Event Marketing & Planning

Custom Event Merchandise Ideas to Keep Attendees Engaged

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Custom event merchandising is a great way of keeping your brand in attendees' minds a long time after the event. In this article, we'll explore how custom merchandise can significantly enhance customer engagement at your next event.

The primary goal across all events shares a common thread: fostering customer engagement. Interaction between customers and your brand increases opportunities for:

  • Cultivating relationships,
  • Collecting valuable feedback and
  • Raising brand awareness and fortifying brand loyalty.

Whether you're hosting events in London, New York, or Tokyo, custom event merchandising is great way of keeping your brand in attendees' minds a long time after the event. In this article, we'll explore how custom merchandise can significantly enhance customer engagement at your next event. As per the data from Statista, 89% own stationery, 80% own t-shirts, and 78% own drinkware; one way or another, people own promotional products, making its purchase rate grow steadily.

This compelling factor prompts brands to contemplate incorporating custom merchandise at their promotional events.

Brands have traditionally utilized event mementos. The design of event mementos is typically straightforward, and they feature basic event details. Custom merchandise offers a unique way to leave a lasting impression and establish an interactive connection with attendees at your event. They go beyond traditional event mementos and focus on creating visually appealing and versatile items that participants want to use beyond the event. These may include stylish and thoughtful swag that attendees can use long after your event.

Keeping these trends in place, this blog explores how integrating custom merchandise can take your event to the next level.

How do you determine what type of merchandise to offer at your event?

To determine what type of merchandise to offer at your event, you should consider your target audience, event theme, and budget. Conduct market research to identify popular trends and preferences. Additionally, consider the practicality and relevance of the merchandise in relation to your event.

Custom merchandise and it’s power

Custom merch shows off what your event is all about. When the attendees wear or use these merchandise daily, they indirectly promote your event to a wider audience. In doing so, they effectively transform into brand ambassadors for your brand.

Custom merchandise is also an excellent means of starting the conversation around your brand. You may make merchandise a point of reference to spark conversations that amplify the impact of your event, such as:

  • A unique design,
  • A clever slogan,
  • A distinctive logo.

When wearers use custom merch daily, your brand gains continuous visibility. This visibility goes beyond the immediate audience, reaching friends, family, and even strangers who become curious about your event and brand.

By giving out custom merch, everyone can show they were part of the event and connect with it. It's a win for your company – it looks good, and your customers feel they've added something special to your business.

Custom merchandise: The design part

According to a study, 60.8% of marketers say visuals are key to their marketing plan. Cool merchandise can make your event a big success in no time. But a dull or not-so-great design can go against what your event is trying to achieve.

That's why the design part is crucial to your attendees' attention. Below is a short guide on designing to make the merch look good and appeal to your audience:

1. Choosing the right merchandise

When choosing the right merchandise for your event, it's essential to blend practicality with appeal. For a trade show, consider assembling a swag bag filled with goodies that reflect your brand merchandise and the interests of your attendees. Durable items like reusable water bottles, umbrellas, and sunscreen are thoughtful for outdoor events like SailGP. Meanwhile, luxury items can elevate the perceived value of your event. Think of incorporating branded pint glasses or deluxe backpacks adorned with your event's artwork.

To further tailor your offerings, consider tech-savvy options for software product launches or tech events. Branded chargers, Bluetooth headphones, and even custom-designed stickers can be a hit. Don't forget to align these choices with your brand guidelines, ensuring consistent branding across all items. For sponsorship events, like those involving Spy Ninjas or James Bond themes, you can create unique souvenirs, such as themed programmes or luxury items that resonate with the theme. Remember, the key is to offer a mix of merch ideas – from everyday essentials to exclusive goodies, all while keeping an eye on aspects like shipping needs and Instagram-worthy appeal.

