One way a company can grab the attention of potential customers is to rise to the challenge of information overload to create a memorable brand presence. Without expensive television or print ads, how can a company create brand awareness and successfully promote a brand? One of the tactics used by many startups these days is branded swag—promotional merchandise that bears the company’s logo and a slogan.
Which types of promotional merchandise work best to get the message out? Although pencils, plastic key fobs and cheap can openers are low-cost merchandise, they don’t often make a public appearance to advertise the company. All too often, such cheap promotional merchandise ends up on the shelves of a charity thrift store. Not the best way to promote a brand.
What companies need is promotional merchandise that customers will use in public, where others will connect the brand’s logo to the company. Such merchandise needs to be a conversation starter.
Furthermore, the promotional gear must create such a powerful presence that it grabs the attention of all who see it. An eye-catching logo, a catchy slogan, a unique design, all large enough for casual passers-by to see.
Of course, a company could just rent a billboard. But that’s expensive. Not practical, either. Customers like to receive something. All they get from a billboard is a chuckle if it’s funny, a tear in their eye if it’s inspirational.
How about a walking billboard? Not those placards that clowns wear parading in front of restaurants and car dealerships. What many companies, including major players such as FedEx and Starbucks have discovered, is that promotional wear—making the wearer a walking billboard–is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to promote their business, say Shawn Hartley and John Walker, the authors of a June 2013 article in AdPulp.com, a trade journal for the advertising industry.
Not only must the design and logo of promotional wear create brand awareness, but also so must the color, Hartley and Walker advise. They cite the instant brand recognition created by athletic team colors, “national flags…, and even gang attire” that creates a subconscious, yet emotional reaction in passersby.
Starbucks, for instance, creates brand awareness by its use of both its logo and its fresh colors: green, white, and black. People not only connect the colors to the brand, but also to the company’s environmentally-friendly policies when they see someone in a Starbucks t-shirt. That creates a sense of a higher purpose, which in turn causes customers to fork over a huge chunk of change for a cup of coffee. After all, they’re helping make the world a better place.
FedEx, on the other hand, took a different, yet equally effective approach to using color and design on their promotional wear. With their navy blue t-shirts that featured a life-size FedEx envelope in the company’s iconic orange, white and blue colors printed just under the arm to make it look like the wearer tucked a parcel under his or her elbow, the company reminded passers-by of its actual function. The pictorial reminder, “FedEx means shipping,” turned into branding gone viral as photos of the shirts turned up all over the Internet.
To duplicate these companies’ success, businesses must create promotional wear with a distinctive design and logo that evokes an emotional reaction in those who see it. Catchy slogans that create conversations about the brand combined with a standout design are what makes promotional wear a successful way for a company to promote its business. If companies couple great design with standout social media and email campaigns, they will have even more success as they create brand awareness in their audience, say Walker and Hartley. With that kind of success, who needs to rent a billboard?