PPAI Expo Report: Pacesetter's Jim O'Neill and Casey Fitzner on Dropping 'Awards' and Offering More
At the end of last year, Pacesetter announced that it would begin 2024 by dropping 'Awards' from its name to reflect the Chicago supplier's larger product offering.
Now debuting this look on the show floor at the PPAI Expo, Pacesetter executive Vice President Jim O'Neill and marketing manager Casey Fitzner spoke with us about what the future holds for Pacesetter, what distributors can expect going forward, the process of rebranding, and what they offer as a manufacturer rather than an imprinter.
Print & Promo Marketing: Congratulations on the re-brand! Can you explain a little bit about what this means for the brand?
Casey Fitzner: We dropped 'Awards,' and that speaks to expanding into gifts and signage, all kind of great new products that we're going to be rolling out in the coming years.
Jim O'Neill: And we're not going away from awards. Awards is our world. It's just that we don't want our customer base to be locked into the product line.
PPM: Was the change slow and gradual, adding products here and there, or was it a decision that came quickly?
JO: We brought on Casey as our marketing manager in the last year, and she's been unbelievable in changing things. Basically she recognized the fact that we were struggling with basically dropping awards. And here she comes in, and she's looking around at all the gifts and signage that we're doing and saying, 'What are we waiting for?' And we got it done.
PPM: What have been some of the biggest challenges or growing pains in the rebranding process?
CF: We're just rolling out the new look. We're going to get everybody used to stopping at Pacesetter, leaving 'Awards.' But no, no [roadblocks] yet, and we're not going to let anything be a barrier. No way.
PPM: What's a message you really want to get out to the attendees on the show floor and people reading at home?
JO: I've got a line for you, and that's 'No limits.' You've got a relationship with Pacesetter Awards in the past, you liked working with us, we've got knowledgeable people and skilled designers, now onto more products that we can help you with. Let us know about your projects. We get calls all the time for products and are like, 'Whoa, that's not in our line.' But it's a large project, we're out to help them. Their customers call up and say, 'Hey, can I get this?' They're not sure where to go. They call us and we come up with sometimes solutions and sometimes advice.
PPM: Do you think that's a growing trend in the industry, where suppliers might move away from providing a more niche product in favor of offering a wider variety of promotional products across different categories?
JO: I would say that's definitely true. There are imprinters in the industry and there are manufacturers in the industry, so there are a lot of imprinters that have imprinted this kind of product, and now they're imprinting that kind of product, and more types of imprinted products. We, as a manufacturer, adding and mixing it up with as many lines as we're doing, I would say there are not that many manufacturers doing it.
PPM: What's the benefit, in your opinion, of working with a manufacturer versus an imprinter, as you put it?
JO: Well, if you want five sizes of something and six colors of something, we can make it. Go to somebody that's imprinting a product, whatever product line they have, they have limits of how many pieces and types of pieces they have. Even quantity — many of our products start with sheet stock, and from sheet stock we could make thousands and continue to grow, as opposed to waiting for something to come in from China.