This is branded content.
The way that we manage our businesses is ever-changing, but the way that we promote them often stays the same, at least at its core. We want more people to visit our websites, we want more people to come in-store and buy our products; we want to get what we do in front of as many people as possible.
With that said, along with new platforms and means of promotion has come a large shift in the expectations of customers. This is especially true when it comes to promotional merchandise.
For anyone that found themselves in the business or technology world of the 1990s, practically every business had a steady stream of keepsakes and odd merchandise to keep their brand in your mind. From the Ask Jeeves bobbleheads to eBay's plethora of shirts, keychains, hats, and more, this type of paraphernalia was ever-present.
However, as time went on, and the market became divided by millions of businesses all vying for the same audience, products of this kind began to wane in popularity as people expected more from companies and branding shifted to different areas.
In 2022, the landscape is very different, with merchandising starting to make an enormous comeback due to its relative tangibility in a space that has gotten more digitally oriented with time. So, how do you do merchandising right, and what needs to be done to ensure that your brand stands out against the crowd?
Whilst it may seem counterintuitive, bear with us. In promotion, the first thought of business owners tends to be a "go big or go home" approach, and although this may have been slightly more effective in the "radicool" era of 90s extremes, in 2022, people just have less space in their lives for this sort of oddity.
To truly get your brand out there, you need to paradoxically create something subtle enough that it has the chance to be showcased. Get lanyards printed, provide cardholders; offer people something that will actually fill a niche in their out-and-about business lives, and you'd be surprised how far your brand can get.
Just having merchandise is not going to get you very far in a style-oriented world. If you see the value in creating merchandising for your business, it's important that you give them the due care and respect that they need to actually be worth making.
Taking the time and budget to make something actually unique and special may require more of an investment early on, but if it's the difference between success and complete pointlessness, the ends certainly justify the means.
Look at current trends in terms of the type of product you're looking to offer as merchandise, and take inspiration from styles that people will genuinely appreciate and keep with them. Someone may wear your novelty website hat ironically in 20 years' time, but it likely won't do you a lot of good now.
One of the big mistakes people often make when developing merchandise is simply slapping their brand onto an item and calling it a day. This may get your point across, but if you aren't working to your medium, you're going to end up with something quite unappealingly out of place in the majority of instances.
So, work with a graphic designer you trust, and make sure that your branding is looking perfect for your merchandising idea. Even if it means diversifying what your brand can look like slightly, as long as you maintain the core of your brand's vibe and essence, it will come through in the final piece.
Whilst you can step out of the confines of your branding a little bit for the sake of stylistic appeal, it's best for there to still be some consistent elements across your brand and its merchandise.
Consistent colours and fonts are a great way to keep things feeling cohesive while still allowing you to branch out and explore other ideas. Just make sure the name of your brand is still visible and clear on whatever your finished product may be.
Additional Tip: You know who your audience is, so it's best to look to them for inspiration in what type of merchandise you end up going with.
The world of branding and merchandising is one that can be difficult to navigate for the first time, but the benefits of doing them right will far outweigh the potential stress. So, go out, get the most out of your brand, and give your audience something they will hold onto.