Is Branded Merch the New Luxury?

I wanted to take a moment and explore the evolution of branded merchandise over the past three years. Seems like such a funny thing to consider with much of the time being spent in lockdown and having events restricted on a global level. But the way businesses and brands are seeking out merchandise has undergone some interesting changes. 

Did you know that the term “Promotional Products” and “SWAG” headed the search charts 10 years ago? These were the go to words and phrases businesses were using to find custom branded opportunities. With a focus on freebies, giveaways and tchokies that ultimately got the organisation’s name out there, at the lowest cost possible and more often than not ending up in landfill.  Stepping into 2022 and reviewing the same top trending search terms, we now see that “branded merchandise” or “branded merch” is taking the lead. At first glance the terms may seem interchangeable, but a promotional product may not hold the same perception of longevity as a piece of custom branded merchandise. A promotional product sounds temporary, where as branded merchandise sounds intentional, thought out and connected back to the business or brand releasing it … making the item coveted, sought after and ultimately more sustainable as it will be kept and used.

“A bag handed out with magazine subscriptions has become a favorite accessory for cultural elites” – The New Yorker. (Read Article Here)

This story caught my attention, and I wanted to share it with everyone. A canvas tote bag given out to new subscribers of The New Yorker has now become a piece of “Cultural Currency.” People are so dedicated to the symbol and brand of The New Yorker, that this tote bag, a beautiful piece of branded merchandise, has sky rocketed to one of New York’s “must have” tote bags, with over half a million units released to date.

So what did The New Yorker do differently? They made the merchandise an extension of their own brand. A way for advocates and readers to be part of their community. They could have created a low cost, centre logo printed bag, but chose to create something that meant more, and belonged uniquely to them. It’s an incredible example of how branded merchandise can become a luxury we didn’t know we needed.

This doesn’t mean the end to the giveaways and freebies handed out at events or trade shows. But I do believe that brands and businesses are starting to understand just how powerful, sought after, and impactful custom branded merchandise can be. It could very well be the new luxury our advocates and teams are searching for.

What do you think? Is there an opportunity for your business to create a luxury experience with branded merchandise?

Many retail brands have now lent their names to the beautiful world of branded merchandise. Did you know that you can co-brand with UA, Nike, Puma, Moleskine and many others? These highly regarded retail brands have released exclusive products for co-branding opportunities. In response the promotional sector and industry as a whole has also stepped up to the plate. We still have good value sustainable products available, but due to increased demand we also now have practical, retail quality items with advancements in decoration capabilities, perfect for creative branding opportunities. Businesses much like yours now have more control over how you can create coveted branded merchandise.

It’s easy to remember that sometimes the experience is in the details. As we see a shift in creating longer lasting, more memorable merchandise, decoration methods begin to play a larger role. The difference between a plastic cup with a single colour imprint or sticker has a much different impact than a glass with permanent laser etching. One item says “here take this with you” and the other says “here is a piece you can have forever.” It all depends on the message and experience you want to create, but decoration methods like embroidery, debossing, laser engraving and glass etching are built to last and to grab attention.

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