With custom merchandise, you can get your brand into the world for all to see. Your audience can sport your logo and design anywhere, from stickers on their laptops and water bottles to shirts, masks, caps, and keychains. A great design is key to your brand and so is creating what your fans want. Let’s take a dive into custom merch and see how you can develop this part of your brand.

This post has been updated in September 2021.

The value of custom merchandise

Custom merchandise is a strong branding tool that you don’t want to skip over. Not only does it show loyalty when your fans purchase your product, but it opens a whole community. Think about this…one of your followers is at a coffee shop. He takes out his laptop with one of your brand stickers on it. The girl at the other table recognizes the design – a conversation begins. Talk about growing a community. Or maybe someone with your shirt on is traveling. They post a pic, tag you, and their followers all take note. Custom merchandise can grow your brand all on its own, with a little help from your community.

Of course, we tend to think about stickers or t-shirts when it comes to custom merch, but there is so much more than that. No doubt, stickers are a great place to start – they’re easy to ship, low cost to produce, and customers love them. But don’t overlook all the other great custom merchandise, and do think about gearing it straight to your brand, product, or service. Now that we know the value, let’s look at the merchandise.

Mug personalization

Mugs and other drinkware are great items for branding, customization, and personalization. We love that the podcast, And That’s Why We Drink offers great drinkware. They may not have mugs, but they have great milkshake cups and wine glasses because that’s what they drink. Each sport a cool logo and branding name.

Mugs are perfect, too, because everyone loves a mug! Whether your fans end up using it at home, at work, or as a travel mug, they will be showcasing your brand and company every time they use it. The Dogist has offered mugs for limited times with a great Dogist image on them. You can offer a bit more than your logo on a mug, like the Dogist dog drinking coffee, and the kitschy diner style of the mug goes with the brand. With mug personalization, you can go not only with your brand and logo but your style, like that diner mug or a tall one, a classic one, an oversized one…you get it, right?

You can also follow the Dogist’s lead and offer a limited-time mug. In fact, you can do this with all your merch, and it just makes it that much more coveted. Or play around like the And That’s Why We Drink podcasters and have teams for favorite mugs and drinkware. The key to custom merchandise is to have fun with it, engage your audience, and let it represent your brand.

We can’t forget the design! Finding and shaping your brand is so important to your image. Let’s go back to The Dogist’s mug. Sure, the team could have put the Dogist logo on the mug; it’s a  very cute, simple dog face. The fans know it, love it, and recognize it. Plus it’s just so cute. But on the mug, they took that logo and incorporated it into an image that tells a story. You’ve got the dog with the Dogist look who is drinking his coffee with the Dogist book nearby. See where this is going…sure your brand is awesome on a mug, but when it can tell a story, even better.

T-Shirt personalization

You’ve got to have a t-shirt to add to your merch, right? And just like the mug, you can do all sorts of things to personalize a t-shirt. Everyone loves a basic logo design. But you can create a shirt with a small design, a big one, a long sleeve shirt, or cropped one. Go seasonal, and not only with the style, but the color and design, too. Think about your logo in fall colors for a limited-time shirt or a hoodie for colder months. Also, think about your brand design. Maybe wrap a scarf around the image for wintertime or add rainbow colors for PRIDE month. If you can tweak the shirts to make them even more personalized, your fans will love it!

Another great idea for custom merch is to use your brand beyond the logo and design. Let’s stick with our podcast examples, but this even flows to small businesses or restaurants, or pretty much any company. We love quotes and catchphrases, so what if you add different quotes, your mission, fun statements to the back of your shirt? It’s a smart way to customize merch while further showcasing your brand.

custom merchandise

Usable and valuable items

We’ve covered mugs and t-shirts and sure, these are pretty popular items to customize. But there’s a reason. Both of these are highly usable with high value. You can wear the shirt and drink from the mug. Your audience will be much more likely to purchase custom merchandise that has use and value. You should also consider what company information you wish to include on your items. A website address or your business phone systems number may be appropriate for a notepad or a pen, but it might not be the type of thing that people want to see on branded clothing. Here are some other great ideas to offer up:

  • Notebooks
  • Water bottles
  • Baseball caps
  • Beanies
  • Pouches
  • Socks

It may be tempting to make the less expensive items, you know those things you find at trade shows, like chip clips or tape measures. We recommend staying away from these because though they are usable, they’re not really valuable. It’s important to relate value to your merchandise, it heightens its importance, which in turn heightens yours

Then think about usability. People love water bottles, mugs, t-shirts, and beanies. They love them because they have a purpose. But are they really going to use a vase or pillowcase with your brand logo? Much of this depends on your brand, but take that usability factor into consideration along with value.

High-quality custom merchandise

Remember, your merch is representative of you. The better the quality, the better it will be received by your fans. You’re spending time creating that design and putting thought into the item, so make sure it’s of good, final quality. Don’t put your logo on a t-shirt that’s going to come apart at first wash or glass that can’t handle being washed.

Also, you do want your audience to purchase your merchandise, but not just because it’s cheap. It’s okay to add that value to your merchandise; that way it’s something that your audience will value. When they appreciate the quality, they’ll connect that quality to your brand.

How to offer custom merch

We mentioned offering merchandise through seasonal or limited quantity offerings. We also like the idea of having standard merchandise always available. Some brands love to use that limited quantity and have extremely limited runs. However, this can be frustrating to customers who always find their desired purchases sold out. So, yes, there’s that fine line between over-stocked and too limited. You may have to play around a bit to find your sweet spot.

What about this – how fun is it to receive a special goodie in a package? So if your customers order a t-shirt, maybe add a sticker or little notepad to the package. You can also do merchandise giveaways on your social media, and you’ll see how your audience loves to enter. By the way, this is a great opportunity for that limited or special edition custom merchandise. Coupon codes and sales are good ways to get merch out there, but don’t be too quick to put things on sale just because. If you want to celebrate an occasion, like your favorite holiday or your third year in business, a fun pop-up sale is a good marketing tool. But stay away from the clearance rack – that can devalue your merch.

The design for your custom merchandise

Did you think we’d forget to talk about the design? Ha – no way! The design is crucial to your merch, and this goes beyond what we mentioned with seasonal or special design. This ties into your brand and you should strive for something high-end, indicative of who you are, and something people want to share. Remember, your merchandise will showcase your brand, and your brand showcases you. Even your logo should tell a story in an image, and it represents who you are.

If you are having a tough time coming up with the image you want for your merchandise or even your brand, it may be wise to turn to a professional design team. Some people have the skills to create this themselves, others benefit from a design service, like our own Bunny Studio. A designer can take what you envision and create a design that will represent you, tell your story, and look good on merchandise. Think about this, if your design is too detailed, too small, or too muddled, it can get lost in the merchandise. Simple is good. Color choice is important, and so is structure, graphic design, and composition. If you think this may be too much for you to create, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional.

Is that all?

It may seem like a lot to take in. You thought you’d just be ordering some t-shirts and stocking them in your online shop. But there’s so much more to that. And we didn’t even get to packaging or color palettes. This is a good start, however, and now you know to make fun, usable, valuable products with engaging, representative designs on high-quality merchandise. Then you can think about giveaways, goodies, monthly boxes, special offers, options….oh boy – this will be so much fun!

And if you need a bit of help along the way and would like to hire a graphic designer, we’d love to chat with you for your best options. Get ready – it’s going to be awesome!