5 Reasons Why Branded Merchandise for Small Business is One of the Best Marketing Tools

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Navigating the wild ride of small business ownership? Welcome to the club where multitasking is the norm, and marketing is the beast you need to tame. Strapped for time and cash? Buckle up, because we're diving headfirst into the world of marketing and merchandising.

In the past our CEO, Jeremy Conder, has covered the top 5 reasons why your business should have a branded merchandise program. Make sure to check that post out if you haven't already, but today we're going to cover merchandise as a marketing tool. Here's the latest on why brand merchandising isn't just cool; it's one of the best marketing tools for small business owners that makes it possible to promote your business for free and make a profit while you're at it!

1. Cash in on free promotion (brand merch = money making machine)

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Like many marketing tactics, branded merchandise requires an initial upfront investment, but it also has a staggering 2:1 ROI. Selling custom merch = basically getting paid to promote your business for free.

Imagine this: you drop a bit of cash on some killer retail-quality branded tees, hoodies, and hats for your small business. Let’s do some rough math:

72 x $12.50 for tees = $900

72 x $28 for hoodies = $2,016

72 x $12 for hats= $864

Your initial cost to get started with merchandise for your small business is $3,780, but when you invest in brand merchandising, you can recoup all of your initial investment and double it.

How do you do this? By selling your merchandise to customers at retail MSRPS:

72 x $30 (MSRP of tees) = $2,160

72 x $65 (MSRP of hoodies) = $4,680

72 x $30 (MSRP of hats) = $2,160

If you do this, your initial order of branded merch costs $3,780 and you gross a solid $9,000 in sales!

In other words, your ROI for branded merchandise can be as high as 238% (and often is, as long as you sell retail-quality brand merchandise; low-quality merch ends up in the trash).

2. Your gear, their streets: The talking, walking billboard

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Billboards; they’re a kinda dated marketing tactic. Billboards can generate publicity for your brand and can be memorable when created effectively, buuuuut can scream "look at me" while annoying the heck out of people if done poorly.

Enter branded merchandise, one of the most organic forms of marketing. I’m sure most of your customer base wears clothes, so outfitting them with high-quality branded apparel is like building your very own army of talking, walking billboards. The best part? They are less annoying than regular billboards and more likely to generate word-of-mouth marketing (the most effective form of marketing). 88 percent of people are likely to trust recommendations that come from somebody they know, so start turning heads with retail-quality brand merchandise for your small business.

Potential customers will see your brand merch on the street, at concert venues, when they hit the town, in their homes… pretty much anywhere that people go!

3. Maximize impact, minimize spend: Branded merchandise is one of the best marketing tools for your small business

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Let’s face it: the best marketing tools for small businesses need to hit hard without emptying your piggy bank.

Many small business owners market with popular tools such as social media, billboards, radio, and local events. These have their place in a marketing strategy, but can be a major drain on your time and finances, especially if you are a small business.

For example, regularly posting on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok requires any (or all) of the following: 

  • A content calendar (that isn’t boring) 
  • Creative collateral that kicks @*$ (copy, pictures, graphics and video)
  • A budget to run ads or boost posts
  • The skills and knowledge to adapt your strategy
  • The bandwidth and capacity to respond to customer interactions

You should absolutely use social media, events, etc., as part of your strategy, but are they the most efficient for your brand or business? Remember, any marketing strategy is only worthwhile if it brings in more money than you spend.

Here’s a magic formula for identifying the best marketing tools for your small business:

The most efficient and effective way to market for small business = least costly (requires the lowest amount of time and resources) + highest return on investment (ROI).

Put simply, the most efficient way to market for a small business is the strategy that generates the most revenue from customers while consuming the least amount of your resources. 

Branded merchandise triple checks the boxes by generating revenue and brand awareness while also taking up less of your time, especially when you partner with a bad a** custom merch company that takes on a large portion of that workload for you *wink, wink*. ;)

4. Double Whammy: Stellar Products That Market Themselves

As we’ve already covered, branded merchandise is a viable revenue stream for your business.

Imagine selling something so cool, your customers become your brand ambassadors. That's the power of brand merchandising. Brand Merchandising isn’t just “slapping your logo” on anything that moves. No, we’re talking about quality goods that people actually want to use, wear, and brag about

This is how you turn satisfied customers into loyal fans who can’t stop raving about your brand. This is one of the greatest reasons why branded merchandise is popular.

5. Affordable Branding: Impressions That Don’t Cost a Fortune

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Here's a fun fact: the cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) for branded t-shirts is dirt cheap compared to digital ads. While Meta Ads cost in the ballpark of $10 CPM, you’ll only have to shell out at an impressive $2.90 CPM for branded tees. And unlike the fleeting nature of digital ads, your merch keeps on giving, year after year. It's affordable branding that doesn’t just save you money; it makes you money.

Now, let’s talk about how many impressions branded merchandise receives. According to the Ad Specialty Institute, t-shirts get an average of 5,053 impressions over their lifetime, with hoodies getting an average of 7,856, and headwear getting 3,380.

Let’s apply those average impressions to a solid first branded merch order for a small business:

72 T-Shirts x 5,053 impressions: 363,816 impressions 

72 Hoodies x 7,856 impressions: 565,632 impressions

72 Hats x 3,380 impressions: 243,360 impressions

Grand total: 1,172,808 impressions

That’s over 1 million times your brand will be seen with branded merchandise over the life of the products on just your starting order. Factor in that you can also make a profit if you approach this marketing tactic correctly, effectively letting you promote your business for free, and the power of branded merchandise becomes clear.

What is the lifetime CPM for a basic order of branded merchandise?

And, without further ado, here’s how you calculate the lifetime CPM for an order of branded merchandise:

[$900 (total cost of T-Shirts) / 363,816 (number of lifetime impressions)] x 1,000 = $2.47 (CPM)

[$2,016 (total cost of hoodies) / 565,632 (number of lifetime impressions) ] x 1,000 = $3.56 (CPM)

[$864 (total cost of hats) / 243,360 (number of lifetime impressions)] x 1,000 = $3.55 (CPM)


Notice that a couple things become clearer after running the CPM calculations:

  • Branded merchandise is wildly less expensive than digital advertising on a CPM basis.
  • Even hoodies, the item with the most costly CPM, is still 281 percent less expensive per 1,000 impressions than digital advertising.
  •  And we haven’t even considered the amount of money it takes to hire an agency to run your digital ads or the legwork you would have to invest in doing it for yourself. Once you consider this, it’s apparent that you get much more bang for your buck with branded merchandise!

Conclusion: The Power of Merchandise and Marketing

Authenticity is your golden ticket in today’s market. People crave authentic connection with the brands they know and trust. While digital ads play a role in your marketing strategy, nothing beats the tactile, personal touch of branded merch. It's affordable, impactful, and turns customers into loyal brand ambassadors, making it one of  the best ways to advertise for small businesses.

Ready to conquer the marketing world with brand merchandising? Huge Brands is your ally. We offer a full arsenal of services to make your brand merch pop. Our comprehensive approach includes an in-house art team, a dedicated account specialist, suggested retail prices, and satisfied customers nationwide. We’re not just about hoodies and tees; we can print your dream on any product or material.

Join forces with Huge Brands and let’s create brand merch that makes your brand legendary

Let the merch magic begin!

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