Build Your Brand with Personalized Merchandise –
Cool Merch Ideas & Examples
All you have to do is look around to find examples of branded merchandise everywhere. Even Elon Musk, who famously does not care for advertising, sells branded merch and apparel in Tesla’s web store. From fashion items to bags to drinkware and more, brand merch comes in many forms and can help distinguish you from others in your industry. The best part is that the key factor in making merch a worthwhile part of your marketing strategy is your own creativity. Start with a well-defined idea of what your brand is about, and a message or design, and you are ready to start creating cool merch items for your store.
What is Merch, or Branded Merchandise?
Merch is a piece of apparel or other item that bears your unique mark, such as logo, branding, album cover, slogan, or design. Unlike swag, promotional products, or corporate gifts, which are meant to be given away, branded merchandise is created for you to sell to your fan base, or the fan bases of other companies or artists with whom you collaborate.
You've crafted your brand, and it's time to disseminate the message to the masses. Personalized merchandise keeps you attached to your audience and introduces them to new developments in your brand.
Why do Fans Spend Money on Merch?
When people become emotionally invested in you or your company, they want to support your brand, product, service, or art. You've improved their lives, offered them hours of entertainment, and possibly even helped shape their identity, and in return, people are more than willing to promote your organization or business.
That doesn't mean you should rest on your laurels once you have fans invested, and if you want to continue using merch to its fullest potential, there are some key strategies to follow. We'll dive into those strategies below.
What is the Importance of Branded Goods? Why Have Branded Merchandise?
Successful businesses and artists know how to use cool brand merch to maximize their marketing strategy. Here are just a few of the benefits:
Merch brings in revenue – Brand merch can be more cost-effective than other forms of advertisement and provides identifiable revenue in return. You sell a shirt; you make a profit
Merch spreads the word – When people wear your shoes, jewelry or any other product, it's an immediate conversation starter. Additionally, it's a great way to show off your logo as fans become walking billboards for your brand.
Merch creates your brand – A brand isn't built overnight, and it takes time to shape your brand with personalized merchandise that becomes immediately associated with your services, products, or art. Take the time to map out your brand, and success will be headed your way.
Creating Merch for Your Brand – 3 Key Ideas
#1 Match your merch to your customer or fan base
Carhartt jackets with the John Deere Logo
John Deere is the gold standard in lawnmowers and heavy equipment, which is what makes the company so aspirational to its audience. Their service is stellar, and the machinery performs. For that reason, their products are aspirational in their space.
Marketed as a high-quality, USA-made, outdoor brand for people who need to get things done, customers expect this same level of quality from their merchandise.
What logo merch would John Deere customers want to buy? Heavy-duty, well-made outerwear from Carhartt, an apparel company with a made in USA line (though they do make some products in Mexico) that holds up well for people working or playing outdoors. It's the perfect match. The merchandise will sell to fans of John Deere, and the company is now associated with a brand that will enhance its image when people are seen wearing their gear.
Merch ideas for workwear or outdoor companies:
Taco Bell Serves up the Fun
Famously catering to a younger crowd, Taco Bell knows how to attract students and professionals who are just starting their careers. This customer base is always hungry but might not have the funds for a five-star dinner.
There's no shame in the game for Taco Bell, either, which is why they keep it fun, without an ounce of pretension. The goal is to get people to crave their corporate merchandise as much as they crave the food, and with that in mind, the brand advertises itself as being goofy with a casual and comfy style. The unexpected nature of the merch is a strategy too. As in, what? There’s a Taco Bell wedding wear line? Any publicity is good publicity!
To stay consistent with their style, Taco Bell sells everything from shirts and bags to sauce packet balloons in their branded merch store. A few of the most recognizable characteristics of their corporate merch are the vibrant colors and quotes specific to the brand like “Fire” and “Taco Any Day.” .
Fun merch ideas for companies with a younger audience:
PlayStation Embraces Streetwear
PlayStation is a leading video game brand that's widely recognized around the globe. With gamer culture heavily influencing the company, PlayStation is more than willing to embrace this customer base and shape its business merchandise and marketing strategies around hardcore gamers.