2. Choosing the Best Design

Your design should capture both:

  1. Your brand and
  2. The essence of the event.

The things that make up your event brand's identity could be:

  • Your event name;
  • Your logo;
  • A captivating theme;
  • Typography;
  • Color palette;
  • Slogan.

Also, consider the event's location and the time of year. For example, if you're opting for t-shirts, you may:

  1. Choose a sleeve length suitable for the weather
  2. Use a color scheme that fits the season

3. Typography trends

Trends can add a modern touch, but choosing timelessly stylish fonts over time is also important. Typography can create a striking design that sticks with the audience when used well.

If you are considering making text a key part of your design, consider crafting a specific phrase for your event that tells your brand’s story and mission. Ensure the phrase you pick is short and easy to remember. Here are a few ways to make your meaningful phrase stand out -

  • Aim for a maximum of 3 fonts and avoid using too many fonts.
  • Create a lively design using different sizes, bolding words, and changing the casing.
  • When selecting a color contrast, be careful how they look when combined.
  • Choose a color that won't clash or get lost against the background.
  • Make sure the text on your merchandise is easy to read. Use clear fonts and avoid overly fancy or complicated ones.

4. Use a Design Platform

The design platform you choose can impact the quality of the visuals of your merchandise. Finding a combination that works becomes easier if you use a design platform with plenty of options.

You may use mockup generators on print-on-demand platforms to make your own t-shirt, hoodie, hat, and more.

Since your merchandise represents your event and cause, using a poor or cheap design platform can hurt your organization’s reputation.

Know Your Suppliers

After the design part, selecting the right supplier for your custom merchandise should be your next priority. Your supplier's reliability, quality, and efficiency directly impact your inventory's outcome and your event's success.

Here are some key considerations when selecting your supplier:

  • Look for suppliers with a proven record of delivering quality merchandise on time and fostering positive client relationships.
  • Evaluate their capacity to handle the volume of merchandise you require within your specified timeframe.
  • Work closely with the supplier and prioritize using high-quality materials. Check if the supplier uses high-quality fabric and materials.
  • Choose a supplier offering the best price and clear communication guidelines in case of some trouble.
  • Consider a vendor that can serve as both a design platform and supplier. This not only cuts costs but also saves you time.

Once you have finalized the merch, the design, and the supplier, it’s time to focus on marketing.

Create a marketing plan for your merchandise line

The next step is a carefully crafted marketing plan to make your merchandise sell like hotcakes at the event. Successful marketing will extend your brand's reach and create anticipation among your target audience. Here's a comprehensive guide to creating a robust marketing plan for your merchandise line:

1. Clear your objective

Clearly define the goals and objectives of your merchandise line. Are you aiming for:

  • Increased sales,
  • Brand visibility, or
  • Attendee engagement.

Based on your goal, put your marketing efforts in the right direction. It will also help you determine the price of your products.

Protip: You could offer an exclusive pre-order period for certain merchandise items if your goal is to increase sales during the event.

2. Build excitement

Begin building excitement weeks before the event, which may include:

  • A pre-event teaser
  • Interactive contest
  • Giveaway of merchandise
  • A countdown campaign

Share sneak peeks of unique designs, limited-edition items, or special features to encourage followers to look forward to the merchandise reveal.

Pro-tip: Use multiple marketing channels such as social media, email marketing, and more to create buzz.

3. Collaborate with influencers

It might be pricier, but if your budget allows, think about teaming up with an influencer in your industry. Ask to get your merchandise featured on influencers’ social media channels and share their excitement with reshares.

Influencer marketing will motivate their followers to explore the items at the event.

Statistics also tell that social media influencers influence 22% of Gen Z customers. So, collaborating with influencers is a good move to increase your sales.


Protip: Share branded assets like images, samples, or videos with your influencer. Additionally, you can build simple promotional templates that may be customized to match the influencer's personality. For the benefit of your creative staff, put out orientation presentations and catalogs. It can include media rules, best practices, and more.

