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Behind the Scenes Look at Promotional Merchandise Buying

When it comes to promoting your brand, it doesn't matter whether it is a longstanding brand, new brand, or a rebrand: promotional merchandise is key. It is also fun to create and receive! I can speak from experience that I love to receive merchandise, especially when my favorite brand's logo is on it. As exciting as receiving promotional merchandise is, creating it is just as thrilling! 

The RF Branding Group knew from the start of our rebranding efforts for Grafton, W.Va., that we wanted to create and distribute promotional merchandise to excite and involve community members of Grafton and to spread the word about the brand identity. We decided to create the promotional merchandise showcasing Grafton's new logo and slogan and display the re-launched website just in time for the city's brand launch event on May 6, 2016. 

Being the shopping enthusiast that I am, I was eager to volunteer my abilities to create and purchase promotional merchandise for Grafton. With collaboration and help from fellow members in the RF Branding Group, we came up with multiple promotional items that would appeal to multiple demographics. Those items included t-shirts, koozies, frisbees, stickers, and magnets. 

Pick the Perfect Promotional Merchandise 
It is important to take into consideration who your brand is targeting in order to choose the best items to promote your brand's logo, website, social media pages, and etc. For Grafton's rebranding efforts, our agency decided to focus on the three central elements of the city's brand identity; Grafton is a community that is enriched in arts, history, and outdoor adventures. We wanted to showcase those three components by promoting Grafton's new logo, slogan, and website on numerous merchandise items that would appeal to the outdoor adventurer, the history buff, and the art lover. 

Creating multiple items to give away at the brand launch was the fun part of promotional merchandise buying. I was blown away by how many different items you can put a brands logo on. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of products to choose from, so it was definitely tough narrowing those items down to just a few for the brand launch. My two favorite items ordered for the brand launch are the koozie and the t-shirt both pictured below.

Koozie with Grafton's new logo and slogan. 

T-shirt featuring Grafton's new logo and slogan on the front and a creative design on the back.

The Ultimate How-to Guide in Promotional Merchandise Buying
I knew my love for shopping would come in handy one day, because I was the ideal candidate to take on promotional merchandise buying. But that doesn't mean that if you don't have a love for shopping you can't create promotional buys too! Anyone can create and buy promotional merchandise for their company, no matter how little or how much experience they have in branding. 

Below are my 5 tips for effectively creating and buying promotional merchandise:

1. Do your research 

Look at a minimum of three custom design companies to compare prices before choosing one. It is important to get the most bang for your buck and the best way to do that is by comparing companies. Some of my favorite websites to use are Discount Mugs, Custom Ink, Vista Print, and Geneologie

2. Make sure your designs standout and included a call to action

To ensure your merchandise is unique and one-of-a-kind, upload your brand's logo and/or slogan to the company's website, and use that as a design element on any merchandise you wish to have. This will guarantee your promotional items will standout among a crowed of branded t-shirts, bumper stickers, and koozies.  

It can also be helpful to include a call-to-action so audiences aren't left merely admiring your logo, but so they also know what to do next. For us, we included Grafton's re-launched website,, on all our promotional materials. That way, as people take a sip of their cold beverage from their insulated Grafton-branded koozie, or they finish an invigorating game with their Grafton-branded frisbee, they know to hop online to find out exactly how to "create their adventure" in Grafton. 

3. Reach out to the company's design team

Don't be shy to reach out to the artists at the custom design company for help on color, font, and design ideas. They are professionals who do this every day and have some great tips for creating the best merchandise for your brand.

4. Know your audience 

Know who you are promoting to in order to create items your audience will definitely use. Many times, money is wasted on promotional items that people just don't use, so pick things with your particular audience in mind. An easy way to decide what to buy is to think of things you personally would be excited to own from a brand, but to cross-reference that with both your brand identity and what you know of your audience profiles. For Grafton we chose frisbees, t-shirts, koozies, and bumper stickers, just to name a few, to ensure the promotional merchandise would coincide with all three elements Grafton's brand encompasses, but also makes sense for our audiences' preferences. 

5. Plan ahead

Plan to buy promotional merchandise at least one month before you need it-- maybe even two months just in case the company has a mess up on your order or to leave time for the ever daunting back order! 

Follow those 5 simple tips and you will be on your way to creating and buying successful promotional merchandise. In my opinion, creating merchandise is one of the most exciting parts of branding. It allows anyone to express their creative side and play around with design ideas. Promotional merchandise also allows for the brand to come to life as you see your brands logo on a t-shirt someone is wearing or on a bumper sticker stuck on the back of someone's car driving by. No matter the items you choose to display your brand on, it will only enhance the brand identity and brand awareness. 

Happy Brand Promoting!

I am a senior at West Virginia University about to graduate in May with a degree in strategic communications and a minor in business administration. I plan to move to a big city and start my career in public relations. I love to cook and explore the world!