Brand Partners
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Crank Your Merch, Swag, and Gift Sales up to 11 With Customization

March 5, 2024
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Imagine another day in the office. You take a seat at your rich mahogany desk centered in your corner office, take a swig of coffee, and start tackling the pile of mail begging for your attention. 

You slice open envelopes — mostly junk. You glance at a few promo postcards — meh. Lastly, you unbox something entirely unexpected. Cookies with some guy’s face on them. 

Not just any guy. This is the face of a guy trying to get your attention.

And you know what? It worked. 

As little crumbs of Greg Salesguy fall below while you happily munch away, you’re reading the accompanying note (also personalized). Next thing you know, Greg is making a sale and you’ve teamed with a new partner to meet one of your business goals. 

Customization seems to be the talk of the town in Corporate America  — and there’s pretty good reason for it. Customized products have become a staple for standing out and making connections for sales teams, event marketers, customer success teams, and beyond. There’s rising demand for quality goods that can be given away, which means there’s more demand for brands to supply outstanding custom goods.

Read on to see why customized pieces are all the rage and how you can get your brand in on the gravy train. 

How Custom Goods Cut Deep into the Subconscious

Does that subhead go a little hard? Perhaps, but there is real psychology behind the impact of customized gifts, merch, and more. Whatever you dub the corporate goods you sell, there is an art to the act in order to have a deep, authentic impact beyond the surface.

Companies continuously walk a tightrope with loyal and prospective customers alike. On one end, they want to foster trust, nurture relationships, earn a rock-solid reputation — all that jazz. On the other end, the ultimate goal is to sell more stuff. Lean too far to the former and risk not making a strong enough sales push while lilting to the latter could easily turn off customers by being too salesy and aggressive. 

Whether you’re slingin’ swag made for MVP customers, holidays, conferences, or digital events, these wares also have to check a few more boxes to fully resonate with buyers and recipients:

☑️ Stand out from same old freebies

☑️ Be something people will actually want to keep (and not toss in the garbage)

☑️ Align with your company’s mission and values

Now, you may be thinking that all of the aforementioned considerations add up to overthinking things like branded t-shirts and customized cookies. However, as consumers crave characteristics like quality, sustainability, and customization, overthinking isn’t really something you can do.

According to Leor Ram, president of Beverly Hills-based practice Integrative Psychotherapy Group, “The humble swag bag emerges as a masterstroke of strategy, blending marketing savvy with psychological acumen that’s also a token of appreciation that forges an emotional bond while subtly promoting a corporate message. This blend of gratitude and utility triggers a dopamine rush, creating a positive, subconscious brand association in the recipient's mind.”

When someone receives a custom freebie, not only is a unique connection between brand and customer made at that moment, but it also kickstarts something called the reciprocity principle. In a nutshell, the more a brand gives a customer, the more that customer will feel like they have to reciprocate. 

(It’s like when I get a generous portion of piping hot chicken tendies from a Costco free sample vendor. The less skimpy the sample size, the more likely I am to grab a box from the freezer and toss it in my cart every time.) 

As far as the quality of the merch goes, that plays a big role in the mind of the recipient, too. A high-quality, stylish, or trendy item transcends basic functionality and often reflects on the perceived quality or value of what the company itself offers. In other words, corporate customers want quality products that make them look good. 

The psychology behind powerful corporate merchandise, promotional items, swag, and gifts is critical for companies supplying these items. With a deeper understanding of what triggers a positive response from end recipients and why, brands are able to curate and offer a catalog of foolproof goods to corporate and group shoppers.

Benefits of Offering Customized Goods to Gifters

The rise of customizable ecommerce options over the past few years is impossible to ignore. From instant hits like OREOiD and personalized M&M’S to Nike By You custom shoes and one-of-a-kind felt pennants, the desire for personalized products that break the mold is hot. 

This is my face on a cookie. The future is now!

There’s no shortage of suppliers that can pump out branded pens, t-shirts, lanyards, and thumb drives. When your brand can offer customizable products that stand out in the promotional landscape, people notice. Not only do you up your odds of finding niche corporate customers, but you also rip open a host of other benefits, like:

  • Repeat customers who return time and time again to buy the goods that help them differentiate. From sales teams repeatedly buying branded cookies (shout-out to Greg from the intro) to customer success squads gifting MVP customers to marketing managers deploying their next ABM campaign, offering customizable products makes you the go-to for people who rely on branded items to hit their goals. 

