Whether it’s a comfortable t-shirt or a useful tool like a pen or USB drive, branded merchandise is a fun and cost-effective way to keep your brand at the top of customers’ minds. According to a recent survey, 75% of people said they were more likely to buy from a company that gave them a promotional product over one that didn’t.
With the right brand assets and marketing strategy, you can create branded merchandise to expand your market reach and encourage customer loyalty. Learn more about how to create your own branded merchandise and how it can benefit your business.
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What is branded merchandise?
Branded merchandise is any product featuring a company logo, name, or identifying asset used to promote a brand. It is also known as promotional merchandise or branded merch. Both small businesses and large corporations make and distribute promotional products to increase brand awareness and brand loyalty in the market through positive brand associations.
Brands can also open up another line of revenue by selling branded products. Companies brand a wide variety of merchandise, including clothing items, drinkware, writing instruments, and technology accessories. For example, consumers who align with a brand’s values might want to purchase hats featuring the brand’s logo—even if it isn’t an apparel company.
What are the benefits of branding merchandise?
- Increase brand awareness
- Encourage brand loyalty
- Save marketing budget
- Boost employee morale
- Become a new revenue stream
With the right strategy, branding merchandise can be a cost-effective way to earn customer loyalty, increase brand recognition, and even create a new revenue stream. Branded merch can help companies to:
Increase brand awareness
One of the main reasons to create branded merchandise is increasing brand recognition and brand awareness in the market. Customers who wear apparel featuring their favorite brands act as ambassadors for those brands by advertising the brand wherever they go. Putting your brand logo on promotional products can create more opportunities for your brand to reach new customers and clients.
Encourage brand loyalty
Merchandise branding, or the practice of providing branded promotional products, is a great way to thank loyal customers and encourage them to shop with you again. According to a survey conducted by the PPAI, 83% of respondents said they would experience strengthened loyalty to a brand that gave them a promotional product.
Good merchandise branding can work hand in hand with a retargeting campaign to put your branded products in front of customers who’ve already interacted with your brand before. You can also include branded merchandise as rewards for your company’s loyalty program.
Save marketing budget
Many types of branded merchandise are fairly inexpensive when compared to traditional marketing strategies like outdoor advertising or video marketing. Branding simple promo products like hats or pens is a low-cost way to create items to represent your company to potential customers out in the world. With the right brand assets and products, you can create a cost-effective marketing strategy that encourages word of mouth.
Boost employee morale
Branded merchandise can help you build an emotional connection with your employees and vendors through corporate gifts. Giving your employees a useful product (like a reusable water bottle) can promote company pride, especially if your promo products are aligned with your brand values. For example, a phone case using recycled materials bearing a brand logo would align with a company selling eco-friendly tech accessories.
Become a new revenue stream
Though branded merchandise works well as a free promotion tool, it also can become a new revenue stream for your business. It takes time and effort to build a brand identity strong enough to incentivize customers to buy branded merchandise. If you put in the work, it’s possible to create promotional products valuable enough to sell. For example, picture a local coffee shop with a strong customer base selling coffee mugs and t-shirts featuring their brand.
Popular promotional products used for branded merchandise
There are a variety of promotional products to consider based on your specific brand’s identity and target audience. Here are some of the most popular promotional products that merchants use to promote their brands:
One of the most common types of promotional products is apparel, including t-shirts and hoodies, as well as other forms of apparel like hats and shoes. Apparel lends itself to companies with an attention-grabbing logo or slogan. A t-shirt with a stylish design that aligns with your visual brand persona is a great entry point into branded merchandise.
Drinkware is another versatile type of branded merchandise. Drinkware items like coffee mugs and reusable water bottles are useful and eco-friendly products for customers and employees alike and, unlike apparel, do not need to be in a variety of sizes.
Technology accessories like phone cases and USB drives are premium promotional products that work well as gifts during trade shows, conferences, and job fairs. These types of tech accessories can also earn brand loyalty over time if the products are high-quality and have a long shelf life.
