There’s a reason some branded products don’t work: the design is cheesy, the quality is cheap, and most consumers don’t want to walk around advertising something unless it actually looks good (and works well). To make branded products work for you, you need to start with an excellent logo that fits your brand and can be manipulated to follow current trends.
You’ll also need to spend a bit more on the base product, like the mug or shirt, to maintain quality. No matter how much a customer loves your business, they don’t love it enough to walk around in a scratchy t-shirt.
Benefits of branded products
You can use branded products in a myriad of ways: as prizes for competitions, additions to gift or swag bags, thank you gifts, incentives for employees, and of course, you can offer them for sale to your customers. But what will the investment give you in return?
Stand out from competitors. A uniquely designed, quality product instantly shows anyone who sees it that your business doesn’t skimp on anything.
Grow word of mouth. Even if you just invest in shirts for employees, the product functions as relatively cheap marketing anytime the employee wears it out and about.
Make your business look more reliable. You can use generic bags to load up purchases, but having branded bags makes your business appear more established and trustworthy.
When done properly, i.e., the product lines up with your business model and brand identity, branded products work wonders. But the following mistakes make it akin to flushing money down the drain:
You started too big. Suddenly throwing 10 different branded items at clients, or clearing out a section of shelving in store to add products with your logo, looks cheap and desperate, two things consumers don’t want in the businesses they offer loyalty to.
You chose the wrong products. T-shirts and mugs work for most businesses with the proper design, but smaller items often miss the mark. The key is making sure the product itself is something that fits your brand and will be useful to your customers. A photographer handing out pens with a logo seems less creative and more corporate, but a small album with a tasteful design fits seamlessly. A diner selling fidget spinners could seem off unless it already has a quirky, fun vibe, yet the same product integrates perfectly into a toy store, salon specializing in children’s haircuts, or businesses catering to the under 35 crowd.
You didn’t spend enough money. Don’t cut corners with quality. A coffee mug that cracks if you look at it wrong, a shirt that shrinks 3 sizes after the first wash, a magnet that falls off the fridge if the door is shut too hard – all of these diminish the way customers view your brand. It’s better to do one thing well than attempt to do four things poorly.
Ideas for making it work
So how do you make branded products a worthwhile investment for your business?
Start small. Make products that employees can wear or use in store. When enough customers start asking if the item is for sale, you know it’s time to order a larger batch.
Or, start big. A huge influx of one well designed product that you hand out over a short period of time has a guerrilla effect on consumers. Everyone in town will wonder why they’re seeing that shirt or that hat everywhere, and they’ll want one, too.
Be creative. Do you have a gorgeous logo that translates well to product branding? Awesome. But think outside the box. A funny slogan, inside joke with employees and regulars, or a play on your logo that fits current entertainment news, all elicit more interest than just a simple emblem.
If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, have something on hand to reward regulars and employees, or need a small addition to your product lineup that doubles as marketing, branded products could work for you.