The best businesses inspire emotions that go beyond a simple “this is where I buy some of my products or services.”  People feel a connection to great businesses, organizations and communities.  Expanding that connection through branded materials can improve advocacy, frequency of contact and add profit centers to your concept.
 
Think about the amount of sports team jerseys that you see on a daily basis.  How many times do you hear someone mention a certain brand associated with a consumer product (i.e., it’s not just “coffee”, it is Granada Coffee).  How often do you hear people referencing expertise within a business?  The brand awareness consumers relate to your business can be reinforced or monetized with implementation of an appropriate strategy.  Here are some things to consider:
 
1.  Wearable Merchandise-  Things like t-shirts, hats, socks and more can be ordered through local businesses (some are made locally) and can act as mobile billboards for your business.   Don’t be afraid to venture outside of the “here is my logo on a shirt” box, and have a little fun with specialized merchandise.  Look at the design and ask yourself “would I buy that?”  Highlight specialty products, services and other unique aspects of your business/organization/community.  Look on-line for memes and other inspiration to include fun quotes or imagery.  Nikki B’sNavrats and Uncommon Threads are all local companies you can quickly reach out to for wearable items.
 
2.  Labeled Food-  If you are a restaurant, and people say “I love your food”, maybe it is time to think about bottling sauces, creating packaged food items or finding other ways to capitalize on your culinary name.  Packaged products need to go through a testing process and obtain proper labeling, but restaurants already have a commercial kitchen.  During slower times between “rushes”, you can use staff to produce products that you can sell internally or through a variety of different food distribution outlets.  Contact the Kansas State University Value Added Foods Lab for assistance.
 
3.  Check Lists-  People that use professional services sometimes wonder “what am I forgetting?”  Simple calendars, check lists and preparation guides with your business information and logo attached extend your customer service and reinforce your brand.  Talk to your customers about what they wish they knew when utilizing your business, and convert those conversations into functional products.  Local companies like Chester Press can help print out your customized paper items quickly.
 
4.  Personal Packaged Products-  You don’t always have to go out and create a new product.  Some companies will allow you to add your own personalized branding information to a pre-existing item.  If you have a cleaning agency, you might want to have a personalized brand of cleaning products you endorse.  If you are an artist, you might brand some of the products you utilize to create your art.  If people enjoy your products or services, they might be willing to purchase the items you use.
 
5.  Functional Branded Items-  Things like glassware, water bottles, flash drives and many more products may fit your business model and provide retail items for sale while simultaneously reinforcing your brand image.  These items must be “usable” AND related to your business if you want the brand concept to stick, but for the right businesses with a certain clientele- these types of items are helpful.
 
6.  Interactive Items-  At Emporia Main Street, we’ve had good luck with game items (like decks of cards or board games) as branded items.  Think about your business/organization category, and then find an appropriate game item that could be produced that reinforces your brand image.  There are several companies that can print playing cards.  We used Late for the Sky to print our board game.
 
7.  Tourist Traps-  Things like spoons, key chains, teddy bears, mugs and other items that are “touristy” in nature can offer merchandising opportunities- particularly during heavy event seasons.  Price points needs to be considered when purchasing these types of items (volume purchase quantity is also a consideration), but these impulse items can reinforce your brand while creating the potential for return visits.  AKA Marketing, Nikki B’s and Navrats are just a few local companies you can go to for specialty items.
 
8.  Software-  This is a relatively new entry into the world of branded merchandise, but mobile applications and other mobile optimized software can help extend your service and brand awareness to the consumer.  The amount of mobile application production companies has expanded significantly over the past few years, and mobile optimized software can often be accessed through your website (driving on-line traffic to your door).  Content and functionality are two critical components of software based merchandising, so make sure you have a plan that adds value to your consumer prior to proceeding.  Outside of working with software agencies, remember that we have app development locally through Emporia State University’s CIS Department, Flint Hills Technical College and Emporia High School’s Business Department.
 
When people think of service or retail businesses, they don’t always think about the ability of these businesses to reinforce their brand through the creation of unique products.  Successful businesses create opportunities by finding ways to exist outside of business “norms”.  Think of products you can create for your business that reinforce your brand- not just your logo and contact information.  Some planning can create additional profit centers and form a closer connection with your customers.  If you need some additional assistance with product ideas or local businesses that can take your idea and create actual merchandise, contact Emporia Main Street.  We are here to help!