HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR BRANDED MERCH BUDGET (instead of buying a bunch of crap to hand out)

Ah, the marketing budget. So much hope. So much possibility. So much teeth-grinding.


Budgets are necessary. But rarely fun. When you’re watching every dollar---and the nickels, too---you need your marketing efforts to pay off. And that can be stressful. We get it.


Marketing is about being seen and being remembered for all the right reasons. Good marketing is thoughtful. It shows the world that you care about the human experience with its joys and demands, its paths and peeves. If there’s one thing we definitively know about people, though, it’s that they’re freakishly picky about what they love. That includes swag. 


What does it take for branded merch to make its way onto desktops and nightstands or into closets and hearts?


Seven simple words.


A giveaway shouldn’t feel like a giveaway. A giveaway should feel like a gift. This is an important branded merch strategy, so we’ll say it louder for the people in the back scrolling on their phones:


A giveaway shouldn’t feel like a giveaway.


So why do so many promotional products leave people feeling “meh?” We think it has something to do with the “more is better” approach to stuff. 



Cheap, low-quality swag rarely makes people fall in love with your brand.


There. We said it. Sorry for being so mean.


Your marketing budget may be screaming “Quantity!” but your wise mind is whispering “Quality.” Why is that?


Deep down, we know that quantity is for the masses. Quality is more significant in our lives. Quality equals trust. Sure, quantity allows you to get more of your merch into the hands of your audience, but quality products will stay in their hands longer.


Most people agree:  Quality is the way to go.




Choosing quality doesn’t mean trashing your marketing budget. Good and affordable can coexist together. Finding that sweet spot for our clients is where we shine. 


The success of a promo is often measured by brand impressions---how long a person uses or wears an item and how many people see them while using or wearing it. The more times it’s used, the more brand impressions.


Here’s a quantity vs. quality scenario that explains this metric: 


You want to give people a branded tote bag. 


  • You choose a bag that costs $1/each. It’s not great, but hey, it’s a giveaway. You order 1000 to hand out at the farmer’s market. That’s $1000 out of your marketing budget. Because it’s flimsy and can barely hold a cabbage and the fabric feels weird, no one is using the bag as the walking billboard you hoped it would be. Once they get home, the bag gets tossed into that dark corner of their garage where it dies a lonely death.


The cost-per-impression is high here, as much as $1/bag if no one actually uses it.


  • You decide you want to wow your favorite customers at the farmer’s market and choose a thick canvas tote bag with leather handles that has a generous space for your clever saying about artichokes. You order 100 of them at $10/each. That’s $1000 out of your marketing budget. Recipients are thrilled to receive something so sturdy and useful. They immediately transfer all the stuff from their old bag into your new one.


Let’s say your favorite customer walks through the farmer’s market twice a month---that’s 24 visits per year--- and loves using your bag. There are 500 other people who attend the market at the same time. It’s likely that 100 of those 500 people will consciously (or subconsciously) see the branded bag your customer is carrying and store that image in the Rolodex of their brain.


That’s 24 outings x 100 people seeing your messaging each time, equaling 2400 brand impressions over a year (not including the other places your customer might use the tote). The bag cost $10, for a total of $.004 per impression.


Same budget. Different results.



72% of consumers believe that the quality of a promotional product is directly related to the reputation of the company. (Source: PPAI)


Your merch choices reflect your brand values. People will form an opinion about your company based on their experience with the stuff you give them. Since marketing is about being seen and being remembered, you want every experience, promotion and touchpoint to stick the landing. 


“Deliberate delight” is something we practice daily here at Buzztag. It’s the belief that when you are obsessed with your crowd’s happiness, thoughtful, quality merch always rises to the top. We’d love for you to borrow the phrase. A world full of brands trying to create more joy is the kind of world we want to live in. 


One of the best ways to determine if your swag truly delights is to ask:


Is this something I’d give to myself or someone I care about?


Remember, a giveaway shouldn’t feel like a giveaway. Quality merch with a premium “feel” will rock people’s socks off more than plastic junk ever will. 



Seth Godin once said, “You’re either remarkable or invisible.” Ouch. But also, true.


We choose remarkable, and we’re pretty sure you do, too. In this vast world of branded merch, there are order takers who want to sell you the cheapest item, even if it moves your marketing needle in the wrong direction. Then there are the creativity unleashers--like Buzztag--who obsess over stuff people can’t wait to get their hands on. 


We love helping brands create the coolest, most-loved merch on the market. Got a budget? We can work with it. Let’s chat!