What if we told you that you could get people to pay their own money to advertise for your brand?
Yes, you read that correctly, they take their hard-earned money and advertise for your restaurant, medical company, or hardware supply store. They walk around displaying your logo, put it all over their social media, and even answer questions about your brand for you. Would you believe us?
Well you should, because it’s possible. We know your next question is, how would you get someone do this? How would you get your customers to be a brand ambassador, or a walking billboard? The answer is branded merchandise.
Branded merchandise (or “swag”) is any product that displays your company’s logo and branding, and is used for marketing and promotional reasons. That could mean the free flash drives you gave out at a college campus, or the t-shirts and hats you sold at your last event. It is any product that’s not part of your main product or service offering, which you use to increase brand awareness, brand recall, and brand image.
There has been a fast growth of the popularity of branded merchandise from big brands like Cheetos and McDonald’s, as well as several of our own clients, because of the impact it can have on your brand and marketing. But exactly how does branded merch help boost those three essential aspects of branding?
Branded Merch Affects Brand Awareness & Brand Recall
Let’s start with brand awareness and brand recall, because they go hand in hand. Brand awareness is how conscious a potential customer is of your brand and its association to your product or service offering. This connects directly to brand recall, which is how well, after this awareness is established, your target audience can remember who you are and what you do when they need it.
For those living in the DMV, our client Kicks Karate is a recognizable name due to their multiple locations around the metro area. If someone asks their friend if they know any places to take martial arts or kickboxing classes, they’ll probably name a couple, and if Kicks Karate is on that list, then that person is aware of the brand and can recall what they offer. Simple enough, right?
After completing their new branding and website, we recommended that they set up an online stop to sell merchandise and boost their brand awareness and recall. Through this shop, their students (both kids and adults) can purchase t-shirts, hoodies, cell phone cases, and even car magnets. That means with every person they drive by, every high-five they give at school, and every Snapchat they post, people interact with the Kicks Karate brand and become aware of who they are and what they do. The students get to show off their pride & loyalty to the brand and their martial arts school, while Kicks Karate gains the benefit of creating an enjoyable experience for their students. This, along with our fun and creative designs, helps motivate students to buy, wear, and show off the merch.
As a whole, many other brands have also benefited from the use of branded merch:
The more people purchase and receive branded merch, the more Kicks Karate’s brand awareness and brand recall will grow, benefiting their business in the long run.
Branded Merch Affects Brand Image
Now there is the discussion of brand image – or brand personality. These are the traits and characteristics that others associate with your brand, and your branded merchandise can have a strong impact on them. It is the next step up on the brand building ladder.
If you’ve built up your brand awareness, you want to focus on accentuating its personality and image for your target audience. This can be done with branded merchandise. It’s affected by:
- The Items You Choose
- The Perceived Quality of that Item
- The Messaging (Images & Text) on the Item
- The Style and Aesthetics of the Item
When using branded merchandise to help accentuate brand elements, planning is key. For example, if you are a restaurant that sells organic food, using organic cotton (and making sure this is known) could help emphasize that you care about quality as a brand. Or if you are a nutrition company, choosing fitness-related merch like shoelaces or a sweatband, as opposed to a regular cotton t-shirt, will make for a more memorable and useful item that people will show off while working out at the gym (which is likely where your target demographic is).
With strategic planning like this, you kill two birds with one stone because the elements of the item itself now represent the elements of your brand. Through your customers, you reach more people like them. Now current and potential customers absorb your brand in familiar forms, like clothes or technology, and they can interact with it daily, reinforcing the branding continuously.
Additional Tips for Using Branded Merchandise
There are many other advantages to branded merchandise, including how it can increase your brand’s reach or help your bottom line. Here are some important tips to keep in mind if you want to start a branded merch strategy:
- Branded Merch doesn’t have to be sold – it’s great for contests or giveaways.
- Branded Merch should be seen as marketing collateral when evaluating ROI. Remember that it can help your bottom line, though it serves other purposes too.
- Creativity of your distribution is key. For example, if you’re a restaurant and you create t-shirts, you can now work with food and fashion influencers on social media.
- Branded Merch is a powerful tool for reaching younger audiences.
The importance of branded merchandise in branding is quickly growing every day, and if you approach it strategically, it can have benefits that far surpass the costs. But if it isn’t planned well, it can be an aggressive waste of marketing dollars. Any brand, from any industry, can take advantage of swag to help your company grow. But the key – whether you are a Kicks Karate, a Cheetos, or a small medical practice – is planning and strategy. Let Marstudio help you get started, and spread your brand through merchandise that customers will love.