When looking into branded merchandise an interesting case study is Coca Cola. Coca Cola is the global leader in the beverage industry worth around 21 billion dollars, producing sparkling beverages, juices, juice drinks, and ready-to-drink coffees (Coca Cola, Who We Are).
In addition to these beverages, Coca Cola also sells a wide range of merchandise and branded products. Items such as branded glasses and branded coolers are available on their Coke Store website.
These items are clearly linked to Coca Cola’s main product – the Cola drink. However, the Coke Store sells apparel for women, men and youth, items ranging from t-shirts to tracksuit bottoms to loungewear. As well as apparel other items sold on the Coke Store website includes phone cases, mouse mats, lip balm, stationary, travel tags, and keychains.
These items may sound vaguely familiar if you have ever been to a career evening, freshers fair, trade fair or even a university open day.
Promotional merchandise like is often use by different businesses covering a range of industries to help communicate to and incentivise customers. The difference here is Coca Cola have managed to sell promotional merchandise in a climate where most companies give away or gift similar products to current or potential customers/ clients, the Coke Store is particularly noteworthy because of this.
Consumers are paying Coca Cola to be walking, talking advertisers and brand endorsers, when usually brands or designers pay influencers, celebrities etc. to endorse them.
Although the average consumer wearing a Coca Cola brand t-shirt won’t get the same reach and attention as a paid celebrity brand ambassador, it will keep the Coca Cola logo visible and still provide a level of brand reinforcement to those who see the individual wearing the top.
Most of the merchandise products sold on the Coke Store have a practical value. Items such as lip balm, travel tags and even stationery are regularly used items by individuals on a broad cultural scale. Coca Cola’s products serve a purpose which works well on two levels, firstly the consumer has a reason to purchase the item – they are going on holiday and want a tag on their suitcase with their name, address and contact details, they have started school or a new job and need stationery.
Essentially there is a demand for the products’, and they serve a purpose to the consumer. Secondly by having people purchase these items not only is Coca Cola making a profit margin it is also creating paid for brand endorsement and reinforcement.
What can we learn from Coca Cola?
We can all learn from Coca Cola merchandise, by taking away the following:
- Having branded items that are practical and required in most people’s day-to-day life means the merchandise is likely to be used, therefore creating brand awareness, brand reinforcement and brand association
- If the merchandise is of a good quality and weathers well then that is a reflection on the brand regardless if the item itself is not directly linked to the company’s main products
If Coca Cola can get consumers to pay for merchandise then you can see how smaller more local companies like yours can easily give away good quality, well made and well-designed merchandise that will then be used.
Merchandise that is used and enjoyed serves as a free brand endorsement, helps communicate your company’s ideologies whilst also incentivising customers.