What Do Branded Merchandise and Gift-Giving Have in Common?

Ever thought about branded merch? You should, it can be a gift of engagement between your brand and its audience.

If even Squid Game (a show critiquing capitalism), offers merchandise – what’s stopping you from doing the same?

And it is the season of giving, so why not think about giving something extra?

The tea (or tee)

Let’s start with the pinnacle of merch: the band t-shirt or ‘tee’.

Did you know that band tees are around 50-60 years old? The Beatles and The Clark Five were early groups who capitalised on the appeal of official merchandising.

Unsurprisingly, some theorise that fans were the first to scrawl their favourite artists names on their customised clothes before labels and record companies spotted an opportunity for additional revenue.

But before merchandise became as mainstream as it is today (not to show our age but merch used to be harder to find and required trips to alternative stores), it was a way for fans and stans to signal their interests and passions to other likeminded people. An unofficial uniform to be part of a club. A way of signposting your uniqueness.

Fan culture, and collective purpose is powerful – merchandise is a key part of that. Some BTS fans in Bangladesh recently used their social channels to report harassment they were receiving for wearing their favourite K-Pop band’s merch. The BTS army quickly trended worldwide to show support and solidarity for people being able to express themselves without fear.

Custom merch is a way to express your authentic self and feel comfortable in something meaningful to you. Be it a band, character or even a company – or values – you’re proud to support.

If you’ve ever glossed over merchandise as something unimportant, think again. Tailored to your specific brand and the right audience, merch is a very lucrative investment. Whether you’re a musician, performer or even a small coffee company.

More than the money

Sure, some of the top YouTube stars earn an estimated monthly revenue of six figures from their merch sales alone. Branded perfume lines generate billions of dollars’ worth of income for celebs.

But even in more humble settings, merch is a great way to emotionally engage with your fans, audience and future clients. And done right, it’s a great way to do some good – for instance, pick sustainable merch or donate a portion of sales to charity.

Could it be a quirky calling card? A small token from a single interaction that keeps your brand in a contact’s mind for a moment when they’re looking for your product?

This in turn, is a great tool for your online content. You can promote your merchandise and even better, invite your followers to engage by posting their own content with the merch. Make it a trend or couple it with a giveaway for even more incentives and watch engagement flourish.

No matter your industry, what can you do to build a community? Or better still, tap into communities that already exist and if you can, do some good while you’re there.

What could you create?

When it comes to merch, we encourage you to think creative – beyond the everyday essentials like pens, lanyards, tees, mugs, notebooks – what can you offer that’s unique to you and what you do? Or how can you take something classic like a water bottle and make it scream you?

Is there anything quirky or useful that you can offer? Have you got a catchphrase you can use? One of our favourite examples was Sprinklegate – shout out to Get Baked who turned an amusing anecdote into a viral sensation and now are offering t-shirts. All they’re really doing is shouting about what makes them passionate and it worked wonders.

But we do urge you not to brand just anything.

Our co-founders were once briefed (against their expert advice, they stress) to create branded do not disturb signs to place strategically on the hotel rooms of sales reps who were in town for an event. This did not go ahead (privacy laws matter) but the lesson remains – just because you can brand it, doesn’t mean you should brand it. Or try to gift to people in such an intrusive manner.

Over the years, we’ve tried our hand at creating all types of merch.

Always consider your followers when making any decisions about branded merchandise because done well, it’s a nice way to invite them into your club and incentivise being part of your brand journey.

Think of it almost as you would a gift. What would they like to buy? What impression do you want it to leave?

Got an idea for some merch and need some help bringing it to life? Get in touch at the button below.

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