There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but in the world of marketing, when you receive a free product such as pens, cups, shirts and almost any kind of things with the logo of a brand you’re being part of what we call branded merchandise. It is a practice well known by big companies who are able to use a little part of their huge revenues in different gifts to promote their brand, but it is something that could be applied by smaller companies to achieve particular goals.

“Content marketing comes down to commitment. There’s no halfway. You’re either in or you’re out,” said the founder of Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi, and that phrase applies to this topic in hand: branded merchandise requires commitment in order to achieve its full potential without spending a dime.

The selection of the right products for a branded merchandise strategy is essential to reach your goals. My advice is to offer products with a useful application in people’s daily life because the logo of your brand will be present in a constant way, which translates to more time in the head of our potential client that could be the difference between them selecting our brand over our competitor. Useful products that I’ve branded in the past have included earbuds, pocket knives, power banks, bags or drink wares.

Use of products such as pens or key chains could have a negative impact in the branded merchandise strategy because people could throw it away or keep it, but never use it. Keeping a variety of products that could be useful to the potential clients or maybe give collectible products related to the company are two good options to take advantage from this marketing strategy. Another good strategy to give extra value or a unique status, is to associate the products with events or special occasions.

Of course, it’s always helpful to look for examples and here are a few extremely creative cases of branded merchandise done right:


This one is actually pretty ironic: during Oral Health Month in Thailand, Colgate decided to offer candies and other sweets to its customers, with every single one of them shaped like toothbrushes with the message of “Don’t forget” and the Colgate logo. Instead of making an enemy of sweets (which people are always going to buy and eat, anyways), they used them as a way to promote their product.


An online Dutch car insurance company gained massive video views and 3x the website traffic by creating extremely realistic fake scratches with sticky paper, with the words “We repair your damages as easily as you remove this sticker” while adding the company’s contact information. People either kept the stickers or put them on their friends car as a joke due to the extreme realism.

Vantage Detergent

This is a Brazilian company that offered a free packet of their stain remover in the shape of a ketchup stain, adding a phrase that said “Stains. Hard to avoid, easy to remove. Vantage stain remover.” The success of this merchandise, which gave away more than 100,000 samples in three days, was the fact that they were a bit deceiving to the eye, making people look twice and asking what they were, thus creating interest.

All of these previous campaigns were successful due to the marketing research involved in preparing the campaigns. I strongly recommend that all businesses should include a branded merchandising budget in the company’s financial plan, which will make the definition of a strategy a lot easier.

Having something with your name on it doesn’t mean anything, it’s where you put that name that matters –that’s why you should take the advice from Larry Kim, an Influential Advertising Expert:

“Be a unicorn in a crowd of donkeys”.