Anthem Branding

Anthem Branding

A few ideas about thoughtful branding — or — how to make custom merchandise that doesn’t suck

Posted by Michael Benjamin on Nov 18, 2016 3:53:20 PM
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Promotional items. Merchandise. Swag. Tchotchkes. Apparel. Design. Packaging. It’s hard to find a single word to describe what we do at Anthem Branding. Prömomerchswag is the best I can think of, and it’s not even technically a word, although it is pretty fun to say.

In a nutshell: our agency designs and produces truly awesome promotional products and apparel, but that’s still not a fully encompassing nutshell. We also create visual identities, consumer product packaging, and do all the other things you’d expect from a design agency: brand strategy and naming, visual identities, digital and print collateral, and more.

This inability to sum up our services in a neat, little, SEO optimized search term is a problem for us as well as business owners — they aren’t quite sure what to Google when they’re looking for what we offer. You could try “custom merchandise” or “cool swag” and the internet usually connects you with an online retailer selling the same boxy t-shirts and cheap Frisbees you see everywhere. So if you happen to be a business owner and you found this article, that means we’re both in luck. 🎉


If you want to understand what makes us different (I hope you do), here’s a quick rundown of how the merch industry typically operates:

Most design shops and advertising agencies can come up with ideas for promotional products, but they can’t usually handle the production process. Which is why business owners often go to small merchandise vendors or online retailers whose capabilities begin and end with putting logos on things. Need a few giveaways for an upcoming event? Send your logo to the ‘merch guy’ down the street and he’ll have an order of t-shirts and keychains ready in no time (just don’t ask him to suggest which item is a unique fit for your brand, or his head might explode).

Put simply, business owners have two options:

  1. Pay a design studio to generate ideas and then pay someone else to produce them, or
  2. Pay a small merchandise vendor to produce ideas that you generated in-house.

It’s obvious why companies often choose #2 — it’s cheap and convenient.

However, it completely eliminates strategic thinking and high-quality design from the equation. The end product feels generic and unexciting, another branded item that’s destined to be tossed in a donation bin (or the trash).


But then we thought, “Duh…Let’s just bring the design and production processes under one roof.” And thus, Anthem Branding was created. (Not really, but go with it.)

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Ⓒ2015 Daniel O’Connor

We were birthed from the idea that business owners shouldn’t have to go great lengths to get quality custom merchandise designed with strategic goals in mind.

And by bringing those two capabilities together, we’re getting a better result than we would if they were separate. Our design process is influenced by our production know-how, and vice versa. This not only creates efficiencies for our clients, but also allows us to bring a particular thoughtfulness and craft to what we do.


Thoughtfulness is central to how we operate at Anthem. We don’t believe a giveaway should feel like a giveaway; it should feel like a gift, and that’s how we approach everything we create. Every piece of collateral, merchandise, advertising, swag, tchotchke or what-have-you is like a thank you gift to consumers. Even apparel and merch that are sold and generate income should have an extra level of thoughtfulness sewn in the fabric of their design. Everything is an opportunity to completely blow someone’s mind.

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We’ve made custom backpacks and wallets for Paramore, an entire apparel program for Trestle Bike Park, and fully custom vests for Dangerous Man Brewing. Those types of solutions can’t be found in a merch guy’s catalogue. They require thoughtful consideration of the consumer with respect to the client’s goals. Not everyone wants a t-shirt or a lanyard or a pair of sunglasses, and a brand might not benefit from putting its logo on a coffee cup or a trucker hat. It’s about understanding the strategic situation and the behavior of consumers, and then designing a solution from there. Otherwise, you’ll end up with your logo on a bunch of junk nobody wanted in the first place.


However, when a dash of thoughtfulness is applied to the recipe the results can be dramatically different. A great example is the branded merchandise and apparel we created for our own brand at Anthem. We created custom hats, hoodies, t-shirts, notebooks, water bottles, bags and more, all of which tell a bite-sized pieced of our brand story.

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What good is a promotional t-shirt that nobody wants to wear? By making these giveaways feel more like gifts and less like commodities, we elevated our brand in the eyes of anyone who receives them. We made ourselves relevant in their day-to-day lives.

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And when it comes to our creative services, we take the exact same approach. We start with a thoughtful consideration of what the client needs and the consumer wants. Whether our clients need a brand identity, product packaging, digital graphics, or print pieces, we deliver it in a way that makes the consumer feel understood, like the company actually cares. And ultimately that’s what gift giving is all about — showing someone you care. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive gift or the biggest gift or something you made by hand. It just has to be thoughtful.


I’ve worked at virtually every kind of design, advertising and marketing firm there is, and after nine years at Anthem I can safely say that no one else is doing what we do here. Perhaps that’s one of reasons it’s so hard to sum it all up in just a few words. It’s a completely holistic approach to branding, design, and merchandise, and one that’s better structured to meet the changing demands of our clients (local, national, big, and small).

We’re the prömomerchswag producers of thoughtful promotional products, apparel and design. And if you’re interested in building a positive and lasting brand image, then hit us up. 👋

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Topics: Branding, Apparel, Design Process, design, Brand Strategy, Insider, Custom Merchandise