Starting a merchandise line has proven to have many advantages when it comes to establishing a brand. The merch line can help you connect to your consumers and bolster brand identity and loyalty while increasing sales and attracting new customers. It also plays a role in reducing marketing costs as it’s a less expensive means of introducing your brand to the market without paying for traditional or digital advertising.
With this, numerous components go into creating merchandise, and one of the main aspects is design. This is the broad scope involved with how your product line will visually look in the end. These factors can determine whether your merchandise is successful or will need to be tweaked to elicit a better response from your customers.
Thus, to avoid potential repeat tries at your brand’s expense, you’ll need to be aware of several considerations before starting on the designs. This can help guide your decisions and allow you to prepare during the planning phase.
To guide you, here are six do’s and don’ts of designing compelling brand merchandise:
1. Don’t Compromise On Quality
The merchandise carrying your brand can influence the type of reputation it will have with consumers. With this in mind, you should always aim to design the best quality products that your brand can be proud to market. Even if you’re mass-producing wholesale products, you should still focus on sourcing materials and ingredients that are durable and long-lasting. This should include small and inexpensive merch, such as keychains, lanyards, iron on-patches, and branded rubber bracelets.
At the production level, make sure that any stitching, sewing, knitting, and lacing on items is done professionally and that there aren’t any loose threads or inconsistent patterns. Choose the most suitable textiles and fabrics that support your design ideas. If you’re a small business, you can go to Shop Strange Screen Printing & Embroidery or any custom printing shop near you to have your custom merch supplied without having to pay for a retail-sized manufacturer or pricey fabrics. This will ensure that your merch remains in good condition and positions your brand in a favorable light.
2. Do Use A Variety Of Usable Items
Part of the reason merchandising is so lucrative for most businesses is due to the items chosen for their product line. These products have a high usability or wearability value and cater to the general public who actively engage with the brand. The most popular are consumer goods and promotional items, such as t-shirts, steel water bottles, caps, power banks, USB flash drives, beanies, notebooks, bookmarks, drawstring bags, hoodies, stationery sets, mugs, accessories, rain jackets, among many.
Just think of items with a relatively large canvas or surface area for you to create designs and print on that can be used in your target market’s everyday lives. If you have a more niched consumer clientele for your brand, consider selecting promotional items relating to their lifestyle. This could be household products, such as bedding, or upmarket athletic apparel and gym equipment (if your brand is associated with active gear and athletes). The takeaway here is to ensure the items that make up your merch line are useful, practical, and are most likely to generate sales.
3. Don’t Limit Your Merchandise Reach
Focusing on your target audience and retaining loyal customers is more likely to yield a faster return on investment. However, to gain a greater brand reach and acquire new customers in the future, your merch should be dynamic enough to branch out to other customer segments.
All of your merch items can be designed to cater to your consumer base and luxury consumers, promotion recipients, tourists, corporates outside of your sector, novelty and specialty collectors, and buyers at promotional events. These could be potential new markets that can grow your business through merchandising.
In this case, your merch should be designed with each market segment in mind. Premium customers will expect the added value to their merch, such as one-of-a-kind exclusive designs not found on regularly available products. Corporates would want more professional items, while visitors and event buyers will seek out family-friendly mementos that display your brand in a classical sense, such as a highly visible or recognizable logo.
4. Don’t Design Merchandise Without A Strategy
This is a common pitfall that people from a design background tend to fall into. Designing merch should be a business strategy as much as it is an artistic expression. Thus, while your elaborate creations may be impressive within the merch design landscape, they might not work for your intended audience. This is why it’s essential to devise a strategy with intention and goals around your target audience that align with their interests and your brand identity. In other words, what do you want to achieve with your merch? It can be to increase business revenue, brand awareness, and visibility or bring in new customers as a suggestion.
To come up with a viable strategy, think about the type of products they’re most likely to be attracted to. Also, consider what products are compatible with your brand. For instance, if you’re starting merchandise for a coffee company, it makes more sense to create products associated with this activity, such as mugs, canisters, and flasks. These will have a more effective appeal to your base than unrelated products.
Your brand merchandise should have an emotional connection with your buyers and communicate your values by using design elements that they can identify themselves with. You can do this by crafting a customer persona to better understand their demographics, needs, wants, hobbies, lifestyle, and what merch appeals to them. The key tip to remember here is to try and stay away from trends as much as you can since they always tend to fluctuate in popularity and might not offer you the longevity of a stable brand merchandising line.
5. Do Keep Your Visual Elements Consistent
To create a distinct brand that the public can recognize and pay attention to, keep several of your visual elements consistent and uniform. These include logos, font and sizes, graphics and imagery, and themes. All these components should complement both your brand identity and consumer brand persona. That way, you change up the designs over time while keeping their essence, and people will still be able to recognize your brand on the merchandise.
As such, during the design stage of your merch, you’ll need to decide on a final form of the visual elements and decide which of them will be permanent and used as a preset template for future designs. Best practices state that logos and fonts should ideally be large enough to notice without being searched for. If you’re going to incorporate various color schemes into your design, always use those exact shades and palettes. This will create cohesion and products that match each other.
You can also integrate your chosen colors into any images or graphic prints you’ll be designing. The theme is where you can flex your creative muscle by featuring unique designs. However, selecting a few agreeable themes that set the tone of your designs rather than producing countless ideas that could get your brand identity lost in the shuffle is recommended.
6. Don’t Use The Same Designs Forever
Since the merchandise market tends to get saturated quickly, consumers tend to get tired of seeing the same merchandise designs over time. So, you should invest in recreating new designs for your items every few years while maintaining the same standards as your previously successful ones.
Alternatively, you can expand your design ideas by introducing new product ranges. For instance, if you’ve only created clothing merchandise in the past, you can try branching out into school gear and consumer electronics. Either way, this can ensure that your merchandise feels fresh and keeps up with the changing tastes of your consumers.
Modernizing your merchandise line can be as simple as designing new images or removing old ones to make way for a minimalist arrangement. On the other hand, if your designs have been perceived as too plain, you can change or revamp your merch with elaborate graphic prints and detailed embroidery that still speak to your brand’s story.
You can design compelling brand merchandise by looking at a few key considerations. Focus on maintaining quality and practicality to secure your brand’s reputation for creating desirable and usable products. Then you and your team should strategize on what you want to achieve with your merchandise and how your chosen designs can assist you in meeting these goals. Doing this can ensure your time and effort aren’t wasted and that you’re using your funds in a targeted approach.
In terms of the designs themselves, consistency in look is essential for creating a uniform product line. Choose several elements that you want to remain fixed points in all of your merchandise items so that your branding can continue to differentiate itself. Every so often you may want to develop or evolve your designs to make them look up-to-date with consumer preferences.