Is merchandise still relevant for brand awareness?Stuart Taverner
Company t-shirts, stress balls, pens: we all have them, and we’re bound to collect more as time goes on. Branded merchandise is still a go-to for many businesses looking to increase brand recall among their audience, but times have changed since its invention.
With the world more digitised than ever before, paired with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on almost every aspect of business, the benefits of brand merchandise must now be considered very carefully before spending can be justified. We take a look at whether it’s still likely to provide a good return on investment.
How merchandise can be effective
Assuming that promotional merchandise ends up in the hands of the consumer – or prospective consumer – it is intended to, there are a range of positive outcomes that may occur. If a consumer isn’t familiar with your business, it can serve as an introduction – and a positive one at that, if they’re in need or want of the item you provide them with (for example, a bottle of water on a hot day). Plus, if the item is something that can be used daily, the chance of brand recognition is high: repeatedly seeing your brand’s logo – rather than the intermittent visibility of, say, a Facebook advertisement campaign or another digital campaign governed by algorithms – will reiterate your brand’s name and message.
Many surveys suggest that customers who receive branded merchandise are more likely to purchase from those brands in the future, and that it can drive customer loyalty if the gifted product is of high quality. Merchandise is also relatively simple to incorporate in most business models, and can help to reduce overall advertising costs.
So, it seems the question isn’t whether merchandise has the power to be effective; the question is whether it can be distributed broadly enough to maximise its impact.
The impact of living in an increasingly digitised world
We all live behind our screens now. Research shows that over 80% of Australians own a smartphone, and of those users, the average person spends almost three hours per day using their phone. What’s more is that almost a quarter of smartphone users check their phones every few minutes. That’s not even taking computers into consideration – a device so common that it’s now a standard feature of blue and white-collar work alike.
But, surprisingly, it doesn’t have as big an impact on the effectiveness of traditional merchandise as you might think. Recent surveys have shown that 87% of companies still heavily credit merchandise as a contributor in achieving their marketing goals, while over half surveyed said that the products made it possible to regularly engage with their audience. And a staggering 96% of marketers said they still believed that promotional products are one of – if not the most – effective forms of advertising.
This perhaps comes down to the fact that, even though factors are changing around it, a physical product still stands out. Screens can be turned off, but merchandise requires a little more effort to dispose of. As long as the merchandise itself is relevant (be careful of items that feel dated), it can still have as much of an impact as it has in the past.
Did Covid-19 change merchandise’s potential return on investment?
Not really. Working from home has indeed changed the business dynamic, and almost every marketing team in the world has directed more focus on digital in recent times.
But the power of promotional merchandise is perhaps even greater in a tougher economic landscape: consumers are more likely to appreciate the free product during a recession, and if budgets are being cut from marketing departments across your industry, you stand a greater chance of differentiating yourself from your competitors by investing in an area that they might have stepped back from. If your business can afford it, brand merchandise – in comparison to other marketing channels – is great value for money and has the potential to make a lasting impact.