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Building a Brand through Merchandise: How to Leverage Events for Marketing Success

August 2023


Events are a great way to showcase a brand to a target audience of existing and potential customers, and event marketing is an established and powerful tool in the marketing mix of many companies. Events that are well-planned and managed can build brand awareness and a strong and meaningful connection between the brand and its audience.

It is very common for companies to give corporate merchandise to attendees at events. In the past these gifts were often seen as something-for-nothing goodies, but marketers have increasingly recognised the brand building capabilities of merchandise. Merchandise not only reinforces and augments the marketing attributes of events but has supplementary strategic value for cultivating brand awareness, recognition, and perception. The task for marketers is to effectively combine their potential for brand building. Here we explore how events and merchandise can together optimise marketing success.


The marketing benefits of events

A live event is a great way to meet existing and prospective customers face-to-face, answer their questions and engage with them in person. In an increasingly digital age, letting customers and prospects meet the people behind the company website serves to humanise the brand. The ‘high touch’ environment of an event provides the opportunity to develop deeper connections with target audiences, distinguish the brand’s personality, and build an affinity with the brand’s values which can foster loyalty and advocacy. It sets the scene for post-event follow up and relationships.

A memorable event can create a valuable experience for audiences. Tying this experience to a brand through distinctive messaging and themes can create a positive impression of a brand. Merchandise that brings the brand to mind after the event is a highly effective way of prolonging the memory of the experience and the positive impression of the brand.


The development of branded merchandise

Branded merchandise are products that promote the brand by displaying a company logo, slogan, or other elements of the brand identity, and is typically given to existing or potential customers, influencers, and journalists. The sole purpose is to build and amplify brand awareness and recognition within target audiences.

Growing awareness of the brand building potential of merchandise has moved it onto a new level of sophistication. Promotional brochures, flyers and business cards remain very much in evidence, but corporate gifts have expanded into mugs, pens, laptop and tote bags, USB sticks, hoodies, reusable water bottles, phone covers and plenty more. In other words, items that can be used in everyday life months, or even years, after the event, while keeping recipients aware of the brand every time the item is used.


How merchandise helps to build a brand

There are multiple ways in which corporate merchandise helps to build a brand. These include:

Attracting and engaging with a target audience at an event: Word gets around about quality promotional gifts and draws people to the company stand. A recent study by the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) showed that 94% of event attendees liked to receive promotional gifts. This provides a wonderful opportunity for an elevator pitch but, more importantly, to make customers and prospects feel special and connect with them. Creating a bond with visitors can lead to an emotional connection with the brand and merchandise is instrumental in this: the PPAI study found that 83% of attendees thought promotional products made an experience more enjoyable.

Making the brand memorable: An enjoyable event experience and a good quality promotional product leaves a positive impression on recipients and makes the brand more memorable. The PPAI study found that 61% of recipients recalled the companies that gave them branded merchandise, an impressive figure considering the extent of promotional impressions the average person regularly faces.

Extending brand awareness: Well-designed, good-quality branded products can extend brand recognition for a considerable time after the event. The PPAI study found that the majority of recipients continued to use promotional gifts with nearly 50% using them five years later. This attachment to products increases long-term brand awareness by keeping the company name in recipients’ minds. This is particularly valuable when products are in frequent use.

Cost-effective impact on brand recognition: the long life-cycle of branded merchandise makes it a highly cost-effective marketing tool for instilling long-term brand recognition. Alternative methods of reminding people about the company, such as television and radio advertising, large-scale print campaigns, website banners and social media promotions, can be far more expensive and aren’t always as effective at capturing specific target audiences.

Recipients as advertisers: Recipients of corporate merchandise act as unpaid promoters of the brand every time they are seen using the product. This can be a frequent occurrence as the PPAI study found that 88% of recipients used the branded products of companies they like. Furthermore, the study found that 21% of recipients have posted about a promotional product they have received on social media and 63% have given them to someone else.

Improves brand perception: Merchandise helps to define the image of the brand more clearly and creates a positive impression. The type and design of merchandise can communicate brand values: practical, clean, and professional; colourful and playful; environmentally conscious.


Optimising the benefits of merchandise

Branded merchandise is sometimes overlooked in the marketing mix in comparison with digital, social media and traditional advertising, but when it is done right it is a hugely effective and valuable marketing tool. The key to success is ‘doing it right.’

Merchandise can leave a positive impression and improve the perception of the brand but, in the same way that a poorly planned and managed event can damage the brand, giving target audiences ill-considered, cheap, and tacky items can have the same negative effect. The PPAI study showed that 58% of recipients equate the quality of the promotional product with the reputation of the company. Giving audiences merchandise that won’t be used is a wasted opportunity to connect with them and build brand affinity.

It is therefore vitally important to think about the quality and usefulness of the merchandise. The aim is to stand out from competitors but also to make it a gift of value that recipients will want to keep and use. Design is highly important too and should visually connect the product to the brand as a constant reminder.

There are two other key considerations. Audiences are increasingly eco-conscious so merchandise that is environmentally friendly and uses recycled or natural materials is likely to be valued. The other key consideration is the logistics of ensuring merchandise is ordered and delivered in time to be available at the right place and at the right time. If it is not available to give out at events, it is a missed marketing opportunity.


Many companies have turned to Perivan to manage the logistics and organise their event merchandise. Perivan has huge experience in marketing operations services and its distribution & brand management platform, Enable, helps companies to manage the procurement, storage, ordering, stock control and distribution of branded merchandise. If you would like to learn more about Enable or see a short demo, please get in touch.