Paul Yates, CEO of Promotions81, part of The P81 Group, discusses the importance of merchandising and how promotional material can help business.
In the current economic climate, businesses are reluctant to spend money on marketing material, particularly on merchandising and promotional products, which is often considered as an additional expense.
The marketing mix
Cutting back on promotional merchandise can have a detrimental effect on a business, however, a company needs to establish its objectives from the outset to avoid wasted spend. Merchandising and promotional material needs to be considered as an investment and is an important aspect of the marketing mix. When sales are down, investing in products is an effective way to build brand awareness, boost sales, communicate with customers, and ultimately, help grow the company.
For businesses that want to maximise their investment, it is imperative to pick the right material to match their industry and complement their offering. A good promotional plan, with clear objectives, will help to focus on a target market and streamline marketing activities.
The use of branded merchandise and promotional products is most effective when the target audience is specifically identified, so products should be selected to appeal to specific audiences. This will create a positive response and eliminate wasted spend and distribution. For example, a health club could give away coin key fobs for the lockers printed with its logo and contact details to visitors at a leisure event.
Perception and image
Branding is an incredibly powerful tool and gives people a visual concept of the business, creating and maintaining its reputation. Effectively, a brand is an organisation’s ‘personality’ and promotional merchandise helps support this as part of the brand strategy.
Promotional material and merchandise reinforce the company message and boosts branding in two ways; through brand recognition and brand image. The branding used on promotional merchandise needs to be consistent in terms of design and style. For instance, logos need to be printed in exactly the same colour on all products and where stitching is used, threads need to match the colour on paper-based products.
Businesses should produce a set of branding guidelines so all employees are aware of fonts, pantone colours, sizes, etc. that can be used on printed items.
This is particularly the case in the leisure industry, where an attractive environment with consistent messaging is important for paying customers’ entire brand experience, and includes everything from brochures to towels.
It is important to keep in mind that the quality of merchandise, such as branded uniforms, is equally as important as style and design, as this also affects brand perception.
Stand out from the crowd
In today’s competitive environment, a business needs to embrace promotional merchandise to set itself apart from the crowd. Any branded material needs to capture the attention of the target audience and act as a way of motivating prospects to try a particular product or service.
Using quirky or stylish items to target potential customers is an effective way to make a business memorable, for instance, giving branded footprint shaped mouse mats at a green computing trade show.
This gives a tangible product that can be used in the workplace and is a constant reminder of the company. Quirkier products also give the perception that an organisation is creative with fresh ideas and portrays a positive personality that is innovative and imaginative.
The silent salesperson
Promotional products act as the silent salesperson within a business, communicating with the target audience to support increasing brand awareness. Prior to attending trade shows, businesses should find out who is also going to attend, and send products to them beforehand. This means potential prospects will be familiar with the company name, making introductions easier.
While at exhibitions, it is good to scatter material throughout and give products to anyone that could be potential customers. This strengthens the company identity and key message, and can drive prospects to find out more about the business.
Include the company website addresses on promotional goods, so that the items have a prolonged lifespan. This is cost effective, as a business does not have to purchase new material when its address or phone number is changed.
Promotional material also has an after sale function, to ensure customer contact and repeat business in the future. By providing items such as printed mugs, branded pens or USB sticks, the customer has the required contact information readily accessible and easily to hand.
It is much easier to look at a mug for a phone number or web address than look in a directory. This also negates the possibility of a customer finding competitors’ details while trying to find contact information.
Creating an effective campaign strategy that can really move the business forward is not an easy task as it requires creativity, imagination and sound knowledge.
No matter what the objectives are for merchandising and using promotional material, a business should seek professional advice from a dedicated supplier that is reputable and understands the company message. This guarantees success and ensures the business meets its original objectives.
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