Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money is made!

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Even though Spaceballs the Movie never sold its own action figures or toys, because Mel Brooks told George Lucas that they wouldn’t, One of the most memorable scenes from the movie is when Yogurt tells Lonestar, Princess Vespa, Barf and Dot Matrix that merchandising is where the real money from the movie is made, Spaceballs the lunch box, Spaceballs the tshirt, and this was actually mostly true for at least for big action movie franchises.

Merchandising isn’t just for big Hollywood movies though, it’s actually an effective and often underrated way to market your business or product, even if you’re a small business. It turns out that putting your name on all the things really is a great way to get your name out there!

Traditionally, merchandising was something that happened at the retail level, where stores would set up seasonal or promotional displays for a product. These days the meaning of merchandising is broader, and less retail-focused. Online stores create merchandising for events and products, as well as seasonal promotions, and tend to keep their merchandising in line with events such as holidays like Halloween and events like Earth Day and Pride festivals, for example.

Generally speaking in business today, there is more advertising, and business owners have more avenues to get their name out there, both online and in real-world display advertising. However, this makes for a crowded marketplace and it can actually make business differentiation and visibility quite a lot more difficult. It makes a lot of sense to merchandise your business year-round, at as many customer touchpoints as you can think of.

For example, I have a neighbour and friend who is a roofer by trade and runs his own small business. For the longest time, I couldn’t remember the name of his business so that I could to refer people to him. It sounds a lot more professional to refer someone to a business name, not just “Call Dave”. Recently, he fitted out his team with company t-shirts and now they wear them all over the place, on jobs and after work at the local store. He put signage on his company vehicles and now it’s not hard to remember his company name at all, and everyone else in our town knows it too. It doesn’t take a lot to get your business into the forefront of people’s minds when you have enough consistent exposure.

Building customer awareness is step one of your marketing funnel, creating awareness and business name recognition, and that’s where having branded products with your company name can really help.

Here are 5 ways to use merchandising your business:

  1. Tshirts printed with your logo on them. Subliminally effective at creating brand recognition.
  2. Stickers, send them to your customers with physical orders and have the name of your store stick in their minds.
  3. Custom packaging tape and mailers, great for businesses that sell physical products. There’s nothing that compares to custom packaging products in building a customer’s anticipation about opening their package. Putting some kind of notice that unboxing it is going to be fun could even turn the experience into something they post on social media, which will garner you some bonus free attention.
  4. Postcards, if you create a cool looking postcard, your customers will hang onto them for a long time. Postcards work well for adding personal touch with a note, but they also have intrinsic value when done right, they can be beautiful objects that people enjoy and keep., I have a collection of postcards myself that I keep on my wall, the ones that I thought were neat. I use them for design inspiration and reminders of what I love about certain products.
  5. Magnets, people love magnets almost as much as they love stickers. I have many magnets that someone randomly handed me in the street. I have one that says “The Cheese Stays, You Go” which is, I think, a Kids in the Hall mis-quote, but I have no idea what the company was offering (other than a sweet, free magnet). Cool magnets will “stick” with people.

These are just some ideas for merchandise that could work for your business, and they will work for most businesses, but often businesses have opportunities in their market that lend themselves to branded merchandise to complements their product line.

For example, yesterday I was cleaning out a kitchen drawer and came across a clear cooler bag, intended to keep a bottle of wine cool, branded with a hotel’s logo. I got it from my dad, it’s from a hotel where my parents stayed, but the bag is a useful item so we’ve kept it for all these years. Despite never having been to the Hotel Relais Saint-Germain myself, but having now Googled it, I would very much like to go. This wine bag is a lot more enduring than a notepad or pen would have been (although I will admit that I have my fair share of hotel pens).

Creating merchandise for your business is a great opportunity for thinking creatively and trying something different. I thought of the different promotional items in our house that we’ve kept over the years and they include many water bottles, keyrings, a multi-tool with an LED flashlight that we received as a promotional item from plumbing manufacturer, a promotional item from a similar company was a mini cooler (extremely handy!), and a key-ring flashlight has come in handy many times. Of course, every time I use one of these items, there’s the company name right there reminding me that they exist, creating brand awareness in my mind.

We recently worked with a brand to create some customer-facing branded parcels used for packaging for their online store, and after a search for the best and most cost-effective solution, we went with Sticker Mule, and they did not disappoint! We’re kind of design snobs around here and it’s always a bit of a dice roll when you send things for non-expensive printing, but wow, they really knocked it out of the park! We heartily recommend using them, especially for small print runs on a budget.

Start things off with a $10 store credit at Sticker Mule when you use this link!

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