Using Merchandise to Brand Your Business & Build Awareness

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Using Merchandise to Brand Your Business & Build Awareness

Is branding your business giving you a headache? Then why not reach for some Tylenol? Wait . . . not actually. Consider that what you’ve just accepted is that the brand name “Tylenol” is the actual product acetaminophen. These stand-in terms, known as proprietary eponyms, have brought us Coke for cola, Q-tips for cotton swabs, ChapStick for lip balm, and are considered the acme of brand awareness marketing.

Brand awareness goes a step beyond brand recognition where customers might recognize a logo and name the company to which it belongs. Brand awareness incorporates an ethos for a company, one that involves a concept of products and services as well as the experience of them. Take for example the Dove ad campaigns that have built a sense of understanding and well-being for all women by promoting not only looking good but feeling good about yourself whoever you are.

Not every company has the budget to turn their product into a proprietary eponym, nor to market on the large scale that a company like Dove has. There are, however, strategies even the smallest of companies can employ to create better brand awareness. After all, creating brand awareness makes it easier to build a loyal customer base, to broadcast a strong image of your business, to promote your business across multiple platforms, and to showcase products and services. Here are a few ways in which you can build stronger brand awareness:

  • Social Media–Successful companies often use media platforms to create buzz by running contests that engage customers in marketing by asking them to submit brand photos, to vote for a favorite product, or to tell a story of their use of the product. 
  • Quality web content–Promote not only your business but also it’s identity by creating web content that speaks to your target audience in a meaningful way. What do you want your company to be about and how can you create high-quality content to sell that image? Another powerful way to do that is to put the content in the mouths of customers. Let them tell their stories of experiences with your company.
  • Build a unique personality: Humor may be one of the best ways to do this. Think, for example, of insurance companies and the way they use humor to brand a product that is quite serious. The “Don’t Become Your Parents” campaign from Progressive has been brilliant at eliding the seriousness of insurance while tapping into a younger audience.


One of the most successful strategies for building brand awareness has been the use of merchandising, that is using branded products to promote your business. Tony Hawk recently combined strategies when he used social media to promote a scavenger hunt in which customers had to monitor his Twitter account for clues as to where packages of Tony Hawk products had been hidden all over the world. Winners found skateboards, embroidered caps and shirts, food products, and more. They also were required to photograph their haul and send it out to their followers.

If you’re still not convinced, consider that a recent study showed that 66% of participants could remember the brand of a product for which they had received merchandise within the previous year. Another study revealed that companies using promotional products saw an 85% increase in positive brand image.

The trick, should you choose this strategy, is to do it well. You will want to consider: the items you choose and how they speak to the needs/desires of your target audience; the messaging you incorporate on items and how it speaks to company identity as well as inspires your audience; the quality of the item; and the ultimate aesthetic or style of the item. Take, for example, a company that projects an eco-friendly, organic ethos and that wants to offer embroidered shirts. That company may want to consider organic cotton materials or other natural fibers as a means to reinforce its overall message.

In short, merchandising is not just a means of advertising your company. Good merchandising helps tell the story of your company and its concerns; it creates avenues for partnering with other like-minded companies, and it gives you avenues to open up other channels of communication with customers. If market trends speak to you, then consider that in 2018 U. S. companies invested $24.7 billion dollars in promotional merchandise. That certainly suggests the strategy is worthwhile.

Ivan Young is a writer from Happy Writer, Co. in partnership with Seattle Fabrics, an outdoor and recreational fabric retailer.

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