Know what you know
Maybe folks were giving it out at the supermarket or a football game — who knows. But you pick it up, look at it, and say “I hate this thing. Why do I still have it?” you scoff.
A lot of free merchandise is free for a reason. It’s crap. They literally have to give it away. We might as well rename it pre-trash.
Making basic "pre-trash", or "swag that sucks" can be both a waste of time and money — plus, your customers won’t even want it. But, with solid, professional advice, the right kind of apparel and merchandise can be just as powerful as a billboard or print ad or TV commercial. Done correctly, these custom items can become something people choose to keep, wear and use to define themselves, and not just throw away.
If you want to create a branded giveaway, retail item, or company apparel, how will you create something people will appreciate? Here’s some free, unsolicited advice (the best kind):
1. Know your brand
There are plenty of brands that do an excellent job of both offering attractive merchandise and showing themselves off as part of a lifestyle. For these brands — Patagonia, SoulCycle, Hard Rock Cafe — people seek out their logo-emblazoned gear and willingly pay for it. For a company that naturally fits into a lifestyle, customized lines of clothing and accessories can help it elevate its brand and reach more customers.
However, not every brand is a lifestyle brand. Don’t force it. That means that if you’re an insurance company, you probably don’t want to offer up a custom collection of tank tops with silly messages (“We’ve got you covered, better than this shirt”…actually that one’s kinda funny). Brands with a less-obvious emotional connection to their customers need to be a little more creative with gear, focusing on items that can find a useful place in someone’s life. So, maybe your insurance firm could design a pocket notebook that’s stylish and functional.
2. Know your audience
Pinning down who you are trying to reach will help enormously in making any merchandising project successful and making sure this stuff is distributed the right way to get to these people.
3. Know your project’s goals
An apparel or merchandise collection is like any other form of advertising, so you should think about what you want to get out of the campaign. Some companies simply want to build up a positive view of their brands. For others, the intent can be to create a memory. For example, the team at Anthem worked with House of Blues to sell custom merchandise as mementos, helping elevate the music and art venue as a brand people go to for a unique experience.
4. Know your budget
Sure, the option out of a catalogue can be useful for something cheap and fast. But if you make an investment, you could be rewarded with unique ideas, a great experience and positive results.
Thoughtful branded items and contemporary apparel are an opportunity to connect with your biggest fans. Instead of something disposable, surprise them with something unique and memorable.
Skip the chip bag clips, cheap pens and pet rocks with googly eyes. Think about making a special gift that tells a fuller story about your brand, and is something that people are excited about and will want to use.
Have any questions or additional thoughts on brand merchandising? Leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you!