As technology progresses in the
way we all manufacture our products, there are numerous ways the creative
supplier can deliver truly unique items in a fraction of the time previously
needed to do so. Further, as foreign competition increases its penetration
into our markets, it is imperative that North American manufacturers employ
any means to increase their custom capabilities. Otherwise, those countries
specializing in knock-off products will erode their customer
awards can be customized in different ways, such as by adding photographs
and other personal touches. Customizing awards has become increasingly
easier and affordable due to new technologies. We offer many custom
treatments in pewter, including 3D sculpturing, multi-level accents, full-color
realism and a totally new and unique concept of photoetching that allows
reproduction of photographic quality in fine pewter awards, explains
DAndrade. In the photoetch process, the customer can accurately
reproduce historic photos, portraits, landscapes and sports action in
fine photographic detail on most of our products. True-to-life detail
is reproduced in fine lead-free pewter, a definite collectors item
and a popular addition to any award program.
Shih, Topmost Designs, says that creative and unique
awards can be created in different ways. Corporate buyers look for
taller or bigger awards that seem to have higher perceived value,
she states. The combination of different colors or materials is
a current trend for creative or custom awards. For example, crystal and
aluminum or marble can create a unique combination, refreshing the look
of traditional pure crystal awards.
is very dependable and popular for high level award programs. Photo
courtesy of ATdesigns, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
in the Stars! These starry awards are perfect for the corporate star.
Photo courtesy of TimeCraft, Westlake, OH.
Promotional Products Tie-In
Gusfield makes the point that in addition to actual awards, the corporate
market is very interested in promotional products and thats an area
that continues to grow. We are noticing that 40, 50 or 60 percent
of our customers are now also involved in promotional products, he
says. For example, TPI offers glass and wood clocks in an attractive presentation
box that sell for only $6-$7 and make excellent promotional products. They
are actually one of the best-selling items in our line, he says. TPI
has numerous other promotional products that are popular sellers, and the
company plans to introduce a 16-page supplement that will feature over 40
new items in August.
there really arent any products that are definitely out
when it comes to awards for businesses and companies, there are some obstacles
and some items that may not be the rage they once were.
products have not declined in popularity but their sales appeal has reached
a certain plateau. Clocks have plateaued but not shrunk, says
Tropars Ilaria. There is a huge supply of clocks on the market
and its our contention that corporate buyers are looking for other
DAndrade talks about an obstacle he is seeing in the marketplace.
From our standpoint as custom manufacturers of metal products, pewter
is still in the greatest demand for its high quality of finishing and perceived
value in the marketplace. However, given the turmoil in todays worldwide
metal prices, all of us will be experiencing some significant pressures
in the upcoming year as the Asian market puts significant demand pressures
on all metal across the board.
Shih, Topmost Designs, says, Metal or wood traditional plaques may
be declining. Corporate people seem to have more interests in creative and
contemporary designs that are associated with their company culture or image
in this highly competitive market.
Urtaza, Acrylic Idea Factory, adds, For the most part you will always
find that certain substrates that have been used for many years in the industry
begin to lose their appeal to more dynamic and versatile substrates. Acrylic
plaques, for example, are replacing wood plaques, which can be screen printed
with a wide variety of designs that many award dealers are looking for.
You will always encounter designs in any substrate that have run their course
and lose popularity when compared to brand-new, updated and revamped designs.
themes are also a current trend. Photo courtesy of Topmost Designs,
Inc., Montclair, CA.
marble paperweights add a unique spin to the customary corporate award.
Photo courtesy of Plastic-Plus Awards, Charlotte, NC.
The Future for Corporate Awards
there are varying opinions on how much and in what ways the iffy
economy has affected the corporate awards market, everyone agrees that
the market is alive and well and is in no danger of becoming extinct.
economy has a direct effect on the corporate awards market, says
Ilaria. In 1999 and 2000 corporations were spending with abandon.
In 2002 and 2003 there was a noticeable pull back in the size and value
of corporate award orders. 2004 is off to a good, but cautious, start.
Shih agrees that the economy does affect the spending habits of corporate
customers, but the market is still there. Although corporate award
budgets are cut due to an economic recession, companies still maintain
their employee recognition or motivation programs. The difference is the
awards they are giving seem to be lower end, like thinner glass pieces
instead of stunning crystal.
