Does merch work?

Surely every PR office in the land possesses a mug with the company logo on them? And if you look in your pen tray, there are probably a few branded ones in there too! Plus, it is unusual to attend an event where logos are not on show on everything from the T shirts staff are wearing to the beermats on the tables. But it is important not to waste your (or your clients’) money on products that fail to promote the brand positively. Below PR and branding experts discuss the value of merch and how to use it to best effect.

Make it work outside the office

Naomi Aharony, a managing director at SEO company Reboot: “In the internet era we currently find ourselves in, it is more important than ever to make sure your brand is recognisable. Having branded merchandise for your company could be a great way to achieve that.

“Even if the company is small, having merchandise is never worthless. Providing your employees with something like a travel mug for example can boost company pride. Moreover, if they carry that mug on the train to work, it might pique people’s curiosity about the brand and encourage them to look up the company.”

Use it to build customer loyalty

Naomi Aharony: “It could also lead to customer loyalty, as when people receive something useful from a brand, especially if they didn’t expect it, they tend to feel happy and will later associate the brand with that positive feeling.”

Avoid plastic tat

Corinna Field, joint-managing director of agency Red Lion PR: “When we launched Red Lion, we created branded tote bags, notebooks and hoodies - to help deliver the message to our team and any subsequent new joiners that we were part of one club, in it together. That was a success, but merchandise undeniably offers rather unfavourable connotations; evoking visions of plastic tat with pixilated logos gathering dust on desks (before being sent to some merch haven in the sky, hopefully via the recycling bin).”

Make sure it is something to brag about

Corinna Field: “That having been said, it can have its place. That sense of ownership and belonging is a powerful thing, and a tangible piece of swag can support. Not to mention, give bragging rights on social (providing it is vaguely aspirational and not the aforementioned piece of plastic tat).

“This probably worked harder than it was ever meant to with the advent of lockdown. When you have a team of people sitting separately, day in, day out, that logo on a hoodie glimpsed on Zoom (when we weren’t bringing it with camera-ready statement pieces, obviously…) takes on more of a poignant feel. We were in it together, branded notebooks and all.“

It bonds teams

Gemma Moroney, joint founder of PR agency SHOOK:: “Merch is a way for us to feel like one team - especially when we’ve not always been able to be in the same room every day. We keep it simple: hoodies, T-shirts, sweats and stickers. Plus we all have a personalised mug with our mantras: “Today is going to be a great day” and “What did you shake today?”. All stuff that is wanted and not wasted.”

Case study

Victoria Drysdale, co-founder of branded merchandise company Brand Stamp: “Since our launch in March 2021, we’ve worked with clients including Weezy, Zapp, Candy Kittens, Nice Wines, and Bol Foods.

“One of the most memorable projects we have worked on was making custom beer pong sets for Zapp, in its exact Pantone shade of blue. When Zapp tasked us with this project, we wanted to take it one step further and make the beer pong sets as sustainable as possible. Unlike your classic beer pong set, all the cups are made from recycled PP plastic and are fully recyclable. Typically, the classic red cups are crafted from PS (polystyrene) which is not recyclable in normal collections. The beer pong sets can now be purchased on the Zapp app.

Create exciting products

“Our advice to any brand creating branded merch is that not all merchandise is made equal. Put the time aside and create genuinely good and exciting products that make your brand stand out. The future of branded merch is cool yet practical merchandise made ethically and sustainably.”

As with all good PR work, it is important to focus on authenticity as well as originality if you want merch that is both memorable and effective - and ideally sustainable too.

Merch models: Send us pictures of you in your best PR merch to @therealprmoment!