Six Rules for Branded Merchandise Planning


It’s happened to marketing professionals for as long as promotional products have been printed. Your company has a huge event or campaign launch fast approaching. All the I’s have been dotted, all the t’s crossed and you are 110% ready to go. Then, you or a teammate realizes you still have budget left and probably just enough to order some inexpensive promotional goods as a thank you gift or tie into your campaign or brand. There’s not much time left so you go for the cheapest product available at the highest quantity possible and somewhat matches your brand identity (if you were playing six degrees of separation). But, hey it can be printed and shipped in 24 hours; you’re getting free rush service, it’s super cheap and of course, just slips inside your budgeted dollars. You’ll be a hero for maximizing your budget and at a minimum, everyone will walk away with a reminder of your company or brand.

Unfortunately, that last minute scramble to top off your efforts can actually have the opposite effect. While your detailed planning for every other aspect of your project is obvious, the lack of planning for your branded merchandise can be an easy tell, as well. Your rush to find a last minute solution can result in low-quality goods, poor print or decoration quality of your logo or design. However, most alarming, you may find yourself with a product that doesn’t quite match what you thought you were getting and certainly doesn’t measure up to the identity of your brand or campaign message. The reality is, as much as you’d like every aspect of your project to remain top of mind for your targeted audience long after the project, they will often associate the totality of your efforts down to the one reminder they took with them and potentially see every day in their home or office; or worse, throw away or hide in a desk drawer and forget about it. Yes, that last minute decision to fill out your budget can have far greater consequences than what you envisioned. It can potentially be the defining impression of your entire event or campaign.

To avoid this negative scenario for you and your marketing team we’ve laid out some simple rules to follow when buying branded merchandise for marketing events or campaigns.

RULE 1 - Percentage Planning  

From the outset, allocate a percentage of your budget to promotional merchandise. Anywhere from 5 - 20% is typical depending on the type of campaign you are planning.

RULE 2 - Notify your Branded Merchandise Agency

From Day 1 of your project, notify your preferred supplier(s) of your project & give them a timeline to launch. Also, provide your overall total range of budgeted dollars for merchandise including packaging. This allows your supplier to begin thinking of potential factories that can produce, ship and deliver within your given timeframe.

RULE 3 - Provide Design & Messaging Updates 

At each phase, update your swag agency on new or revised design and messaging components as soon as they happen. Last minute notifications can alter production times, incur fees and even require a change in the factory to meet delivery deadlines.

RULE 4 - Quality over Quantity 

Too often marketers equate quantities of a targeted demographic in a campaign to the number of promotional items they should buy. Most targeted demographic sets carry a varying degree of a match. Meaning simply, although two targets may fall within your targeted demographic range they may be on each end of the spectrum. Use your data to micro-target the audience you most desire and focus your merchandise spend on that set. For instance, instead of buying 1,000 products at $3 each for every member of your target group, buy 250 at $12 each. The higher spend per target will result in your most targeted recipients getting a higher quality product. Thus leaving a more favorable and lasting impression of your brand and likely increase your chances for a positive ROI.

RULE 5 - Quality Takes Time 

This tip builds off of the previous point above for choosing quality over quantity. By allowing more time for the planning, production, design & delivery of your promotional products you increase the likelihood of receiving a higher quality product. Also, it also translates to the quality of print and/or decoration as well. The application of a logo or design to raw materials such as cotton, metal or plastic is not always straightforward. Materials react differently to inks, presses, heat, etc and rushing the process only increases the likelihood of even a well-made product being diminished in value or even ruined because of a poor quality application of your logo. Yes, we live in an on-demand world but proper planning does provide for premium delivery of highly effective, top quality decorated goods.

RULE 6 - Brands Matter 

As a savvy marketer, you know the importance of a highly thought of or hot brand. Every effort should be made to buy brands over knockoffs. After all, you don’t want to associate your company brand to a knock-off brand do you? If you go the knock-off route you could be sending a strong message of what you think of your own brand and what you think of your clients. Your clients or recipients will recognize the fact that you didn’t go cheap when thinking of them. After all, receiving a good quality brand name promotional product will be used and remembered for months or years on end.


If your organization is guilty of last minute promo planning and have been impacted by other companies promising high quality, low-cost promos delivered super fast we’re here to let you know there’s another way. A better way. A way that delivers thoughtful, well designed, quality sourced premium branded goods, gear, and packaging. We call it The Swagwell Way and we’d love to help you see company swag in a different way. Give us a shout and let’s explore the possibilities together. We think you’ll see why Swagwell is Better For Your Brand.