4 Tips for a Branded Merchandise Strategy
Branded merchandise (i.e., promotional products) has always been seen as a sidebar for grand openings or sponsorships; however, it should play an integral role within your overall marketing strategy. Through the use of branded merchandise, retailers can show brand personality, reinforce their message and understanding of target audience, and engage with customers in a way that will create brand resonance. Case in point, a 2014 study conducted by the Advertising Specialty Institute found that promotional products deliver commanding advertiser recall among 85 percent of consumers surveyed.
However, to achieve optimal results with your branded merchandise, it's important to have a strategy in place that's tailored to the needs of your target customers. Here are some tips to make sure you use promotional products effectively:
1. Use items that carry a high usability and perceived value. The most popular items for trade shows and conferences are lifestyle products with functional elements — e.g., sportswear, power banks, chargers, "smart" bags and totes, drink ware, on-the-go health items. Make sure to take the experience beyond the booth during these events by doing room drops or having three related products that attendees can collect at three different stages of the event. Marry trendy participant gifts with brand personality and messaging to ensure recall recognition.
2. Implement an effective strategy. Use creative, fun and lifestyle-branded merchandise to help reinforce the understanding in the recipient's mind that "this company gets me," such as Jack Link's Beef Jerky "Beard Hat Night" at the Seattle Mariners game in recognition of the beard trend happening with their target customer base. It may be fairly obvious, but it's worth stating: co-branding with well-known products, especially one that's popular among target customers, is a great strategy, as the affiliation can bring both strong brand recognition and perceived value.
Some other branded merchandise trends in 2015 include more cost-effective methods for personalization of items for mass production application, and the fusion of activation goals and 3-D branded merchandise, such as the GEICO custom "Hump Day", which takes the digital creative and puts it in the hands of customers.
3. Maximize return on investment. What do you want to accomplish at a store, sales associate or even an internal level with branded merchandise? How will this help with messaging? Asking these questions will help you evaluate the cost and plan a strategy that will be most effective in achieving the results you want. The more a promotional product relates to the target consumer, even if that consumer is your internal associate base, the higher chance of brand resonance and an increase in productivity and effectiveness of the merchandise.
4. Take advantage of automated ordering. Automated ordering provides unlimited access to the 3-D marketing solutions essential to driving revenue goals, and provides a key resource for employees looking to celebrate their company pride and meet the expectations of their sales force presentation strategies. In addition, automated ordering gives corporate brand and marketing teams the peace of mind associated with pre-approved product assortment and brand representation, and can maximize budget allocation for merchandise through bulk buying strategies, which will greatly shorten the time investment associated with selecting, buying and producing merchandise on a market-by-market basis.
Promotional products engage consumers in a way that traditional marketing cannot. They create long-term exposure by the consumer's continued use of the product, which stresses the importance of the product's relevance to the consumer. By using the above tips and creating an effective strategy, the use of branded merchandise will create brand resonance with consumers and positively impact your bottom line.
Michelle England is a branded merchandise strategist at DataSource, a managed marketing services provider.
Related story: Branding Beyond the Products You Sell