Protoype Thinking

Protoype Thinking

How Branded Merch Can Create Fans

How Branded Merch Can Create Fans

Oct 5, 2023

Often times, I'm brought in to help brands tell stories in new ways, synthesizing sometimes complex or mundane into compelling and energetic. I do this with writing, and with a variety of creative expressions from visual identities, new products, websites, spaces, and merchandise.

I want to make look at the analog of sports teams and businesses, with a focus on how companies should look at their customers as fans. I approach my work this way, hoping to build a fanbase that is excited to engage, follow, and share.

Creating merchandise and team swag presents a multifaceted opportunity for brands to expand their reach, foster internal cohesion, and strengthen their presence in the market. Here are five key ways in which leveraging merchandise can help grow a brand:

  1. Enhanced Brand Visibility: Branded merchandise serves as a walking advertisement for your brand. Whether it's a t-shirt adorned with your logo or a vehicle wrap (shown here), each touchpoint becomes a tangible representation of your brand identity, and brings your brand into new environments. When employees and customers proudly display these items in their daily lives, they effectively become brand ambassadors, amplifying your visibility to a wider audience.

  2. Cultivate Brand Loyalty: People are only going to wear things they feel proud to identify with. What does your brand stand for, what cool factor does it have, and how does it make people feel? Connections to a brand out in the wild means people are more likely to advocate for it both internally and externally.

  3. Generate Buzz and Excitement: Launching new merchandise or limited-edition items can create a buzz within your community. I've done this with brands, where a particular item is released once, and having this relic is a sign of your tenure or lineage with the company. Whether it's a sneak peek of upcoming products or exclusive merchandise available only to a select group, these selective/rare initiatives generate excitement and anticipation, driving engagement with your brand and attracting new followers.

  4. Build Relationships: Merchandise can serve as a valuable tool for building and nurturing relationships with customers, partners, and influencers. Sending personalized swag bags or branded gifts to key stakeholders not only expresses gratitude but also keeps your brand top-of-mind. Additionally, hosting giveaways or contests featuring branded merchandise encourages interaction and engagement on social media platforms, helping to expand your reach and cultivate a loyal fanbase.

  5. Monetize Your Brand: Beyond promotional purposes, merchandise can also become a revenue stream for your business. By offering a diverse range of products for sale, you not only provide fans with opportunities to support your brand but also diversify your income streams. This can include selling merchandise through your online store, at events, or through partnerships with retailers. I did this for Dad Shop, where the e-commerce traction brought in new customers for DIY home improvement company Fixable.

Leveraging merchandise and team swag can be a strategic tool for growing brand exposure, fostering internal cohesion, and strengthening connections with your audience. By creating high-quality, engaging merchandise that resonates with your target demographic, you can elevate your brand presence and drive long-term growth.

In today's market, customers only stay with brands that they relate to, and feel honored to connect with. It isn't enough to stay "in your lane" anymore— brands need to extend into new areas to remain top-of-mind, and to tap into untapped audiences.

I've created car wraps for brands that wanted to show up at tailgates, hospitals, or schools. I've dropped apparel for brands to incentivize app downloads, and even two real soccer jerseys made for CEOs to swap as a symbol of a company's merger with a parent company.