How to Strike the Perfect Balance Between Functionality and Branding

Whether sold as a branded product line or given away for promotional purposes, branded merchandise should aspire to be a must-have item that adds value to the owner’s life.

Whether sold as a branded product line or given away for promotional purposes, branded merchandise should aspire to be a must-have item that adds value to the owner’s life.


To achieve this lofty goal, any product created must be both functional and present the brand in a flattering light.


Striking this balance is difficult, but many are able brands do it with ease. How do they succeed where others fail? They look to the following branded merchandise design and item sourcing principles.


These three principles guide their decisions and help them create a vision for products that are both indispensable and irresistible.


Set Goals, and Segment Your Intended Recipient or Purchaser Base

The first step of any branding campaign is to consider the aim or purpose of creating branded merchandise. Your goals can include spreading general brand visibility around, raising awareness for a certain product line, giving brand loyalists a way to show off their personal spirit, or nearly anything else you can think of.


Once you have a goal in mind, you can begin to identify your target recipient for the branded merchandise. Are these fashion-forward people who spend lots of money on a few high-quality products? In that case, sourcing relatively expensive items and catering to a small, niche crowd works best. Generally speaking, the more expensive the source product, the more targeted and selective you will be for your target audience.


Or, maybe you’re looking to tap into an enthusiastic market that doesn’t necessarily have deep pockets but who still loves to show off their brand loyalty. In that case, maybe subtlety and luxury goes out the window in favor of flash and high visibility.


The key is to think about your branding goals and who can help you achieve those goals most ably. Then, flip the equation and think about what goals your target audience would have when they buy or accept branded merchandise. By thinking about their needs, you can pinpoint the perfect product that will offer both utility and great branding.


Look to Desirable Features and a Minimum Standard of Quality


No matter what your budget is for branded merchandise, you should look to the highest quality version of a product as possible within your needed price range. After all, the item represents your brand! Even if you intend to spend just a dollar or less per item, you can often achieve a huge jump in quality for just a small bump in price.


The key is to look to those who have knowledge about the product and who are resourceful when it comes to sourcing, like we are at Helm. With the right procurement assistance, you can learn the difference between plastics that tend to fade quickly or become brittle after going through the dishwasher, for instance. You can also pinpoint unfinished apparel that fits within your budget but won’t literally come apart at the seams.


Research will also tell you about features that people universally love. For instance, most sports oriented apparel now uses moisture wicking synthetic fabric. Glass water bottles with silicon protectors are also all the rage.


Similarly, sunglasses with polarized lenses protect from a wider spectrum of UV rays without compromising viewability. Items using rechargeable batteries are preferred over those with disposable batteries. And so on…


You can also think outside the box and apply your branding to unexpected products, such as kitchen utensils, first aid kits, tool sets and more.


The key is to find the extra unique selling points that make your branded merchandise stand out compared to the average fare. Mix that with a killer branding approach, and you have a recipe for success.


Let the Logo Version Fit the Product

Great branding should be versatile. Your logo should be just as appealing and recognizable as a monochrome graphic compared to using the preferred company scheme. Many great brands also do well when they drop the lettering in their logo in favor of a minimalist, pure graphical approach.


If you don’t have a fleshed out range of selectable logos yet, work with a graphic designer or branded merchandising partner like Helm to help you create different appealing iterations.


Once you do have a few logo variations to choose from, you can more ably match products with the right set of branding.


For instance, fleeces often benefit from a monochrome stitched logo that doesn’t draw a lot of attention. Old-style comfortable t-shirts often work best with a faded-looking version of the logo in a complementary color.


But other products may warrant a more-colorful version of your logo than normal. For example, warm weather leggings may benefit from an oversized splash logo rendered in a rainbow of neon colors.


The most interesting result when you are able to do this is that certain people get attached to variations of your logo. “I like one with the bold outlined letters and camouflage scheme,” one person might say, whereas someone else would prefer a minimalistic version rendered in a soft charcoal grey.


These are all just examples, but they illustrate how there is truly no one-size-fits-all approach to branded merchandise. Each item should be unique, special, and useful to its intended target audience.


The merchandise’s aspects should also complement one another: the unique branding makes the item more desirable while the usefulness of the item strengthens the image of the brand. When you can fit your chosen branded merchandise with a great design that intentionally fits with who you want to get value out of the product, that’s a win-win for everyone.


Get Highly Functional Branded Merchandise That Looks Great and Grabs Attention

Want full end-to-end service for creating the best branded merchandise driven by your goals? You can partner with Helm today. Between our decades of experience and thousands of industry connections, we provide all the right pieces for you to find success.


Contact us today to find out more.

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