Beyond the pen: 5 ways to uplevel your branded merchandise strategy


From increasing brand awareness and loyalty, to boosting website traffic, to driving higher sales, there’s much to be gained from well-executed promotional products.

“Let’s do Zoom,” has become part of our day-to-day vernacular over the last few years. After years of on-again, off-again social distancing, aren’t we all a bit more appreciative of face-to-face happenings in everyday life right now: coffee dates, in-person shopping, live music events, and more.

IRL (in real life) is the new new, and tangible branded merchandise — when done strategically — has the capacity to unlock your brand’s access to social currency (and all its benefits) like nothing else. Maintaining top-of-mind positioning with your buyers and prospects is easy when they’re using an item that affirms your relevance in their daily life.

Go beyond the pen and uplevel your branded merchandise strategy.”

“Yeah, but do people really need another pen with a company’s name on it?” you ask.

It depends. Is there some connection between pens, what your company offers, and your customer? Branded merch is all about relationship building. We wouldn’t give our significant other some random gift that says nothing about them, us, or our relationship (not if we want to keep our Netflix-and-chill partner, that is). No—we’d dig into the file cabinet of what we know about them, what we know about ourselves, and what items might have meaning to our relationship.

Could that be a pen? Maybe, maybe not.

Either way—we’re here to challenge you with five pro tips you can use to go beyond the pen and uplevel your branded merchandise strategy in a way that not only gives your brand voice, but also makes everyone care to listen.

Don’t settle for anything less than authentic.

The best brands know (and access) the power of the real real. Originality and authenticity can’t be fabricated; so dig deep into to the essence of your brand — what it represents, the ineffable qualities that make it brilliant, and its die-hard mission — and then select your merch from that place.

Be honest. Be transparent. Be yourself.

Now is the time for every company in every industry to do what they do loudly and consistently, and to assert the necessity of their existence in folks’ complex lives.

There’s no question that buyers want great products and services at a great price. Research has also affirmed, however, that customers want a great experience—and great experiences start with brand authenticity.

Give them what they want.

Swag is the only advertising medium that has the power to encourage a genuine, “Thank you,” from recipients, thus evoking the reciprocity effect (our innate instinct to respond to a positive action with another positive action, or to return a favor, for example).

Not sure what your employees or customers might want in branded merchandise?

Ask them.

Or use a few test products to discover what’s most popular and in-demand. This approach both saves you money (by avoiding investing in products no one really wants) and reinforces to your audience that you’re also listening to them, and their desires matter.


See how we delivered a customized & efficient portal for Husqvarna's branded merchandise

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Keep it thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Maybe one size fits most, or maybe a curated selection of products for different audiences would align with your brand’s personality and overall marketing strategy better.

Incorporating a variety of merch items to outfit your team or drive interest in giveaway campaign could be an innovative way to gauge demand.

The goal is to capture someone’s attention with an unexpected promo product that sparks a wow; so aim for items that are highly relevant, don’t be afraid to make it playful, and don’t underestimate the value of stellar packaging.

Everyone enjoys feeling like they’re part of something and connected to likeminded others they admire.”

Partner up.

Rely on a partner like Imagine and you’ll have access to our deep connections and ability to leverage the best of the best. Whether you’ve got a one-time project or complex ongoing demands, we source and produce the stellar swag you need for your events, promotions, campaigns, and employees.

Take it a step further and tap into our streamlined kitting and pick-to-light system to get the right merch delivered to the right store locations — on time and on budget. We can even pack it with your existing in-store marketing shipments to reduce your overall shipping costs and carbon footprint.

Your brand is so much more than a logo, and great branded merch is more than a pen with your logo on it. From increasing brand awareness and loyalty, to boosting website traffic, to driving higher sales, there’s much to be gained from well-executed promotional products.

Get it into the right hands.

On-point, Instagrammable merch is a key marketing play in the digital realm. When your swag is designed for your ideal customer, a photograph of them using it can speak volumes.

Branded merch is a conversation starter, and everyone enjoys feeling like they’re part of something and connected to likeminded others they admire. Who hasn’t been filled with a twinge of jealousy when a LinkedIn connection posts a photo of a cool swag bag they’ve received prior to starting a new role?

Use branded merchandise as an incentive, use it as a reward, or use it as a gesture of appreciation—but get it into the hands of influencers you know will turn heads with it, and you’ll exponentially grow your impression rate.

Partner up.

When it comes to your creative execution strategy, consider collaboration. Teaming up with like-minded brands and artisans who share in your mission can yield a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts effect and introduce your brand’s offerings to new customers.


Ready to add some swag to your swagger. Let’s do this →

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