When done right, branded merchandise ‘merch’ kits can make great gifts for new hires and staff, influencers, clients and prospects, and other stakeholders in your company. Merch kits engage both internal and external audiences while strengthening your brand and messaging.
Do you use merch kits at your company? Here’s what you need to know about this effective marketing project and some great merch ideas to include in your kits.
What is a Merch Kit?
A merch kit is a package of branded items that you give away to internal or external audiences. Here are some great opportunities where merch kits can be a great marketing or branding strategy:
- welcoming new hires
- showing appreciation for staff
- attracting prospects
- thanking customers or clients
- retirement or leaving gifts
- virtual conference boxes for attendees
- influencer promotions
- back to work kits (for new parents or for those returning to the office post-pandemic)
Merch Kits are entirely customizable, usually containing several custom-branded items but may include non-branded things like snacks, an employee handbook or a corporate brochure, depending on your campaign.
How to plan a Merch Kit
There are seven steps to planning a merch kit for your company:
Step 1: What’s your reason
There are many reasons to send a kit. Perhaps it’s part of a product launch campaign to present to influencers in exchange for product reviews, to welcome new hires, or to entice prospects to buy from you.
Step 2: Know your audience
Once you know your reason, you’ll also know your audience. Dig deeper into what this audience needs or wants and what items they can use, rather than just throw away. That’s what Ben and Jerry’s did to ensure they had Instagram-worthy merchandise that influencers would want to pose with for their social feeds.
Instead of throwing in generic-looking pens, notepads, and stickers, the Ben and Jerry’s team did their research and selected more sustainable items with an on-brand, practical purpose, so they don’t get thrown away. They built their box around the theme: “Work Your Core.”
They created Ben and Jerry’s branded spoons, rainbow sweatbands, socks, enamel pins, and a workout towel. They packaged the items in a fully branded box with additional marketing materials and an insert with more information about the products they were being asked to review and promote.
Step 3: Focus on sustainable options
When looking for branded merch for your kits, look for sustainably made and ethically sourced items. Avoid including throw-away items and focus on things that the recipient can get beneficial use of, like reusable mugs and bags.
If your company values locally made products, you can choose from a wide range of made in Canada,or made in USA, eco-friendly and ethically made products.
Step 4: Choose merch that stands out
Don’t forget that merch can go way beyond throwing your logo on a mug. Consider bold designs or statements that are on brand or that align with your campaign goals. That’s what Lululemon did for a staff merch program promoting a conservation/zero waste campaign.. They could have thrown their logo on an enamel mug, but instead, they created a “Water is life, savour every drop” design for the item.
When choosing your merch, give consideration to how the boxes will be packaged (Step 5 below) and distributed (Step 6 below). For example, if you are shipping boxes around the country, we wouldn’t recommend glass or ceramic merch because it’s more likely to break. However, a ceramic mug can work fine if hand-delivering boxes to in-house staff as a welcome package.
Step 5: Package it!
Presentation matters, so look for ways to customize your merch kit packaging. UNICEF has an excellent example of great packaging with their Back to School Kits for high schools and colleges. These kits included posters, flags, t-shirts, hoodies, and pens packaged in a beautiful UNICEF logoed backpack that the student can actually use.
Look for ways to customize your kits using custom-printed boxes from recycled materials or reusable bags or backpacks.
Step 6: Plan your distribution
Once you have the kits, create a plan for how you will be distributing them:
- If it’s for in-house staff, you can hand-deliver it to them on their first day.
- If it’s for virtual conference attendees, mail the kits several weeks in advance, so it’s sure to arrive before your event.
- If it’s for an influencer campaign, also mail the boxes early, so influencers get the package before the go-live date of the campaign.
If you are shipping boxes, consider shipping them to a regional office and having that office redistribute them to local recipients. If that’s not possible or cost-effective, make sure you account for shipping costs and times in your distribution plan.
Consider keeping a handful of kits on hand if you ever need them. This works well for ongoing distribution for new hires and clients’ gifts.
Step 7: Evaluate and evolve if necessary
Every marketing campaign should track metrics and the success of a campaign. Merch kits are no exception. Look for metrics you can analyze to see if the kits were successful. These metrics might include:
- Number of kits distributed
- Number of times the campaign hashtag was used
- Organic impressions of Influencers’ branded posts
- Engagement rate of social posts
- Clients won or renewed contracts after receiving gift boxes
Evaluate the success of your merch kits and make changes as needed. Maybe you need to swap out a product or package it differently. If you want to test the market first, buy a smaller number of boxes or A/B test two different boxes to see which gets better results before investing in a larger order.
Merch ideas for your kits
Fairware has a wide range of sustainably made and ethically sourced products you can customize for your merch kits. We can also work with your creative ideas to help you develop something uniquely on-brand for your company. We’ve got a book to help you get started, which you are free to download here.
We’ve helped some of the biggest brands in North America create merch kits, including Ben and Jerry’s, UNICEF, Lululemon, and more. They all came to us with unique needs and goals, and we helped them curate the perfect sustainable products and gifts for their staff, customers, and clients.
Tell us about your merch kit campaign or project, and we’ll help you put together a merch box that will turn heads and show off your company values perfectly.