Gamers lean towards an urban style that's fit for wearing around the home or out on the street. This streetwear is characterized by joggers, beanies, and hoodies. Easy to relax in, PlayStation gives gamers the cool brand merch they need to power up their favorite game for hours of playtime.
Cool merch ideas for audiences that love streetwear:
Coca Cola Shares a Coke with Everyone
Coca-Cola is a legacy company that built its brand over multiple decades to become one of the most recognized symbols in the world. An all-inclusive business, they don't leave anyone behind in their marketing strategy, and their business merch is designed for a wide audience that encapsulates just about everyone.
Drinkware is an obvious choice to put in their merch store, but the company also carries collectibles, home goods and tech items. The classic Coca-Cola red makes their merch stand out, and with the polar bear being a symbol of the company, the fluffy animal is featured on many of the items.
Coca-Cola even sells custom labeled bottles of coke for weddings (Share a Coke with… bride, groom and wedding party names) or business events (co-branded) allowing their brand to be part of more people’s personal and professional lives.
Company merch ideas for a wide audience:
#2 Use Merch to Create Your Image:
Merch can help you amplify your brand, but with a little imagination, it can also be part of how you create it. Let’s look at the way artists do this. Whether it's JoJo Siwa's side bow or Madonna's rubber bracelets, accessories have always been a defining characteristic of performers. If you're planning to uncork a new look for an album or tour, give fans an opportunity to be part of the launch by customizing a type of fashion accessory or lifestyle accessory associated with your brand and adding it to your merch store.
Lady Gaga Keeps It Classy
Pop icon Lady Gaga is a master of creating and recreating her image. To promote her collaboration with Tony Bennet, she got classy and romantic with custom printed champagne flutes.
Bert Kreischer Keeps the Party Going
A comedian always down for a good time, Bert Kreischer knows his image well. To help launch the Berty Boy World Tour, he gave his fans a chance to commemorate the event through his merch store with custom beer koozies designed specifically for the tour.
The Golden State Warriors Build Generations of Fans
Going to sports games is a great family activity, and one that inspires kids to play the game. The Golden State Warriors have done a great job of shaping their image for a younger audience, and that strategy starts at the crib. Their merch store includes many items fit for kids like these plush basketballs, which can be personalized with individual names, delighting parents and kids alike.
Unique merch ideas to build a brand:
Creating Aspirational or Trend-Setting Brands
Audiences are attracted to aspirational brands, and they want to be associated with the ambitions of the companies or artists they follow. If you want to be seen as an aspirational brand that's high fashion or fashion forward, choose designer apparel or accessories that are leading edge for your merch store. There are plenty of brand merchandising examples to show the benefits of high-end brand merch.
Mercedes-Benz Revs Up Their Merch with Titleist Golf Balls
Mercedes Benz developed an entire lifestyle merch store with products that match the aspirational nature of the Mercedes brand – all high-quality, luxury items. With golf being popular among the affluent and Titleist the premier brand of golf balls, Mercedes decided to show off their brand on Titleist Golf Balls.
Kanye West & The Gap
Beats and lyrics have defined the career of Kanye West, but his partnerships outside of music have turned the musical genius into a successful entrepreneur. One of those partnerships with Gap gave West the ability to spread his reach even further with high-end designer clothing. Kanye’s fans and fashion shoppers at large gain a reason to think The Gap is a worthy place to shop due to its association with a current and relevant artist. The Gap and Kanye also pick up aspirational points due to the project’s association with fashion house Balenciaga.
Ambush + Nike + NBA = Branded Merch Slam Dunk
Nike x Ambush combines the comfort of Nike clothing with the elegant style of the Japanese jewelry and apparel brand Ambush. This collection features high-end streetwear perfectly designed for fans of the NBA.
Tesla + Nosotros Tequila = Electric Merch Idea
Tesla’s customer base expects a few things: innovation, futuristic style, the finer things in life, and eco-friendly products. The company delivered with a limited edition, high design, branded Tesla Tequila and Sipping Glasses Set. The tequila is a collaboration with high-end liquor brand Nosotros, that also features a sustainability story in its own production. The lightning bolt shaped bottle is made of hand-blown glass. It must have had some appeal, it sold out!
