While the first few weeks after Christmas can seem pretty barren and dull for many people as things slowly get back to normal after the festive season, in the world of promotional products things start to hot up with the annual PSI event. Known as the leading European trade show of the Promotional Product Industry, PSI in Dusseldorf attracts over 17,000 visitors who come to see 925 exhibitors from 38 countries. The event is HUGE and the range of products you see, touch and try can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look out for.

I’ve been visiting PSI for the last few years so I thought I’d share some of my learnings to enable you to stay ahead of the trends this year.

PSI Exhibition in Dusseldorf 2019

The exhibition hall is huge. I definitely did my 10,000 steps and more as I walked around!

Visiting PSI

PSI stands for Promotional Product Service Institute. They are a professional network established in 1960 and have over 6000 member companies. Their ‘PSI’ event in January each year sees people travel from all over Europe to find out the latest trends, network with peers and meet importers, producers and finishers first hand. I’ve been attending PSI for several years, and it is a key highlight of my business calendar. We may be in the middle of the digital revolution, but I firmly believe that it is still incredibly important to maintain and build relationships with suppliers in person.

What’s new for 2019 in the world of promotional products?

Attending PSI is a great way to be at the beginning of new product launches before they filter out into the UK exhibitions. Increasingly there continues to be a blurring of lines between office, personal and on-the-move products, but I think this is as a result of the transient way we work, and that rather than separating our work life and our home life, it really should be all about out life as a whole. This reminds me of a Richard Branson quote – and it really resonates.

“I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.”

Across the three days at PSI I felt that there were three recurring trends:
• Technology
• Eco-friendly
• Health

I’ll take a brief look at each topic in the rest of this post.

2019 trends:

1. Technology related promotional items.

Bracelet mobile phone charger at PSI Dusseldorf

This cable charger is small and well designed.  Less chance of losing it !

This area is the fastest growing area in promotional marketing and has products available at every budget making it a sensible choice for most businesses.

Many of the things I saw in this category were evolutions of existing products: it is incredible to see how design and innovation in these areas creates new functionality. Mobile phone chargers have been around a few years now and are an excellent promotional product as they are incredibly useful to the recipient and are likely to be used way after your event has taken place. But forget the big old brick shaped charger you have seen in the past: this year I was impressed by a bracelet charger that you could wear on your wrist! I love the way that existing technology has been adapted into something wearable and this was something I saw across PSI: I even saw a rucksack which had an ‘SOS’ button built into it that connects up to three people in an emergency and gives your GPS location.

Smart rucksack with SOS button at PSI Dusseldorf

This ‘smart rucksack’ will call 3 contacts in an emergency and has GPS built in so they can find you.

The demand for wireless charging is ever increasing and many devices now have ‘power delivery’ or PD charging built in which enables a fast charge.
According to one of our key technology experts Matt Pluckrose from Intraco, these “will become popular in the car as they themselves will turn into ‘info/entertainment centres’ as driverless cars revolutionise our world over the coming ten years”.  Ten years ago this would have seemed like a science fiction fantasy but the rate of progress with technology is so rapid that these things are already starting to happen.
This is another example of how the boundaries of work and life are becoming increasingly blurred.

2. Eco-friendly promotional items

Lanyards made from plastic bottles at PSI exhibition in Dusseldorf

These lanyards are each made from 3 plastic bottles. Plastic free items are a big trend for 2019.

One of the things I’m passionate about as a business owner is how we can all make better choices to support the environment. I’ve teamed up with Plastic Free Maidenhead and am working with the Chamber of Commerce in Maidenhead to guide and encourage other businesses into reducing their use of single-use plastics. (We had our first meeting in December 2018, more to follow on the blog soon!)

Traditionally, the promotional product industry has always had a heavy reliance on single-use plastic.  Certainly many of the mass-produced items that are available for a low cost are made of plastic. It can sometimes feel like I’m going against the flow of things when I take the time to track down plastic-free alternatives.  I was encouraged therefore to see the number of exhibitors showing eco-friendly items at PSI. The theme of innovation continued here with manufacturers combining materials traditionally seen on technology products such as metals with more eco-friendly materials like bamboo.  Items such as wireless speakers, chargers, memory sticks and so on.

Lanyards have been a client essential for years so it’s fantastic to know that eco-friendly options are available. It was great to see an old favourite given a new twist: these lanyards are made from plastic bottles: it takes three bottles to create one lanyard!

Drinkware was also incredibly visible at the expo. Again, this spans the theme of eco-friendly items but also encouraging rehydration.
The venue itself, for a 5 euros deposit, supplied visitors with a refillable, reusable cup that people could return for their deposit back, or keep to re-use. This removed the need for single-use plastic cups or bottles. I see this as real progress in the fight against single-use plastics, and I’ve seen this done at many venues in very recent years.

There were so many new and innovative ideas in this category that I’m going to write a separate blog post about eco-friendly and plastic free promotional products, watch this space!

All of these bags were made from plastic bottles.

3. Health-related promotional items

Drink sensor at PSI Exhibition in Dusseldorf

Health and technology go hand in hand, and wearable technology is becoming a vast product category. I saw multiple different options for smartwatches: the technology is becoming more and more sophisticated, and the choice of colours, style and price points is fantastic.

Activity trackers seem to be making a come back as we’re becoming more health conscious. With a range of lightweight, waterproof and fashionable bracelets available, there are products to suit a variety of budgets. In my opinion, technology is an area where people have become very discerning about the technology they wear and use so the cheapest option isn’t always the best in this product category. People are becoming more tech savvy and expectations are higher than ever.

While many of us are ditching single-use plastic cups for the environment, the rise of drinkware products shows that people are still very keen to stay well hydrated for other reasons, including the health benefits. I liked the idea of a ‘drink timer’: place your bottle or cup on to a coaster which has a sensor and then at intervals it flashes to remind you to drink water.

I hope you’ve found it interesting to hear about some of the key trends for 2019. In the next few weeks, I’ll be going to Merchandise World exhibition in the UK to do some further research. Follow me on Linked in to read my next post.
If you’re looking for promotional products for your business in 2019 and some of the ideas have resonated, then I’d love to hear from you: drop me an email (kate@affinitymerchandise.co.uk) or give me a call: 07882 173 449.