Items like backpacks, tote bags, and duffel bags can increase brand awareness by acting as moving advertisements for your brand. Similar to tech accessories, the higher the quality of the bag, the longer it’ll last and the more exposure it is likely to get from customers representing your brand in grocery stores, shopping malls, and schools.
Self-care products like lip balms, hand lotions, and face masks are another option for merchants to consider. Self-care items are a thoughtful branded merchandise option, but only if they align with your brand personality. If you’re running a promotion for a beauty and wellness brand, you can also help sales for a new product line by initially including it as a free sample with other purchases.
How to create branded merchandise
- Hone your brand identity
- Generate product ideas
- Design your branded merchandise
- Find a print-on-demand partner or manufacturer
- Distribute your branded merch
- Monitor your inventory
To create your own branded merchandise, start by clarifying your brand identity, understanding your target audience, and getting the right help to bring your merchandise ideas to life. Here are some general steps to consider:
1. Hone your brand identity
Take the time to develop your brand identity, including your company’s logo, slogan, voice, and visual persona. Put together brand guidelines with a list of rules for the tone and style of your brand. Develop a clear brand image with consistent brand assets you can use on your merchandise. Define your target audience and identify the unique value proposition (UVP) to set your brand apart from your competitors.
2. Generate product ideas
Once you’ve developed your brand identity, brainstorm branded merchandise ideas that align with your brand values and personality. Come up with product ideas to complement your marketing efforts. For example, if you’re running a marketing campaign focused on signing customers up for your new loyalty program, generate product ideas that can act as an incentive for the goal. Consider the customer experience when interacting with your company, and put together a list of ideas to cater to your customers’ wants and needs.
3. Design your branded merchandise
Develop the design of your branded merchandise in accordance with your brand guidelines. If design is not your strong suit and you don’t have an internal design team, research design services companies to generate design ideas for you.
Ensure your designs use approved brand assets and are consistent with brand guidelines about more subtle design elements like color palette and font. For example, serif fonts can communicate a more professional and classic tone, while sans serif fonts can feel more contemporary or playful. When possible, create prototypes or mockups of your product designs to test them out and get feedback from your employees and loyal customers.
4. Find a print-on-demand partner or manufacturer
When your designs are ready, determine the best path forward for physically producing the items. There are a few different options depending on what makes sense for your bandwidth, resources, and goals.
If your product designs are fairly straightforward, consider using a print-on-demand company. These types of on-demand companies allow you to acquire high-quality merchandise at a reasonable price, but you are limited to the types of products they offer.
If you need something unique, research manufacturers that can supply your products. Although it will likely cost more money than a print-on-demand service, manufacturers can create custom products for your brand.
5. Distribute your branded merch
Distribute your promotional products through online promotions, in-store gifts, employee events, trade shows, and more. Consider running a social media campaign that incentivizes customers and employees to post pictures with your branded merch. Loyalty programs and new product line promotions are good opportunities to give away promotional products.
6. Monitor your inventory
Keep an eye on your merchandise inventory and order new batches of your promotional products when your inventory is running low. Ecommerce companies like Shopify offer user-friendly tools for inventory management and send you alerts when your stock runs low. Be ready to adapt your branding merchandise campaign based on feedback from customers.
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Branding merchandise FAQ
Why is branded merchandise important?
Creating branded merchandise is important because it can be a relatively low-cost way to get your brand in front of new customers while fostering brand loyalty among existing customers. With the right branding strategy, promotional products can increase brand recognition by putting your brand in front of more people in an organic way.
Can my company sell its branded merchandise?
Yes, your company can sell its branded merchandise, but only if your brand image is valuable enough for your customer base to want to buy items associated with it. It takes time and attention to grow your brand equity enough to justify selling branded merchandise. However, with a good branding strategy, creating promotional products can become an additional revenue stream for your company.
Is branding merchandise a marketing strategy?
Yes, branding merchandise is a marketing strategy and can work in concert with other marketing strategies including word-of-mouth marketing, social media marketing, and event marketing.