  • Higher margins for custom products is a real possibility. Even with modest customizations such as branded packaging, a printed gift note, or a sticker with the customer’s logo warrants, you can bump up your price tag to reflect the cost of materials, labor, and care.

  • Attract new customers with your catalog of thoughtful products that can also be customized. For too long, corporate products have been relegated to low-quality stuff that every other company is offering. And when you’re at a big event, it’s hard to get your booth to stand out when you’re giving away the same goods as the 217 booths around yours.

    When you sell quality, unique, intentional products that can be delivered with the perfect amount of customization, companies will flock to your store to stock up and stand out themselves.

  • Spike customer happiness by taking the burden of customization off their plate. Popular customizations like adding a sticker with a logo to the box or tossing in a customized gift note seem simple but can be a huge pain in the a** for corporate clients. You may already be selling the ideal product for a brand’s merch program or swag bag, but without the option to customize, your clients are settling for something that’s less ideal but all-inclusive.

    For example, if a client wants to send even just 25 gifts with their logo slapped on the package, trying to manage that themselves instantly tacks on the hassle of additional shipping fees, finding a sticker supplier, repackaging goods, logistical headaches, and more. When your company tackles all of the extra stress that comes with customization, they’re happier (and willing to pay more). 

Custom products may seem like daunting territory to tread into, but corporate gifting and merch is on the up and up. If you're thinking about expanding your offerings, customization is a ticket to tapping into a booming industry.

Brands Popping off with Custom Corporate Products

You may be thinking, “Well, of course OREO can offer customization — they have heaps of cash!” While OREOiD is a pretty sophisticated custom product, your company doesn’t have to get that intense in order to find success in this market. Even modest customizations make a huge impact when the product you offer in tandem is unique, high-quality, affordable, or all of that combined. 

We picked out a few of our favorite companies offering custom touches to corporate clients right now. Go on and get inspired. 

Topo Designs

This Colorado-rooted company is known for functional and handsome outdoor gear that’s also great for urban exploration. The popping colorways always stand out in a crowd. Combine that fact with the company’s flexibility to customize its wares, and you have yourself a hot corporate merch offering. 

Giften Market

Gift boxes are must-haves in the world of giveaways and corporate gifts. And while there are many companies cropping up that can build dream pieces, Giften Market sits a notch above the rest. The variety of custom packaging, inserts, branded assets, and beyond can make any company’s vision a reality for their next big project. From incredibly bespoke gift kits to ready-to-ship pieces complete with printed custom notes, this is a masterclass in adapting to the demands of corporate merch and gifting.

Brightland: Olive Oil and Vinegars

Olive oil is hot right now. It’s a product fit for all types of occasions, from employee recognition to celebrating milestones to customer thank yous to event giveaways, these eye-catching bottles of some of the best olive oil, vinegar, and beyond are sure to make an impact. The best part? You can fully customize this gift by contacting Brightland, or the self-service page makes simple customizations like branded digital gifting and printed gift notes ridiculously easy. 

Grove Cookie Company

Cookies are a rock-solid choice for custom corporate merch. Although perishable, these treats ship quickly and, as one of America’s favorite desserts, they universally delight recipients. For clients seeking a more affordable and subtle level of customization in comparison with full pictures printed on icing a la OREO, Grove Cookie Company fits the bill. Shopping for these custom snacks is intuitive and can be done without contacting a sales rep. When purchased, the cookie’s packaging is decorated with the client’s logo and the gift note gets printed out as well. 

Adding the Zest logo to Grove Cooke Company's corporate storefront.

AWAY Luggage

Luggage is an increasingly popular contender for corporate merch. We think it actually makes an awesome event giveaway, thank you to the most loyal customers, and celebratory gift for employees hitting meaningful milestones. It’s thoughtful and high-quality, which is only going to boost brand sentiment and reciprocity. AWAY is neat in that it offers several subtle customizations that make a big difference, proving that simplicity is powerful.

Toss Your Company into the Custom Products Ring (and Watch It Pay off Big Time)

If you’re looking for new ways to grow and audiences to attract in 2024, your corporate channel may be just the ticket. Don’t sleep on the power of modest customizations and the broad market things like logo stickers, printed gift notes, and branded digital experiences could have on your growth. The easiest path to getting your brand in front of more corporate customers is adding a Zest-powered storefront directly to your website. The brand-first approach turns shopping for merch, swag, and business gifts into an experience as easy as shopping for yourself. It’s the most user-friendly and automated approach to cracking this growing market and cranking this channel up to 11.

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Liz Lorge
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