Employees and clients alike love receiving custom branded merchandise from your company, but more often than not, the giveaway ends up collecting dust in a drawer at the office or in a junk drawer home. If that describes the state of your promotional products, then you may want to keep reading. Branded merchandise is a great way to get your brand’s name out there while also creating an opportunity to thank employees or loyal customers.
There are plenty of reasons why companies might want to create branded merchandise even if merchandise isn’t their primary business goal. After all, it would be hard to imagine a world where you didn’t see promotional products for brands like Coca-Cola or McDonalds.
Part of the reason why a soda company or a restaurant might want a t-shirt with their logo on it is because it is simply good marketing. The more you see a brand, the more likely you are to purchase something that brand offers. Increased brand awareness is generally the end goal of a branded merchandise campaign.
Of course, most businesses aren’t on the same level of popularity as a Coca-Cola or McDonald’s. So, branded products often also work as a method of keeping customers and employees engaged with your brand.
But, what steps should you take to ensure that the campaign will be effective and what products are best for your business? We’ll dive into those questions below.
What is Branded Merchandise?
Before we get into any further discussion, it’s important to define branded merchandise. For our purposes, the term “branded merchandise” includes any branded items that you plan to use internally in the office or give away as a “thank you” to customers. It is not uncommon to give away branded products to customers, employees, or even the general public (e.g. at a trade show or other event). You may even want to use branded merchandise in social media contest giveaways.
Promotional gifts serve the dual purpose of generating goodwill with the recipients while also allowing them to advertise your brand when using the products. For employees, branded products around the office can help reinforce the company’s culture and foster their sense of cohesion.
You might be surprised by how well branded products work at keeping your brand’s name fresh in the minds of people who see those items. In fact, one study suggests that people can remember the name of a company they saw on a promotional product about 83% of the time. Compare that to only a 7% recall rate for ads on television.
So, we know that products with your logo, slogan, or design on them are great for advertising and generally cultivating a solid relationship with clients and employees, but what branded merchandise ideas can give you the best outcomes?
Have a Concrete Strategy
In order for any promotional product campaign to be successful, you need to employ an adequate strategy. Simply branding a collection of items isn’t going to do much for you. You have to have an action plan for how you are going to distribute those products and what your ultimate goal is. You don’t want to order a bunch of branded merchandise only to decide what to do with it after the fact. Some questions you might want to ask include:
- Who are the intended recipients (employees, current customers, prospective customers, etc.)?
- Do you want these products to be a part of a social media contest giveaway?
- Are these products gifts or are they just meant to be used in the office by employees?
- How much do you want to spend on the products?
- Are you showing appreciation to clients or employees, or are you simply trying to keep your brand fresh in their minds?
- Do you need branded merchandise for an event like a trade show or conference?
These are the primary things you have to consider when choosing branded merchandise. There is not going to be a “one size fits all” strategy for how to employ a branded products campaign. It really all depends on what you’re looking to gain. So, before you even consider any branded merchandise ideas, make sure you have a strategy in place.
Have a Target Demographic
In order for your branded merchandise to be a big hit, you have to know who your target audience. Obviously, a lot of factors go into finding that key demographic, including:
- Common activities
Before you purchase any promotional product, it’s important to have a good understanding of these metrics. For instance, if your crowd is a bit older and bit less tech-savvy, then it wouldn’t make sense to give them a bunch of branded Qi wireless chargers. By that same token, a more youthful generation with their finger on the pulse of new tech trends would greatly enjoy a promotional Qi-enabled charger or other new-fangled charging devices.
Additionally, you don’t want to give away any items that are inappropriate for your intended audience. Undoubtedly, you certainly would not want to hand out cannabis swag at a conference for real estate agents. Of course, that same cannabis swag would be ideal for a marijuana convention.
You can also think about the activities your intended audience regularly partakes in. Does your target demographic do a lot of traveling for work? Perhaps a branded piece of personalized luggage or duffel bags would be thoughtful and extremely useful gifts. Do they work in tech where they frequently have to use their computers? A high-quality laptop bag might be a great promotional giveaway in that case.
Apply Some Creativity to Your Products
Most branded merchandise features some similar information. Logos, slogans, company colors, and, occasionally, contact information are all things you can find on promotional products. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see an entire inventory of branded merchandise that just features the company’s logo.
While this can be effective—especially if you have an iconic or well-known logo—it’s not always the most eye-catching option if you are just trying to get your name out there. So, it may be in your best interest to add some tasteful and brand-appropriate designs to your merchandise. If you have a graphic designer, you can come up with some truly unique promotional products.
Another way to attract people to your company is to add a memorable phrase or slogan to the promotional product. Something funny or interesting can draw considerable interest. Let’s say you go with branded sweaters that say something unique or silly. The person wearing the sweater is going to enjoy the attention they receive from the clever phrase, but you also get numerous impressions from the people the original recipient encounters. It’s simply good advertising.
Of course, you don’t want to be overbearing. Too much text on a promotional product can cloud your message and leave people uninterested. Likewise, a garish design might keep some people from using the product altogether.
So, be creative, but stay within the design principles currently established by your brand. You can also be creative simply by choosing unique products. That is not to disparage any standard promotional products like pens, coffee mugs, or shirts. But, you shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box. After all, most people already have a plethora of standard promotional merchandise at their disposal. Maybe give them something new to enjoy. Some unique products might include:
- Water bottles
- Power banks
- Bluetooth speakers
- Beach towels
- Desk fans
- Yoga mats
This is far from an exhaustive list, but it gives you some good branded merchandise ideas that might not fit in the traditional mold of promotional products. Depending on your audience, many of these can also signal that you are a considerate company who gives away useful items. It’s a great way to keep customers coming back and maybe attract some new ones in the process.
Set Reasonable Goals
The last thing you want to do is set a lofty goal that you may not be able to achieve. A branded merchandise campaign is a process, and you need to exercise patience to see the fruits of your labor. If you purchase one thousand top of the line power banks for a social media contest, then you may be disappointed that you don’t get a thousand entries.
So, maybe you can start small and see what the response to your branded merchandise is at the start. This is especially true if you’re using those items as giveaways. Seeing what works and what doesn’t can really help you key in on the promotional products that make the most sense for your brand.
Of course, you can never really go wrong with a thoughtful corporate gift. The gesture alone is something that clients will thoroughly enjoy. Every time they use the product you have given them, they will undoubtedly think fondly of your business and remember why they use your products or services in the first place.
To Sum It All Up
Branded merchandise can be an extraordinary marketing tool that produces a broader brand awareness and more customers in the long run. But, it is important to have the right branded merchandise ideas before you start on the campaign. Be strategic about your approach. Understand your target audience. Choose products that your audience will want and use frequently. And, don’t be afraid to get a little creative!