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Branded Merchandise London: What Google Trends tells us about the industry

As we have been exploring in our previous two articles, the branded merchandise industry has a long and storied history that spans over the course of 150 years. If you haven’t yet read the fantastic historiographical articles, and you are desperate to find out exactly what Anheuser-Busch were doing to corkscrews back in the 19th century, then you can access them at our blog home page – News about JNI.

In this article, we are going to follow the promotional merchandise industry’s progression from the distant past where unused printing presses were used to put brand messages on burlap sacks, to the immediate future where businesses can track global promotional gifting campaigns from anywhere in the world.


In recent months, the digitisation of branded merchandise has taken a huge step forward. At JNI, we could have never predicted the huge success of our online webstores but businesses all over the world are evolving and adapting to the remote-work reality.


So, using the unexpectedly powerful and extremely fun tool known as Google Trends, we are going to explore the branded merchandise industry’s relationship with the world’s favourite search engine.


Google Trends measures search volume by popularity over a given period of time. So, the most popular time for that specific term is given a score of 100, and the least popular time is given a score of 50. This will become more clear in the graphs below.


‘branded merchandise’ vs. ‘promotional merchandise’


The two most popular search terms for this industry are ‘branded merchandise and ‘promotional merchandise’, they both mean largely the same thing and are used interchangeably when it comes to Google search terms.


But which term is the most popular?

In the graph above, the blue lines refer to ‘promotional merchandise’ whilst the red lines refer to ‘branded merchandise’. As you can see, ‘promotional merchandise’ is a far more popular search term and, over the course of 2020, has recovered more quickly from the start of the pandemic than 'branded merchandise' has.


Of course, the volume of search terms does not equate to actual economic value, but it is a good indication of how much demand there is for a certain product at any given time. And that leads me on to the next point.


Pens vs. bags vs. hats vs. mugs


When it comes to branding, there are certain products which will always be stalwarts. Pens, bags, hats and mugs are merchandising classics. They always get good traction, are easy to design and affordable to produce. You don’t get marks for originality but still, they do a great job of getting your brand out there into the physical world.


How do they compare by search volume though?

On the colourful and slightly hectic graph above, the blue line represents pens, the red line represents mugs, the yellow line represents hats, and the green represents bags. The small graph on the left indicates that pens and bags have been the two most popular, based on search volume, for 2020 whereas hats have been the least. However, there are many kinds of hat so the search results may be divided, which may be the reason the search volume is slightly lower for ‘promotional hats.’


Interestingly, whilst ‘promotional bags’ performed poorly during the months of lockdown, ‘promotional pens’ performed quite well. Then, when ‘promotional bags’ began to perform better, the ‘promotional pens’ had a slight dip.


But what does it all mean?


Interpreting all this data


Google Trends is not just useful for us, as marketers and branders looking for the next great viral product, but it is also useful for our clients. The data can help to analyse existing trends in the market and businesses can use those lessons to come up with promotional strategies that are statistically and historically supported.


Google Trends is great for predicting seasonal changes in people’s habits. Just have a look at the data for the search term ‘monsoon’. To make it more interesting, the graph only shows the data from India between 2004 and 2020.

Predictably, every year at around June/July, the search volume for the term ‘monsoon’ goes up massively in comparison to all other times of the year.


What about the term ‘selfie’ in the United States?

Selfies were pretty much non-existent before 2013 but then they started to explode into popular culture. How does this data help, you might ask? Well, back when selfies were just becoming popular, someone had the great idea of making a selfie stick so people could take better, more encompassing selfies. Selfie sticks, for a time, were a popular merchandising item and we branded them for several of our clients with great success.


Take a look at the graph for ‘selfie sticks’ below and see how it compares to the graph for ‘selfie’ above.

As you can see, Google Trends is an incredibly powerful tool and it can be used to come up with some extremely effective gifting strategies for your business. If you want to play around with some search terms, just follow this link.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, stay tuned for more content about the world of promotional merchandise.

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