Do you call it swag?
Do you dismiss them as tchotchkes?
Or do you recognize promotional merchandise as a tangible manifestation of your brand that offers meaningful and valuable engagement with your customer base? You should.
As president of a healthcare marketing firm, clients often ask me if consumers value promotional items. The data suggest branded merchandise aids in overall brand affinity. When integrated into your overall marketing strategy, promotional merchandise complements your marketing message with a palpable brand experience that leaves a lasting impression. According to this growing body of consumer research, custom merchandise and apparel enhance your brand’s reach, recall and resonance:
- Roughly 90 percent of consumers say promotional items aid in brand recall, and nearly 80 percent say it has led them to research a brand.
- The average consumer keeps promotional merchandise for eight months, and 63 percent pass the items on to someone else when they are finished with it.
- Branded merchandise played a role in positively changing impressions of a brand among 80 percent of consumers, and 83 percent of consumers say they are more likely to do business with brands that provide promotional products.
Creating a Corporate Merchandise Strategy
As with all effective marketing, your plan for promotional merchandise should begin with a data-driven strategy:
- Identify your objective. Do you want your branded items to spur and/or nurture lead development? Improve customer satisfaction? Improve employee satisfaction? Boost event traffic and engagement? Clearly establish and communicate your primary goal at the outset.
- Define your target audience. In considering who will receive your branded merchandise, demographic data will illuminate behaviors and values to drive more personal engagement that happens at the right place and time. This type of insight will support your efforts to choose promotional merchandise that allows your brand to create a remarkable impression.
- Develop a distribution plan. The means of distribution is as critical of a consideration as the merchandise itself. For instance, market research indicates that mailing a promotional item in advance can generate more traffic at trade shows than handing out the items to passersby onsite.
Defining your Marketing Message
Influential promotional merchandise involves more than placing a logo on an item. It is essential to protect your corporate identity by ensuring adherence to clearly established logo and brand guidelines – but that’s really just the bare minimum requirement in terms of the message you want to send.
Beyond being merely recognizable, the promotional merchandise should express the campaign theme, evoke your brand ideals and deliver a brand experience you can be proud of. That includes marketing content that supports your promotional gift. Gifts to consumers will spark curiosity and drive them to learn more, so make sure you have a strong call to action and a well-defined customer journey to meet their interest.
Choosing the Right Promotional Items
The promotional item you choose should do more than reflect your brand – it should also provide value. If your custom merchandise solves a recurring need, its repeated use generates added exposure and fosters a stronger connection with your brand.
Aim for something that will be used at least ten times. To provoke frequent use, your merchandise must be both useful and of high quality. This doesn’t mean that the merchandise needs to be expensive, just thoughtfully executed with the utmost consideration of your target audience.
As the consumer survey data noted above indicates, well-executed promotional merchandise can be among the most cost-effective marketing tactics, delivering healthy returns in brand awareness and authentic growth.
Brand building is a continuous journey, and promotional merchandise is just one of many steps along the way – but it takes thoughtfulness to do it well and do it right. To invigorate your brand with promotional giveaways that reinforce your brand identity, take a moment to discover the value of our strategic Corporate Merchandise Program, a service provided by our team of experts in healthcare branding. For more information, call 816.595.6723.
Reader Tip: To find out which products make the best impressions, I encourage you to read this 2016 study by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). While published by the advertising industry, it provides interesting insight to see what customers value most.
About the Author
Julie Amor, MHA, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, has 30 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.