The Power of Branded Products Is Beyond the Product

Last month as I walked aisles of brandable products at the largest trade show and educational conference I attend each year, the voices in my head of newer clients and prospects played over and over:

  • “We have a closet filled with products; someone thought we needed them and now we’re stuck with them because…”
  • “The person who had this job before me thought the [‘fill in the blank’] was going to be on trend forever, and now it’s outdated clutter.”
  • “I went to our storeroom to find a product to use at an event and found all the products looked old and tired, not hip.”
  • “We’ve gotten burned before when purchasing [‘fill in the blank’]. The product didn’t look or feel like it did online/in the catalog.”

These lamentations are reflections of poor branded product implementations that send good products to landfills and chip away at brand equity. However, when done well, a product can help you elevate your brand and become a coveted item by your target audience.

Brand management with products that sing

Managing your brand through the use of branded products is not simple. It’s important to acknowledge that branded products aren’t like other forms of marketing and communication. The tactic continuously exposes your brand reputation as it keeps your brand top of mind. When recipients use the product after the event, the positive memories created at the event help your company’s image shine.

As important as branded products are to a company’s marketing/communication strategy, they are not created equal. So keep the following questions around ROX (return on experience) in mind when choosing a product to represent your brand:

  • Alignment – Do the products you are thinking of align with your company—its ethics, values, and promises to your stakeholders (employees, clients, etc.)?
  • Quality – Does the product quality support the reputation you have built for your company? Think of your end-user’s brand experience with the product as a good investment that will pay off.
  • Functionality – Is the product high functioning, solving daily challenges or something that people will interact with often?
  • Conversation worthy – Is the product creative and interesting enough to spark dialogue and share on social media, extending brand awareness?
  • Brand ambassador – Does the product humanize your company to become a “brand ambassador”? Adding companion messaging AND packaging helps highlight the people behind your company and conveys shared values. Thoughtful items that recipients enjoy long-term help add a human touch to your brand image.

Most common branded product mistakes 

We’ve found consistent gaps in what companies should be thinking about when managing brands through tangible products:

  • Short-term thinkingA report from Deloitte highlights the benefits of long-term brand building through a comprehensive strategic approach vs. focusing on short-term metrics.
  • Advertising vs. experience – A company that obsesses over its logo and exclusively uses a product as an advertising vehicle versus prioritizing the recipient’s experience is overlooking the product’s role as a useful touch point with your brand.
  • Lack of planning – Elevating the use of branded products takes more time than just putting your logo on a product. First, create the message, then think through product options, sourcing, packaging, and delivery to the target audience. Plan to optimize the recipient experience!
  • Emphasis on cost savings – Too often companies over-order to extend their reach as far as possible and will consider a product with a low price point to get more. This can quickly derail your brand story and undermine your messaging. Be selective about what you purchase for the targeted recipient. The last thing you want is for people to see your brand in the garbage.
  • Brand Guidelines – When your brand guidelines are not front and center in the thinking process, it’s easy to develop a product that ignores carefully crafted brand messages and logo usage parameters leading to a brand disconnect.

Protecting brand reputation through product

Most companies do not have the internal resources and experience needed to appropriately source branded products from thousands of companies and millions of products. An outside partner with education and training in sourcing, knowledge about current trends and compliance, and creative design experience, provides big-picture consultation on campaign objectives and product selection, as well as how to integrate with existing marketing efforts for high-level branding.

Incorporating current trends

Consider current trends to find meaningful ways to optimize the perceived value of your branded products. Product trends that support big-picture trends are the kind that people are willing to pay for and use, positioning your brand in a very favorable light.

Current trends include:

  • Sustainability (environmental, social, and both) – According to a 2021 Deloitte study, 47% of millennials and Gen Z consider a company’s environmental practices before accepting a job offer. By 2025 together they will make up 58% or more of all global talent, given demographic shifts. Their workforce dominance requires all brands to advance ethical policies and environmentally sound practices when incorporating branded products:
    • Products made from repurposed/upcycled materials save landfill space.
    • Products manufactured closer to home lower carbon footprint.
    • Products manufactured with disadvantaged labor provide meaningful work to those with disabilities.
    • Product manufactured by a certified B Corp to create positive global progress, balancing purpose alongside profits.
  • Highly customized and/or personalized products

Instead of typical branded products, consider unexpected, distinctive items. Examples include

fully branded apparel, customized socks, plants, yoga mats, and more. Completely custom

jacket including material colors and zipper colors. Available in small unit purchases.



  • Collaboration

Sourcing products with local and small business partnerships does double duty,

enhancing your brand and demonstrating community support. Think about creating

a themed package using local artists, artisan foods, and hand-crafted products.

Customized platter with locally sourced pancake mix and maple syrup.




Event-centric experiences
Events come in all sizes and shapes. For example, companies can host client/employee appreciation events around special interests that bring to life brand values. A branded product keeps the fun experienced at the event on replay each time recipients use it. For instance, a company espousing health and wellness could host a yoga class where participants receive a yoga mat. Guests on a crisp fall outdoor evening around a firepit receive a warm hat or mittens and leave with the s’mores kit they used to end the evening on a sweet note. Attendees at a coffee tasting receive a high-end specialty mug (maybe even personalized).

Promising possibilities

The possibilities are virtually endless for using branded products to deliver a meaningful recipient experience that strengthens brand awareness and company image. However, as one piece of your marketing mix, it’s important to integrate branded products with your entire marketing communications and branding strategy.

If you’re looking for a partner to help lighten your load and help you strategically think through a more strategic use of branded products in your marketing and communications initiatives let’s start a conversation. Call 800-742-6800 or email today. For more information and tips for engaging stakeholders, sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can find our newsletter sign-up at at the bottom right corner of the page.