How To Make Your Conference Swag Better

Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay.

Here’s how you can do yours better, guaranteed:

1️⃣ Plan far in advance so you can spend time thinking through your designs. And no, the name of your conference on different merch items is *not* a design. The better the design, the more likely your recipients are to keep your items and not trash them.

2️⃣ If it fits in the palm of your hand — unless it’s jewelry or high end tech — it’s trash. Pens, pencils, keychains, stickers: these are a skip.

3️⃣ Give people choice ahead of time for what they want. It can even be as simple as asking people if they want apparel or non-apparel. Remember, the more people love what you’re making, the more effective that swag is at building your relationship.

Do you love conference swag or hate it? Or somewhere in between? Share your thoughts!

Build Business with Branded Merchandise

We spend a lot of our time to think and talk about using branded merchandise as a strategic tool for business growth. Branded merchandise possesses a subtle yet influential power that should always be utilized.

You may be wondering, but how can branded merch play such a pivotal role in BUILDING my business? Here’s how:

Use it to Upsell and Offer as a Gift with Purchase

By offering merchandise as an upsell option or as a free gift with purchase, you can enhance sales and encourage customers to spend more. It’s kind of like when you’re shopping online and you have to spend a certain amount to get free shipping!

Incentivize Clients to Act Faster and Seize Deals

The prospect of receiving exclusive merchandise can be a powerful motivator for clients to take quick action, helping you drive sales and clear inventory. When something is limited edition or an exclusive sale, your community feels like they must hop on the offer before it’s gone for good.

Add Credibility to Your Business

Merchandise can serve as a symbol of professionalism and trustworthiness to your business. If clients see you put the time and effort into creating merchandise made just for them, they will feel especially connected and loyal to your brand.

Act as “Subtle PR” and Transform Fans into Brand Ambassadors

When customers proudly wear or use your branded merchandise, they become walking advertisements for your business. If someone sees someone else love your brand enough to wear your merchandise, they’ll be more inclined to check out what you offer.

Generate Passive Income Streams

Beyond its marketing potential, branded merchandise can also serve as a consistent source of passive income, especially when it gains popularity among your customer base.

When you think of branded merchandise, don’t limit your imagination to just a logo on a t-shirt. It’s a versatile tool that can encompass a wide range of products, from apparel to accessories, stationery, drinkware and more. By strategically incorporating merchandise into your business strategy, you can unlock its full potential to build and expand your brand.

Stop Buying Pens

Don’t get us wrong, pens can be great if they are important to your brand. However, if they aren’t, we recommend forgetting them completely. No one pays attention to the branding on pens and even if they do, the pen will soon be forgotten in a cup on someone’s desk or lost in a junk drawer.

You may be thinking, “okay so what’s a better idea for my next expo?” Don’t worry we have options that don’t include buying one item in bulk.

✅ Create a print-on-demand store where people can choose whatever they want before the conference
✅ Create a GIFT CARD to your online shop offering people a free t-shirt, mug, hat, etc.
✅ Create merch for the people in your booth to wear that is eye-catching and on-brand to draw people in to your brand

Long story short: don’t buy a bunch of the same item (especially pens!) for your next conference. It’s not sustainable, it’s not personal and it doesn’t truly reflect who you are as a brand. At the end of the conference, you’ll be stuck with a bunch of pens and nowhere to put them.

What’s a memorable piece of merch you got from the last expo you went to?

You might be making these merch mistakes…

If you’re printing branded merchandise or swag for your business and getting a lukewarm response, here are some reasons that might be happening:

You’re printing throwaways aka junk merch 🗑

“Junk merch” includes pens, notebooks, stress balls, drawstring bags, lunch bags, grocery bags, etc. These are things people likely have too much of already and don’t hold much value in having more.

You’re putting your logo front and center 😅

Most people don’t want to wear a logo (unless you’re Nike or Peloton), and besides that, the thing people connect to about your brand is so much more than the logo. What’s your slogan? What’s a running joke between you and your community? Think deeper than just your brand name or logo.

You’re not giving people choice 🙅🏻‍♀️

Don’t assume that everyone wants a t-shirt, a mug, or a towel. If you let people choose what they want, they’ll feel much more connected to your merch which leads to them feeling more connect to your brand.

Which of these reasons resonates the most with you? We can help!

What is Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-demand is simple: it means that your designs print as they are ordered. When you place an order, the printer receives it, prints it, and ships it to you. Simple!

Print-on-demand is:

👍🏼 Easy

👍🏼 Flexible

👍🏼 Affordable

👍🏼 Sustainable

It’s as easy as setting up an online shop, and fulfilling orders based on what people like the best. With print on demand technology, you can have a variety of designs and sizes to suit EVERYONE’S taste, without printing hundreds of the same item that may or may not sell. And just like that, you’re:

✅ Eliminating waste

✅ Inclusive with sizing

✅ Giving people options on what they get

✅ Empowering your community

✅ Creating merch that people are more likely to keep in the long run

What’s a piece of merch you would create RIGHT NOW if you could?

