Posted on February 08, 2009 | By lindstrom

Give Away Giveaways

Company presents and giveaways as a form of merchandising have become part of our lives. Most every company — large, medium-sized, small, even one-person operations — has taken to creating its own merchandising program. Take a look at Tom Peters’s Web site. You’ll find an impressive “Tom Peters” merchandising selection.

Merchandised giveaways frequently assume the form of mugs, T-shirts, posters, and such. Digital media is pushing merchandising into a new phase. It’s possible for even the smallest organization to develop unlimited quantities of branded giveaways cheaply and very effectively.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a café when I noticed the ring tone on another patron’s cell phone. The tone played a simple but well-known melody: “Always Coca-Cola.” The phone rang for only five seconds, but the tune was etched into my memory. I couldn’t get it out of my mind for hours! Now that’s digital branding. Not only will the phone’s owner hear the Coke jingle several times a day, so will everyone around him. That brand’s signature tune is a highly effective piece of merchandising.

Cell phones have become increasingly more branded over the past months. It’s not uncommon for someone to download a logo for wallpaper on her phone’s display. Even phone covers are branding vehicles, available in shapes such as an Absolut or a Coca-Cola bottle.

This is a new era of merchandising. It is very cheap (almost free, actually), no matter how many units are distributed, and represents an essential characteristic of strong merchandising: an impression on a large number of people with every moment of exposure. We’ll see more of this type of merchandising in the future, as digital media and communications become evermore integrated into our lives.

Before you’re persuaded to proceed with your next order of company merchandise, consider these points:

Creative channel thinking. Use channels that are rarely exploited. A cell phone is a good example of a relatively new merchandising vehicle. A rarely used channel attracts keen attention. I’m not suggesting you forget the regular, tried-and-true channels (such as T-shirts), but you’ll get heaps more bang for your buck if you rethink channel use creatively.

Value add. Strong merchandising isn’t about simply sticking your logo on stuff. Almost everyone on the planet is exposed to merchandising daily. Merchandising is increasingly challenged in its ability to add value to brands. The days when a logo-bearing coffee mug was a statement are long gone.

This is especially true with digital merchandising. Consider screensavers. For some reason, marketers think consumers want to decorate their PCs with boring logos and corporate designs. Forget it. Screensavers (as if you need reminding) are no longer popular, new, or exciting. Your merchandising should be about adding value. The value needn’t be gigantic, but it needs to import more to your brand than a carelessly placed logo can manage.

Consistency. Remember, it’s your brand you’re playing with. Don’t let your choice of media compromise your brand’s look, feel, and tone of voice. If you can’t ensure brand consistency, forget about using that channel for your merchandising.

I’m convinced merchandising will continue to grow. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in 20 years’ time, we all have our own personal merchandising programs, as Tom Peters does. This will introduce more challenges to marketing departments as they puzzle out new, interesting, and relevant merchandising programs.

Interesting channel use and creative thinking are the two main factors in your merchandising strategy. Think twice before you order that batch of 10,000 T-shirts!

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