Swag with swagger: Feel the brand-building power of logoed merchandising

Experts share their top tips for creating cool pizza swag that customers really want—and getting it into their hands.




Washington, D.C.-based &Pizza has made logoed merchandise, featuring the company’s trademark ampersand, a key part of its branding strategy.

&pizza

 

You know the drill. 

Logoed merchandise equals free advertising and enhanced brand loyalty. But did you know it can also forge close ties with the community, foster mutually beneficial partnerships with local artists and influencers, and ramp up your employees’ cool quotient? Today, pizzerias and promotional gurus alike are expanding the possibilities and power of cool merchandise—here’s their sage advice on creating swag with swagger.

Release a new collection of swag at least yearly to keep it fresh, fun and exciting. Tie in a pop culture trend!

 

“Roberta’s Pizza in Brooklyn, New York, has done an amazing job of building their brand and cult following through swag and branded apparel. It starts with the underlying brand identity, and a creative brand mark or logo is one of the driving forces. Fonts, color palette and imagery all play a part in customers’ adoption of and affinity with a brand. Roberta’s has used graffiti-style artwork geared toward the alternative counterculture in Bushwick. They sell online via their website, while in-store merch is displayed on the walls. And employees wear branded items while working, which entices diners to purchase. It’s a great way to turn customers into brand ambassadors!”

Nicole Biscardi  |  AllDay Industry
New York, NY

 

Partner with a local artist to create your swag design. This strengthens your ties to the community and lets you customize your swag to suit each location’s vibe.

“Standards like magnets, T-shirts, hats and beanies will always be popular, but now you can offer more unique items for top clients—think portable cell phone chargers in the shape of a pizza slice. For large-volume orders, you can get basic logoed T-shirts for $2 or less, so set up programs where customers buy a slice and get a T-shirt for $5—not only do you make a small profit on the shirt, but you get free advertising and increase brand loyalty!”

Harry Ein  |  Perfection Promo
Walnut Creek, CA

 

“The not-so-secret technique to getting the best value out of your swag investment is to generate useful materials, not necessarily fun or exciting items like Frisbees or noisemakers. T-shirts and hats are great, but pens, notepads, mugs, books and bags are harder to turn down. 

A nicely branded canvas tote is especially good, particularly if you’re giving away other items or if you just want to sneak some menus or flyers into the swag. You want customers to use, or at least keep, the items, so ensure that your logo, design or other branding doesn’t ‘ruin’ the basic value of the item. Consider designing merchandise with lifestyle messaging first and logo second—for example, T-shirts with a pi symbol on the chest and maybe your logo on the sleeve’s hem or shoulder. Or try a notepad with pages that say ‘To-Do List’ on top, and on the bottom, ‘Order a pizza from [pizzeria name and phone number].’”

Rich Harris  |  insomniagraphix
Montclair, NJ

 

“Our initial efforts were turning music-themed T-shirts into ripped and torn vintage tees with our logo—fusing the music selections we love into shirts our customers could wear. Our next iteration was creating custom tees with different cropped images of original artwork, by artist Dessie Jackson, displayed in our restaurant. In 2017, we collaborated with the comic artist Creees HyunSung Lee, creating a Canyon of Heroes [New York City’s setting for ticker-tape parades] illustration for T-shirts. It incorporated our servers and back-of-house staff as heroes, riding a parade float down the Canyon of Heroes, being adored.”

Michael DiBugnara  |  Adoro Lei
New York, NY

 

Know your community and target audience. Create swag they’ll use, and find out where they’ll be so you can put it in front of them.

“Oath Pizza offers an array of swag, most notably the ‘Crust Fund Baby’ T-shirt and ‘Pizza Is My Therapy’ tote bag. Our successful swag is a team effort. Often, we’ll receive requests from employees, guests and/or business partners asking for a certain type of swag, and if the team agrees it’s on-brand, they go for it. We have two strategies for getting swag into the hands of guests. First, employees don’t wear a traditional uniform, but, rather, an array of Oath-branded shirts, hats, buttons and more (and employees often wear their Oath gear outside of work). In addition, Oath gives away swag at almost every event we participate in! 

Suzanne Lenzer  |  Oath Pizza
Boston, MA

 

“Choose high-quality promotional items that are in line with your business and will showcase your logo or message. For a pizzeria, customized sunglasses or flying discs can emphasize a fun, casual atmosphere. Contests, open houses, holidays, landmark anniversaries and seasonal events are all opportunities to distribute personalized swag to customers. People love free stuff! Plus, every time they use the items you gave them, your name or message gets positive exposure. It’s long-term advertising at affordable pricing.”

Shelley Grieshop  | Totally Promotional
Coldwater, OH

 

Use swag as a thank-you gift for guests who send awesome feedback, and get it in the hands of local influencers, partners and friends of your brand

“We have a lot of fun creating our swag and only make things we’d want to own or wear ourselves. For certain items, we’ll commission designs from our artist partners, and then our in-house designers will take it to the finish line. Other times, we go through the entire design process in-house. All of our Tribe members (employees) rock &swag—which we provide for free—every day in the shops. They’re the best gauge if something is going to sell or not—if it’s a hit with employees, we know we can sell it. Finally, we work with an influencer agency, Village Marketing, which has a lot of great relationships with influencers and bloggers. We seek out people who we feel are on-brand, represent a segment of our target demographic and generally have large reach. We did a holiday campaign where part of the strategy was hosting Influencer Sleepovers at select hotels in each of our markets. We gifted a few top-tier influencers all of our new, limited-edition holiday swag in our custom swag boxes (along with pizza) for the ultimate girls’ night in. We got amazing content and millions of impressions out of it!”   

Dana Fraser  |  &pizza
Washington, D.C.

 

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