Strategic Merchandise Marketing – An Insider’s Guide

Do you know what the biggest mistake brands make when it comes to choosing their branded merchandise?

They don’t really think about it.

I mean, sure – they might scroll through a bunch of products, pick a colour and add their logo, branding or message – but essentially they treat their promotional merchandise as little more than a commodity item. Something that can be easily sourced from any of the 100,000’s of promo product providers online. The problem with this approach? It tends to result in the oft-seen phenomenon that we call ‘random acts of merchandise’ which, from experience, leads to results that are both haphazard and disappointing. 

So, if you are responsible for sourcing your company’s promotional merchandise and want to get a real return on your investment, you need to start thinking strategically and remember:

It’s not just a product. At Inck, we like to remind our customers that they are not just buying a product, as much as they are an opportunity. An opportunity to leverage their brand’s identity in a meaningful (and tangible) way. Strategic merchandise marketing is the secret to creating a real connection with your customer, building brand loyalty and maximising engagement. Why? Because, it is often the idea behind the product and not just the product itself, that is what resonates with your audience the most. 

Not all promotional products are created equally. Whilst cost is certainly a factor, your choice of product should not be determined on that metric alone. Poor quality merchandise reflects badly on your brand, easily leading your customer to make the assumption that your business must be similarly below par. In addition to the potential quality/safety hazards, there is also the real risk that rock-bottom prices might be a sign of a supply chain that could be compromised. Ensuring your promotional products are responsibly sourced, in a way that is fair to both the environment and to the workers involved in making your product, can only reflect favourably on your business.

Creativity can trump cost. Just because you are mindful of sourcing your promotional merchandise responsibly it doesn’t mean you have to max out your budget – that’s the great thing about taking a strategic approach. For example – In competitive and highly saturated industries humour or irreverence can be a great way to cut through the noise (Tesla’s short shorts are a great example of this). Leveraging retail trends, considering seasonal offerings or even making the best of a bad situation (like Burger King did with this social distancing promotion) can also be ways to get the most bang for your marketing buck.

Strategy is not just about selling. Whilst the end game might be to make the sale, raise brand awareness or generate more leads, taking a strategic approach is also about mitigating risk. There are a whole host of steps that need to be taken to ensure your end product is safe and fit for purpose. If you partner with a trusted supplier, such as Inck, then they will ensure all the mandatory product safety standards are met and compliance procedures are in place. This not only removes the hard work/hassle factor from the equation but more crucially helps protect your brand’s reputation. Because, whoever imports the promotional merchandise into the country is responsible and if you choose to source direct then that responsibility falls on your shoulders. Whilst bypassing the supplier and sourcing direct may seem the cheaper option, we strongly advise you also consider the opportunity cost of managing the activity internally (and the associated risks).

What to learn more? You can download our FREE guide to Promotional Product Safety and our FREE guide to Responsible Sourcing. Alternatively, give one of the team at Inck a call to discuss how the right merchandising strategy can make a real difference to your business.

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