Over the last few decades, branded merchandise has entered the scene as a very real piece of culture. I remember the first time I saw a Sriracha t-shirt on a guy walking through the mall. My first thought was “how odd for someone to wear a shirt of some random hot sauce.” And then I tried Sriracha. After that I became a lifelong hot-sauce-on-my-fries fan. Sporting the same t-shirt wouldn’t be a far leap for me now because it communicates that I’m a fan of that ‘random hot sauce’ and proud to be an ambassador of the product. And believe me, hot sauces have cult followings. A t-shirt is one way they recognize each other in public.
If you’ve never thought of brand merchandising, it may be time to jump on the bandwagon. You already understand how branding works for your business, because it’s the method by which you communicate who your company is and what you do for the world. Your brand is your company’s identity. Typically the brand will be found on your website, business cards, signage at your sites, etc. Each of these are fairly static in reach. But, slap your company logo on some stickers, magnets, t-shirts, mugs (and so, so much more), and your advertising just became very, very mobile.
So why INVEST IN BRANDED SWAG?
If you gave someone a “free business card,” they’d probably throw it in the trash as soon as they were out of visual range from you. But offer them a free flash drive (that just so happens to have your logo on it) and you’ve created functional utility in something they may use daily. Not a bad way to stay top of mind. Because you also offered it to them as a freebie, you’ve created a positive association to your brand as well.
Another strategy for branded merchandise is to give free products as a thank-you for a purchase. This study says that 90% of customers who receive a free gift as a result of a purchase are likely to buy from them again. Just make sure that whatever you’re branding is a quality item, or risk your brand perception being labeled as “cheap.” Choosing the right product for branding is exceptionally important, so be sure to align with an item that your customers would like to keep around. Creativity here is king. Check out some kitschy examples from supermarket brands breaking into the clothing industry to get an idea of what I mean.
Inviting customers to take home a piece of your company is a great and cost effective way to build your brand outside of traditional channels and could be a fun holiday giveaway strategy. I mean, this Popeye’s sweater would definitely take home first prize in an ugly Christmas sweater party competition.