Do’s & Don’ts: How to Make Great Brand Merchandise

Anthem Branding
The Startup
Published in
6 min readDec 6, 2017


Brand merchandise has always been an impactful and integral part of sponsorship and promotions. Great businesses implement a strategic approach that ensures their merchandise is a core part of their overall marketing strategy. The best branded items help a business express their brand personality, emotionally connect with their target market, reinforce their message and engage with their customers.

To effectively use merchandise to its utmost potential, you’ll need to think through your marketing goals, establish quality standards, and determine how to measure impact. Here are some tips to make sure you use the merchandise effectively.

Do: Use Items That Have High Usability & Perceived Value

The best promotional products are lifestyle products with great functional features, such as water bottles, hoodies, power banks, bags, journals, and hats. The more use the recipient can get out of the item, the more likely your brand will stay top-of-mind.

It’s a good idea to invest in a collection of different options that collectively tell a cohesive story about your brand, without running into losses. When you have a high variety of branded lifestyle merchandise, your reach and possibility of multiple exposures to your brand tend to be high. To achieve high merchandise goals, you should consider bringing together three critical elements: creative and catchy design, a clear brand personality, and gifts that bring value to your audience.

Do: Implement An Effective Strategy

From the get-go, you’ll want to create and use your merchandise in a way that communicates empathy, reliability, connection and brand consciousness. To achieve this, having a clear understanding of who your target audience is extremely important. Defining their persona(s) will help you create branded merchandise that resonates with their demographic. You might want to avoid fashionable or “trendy” promotional products as they tend to lose their desirability after a period of time.

In certain cases, co-branding alongside a major recognizable brand can be an effective approach that works well if the brand is popular among your target consumers. Strategic affiliation can bring both strong brand recognition, and increased perceived value.

Do: Focus on Maximizing Return on Investment

This is the most critical aspect of creating great merchandise from a business perspective. It’s important to start with the end goal in mind. Do you want to build brand value, increase brand recognition, boost sales, or inspire conversation? How do these goals factor into your messaging? How much budget will you have to spend and what will be your mode of distribution? It’s important that you are able to have metrics for the different goals that you are aiming to achieve already defined to truly maximize on your returns.

Don’t: Limit Your Theme

This is a tricky balance. On the one hand, you want to establish targeted messaging and distribution plans for your merchandise, whether it be seasonal or campaign-based or what-have-you, that will resonate with specific demographics, such as regions, age-groups, or seasons, to make the biggest impact. On the contrary, branding items that have cross-cutting themes will allow for ongoing use and reaching a wider pool of people.

A great way to satisfy both of these needs is to create a collection of merchandise made up of a few staple apparel and merch pieces that offer the widest acceptance possible, and additionally swap in more unique items on a campaign-by-campaign basis. For example, custom hoodies and water bottles can span visibility across all seasons and age groups, while the relevancy of branded board shorts can be limited to promotions during warmer seasons and to people in warmer regions.

Do: Take Advantage Of Automated Ordering

Automated ordering ensures that your merchandise reaches targeted groups and interested parties only. Using automation platforms is significant because it gives you valuable insights into who is ordering, when and where they are ordering from, and which items they are ordering the most. This data helps you refine and tweak your strategy to match the market demand with future promotions. Most importantly, automated ordering allows you to minimize the time and cost involved in sorting and delivering the merchandise yourself.

Don’t: Let Certain Factors Limit Your Reach

When trying to connect with a new or wide-spread audience, it’s best to invest in items that require minimal variations to be able to be used by the widest variety of people. For example, items like socks and hats are smart choices because they are both unisex and also eliminate the size-factor, allowing for use by consumers across any size, shape, or form. Using items like fitted t-shirts as giveaways can present a challenge as it requires having the recipient’s specific size and style on hand.

Do: Stay Focused on Quality

Most businesses think that their promotional products have to be loud and in your face to make the biggest impact. That often becomes too salesy and drab for recipients to actually want to use. In reality, products that are high in quality and provide real value make the strongest impression.

Don’t: Be Invasive

The best merchandise is the kind that is subtle, alluring and creatively done. Some firms make their custom merchandise exclusively available to those who visit their stores, engage at events, participate in promotions or through their retailers. It should be a fairly non-invasive promotion for it to have a lasting impact. Subtle yet impactful merchandise advertising creates an excellent captive audience, and reinforces your brand with those who already have a buy-in to your products or services. Creating an element of exclusivity or limited-edition is a strong way to maintain the appeal of your collection.

Final Thoughts

Strong brand merchandise and authentic promotional messaging engages consumers, loyal clients and potential buyers in ways that the traditional marketing can’t. The long-term exposure tends to powerfully reinforce your product’s relevance to the end-users. Your merchandise need not be expensively done. It just needs deliberateness, planning, creativity, and understanding of the recipients of the merchandise. When done right, this could be the most effective advertising strategy which delivers high returns in terms of sales.

Ready to create great brand merchandise for your business? Click here to speak to a branding expert to get started. Let’s create something together.

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Anthem Branding
The Startup

As a Branding Agency, we specialize in custom promotional products, premium apparel & quality branding & design.