4. Post-Event Follow-Up

Don’t lose the momentum after the event, and keep sending post-event emails expressing gratitude to your audience. Offer post-event discounts or exclusive deals on your merchandise to continue driving sales.

Protip: You may also send emails to collect feedback from event attendees and merchandise purchasers. This will help you refine your marketing strategy post-event analysis which we talk about in the following sections.

Maximize your merchandise sales in an event

Now that we’ve discussed simple yet effective strategies for a strong marketing plan before your event begins let's explore how to boost merchandise sales during the event. There are several things you can do to maximize sales. Based on your marketing plan, you may experiment with the strategies we'll cover below:

1. Discount and giveaways

On the event day, offer discount coupons and a limited number of giveaways on your merchandise through social media. This will encourage more people to attend the event and purchase your merchandise, increasing sales. Encourage attendees to use a specific hashtag for the event, increasing its visibility even more.

According to data, giveaways have an impressive 34% conversion rate, outperforming any other strategy. So, giveaways are a powerful technique to boost sales.

2. Create brand ambassadors among your fans

Before the event, select some top fans of your brand and declare them as your brand ambassadors during the event. Show appreciation by rewarding them among the event attendees with exclusive merchandise, like custom hoodies and apparel, to recognize their loyalty. This action delights your current fans and motivates others to become brand ambassadors.

Over time, these fans can evolve into trusted sales representatives for your brand.

3. Merchandise redemption points

Consider implementing a point system if you prefer something other than giveaways. Attendees can accumulate points by engaging in live contests during the event, which they can later redeem for merchandise purchases.

This approach encourages active participation among the audience and adds a fun and interactive element to the event.

4. Event-only offers

Try offering special discounts or promotions exclusive to the event. Limited-time discounts or exclusive merchandise releases can create a sense of urgency among attendees. This approach can drive sales growth.

5. Payment methods

Limited payment options can adversely impact your sales. Depending on the event location, ensure flexibility in accepting different payment methods, including:

  • Credit cards,
  • Mobile payments, and
  • Cash.

Analyze your sales after the event

After you have successfully organized the event, it’s time to analyze the performance of your merchandise. With proper analysis, you will be able to:

  1. Understand the effectiveness of your merchandise strategy,
  2. Identify areas for improvement, and
  3. Gain insights for future events.

Below are some key actions to take to help you analyze your post-event data -

  • Gather detailed transaction records, which include:
  • The number of units sold,
  • Sales revenue, and
  • The most popular items.

Categorize sales data based on product types, sizes, and price points to identify top-performing categories.

  • Identify the best-selling merchandise items and analyze the reasons behind their success. Consider factors that resulted in their popularity, such as:
  • Design appeal,
  • Pricing,
  • Exclusivity, or
  • Functionality.
  • Analyze the demographic information of the customers who made purchases. Understand the:
  • Age,
  • Gender,
  • Location, and
  • Other relevant characteristics.

This data will help you understand your target audience for future merchandise offerings.

If you don’t analyze your post-event insights and keep organizing events mindlessly, you are making reaching your merchandise sales goals difficult. By thoroughly examining your performance after the event, you gain valuable insights into the success of your merchandise strategy. Based on the insights gathered, adjust your merchandise strategy for future events.

Now you're armed with one of the best event merchandise ideas!  

Custom merchandise is an excellent tool for capturing attention at your event. From choosing the right merchandise to creating a strong marketing strategy, plan out everything beforehand.

Once the event ends, don’t forget to understand your target audience's characteristics thoroughly. Target audience consumer behavior becomes very important because if the merchandise doesn't resonate with your target audience, they won’t buy it. As a result, investing significant effort without any changes in your strategy may not yield the desired result.

Last but not least - Remember that not every strategy fits every brand. Influencer marketing may not be affordable for all businesses. They may consider using brand ambassadors instead. You may tweak this strategy per your objectives, needs, and budget.

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