DAndrade feels that the direction of the future market for corporate
awards is very strong. He says, Its one of those
markets that cannot afford to diminish. Any corporate entity looking for
long-term success has to continually reward its highest performing employees,
especially in tough times. When times are good for a corporation, they
reward out of generosity. When times are bad, they reward out of necessity.
Either way, we win.
Urtaza agrees that while budgets may be cut, the spending is still there.
The economy rarely affects the corporate awards market, he
says. Corporations that have already established awards programs
to motivate and reward their employees will not cancel them due to the
economy. They usually just spend less and replace high-cost awards with
more unique and affordable ones.
also feels that the future for selling corporate awards is very bright.
The corporate sector will always be in need of corporate designs
and the current and future market demand will be driven by the creation
and availability of unique and elegant designs that give the award dealer
the best bang for their buck.
Finding the Best Supplier
experts offer various words of wisdom when it comes to finding the best
supplier to meet your and your customers corporate award needs.
Heres a look:
Gusfield, TPI, says its important to find a supplier who suits your
particular business needs. If you regularly need generic types of
awards, where you attach an engraved or silk screened brass plate, then
you need a supplier who has access to a large number of different items
like that. If you are looking for specialty types of items, you will need
a different type of supplier. A lot of it also depends on volume. If you
are looking for 50 or 100 pieces of an item, a general awards or promotional
products supplier can serve your needs. If you need something in the 1,000s,
you may need a different supplier.
quality products, top quality service and respect top Bob DAndrades
list of qualities to look for in a corporate award supplier. Basically
they should look for a supplier who will treat their reputation as if
its their own; in other words, respect the fact that the buyers
position in the marketplace is directly dependent on how good the supplier
makes them look. Suppliers should deliver the best quality, deliver on
time and deliver good value for a fair price. Then, everyone will live
is cheap, DAndarde continues, So customers should look
for hard proof that suppliers can deliver on their promises. For instance,
we offer two (soon three) manufacturing plants in North America to ensure
delivery and minimize shipping charges. All production is in-house to
control quality and delivery schedules. We also have a high investment
in equipment technology to ensure the best tools for production and communication
with customers, along with significant commitment in our graphic and customer
service capabilities to provide the best designs and follow-up available.
ovals with a dedicated theme can be used as a standalone award or
incorporated into the new trend utilizing two substrates. Photo courtesy
of Plastic-Dress-Up, South EL Monte, CA.
classic cherry "World Time Clock" makes a perfect corporate
award. Photo courtesy of Lee's Wood, Rocky Mount, VA.
substrate, useful corporate awards continue to be popular. This contemporary
Desk Award made from high gloss American Walnut, has a clock and etched
glass insert. Photo courtesy of Victory Trophy, Chicago, IL.
Shih, Topmost Designs, states, Reliability is the most important criteria
when they look for a supplier. Find someone who is able to consistently
supply high quality awards. Many companies use the same awards year by year
as their tradition, so award dealers need a supplier who can supply the
same thing with the same quality and same prices. Secondly, the supplier
should have the capability of providing new designs continuously to fulfill
different needs of different award programs.
selecting a corporate award supplier, retailers need to identify product
lines that will appeal to corporate buyers and emphasize quality, value
and service, says Tropars Peter E. Ilaria. Furthermore,
marketing assistance is critical. Corporate buyers need catalogs and web
sites to view products, ask questions and place orders. Retailers need to
be ready to meet buyers demands for these media. A corporate award
supplier should have these media options available for retailers use.
Finally, delivery of product is very important. Does the supplier have adequate
stock to ship orders when buyers need them? Often, corporate buyers have
very short lead times, so fast turnaround is a rule.
line, we believe customers should be looking for an award supplier who will
meet their needs, says Luis Urtaza, Acrylic Idea Factory. They
should look for a supplier that is willing to create a growing business
partnership with their dealers with fair and competitive pricing and high
quality products, and a supplier who can create custom awards at an affordable
price. Customers should also look for an award supplier who has all their
awards in stock and who can offer quick turnaround on all of their orders.
Basically a good support system that will help them grow their business.
That is our motto and that is the way we treat our dealers.
it comes down to it, its clear that the corporate awards market has
much to offer. There are numerous new products available to meet new corporate
market trends; companies are still spending money on corporate awards; and
this industry is fortunate to have many good, reliable suppliers. The future
for the corporate awards market? Full steam ahead!