Four Ways Promotional Merchandising Has Changed Over the Last 10 Years
As with the world at large, the industry of promotional merchandising has seen some fairly radical shifts in the last ten years. In the products we sell and the suppliers we work with, we can see the result of these changing attitudes keenly and in variety of ways.
Many of these changes can be seen as expressions of how society and culture has changed over the years. Especially with regards to how corporations look to interact with their customers. We, at Jack Nadel International, have decided to take a look at some of the more interesting of these developments.
What we’ve found is that the changing timeline of promotional merchandising acts as an interesting barometer for how we feel about, and interact with, the world around us.
There was once a time, long ago as it seems now, where all that big brands cared about, when it came to SWAG, was cost. The cheaper the better. That seemed to be the brief given to department heads in charge of brand building.
Back then, far fewer corporations cared for the sourcing of their promotional products. Despite the fact that these products would have their logos emblazoned on them.
Now, as a result of increased exposure and education as to the treatment of overseas workforces, you’d be hard-pushed to find a major brand that does not make provisos about their merchandise being ethically sourced.
Off the back of our industry’s push to find suppliers that paid their workforce fairly and did not employ children, came the move towards sustainability.
Once upon a time, our clients wanted 50p plastic trinkets. Small, mass-produced knick-knacks that were little more than a logo which you could take home with you.
Nowadays, our clients care much more about the backdrop that carries their face.
Increasingly, we are asked for clothing, everyday tools and useful gifts that are made of recycled materials.
Or else, our clients ensure we work exclusively with sustainably run suppliers. They care that the companies who supply us are transparent about the source of their materials and the method of acquiring them.
Our clients care about how their brand is represented. And, as a result of our society’s changing attitudes, they’re being driven to keeping a keen eye on where their merchandise comes from.
And it seems as if this keen eye has been applied to the whole of the merchandising enterprise.
Plastic trinkets were spray and pray. Clients might buy a thousand erasers with their logo printed on it. They’d then hope that one hundred worked their way into the hands of a potential lead.
Nowadays, however, the one-size fits all, triple XL T-shirts with a logo printed on it front-and-centre has been largely replaced by more personalised items. We’ll often get orders for tees of organic cotton, retail-quality and tailored to the specifics of our client’s clients.
Marketing has become a much more focused enterprise. We find that a personalised, long-lasting piece of merchandise given to the right person goes far further in advancing a brand than the mass-exposure technique.
Product is King vs Customer is King
The world of merchandising is intrinsically linked with the world of retail. As a result, we witness many of the same changes that retailers do. One of the largest changes of the last five years can be seen in the shift of focus within our industry.
Where once we focussed on expressing the value of our product, we now increasingly see merchandise focussing on the experience of the customer.
Logo-decorated pens will always be useful, don’t get us wrong. But we now see clients ask us for interactive items: puzzles, building block exercises and group collaboration projects.
The merchandising world has picked up on the fact that experiences are often more memorable than the everyday object you carry around at the bottom of your bag. Branded gifts such as the Puzzle Cube from Happy 3D Puzzles, which we saw displayed at the 2019 PSI showcase (if you want to read more about the showcase's best, most sustainable products, you can do so here) are great icebreakers.
They are a chance for guests to start talking and interacting. The customer-is-king shift in focus sees merchandising focus on the gift-receiver’s experience rather than the value of the gift.