Say No to Matching T-Shirts

Buying the same t-shirt in bulk to give all of your employees is unsustainable and unthoughtful. Think about how often it is that people wear matching t-shirts. Here are some places where it’s cute and appropriate to have a group wear the exact same t-shirt:

  • Elementary school singalongs 🖍
  • Twins, Triplets, and Quadruplets… under the age of 5 👯‍♀️
  • Sports teams 🏈

Basically, you should either be under the age of 10 or playing a team sport.

One place I’m certain where people don’t want to all wear the exact same t-shirt?

The office.

Here are just a few reasons why:

➡️ Style: whether it’s the shape / fit of the shirt or the color, people have very different opinions of what looks best on them.

➡️ Modesty: what’s showy to one person may feel really covered up to another.

➡️ Body size: you might not have the right size for everyone, and some people just aren’t comfortable in t-shirts.

It’s easy to offer people options in design, shape, and size, so why choose for them? Tell me, where else is it cute and appropriate for people to all wear the same tee? I’m SURE I’m missing some good ones 😉

Our Opinion on Reunion Swag

It was just my 20 year college reunion at Barnard / Columbia, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. to see my classmates and wander through our freshman year dorms! It brought back so many memories that had us all laughing through the night. The reunion team worked to make a beautiful experience for everyone who attended.

Now, onto the merch and swag: they gifted everyone a Barnard Alumnae tote bag and a Barnard fanny pack. The tote bag is fine — I generally love anything that says Barnard — but I’m not a fan of tote bags in general. Now that we all have to take bags to the grocery store, I am absolutely overrun with extra bags and have completely run out of space for them.

But the fanny pack. The fanny pack. Why the fanny pack? It’s not a cute cross-body bag that’s useful and in style. It’s a flip-phone hold-my-scrunchie bag. Here’s the thing— attendees are eager and happy to go to the Barnard merch shop and spend money. Instead of giving out tote bags & fanny packs, take the exact same amount of money you were going to spend and give people credit to the merch shop instead. There are two huge benefits to giving a gift card instead:

  1. No waste from unwanted tote bags and fanny packs
  2. Get people into the college store and SHOP.

They will absolutely spend beyond what’s on the gift card. With that being said, how about gift cards in 2024? What do you think?

4 Most Fatal Swag Mistakes 

Navigating what merchandise works best for your brand can be tough, but we’re here to make sure you’re on the right track. With that being said, are you making any of these 4 fatal swag mistakes? 

1. Your swag only has your logo on it.

Your brand is so much more than your logo! Think about your core values and which ideas from your brand mean the most to your audience. Your fans want something that connects them to your brand or company and that they can relate to and feel inspired by. 

2. You print and buy in bulk.

When you print too much of the same thing, a good chunk of it is inevitably going to be thrown out or given away. 

3. PENS.

Unless you’re a business that is directly related to writing, you don’t need pens. They do not strengthen or build relationships like higher-quality goods.. Even if the pen gets used, people will likely never think twice about what the pen says. 

4. Assuming you know peoples’ sizes.

Body size varies quite a bit, and some people aren’t comfortable in certain types of apparel. Most companies make assumptions about the size distributions of who will be receiving their stuff, and a lot of the times they are completely wrong. Yikes! 

All of the above problems can be solved by switching to Print on Demand merchandise and swag (with us 😉).

Tips for Creating Branded Swag

At Go To Market, we are merch connoisseurs and love seeing different kinds of swag in all kinds of businesses. I’m frequently noticing the abundance of merchandise in restaurants and bakeries I visit. From trendy bakeries like Levain Bakery to local eateries, these establishments have recognized the importance of branded merchandise. However, a lot of the shirts and tote bags I see are mass produced with their logo slapped on them.

In this blog post, I’ll share some tips on how bakery and restaurant owners can leverage the power of swag to promote their brand and boost sales.

  1. Embrace Merchandise. The answer is always YES to creating and investing in swag that reflects your brand and makes your customers feel like they are a part of your community. Whether these customers are regulars or tourists, they like having a piece of the places they frequent or a souvenir to remember and tell their friends about. In a city like NYC, tourists are a significant customer base for the majority of businesses. Offer memorable souvenirs that represent your brand and the city, and even consider exclusive or limited-edition swag that will make tourists feel like they’ve discovered something unique to take home with them. 
  1. Be Memorable. When walking down the street you aren’t necessarily intrigued by someone’s T-Shirt that just says a brand’s name on it. However, when you see something beautiful, inspiring or funny, you’re more likely to feel a connection to the brand that created it. A cookie shop making a “cookie monster” T-Shirt or a dumpling restaurant with a unique drawing will catch attention and start a conversation. 
  1. In-Store and Online Experience. Although you’re using print on demand, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some inventory on hand! People visiting from out of town or even regular customers have impulse buys, so having a handful of pieces available for purchase is smart. For the rest of the merchandise, you can set up an online store where people can shop more styles and sizes. This offers a wider range of variety for all body and style types without buying every size and style in bulk to keep in store. 

Branded merchandise is more than just a shirt with your logo on it. It’s a powerful and creative marketing tool that allows your community to connect with your brand on a deeper level. By investing in print on demand merchandise, you can create a sense of brand loyalty, enhance customer experience, and attract new customers through word-of-mouth and social media exposure. Next time you visit your favorite eatery, take a moment to appreciate the swag on display and consider how it can benefit your own business. 

Have you ever purchased restaurant and/or bakery swag? Let us know what you got in the comments!