Branding with “Collabs”
It's common practice for brands to extend their reach outside of their industry to collaborate with other companies in a partnership no one saw coming. Whether it's a makeup company and restaurant chain or a movie franchise and shoe brand, these partnerships are a great way to light a fire under a fanbase. Here are a few merch collab brands that successfully launched products together:
Dunkin Donuts + e.l.f. Cosmetics = Brand Perk Up
At first glance, you wouldn't think coffee and makeup could go hand and hand. That didn't stop e.l.f. and Dunkin Donuts from coming together on a makeup line that's inspired by Dunkin's vibrant colors and menu options. This collection is a must-have to start off the morning.
Vans + Harry Potter = Footwear Magic
Even movie franchises like Harry Potter know the importance of collaborating with other brands to increase their outreach. In their alliance with Vans, they produced a shoe line that's pure magic for fans.
The Grateful Dead & Igloo Keep it Cool
The Grateful Dead teamed up with Igloo to create a collection of coolers and drinkware unique to the legendary band. Featuring iconic artwork like the famous dancing bears, this collection directly targets diehard fans who attend outdoor concerts.
Show Your Values with Branded Merch
One way to show off your values and personality is through branded merchandise designed with a specific cause in mind. Whether it's the environment, a social cause, or any other mission, shape your brand around what's important to you, your company, or your organization.
Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever Vegan Chocolate
Singer Billie Eilish doesn't shy away from letting people know she's vegan, and her website's merch reflects those values. By selling a vegan chocolate bar bearing her current look, she was able to match her identity to her latest album. To make her personality even more prevalent, the page features one of Billie's own vegan chocolate recipes. Even better, the price point puts this item well within the reach of young fans.
Microsoft’s Eco-Friendly Merch Line
Microsoft is on a mission to be zero waste by 2030, and as part of their commitment to the environment, the company incorporates eco-friendly products into their merch store. Their collection includes company branded merchandise made with natural, renewable, and sustainable resources and processes.
Miley Cyrus’s Happy Hippie Foundation Hoodie
Miley Cyrus started the Happy Hippie Foundation to rally young people to fight injustice aimed at vulnerable populations. As a way to honor the mission of the non-profit, all of the proceeds from these t-shirts, hoodies and masks are donated to the charity.
#3 Nailing Product Choice & Design or “There's Nothing
Simple About T-shirts”
From rock stars to bakeries, there's no merch more common than a classic American t-shirt, but don't be fooled because there's nothing simple about doing it right. Whether it's the design of the imprint or the style of the shirt itself, the attention to detail is what matters if you want your audience to buy-in.
T-Shirts Designed With Art in Mind
An art imprint that is beautiful and unique is perfect for commemorating a concert, show or experience. Not only will the design help fans reflect back on the event, but they'll be proud to sport it around to let people know they're in love with your brand. Check out these artful imprint designs to find inspiration:
Funny T-Shirt Merch Ideas for Artists & Companies
Add in a laugh to your t-shirt design that appeals to your specific audience. These designs are great if you have a pun or funny quote that's part of your messaging. Whether it's a company like McDonald's joking with their customers or a comedian helping fans remember a punch line, any of these shirt designs will get the laughs and business rolling in.
Need the reference? We’ll do you one better with a collection of funny quotes from comic Jim Gaffigan.
Build an Identity for Your Fans with Branded T-Shirts
Fans enjoy feeling like they're part of a movement, and you can shape your merch to help define that identity. From encouraging athletes to do more with their platform to showing pride in working hard to building a lifestyle for fans to follow, there are plenty of identities people can get behind. Here are a few branded merchandise ideas to get you started:
Create a Trend with Cool Ideas for Merch T-Shirts
If you're a trendsetter and want your supporters to join in on the trend, make sure you have merchandise in your store that fits the look you're going for. Tie dye, pocket tees and crop tops are excellent for keeping your fans trendy. If you're looking to set up your online store with trendy custom logo merchandise, Bank Express can do it for you with our company store program.
If you're wondering where to buy branded merchandise, Bank Express has you covered. We carry apparel and accessories from the top brands on the market. Our branded merchandise agency can get you set up and ready to gain exposure with merch fit for any store.