8 Tips for Buying Branded Merch for Your Business
Earlier this year, PROMOrx had an order from a major social media company. Name not provided to protect the guilty. Smile. The logo file they provided was low resolution and did not have color info embedded. They did not provide their Pantone (also known as PMS color) separately for printing. The end result with what was provided would not have been good. The imprint could have been fuzzy and even worse, the wrong color.
As professionals, we knew better. That information, along with brand guidelines and vector files of their logo was on their website. We thought this was smart and oh-so-easy! Their marketing team supplied none of the information and were surprised when one of my team pointed out it was on their website. If we had not looked, well, the outcome could have been a disaster. (The swag they ordered turned out great. They were very pleased. We saw pictures of it, wait for it, on their social media feeds!)
The PROMOrx team has discussed the topic for years. What You Don't Know About Buying Company Swag, But Should
PROMOrx had a request from a prospect today for branded merchandise pricing. The company is nowhere as big or as well known as the social media company mentioned above. The info they provided was far from what was necessary for our team to provide best recommendations or pricing. And this request was from someone who had ‘marketing specialist’ as their email signature.
We continually shake our heads at those tasked with spending marketing dollars who don’t have basic knowledge about ordering branded merch for events, for staff or client gifts.
I asked my team what was missing on this particular request. Answer. The things that hold up everything.
- Date needed. This is critical due to several factors: time of year. 4th quarter is always tough with inventory challenges and extended production times. Add in closures for the holidays and shipping delays from UPS/FedEx and it’s quite the mix. Oh and don’t forget the possibility of bad weather! Inventory challenges have been an issue year round post pandemic. All of these factors play into the recommendations for branded merch the PROMOrx team makes.
- Logo. Can it be printed in a single color? White and black count as colors by the way! Is CMYK (also known as full color) necessary? Is embroidery preferred? If so, will the logo be legible when digitized and embroidered? Jpg and png files will not (as a general rule) give you a crisp clean print. .ai or .eps files created by graphic artists are necessary to get a great end result. We know that’s what our clients demand!
To order branded merch for your business, these are key things to consider:
- Your logo and brand guidelines: It's important to have a clear and consistent brand identity, and that includes your logo and any associated brand guidelines. Make sure you have a vector art version of your logo that you can use on your merchandise. Vector art is created by graphic designers in .ai or .eps formats. You can NOT save a jpg or png file as one of those formats and have it be the quality file needed to produce excellent results.
- Timing: when is the branded merch needed. Will rush services (if available) be necessary? Is the branded merch for an event? Or just general restocking? Will the promotional products be shipped to one location? Or will there be multiple shipping locations? This helps your promotional products supplier make the best recommendations and also make sure the shipping method you’ve selected gives you a couple extra days breathing room.
- How to pick a reliable promo products supplier: There are many different suppliers that offer branded merchandise, so it's important to choose a reliable one. Emails tell you a lot. What kind of questions are they asking you? Pick up the phone and talk to someone at the supplier you are considering. This is critical if you’re unsure of what you want and need direction. This will tell you even more. Work with one supplier who knows you and your company’s brand guidelines and has records of what you’ve ordered in the past. It will also be easier for you to have one point of contact for all your branded merch orders.
- Determine budget: If you have a budget for your branded merchandise, let your promo products supplier know. This will help them assist you in making informed decisions about what to order. Make sure your budget considers timing and your logo. If your logo has 3-5 colors and that’s the only way your brand guidelines allow it to be printed, pricing is going to be more than for 1 color prints for example. If your budget is unreasonable, a promo products pro will tell you that!
- Choose the right branded merch: Think about what kind of merchandise would be most suitable for your business. What merchandise ties into your brand? If you sell expensive items, cheap swag is going to be a brand disconnect! Consider the needs and preferences of your target audience, as well as your brand identity and values. Also consider if your logo will be legible on items you want. Logo modifications may be necessary. A branded merch professional can help guide you through the process.
- Place your order: Once you've selected your products, the promo products supplier will guide you through their steps to place your order. A good supplier will keep you updated along the way.
- Promote your merchandise: If your branded merch is for clients or prospects, it's important to let them know about it. Consider promoting it through social media, email marketing, and other channels to maximize impact. If the merch is for staff, it’s equally important to get it out of the marketing closet and into their hands!
- Be flexible: inventory issues continue to plague the promotional product industry. Extended production times are also much more prevalent than in past years. Bottom line? ORDER EARLY! What's early? For events, at least a month prior. Is there branded merch that can be shipped quicker? Yes. If you're flexible.
Are you in charge of marketing for your business? Or do you own the business? Make sure whoever is tasked with ordering the swag, branded merch, promotional products - whatever you call them - is well equipped. PROMOrx wants you to end up with branded merch that meets or exceeds your expectations. Equipped with the right information, we can make that happen!