The creative minds behind Visstun (asi/93975) knew they had something on their hands. Something unique. Something big. Something no one else was doing in the world. "We saw Visstun as a product that would create a new category in the promotional products industry," says Paula Piano, the company’s sales director. "We got excited and went for it."
That product? A revolutionary new color printing process for cups that produced visually stunning results (hence the name, Visstun). Equally exceptional was the company’s explosive growth during a time when other suppliers were, well, thirsty for sales. The Las Vegas-based company recorded a 922% increase in sales since it was launched in 2007, making it the fastest-growing supplier in the industry. "The creation of Visstun was a wild ride," says Piano. "It took a lot of technical ability, and a lot of sales ability to get it out there."
The journey for Visstun and owner Ed Hamilton, who also runs sister companies Digispec (asi/49716) and CounterPoint (asi/46767), began in 2005 when he was alerted to a company that was using a new printing process on flower pots. The possibilities were tantalizing, but making the technological leap proved to be a challenge. Visstun tinkered for two years with the process — everything from different inks and coatings to seeking a plastic that would be both dishwasher safe and could hold a printed message. Even the structure of the cups had to be altered, given that the printing method was originally intended for flower pots that weren’t meant to hold water.
Ultimately, to create the high-quality, four-color process images, Visstun first had to print them on a flat piece of plastic or paperboard and then form the cups; before, cup makers simply printed on the cup after it was created.
"It opened up a whole new window for us because we actually manufacture our cups as well as print on them," Piano says. "We do it backwards from everybody else."
The company also had the luxury of preparing for its launch with a dedicated sales team in place and a marketing blitz that included teaser ads, samples and a trade show promotion involving a blue velour bag that had attendees clamoring for more. Visstun also had the benefit of piggybacking onto Digispec’s dependable reputation with distributors.
Not surprisingly, distributors latched on right away to the new product. "Our first trade show," Piano recalls, "one of the top responses was ‘Finally, it’s about time somebody did this.’"
The company says distributors have been good about producing artwork that takes advantage of the medium, but there’s also been a fair amount of education involved. "When you’re just used to putting a one- or two-color logo," she says, "and then all of a sudden you have the capability to put a company’s entire marketing program on a cup, that’s a little bit of a mind shift."
Success for Visstun meant continuing to get the word out. Samples — both virtual and real — have been an integral way for the supplier to reach out to distributors. Most impressively, the higher price of the cups (and their higher perceived value) still haven’t stopped sales, running counter to the notion that buyers are focused more on cost than quality. Piano and her sales team worked hard to level the playing field by trumpeting the company’s low minimums and lack of set-up fees and extra charges. "Our price is our price," she says, as one way of positioning Visstun against its competitors.
Built to handle the surge of orders, Visstun didn’t need to adapt much over the past two years. The company did just combine its sales team with Digispec’s to simplify customers’ sales experiences by dealing with just one person across all its brands. The purchase of another machine will also bring the supplier closer to producing nearly 200 million cups per year. Visstun continues to explore other opportunities, such as new cup sizes and a plant grow kit that harkens back to the technology’s earliest days in the flower pot business.
"We actually made the cups leak again. We went backwards in technology," Piano jokes.
These days, it’s the only thing going backward for the company.
~C.J. Mittica is a staff writer for Counselor
Featured in Counselor Magazine May publication and ASI Central - 2010 : Winners