The Death of Cheap Promo Products
As previously mentioned, cheap promo items are quickly becoming an “old-school” way to advertise and market your brand. Many people find that promotional items are tacky and useless. These products also don’t typically have the best feelings surrounding them.
Within seconds of being handed some free swag or merch, it tends to go in the trash. Not only does this do the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish, it
dissolves brand awareness
doesn’t generate qualified new leads
leaves a negative first impression
causes you to lose money
creates environmental waste
Many promotional products are made from inexpensive plastic. With plastic being one of the top contributors to environmental waste, promotional products are a part of that waste. Consumers are shifting to try and be environmentally conscious. While you don’t want to “greenwash” your items showing you care about your environmental footprint can go a long way.
While the products turn into waste, it’s also essential to consider the number of dollars companies spend on these items. From the initial meetings about the ordering process and manufacturing to shipping and receiving these orders, people spend a lot of money on promotional items. In North America alone, the promotional product industry is worth about $26.3 billion dollars.
Instead of wasting money on poorly manufactured products, there are more effective ways to use merchandise to your advantage, not your disadvantage.
What Is Custom Branded Merchandise?
The difference between custom branded merchandise and promotional products is simple. Branded merchandise is high-quality items (apparel, tech, household items, etc) that are designed to reflect the company brand, mission, and values. Promotional products are cheap, mass-produced items that typically only have the logo printed onto them.
Branded merchandise items are typically made using higher quality materials and brands. Some quick examples of branded merchandise are:
Otterbox Phone Case
Untuckit Button Down
Nike T-Shirt/Long Sleeve
While these are just a few examples, it's important to note that one of the main differences between branded merchandise is the quality of the item. These are brands that are already well-known and loved. People already use them and incorporate them into their daily lives.
These items are designed to be more than just the company logo. They may be personalized with someone's name, colorfully designed to represent the brand's mission/values, or for specific events or gifts.
Branded merchandise takes a longer time to produce than promotional items. From conception to the final product, there are many steps that take time and thought. This will cause the time frame to be longer; however, you will see and experience the vast differences between quality over quantity.
Some examples of cheap promotional products are:
Poorly Made T-Shirts
In short, these items are meant to be produced quickly. Because of this, these items are often lower quality, likely to break, be thrown away, or not used at all.
People remember the products that you show to them. Choosing the right product is key – 72% of people say that a brand’s reputation is reflected in the quality of the products they receive.
Whether this product is gifted internally or externally, you want to put your best foot forward. When working with branded merchandise, you may go through various design choices, stages of creativity, and other steps to ensure that you are going beyond a simple logo and font.
The final production of your item will be unique to you and your company and apparent to those who see it. Using branded merchandise instead of promotional products shows that you care about your employees, your consumers, and the environment.
What Are the Best Products to Use?
When it comes time to choose a product to brand, you want to make sure that you’re finding the best type of item for you and your company/customers. With every business being different, your business merch should be different from others. As mentioned, one of the best things about branded merch vs. promo items is that branded merchandise steps away from the “one-size-fits-all” approach.
The best types of products to use for your branded merchandise are products that you know are already used and loved by your consumers. This strategy can ensure that the people receiving the items are more likely to use them, love them, and therefore give you all the benefits that come with custom branded merchandise.
Think about items and brands that you love. Why do you love them? How do they add value to your life? When asking yourself these questions, you’re probably thinking about the functionality and the quality of these items. They’re also likely aesthetically pleasing and easily fit into your lifestyle. The same goes for branded merchandise. You want to apply the same thoughts to that process.
Statistically, jackets and other outerwear pieces are some of the most commonly used.
Wearables dominate the next three highest impressions for branded swag:
T-shirts get 3,400 impressions
Headwear such as hats also get 3.400 impressions
Bags like totes and duffle bags are just a little lower, with 3,300 impressions.
Items that are geared to be used multiple times for multiple reasons can also be highly effective because consumers see them as being more environmentally friendly. Instead of doing some type of knick-knack or product that doesn’t serve a purpose, is viewed as being wasteful and not as environmentally friendly. Nearly half of all consumers – 46% – will have a more favorable opinion of your brand if your promo products are environmentally friendly.
Quality is one of the essential aspects of creating well-branded merchandise. Think of the products you see people using, think about currently trending items, and use that to your advantage. Think of your own favorite brands like Nike, Comfort Colors, Lululemon, Champion, etc., and see if you may be able to use products like that.
What Are the Best Brands for Custom Merchandise?
The answer is simple when thinking of what brands are the best to use. The best brands to use are ones that create high-quality products. No matter what you are looking to use, finding items that can withstand the test of time are crucial to your success.
All too often, we’ve received an item that we are excited about and want to implement in our daily lives, but after one wash or use, that item is no longer functional and ends up going in the trash.
Some of the most popular and well-liked items that have been used as branded merchandise are as follows but are not limited to:
The North Face
These are all premium brands, which is how you want your brand to be perceived. While finding an item that comes from a brand or manufacturer that is less well known can cause people to view you the same. While brands some brands can work great, they don’t have the same wow factor as those other premium brands.
You’ll also find that you’re creating less product waste by straying away from the cheap pins, flimsy pens, and fragile mugs. It may be more expensive to go with a premium brand, but in the end, you’re more likely to reap the benefits that branded merchandise can bring.
These items also tend to be produced by better quality manufacturers, leading to better environmental and ethical impact. Considering all of this will show that you care about these same issues, allowing people to feel more aligned and relatable to your company.
How Does Custom Branded Apparel Boost Employee and Customer Satisfaction?
