It’s not your imagination; small companies, big brands, bloggers and YouTubers are all doing it these days! What used to be a staple for a few unique brands is now a global trend for brands of all sizes and consumers can’t get enough.
For years, you've seen large brands sell their branded merch. Think of the Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt you bought the first time you went to one of their restaurants, and then how you made a point to purchase one at every location you went to. Okay, maybe that was just me.
And hundreds of thousands of other people.
Clothing manufacturers like Nike and Under Armour have always had a prominent logo on their "blank" shirts but they also offer a full range of items with additional sayings or decoration in addition to their iconic logo.
Admit it, you looked at the Timbiebs merch. And even if you didn't at first, you may have wished you did when you heard that the items were being resold at over a 500% mark up on social media!
And even if you never thought you'd buy an item, thousands (hundreds of thousands probably) did and everyone was talking about it!
So, I know as you're reading, you're thinking, "I'm not a global brand with the resources to partner with big celebrities. Why should I consider developing a Merch Line?"
Well, you don't have to be a big brand. You don't have to have a celebrity. And it doesn't take a big investment to get started.
It builds your brand story.
Your brand is a lot more than just the product or service you offer. It's about who you are, what you believe in and what's important to your customers. Take us, for example, we produce great PROMO products for a wide range of industries. In our work, we are conscious of the logo guidelines for our corporate customers and ensuring our customers get high quality professional products. For the majority of the products we produce for customers, they are pretty standard classic items with a logo.
But behind the scenes, we're so much more! We're funny (or at least think we are), love a great pun and love supporting our community. When we create our own branded merch, we get a chance to show this, whether it's a produce bag decorated with multiple vegetable puns and funny sayings (Hello gourd-geous or Maybe Broccoli Doesn't Like You Either) or a cooler bag that says "Life is better around the campfire". We love creating our branded merch and see it as an extension of who we are and when you see it, it helps you get to know us better.
It gets people talking about you.
Isn't that what great marketing is about? The more unique or classic the item, as people use it and share it with others, it keeps you top of mind for them (and everyone around them that sees the product).
Especially if your core product or service isn't an item or service purchased by the masses but you want to build your brand awareness, creating items that appeal to more than your core customer helps make your brand more approachable and talked about. Maybe your sales are mostly business to business but you want to appeal to the users of your product, most don't want a t-shirt with your logo on it but what about a saying or graphic that appeals to them with your logo incorporated in the graphic. Every time they wear that shirt, your brand is getting out there and they are thinking (and talking) positively about your brand.
Serves as a revenue stream.
Yes, we're talking about actually selling it.
You may think you're too small to think about a branded merch line but being small is actually kind of an advantage. Small businesses have the most loyal community of fans and they want to support what you're trying to do in whatever way you provide them. You may love Starbucks but it's not the same love you have for the corner coffee shop that has three generations of family in the back baking up your favourite morning scone. In many ways, the smaller you are, the more personal connection you have to your community, the more impactful your branded merch would be.
Some of the businesses and industries that really capitalize on this are restaurants, experience businesses (Outfitters, campgrounds, travel guides), personal trainers and other personal service practitioners. Many non-profits are also starting to realize the benefit of this type of social enterprise and are doing very well with introducing products for their supporters to purchase.
They remind us of great times.
Memorabilia and collector items are great ways to remember events and experiences. When you drink out of that mug you bought from the great little coffee shop you found on your last getaway with a friend, it brings up the great memory of being there.
Are you a restaurant that has a wing challenge? Perhaps a shirt you gift (or sell) to those who meet the challenge! And every time they wear it, it sparks a conversation about you and the wing challenge and what great time they had at your restaurant.
Hosting an event, concert, run, you name it, many participants want to take a bit of that experience with them and branded merch is a great way to do this. When someone completes their first 5K, what do you think happens with that medal they received? It gets shown to their friends and family, maybe gets a special display spot in their house and is the beginning of their collection of medals from the future races they want to do.
Are you an out of the way destination or a place where people go for special times in their lives? Many want something to remember their time and a great t-shirt, mug, key chain or other souvenir is what they're looking for.
Great for giving back.
This is perhaps my favourite thing to do with branded merch! We've worked with many community partners to develop great fundraising, appreciation and awareness projects. I like to say it's how I get to use my powers for good and keeps me in a constant search to find ways branded merch can make our community better!
Developing items to be sold in support of a local cause or non-profit are a great way to engage your customers, highlight key community issues and raise money! In 2021, SJA Promo worked with customers to help generate over $25,000 in fundraising for local non-profits, whether it was that organizations branded apparel or items specifically created for their supporters to purchase or producing special products with our partners like our Orange Shirt Fundraiser (with Home Hardware) or the Advent Calendars (with Home Hardware and AFDE).
Whether it's $1 from the purchase of each item or the full proceeds from the sale of an item, consumers love to buy products that make a positive impact. You can help make a difference with or without a financial investment by leveraging your other resources: community of supporters, social media following, store front, etc.
Not sure where to start or what it entails? Connect in with your Promotional Product Consultant, it's easier than you think! You don't have to start with a huge investment, it can start with a small quantity of one item and go from there. Interested in partnering with us on a community project? Maybe you have an idea or maybe just some resources to help bring a project to market? Contact L.J. at lj@sjaPROMO.ca, she's always plotting and scheming about our next community project and loves to chat about different opportunities!