Depending on their industry and market sectors, companies spend between 3.7% and 22.6% of revenue on their marketing campaigns. Yet, even campaigns companies run efficiently, often fail to produce a sufficient ROI (return on investment). As you can see in the graphic below, most marketers rate the ROI generated by various digital platforms as less than excellent. All is not lost, however. Recognize that marketing campaign spending fuels a pipeline ending in a sale rather than creating an immediate sale. Most marketing campaigns work to improve brand awareness, resulting in a sale down the road. Today, we’ll focus on ways to improve brand awareness and discuss how you can use a tactic you may not have considered, branded merchandise, as a tool for spreading the word about your brand.
How to improve brand awareness
Let’s start by understanding the process consumers go through as they search for products that solve their problems (consumers buy solutions, not products). Here’s a graphic to help you understand that sales don’t occur out of thin air, they take a concerted effort aimed at helping prospective buyers make a favorable decision.
As should be evident from this graphic, the information search is a critical step in the evaluation. Information search might involve seeking information about products that solve your problems using tools such as the internet, social media, or asking for input from your community. Alternatively, consumers might look internally for information they already know about products that solve their problem. When you improve awareness related to your product, consumers are likely to pull existing knowledge and attitudes about your brand from memory and pass your brand on to the next stage in the decision-making process.
According to USC, Americans see an average of 5000 ads per day, despite ad-free TV streaming options, satellite radio, and community billboard bans. In addition, online users are exposed to countless other brand mentions that are organic posts as opposed to paid advertising. Thus, consumers are bombarded with more brand messages than they can process, let alone store for future insights that guide brand choice. Part of the solution to this is to improve brand awareness by repeating your message. Experts disagree on exactly how many impressions it takes to improve brand awareness, but suggestions are somewhere between three and seven (per person in a concentrated timespan). By using integrated marketing communication to spread your message across various channels while retaining coordination across the messages, you improve brand awareness.
Improving reach, or the number of consumers in your target market who see your marketing campaign helps improve brand awareness. Obviously, if you reach 100% of your target market, your performance is better than if you reach 50%. Combine that with the frequency element discussed above, and you have a perfect recipe to improve brand awareness.
Why brand awareness matters now more than ever
The reason why you need to focus on improving brand awareness? Simple, the competition out there is fiercer and more plentiful than ever – which makes it critical to find a way to stand out from the crowd by building awareness and positive attitudes among consumers in your target market. You can use a variety of tools and should, in fact, choose as many of them as possible given your resources and knowledge of where your target market lives online and off. Here are some tools for improving brand awareness:
- SEO, or search engine optimization to improve your discoverability when users search online for solutions like the ones you offer
- Paid advertising, although data suggest that online advertising tools reflect a lower cost per person than traditional marketing channels such as print and TV. Combine this with higher ROIs for online advertising and it’s the natural choice for most brands.
- SMS or short messaging services, which show great promise for producing a high ROI, maybe the highest.
- Email marketing, with as much as a 3800% ROI
- Direct marketing, including snail mail
- Product placement, which traditionally included placing products in popular TV and movies but now includes things like encouraging celebrities to be photographed wearing/ using your brand, distributing branded products worn/used in public, and including your brand name prominently on products purchased such as seen in Chanel purses.
- Outdoor advertising
Today, let’s add to our prior discussions about how to improve brand awareness by discussing branded merchandise. Although a lesser-known strategy, branded merchandise is a great additional arrow in your quiver when planning a winning marketing strategy for your brand. Let’s look at the main benefits of this strategy in this quick guide!
Get a boost in brand recognition
Firstly, sending out branded merchandise into the world is a powerful option to boost your brand recognition. Customers begin to see and notice your brand logo, colors, tagline, and name. And, the more prospective buyers see these visual elements, the more likely they are to remember your brand the next time they go shopping for the kind of solution you offer! This is particularly effective for local brands (ie. sponsoring the local Little League team) – but it works just as well for international, national, and online companies!
Ever watch any sports? Of course, you have. You’ll notice the uniforms (from those Little Leaguers to professional players) display patches to boost brand recognition. These uniform shirts, including the branding elements, are sold to fans. Every time a prospective buyer sees this branded merchandise it not only improves brand awareness, it helps form attitudes that drive brand preference and purchase.
Let your values speak for you
Your merchandise can speak volumes about your brand values – and your values can help you stand out from the competition! Take high-quality, wholesale tote bags for example – when branded, these items communicate your commitment to sustainability and style that help consumers form attitudes toward your brand that lead to future sales. Plus, everybody loves and uses tote bags daily – meaning that your brand logo and name will appear in front of your customers’ eyes regularly each day!
By co-branding with local or national charitable events, you also demonstrate your value to users.
Your customers, your brand ambassadors
You know that brand ambassadors matter in marketing – but how can you afford these partnerships when working with a single influencer or high-profile customer is so expensive? That’s where branded merchandise comes in!
Branded merchandise can be an excellent option to turn your customers into unpaid brand ambassadors! When they wear branded items like shirts or caps or carry tote bags and keychains, they expose your brand to the interested eyes of new and potential customers, thus creating a ripple effect!
Establish an alternative marketing strategy.
Investing in digital marketing is certainly of vital importance to build a sustainable, successful marketing campaign. But other aspects of marketing should not be overlooked!
Especially if your goal is to stand out from your competitors, strategies like guerrilla marketing and alternative advertisement initiatives can help you create a longer-lasting impression in the minds of your audience! Branded merchandising can do just so – it can help send out a memorable message!
Standout during events
Events play a critical role in helping you connect with other business owners and create a reliable network of contacts. But how can you help your own brand or campaign stand out from the crowd? Purchase branded merchandise for your sales team to wear during the event and purchase plenty of swag to spread your branded merchandise throughout the crowd. You can even use branded merchandise to help build your subscription list or to spread your brand message to consumers not attending the event by asking attendees to post an image of them wearing or standing near a branded message on their social media platforms.
Branded items like caps, bracelets, or backpacks are a great option – but make sure to think about the connection of the item with your brand as well as choosing branded merchandise that owners will use. If your company operates in the wine industry, for example, consider handing out branded bottle openers (although you likely want greater visibility so choose a product that’s used in public or likely to show prominently when owners post images on social media), while if you work in sustainability, branded reusable water bottles should do the trick! The key? Think outside the box!
Revenue potential for branded merchandise
So far, we’ve discussed branded merchandise as a giveaway or freebie. That isn’t the only way to use branded merchandise. If your brand is popular, you can sell branded merchandise. Look at Starbucks as a leader in this marketing tactic. They sell cups in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors to cover the manufacturing cost while benefiting from the exposure provided when buyers use these cups.
For a product like Chanel, branding their products prominently not only spreads the word about the brand, it impacts attitudes and drives desire among those who see the product used. That’s why branded merchandise is often given to celebrities and influencers as a means to drive sales of the products. After all, why else would a company desecrate their product with a label?
Most marketers never consider branded merchandise as a tool to improve brand awareness and that’s a problem. Branded merchandise is a very cost-effective tool for not only building awareness but also impacting brand attitudes (brand image) among prospective buyers. Think about ways to use it as part of your next marketing campaign.
Need marketing help to support business growth?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get our FREE guide to creating an awesome website, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.