As part of our “Expert Interviews” series, we’re reaching out to industry professionals to get the story behind the company, and hear their insights regarding their industry and the future of marketing as they see it. This month’s interview is with Karie Cowden, President of Connect the Dots Promotions.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this industry.

I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years.  Just like most people that sell promotional products, I fell into the marketing channel and have never looked back.  I was hired into the industry as a sales support person and that experience taught me all about promotional items.  I ended up “going to the other side” as a supplier and lived in CA for a year.  I found that I missed AZ so I got another supplier job and sold polos for dress down Friday.  Back in 2001 I was hired by the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks to be an in-house agency that worked with the teams and the game day giveaways.  I found that I enjoyed working with the corporate side so much that I started Connect the Dots Promotions.

When did you start Connect the Dots Promotions?

I started Connect the Dots Promotions in May of 2008. 

Why would people want a service like this?

Promotional products are the only advertising medium that can create an experience around a brand without being interrupted, driven by, or paused.  When people receive this type of advertising, they are generally quite thankful as they’re receiving something tangible like a mug, pen or thumb drive. Everyone likes getting something for nothing, and it gets the company’s name out there. Everybody wins. What other service gets your brand in front of so many people and stays in front of them?  Every time someone uses one of your imprinted pens or a mug with your logo on it, they think of you and your brand. How amazing is that?

What’s one of the best success stories you’ve had with Connect the Dots Promotions? 

Most recently we worked on a retirement party for an executive director that was leaving after 30+ years of service.  We came up with etched mini champagne bottles and “retiremints” that friends and family could take home after the event.  Very classy and fun!

Why can’t people just handle their promotional products through some online store?

We do have the ability to search for your merchandise online, but it’s not a transactional site.  At Connect the Dots, we believe in creating partnerships, not transactions.  We are immersed in the product lines at all times and can come up with something that you normally wouldn’t find through a search for promotional products online.  Because we are all about creating experiences we find that working together we can come up with products that will create amazing memories.

Where do you see the future of promotional products going? 

Promotional products as a marketing tactic is actually in the top 6 ways to advertise when you consider overall industry volume.  Our industry is still in a growth mode with over 20 billion dollars in revenue.  I think it’s one of the best ways to advertise!  As an industry, we are trying to do a better job of being called to the table with the major advertising mediums.  Unfortunately, we can be an afterthought, but make the biggest impact. Promotional products are a direct reflection of a company’s brand, so as an industry, we continue to focus on the interaction of our products with consumers, and how the products reflect the brand. It really is about creating a memorable experience. Personally, I believe that promotional products should be a part of any small business marketing strategy

Patty Hughes
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