Aside from a uniquely designed item created to reflect your business, values, and mission, branded merchandise can help improve employee and customer satisfaction. Internally, employee satisfaction, specifically during today’s Great Resignation, is one of the top reasons people seek out new job opportunities. Externally, it can help form a sense of community and help boost brand awareness. Every size of business, from a solopreneur to a corporation, can benefit from branded merchandise.
One of the most significant benefits of using personally designed merchandise is the growth of company culture and employee satisfaction. These items offer an opportunity to picture what matters to the business, then provide it as a gift for employees. A few ideas for when to offer branded merchandise as a gift include:
Celebratory or Milestone-Related Gifts
Internal Congratulatory Promotional Gifts
Similarly, these items can directly reflect what your company values. Tailoring products to fit your audiences' specific needs will showcase who you are as a business better than any poorly made pen or unappealing branded water bottle could.
In today's day and age, employee satisfaction is one of the top reasons people leave their current places of employment. People prioritize hybrid work schedules, flexibility, and how valued they feel in a professional space. Small rewards, such as a high-quality bumper sticker, coffee mug, t-shirt, tote bags, socks, small scrapbooking stickers, etc., can offer cost-effective ways to let employees and contractors know you value them.
While it may not be the end solution to solve “The Great Resignation,” it can provide you and your employees with a sense of community and value.
Branded merchandise improves the customer experience by letting consumers feel like a part of the company or business. People buy products because they want to feel like they are a part of something, whether it be an aesthetic or a lifestyle. For example, think of a product that you recently bought. You bought it because of the brand, and while there are probably many other products that serve the same purpose, the one you bought made you feel like you were a part of something.
You can use merchandise by selling products to consumers, giving them away at events, gifting them for loyalty purposes, etc. 30% of consumers are open to receiving more information about your brand when you do activities like giveaways or contests. Utilizing merchandise for contests and giveaways is another excellent way to improve that experience.
Building Brand Awareness
Your brand reaps marketing benefits when your employees, contractors, customers, or vendors wear or use your branded items. When people wear or use your branded merchandise, their family, friends, coworkers, and strangers see your brand. Their modeling of your branded merchandise creates an instant positive impression. Think of it as an everlasting advertisement.
You can easily extend these benefits by creating a custom hashtag to use with branded merchandise posts. Invite employees, consumers, etc., to take a photo of themselves using or wearing their branded items, then post them with your hashtag. By doing this, you instantly extend the usefulness of your gift. Extend the invitation to do this separately from your gift-giving. The offering of a gift of any kind should come with no strings attached.
How to Use Branded Merchandise Correctly and Effectively
The way you use branded merchandise matters. While consumers may not be able to understand the full ins and outs of what it takes to design something, they will be able to understand the quality of the product right away.
Quality is one of the biggest differences between branded merchandise and promotional products, which is why it's often reflected in the price tag.
Spending more money on branded merchandise will allow you to experience the full amount of benefits that we’ve discussed. The product you curate will be tailored to fit into the lifestyle of the people you will be giving it to.
The whole idea is to move away from mass producing and mass gifting. Spending more on fewer products and strategically gifting to the right audience you know will buy or the right team members will improve morale.
Creating fewer products can also give a sense of exclusivity to the product and your brand. This can increase buzz and awareness, making people feel more inclined to become a part of your business. It can also help grow the demand, which in turn can help boost profits and overall revenue.
Why Should I Spend More Money on Custom Merchandise?
Custom products go beyond what most people expect. Instead of spending your company’s money on unnecessary items, you want to find a product your consumers don’t have yet or know they need. This way, you’re more likely to give them something that they will actually keep and use.
You also want to consider how the design of your product will appear. Currently, items with minimal logos and branding are doing better than huge logo-heavy items, which you want to consider. The design of your item will also be part of your success story. Luckily, when you work with a branding agency, you will have access to designers that can help give you the look and feel you are going for without sacrificing other aspects.
You will also have a more comprehensive selection of products to choose from. Promotional products can be limited to only select items, but with branded merchandise, the sky is truly the limit.
Whether you’re looking for apparel, signage, event items, etc., an agency can help you create personalized products that showcase your brand and its mission. Plus, it can even promote a better initial connection with the person receiving the product, too.
What Is a Branded Merchandise Agency?
When looking to start utilizing the merchandise, you want to ensure that you are working with a branding agency, not a promotional products company. A custom branding agency focuses on the initial creation, development, maintenance, and improvement of a brand specific to its merchandise.
These agencies first learn about your business so they understand it and its goals and objectives. The agency then works with you to convey these values, goals, and objectives to your target audience. The agency develops a strategy from this information that helps grow its brand through merchandise items.
Agencies often offer leadership and industry guidance with respect to:
Creativity and Innovation
Supply Chain Management
Fulfillment and Distribution
Branded merchandise agencies work with you to develop a plan for your merchandise, strategies to implement it, and help you obtain the items from dependable vendors. Due to this careful curation, working with a branding agency may have a higher turnaround time than a promotional products manufacturer. While this may seem like a downfall, remember that you are working with much higher quality items, and the time is definitely worth it.
Branded merchandise agencies do more than just help design unique merchandise designs. While not all of them have the exact same features, there are things you can look for to ensure that you are finding the best of the best. A well-branded merchandise agency should assist you with the following:
Sourcing and Procurement
A creative merchandise agency should work with you from start to finish, offering its invaluable objective perspective to help you build a branded merchandise line that offers a consistent, cohesive, and compelling message. Great branding can go so much farther than a cool design, it can help scale revenue and drive the positive forces of your business forward.