Create A Tribe with Your Branded Merchandise

Despite the fact that technology makes us more “connected” than ever before, that is not how most of us feel.  Studies tell us that people feel more lonely than ever.  And this was true BEFORE Covid-19 forced us to isolate even more.  Our culture is starving for real human connection.  We want to have a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging.  It’s a basic human need….and many of us are struggling to meet it.  We want, and need, a tribe.

Believe it or not, great brands can help.

In his latest book, “Marketing Rebellion,” author Mark Schaefer says that the best brands build a tribe that helps them create a sense of belonging.  These brand loyalties, when they are strong enough, help us to explain not only where we belong, but where we don’t.  Harley Davidson, for example, has created a tribe that is passionate about a lifestyle of freedom.  Yeti is a brand that represents outdoor living and high quality.  The people that belong to these tribes not only are loyal to their brand, but they are proud to share the message too.

And how do they share this love for brand and show their sense of belonging?  Promotional Products.

In his book, Schaefer talks about a Nike fan that was so passionate about his desire to “Just do it,” that he tattooed the swoosh logo on both ankles.  While most of us are not willing to tattoo a brands logo to our body (more people do this than you might think) we often do the next best thing.  We advocate for our favorite brands with less permanent “tattoos.”  These might be stickers on our laptops, fun images on our socks and even t-shirts that we wear all the time.  These simple pieces of branded merchandise help us to spread the brand gospel and show that we are part of a tribe.  They show what we stand for…and what we don’t.

Done right, promotional products and branded merchandise can help our fans create a sense of belonging that is missing in their life.

We just need to be intentional about helping them create it.

For example, did you know that 22% of Harley Davidson sales are not the bikes?  They have created merchandise that not only allows their fans to spread the gospel, it’s created a nice revenue source too.  In addition, when YETI was getting it’s start, they included a branded t-shirt and/or a cap with every purchase.  They used this branding strategy to help spread the word (and create that tribe) with every purchase.  And remember that brandivate launch I wrote about a few weeks ago?  They used branded merchandise to create a tribe from day 1.

As a side note, the response was so overwhelming that brandivate needed to go back to the well!  People who wanted to be a part of the tribe reached out strongly enough that they created a 2nd wave of mailers for people that wanted to be in the group.

It can be exciting when we understand the impact we have have with our marketing efforts.  Done right, you can not only impact your sales efforts, you can create a tribe and a sense of belonging for your fans.

And that is a purpose worth working towards.

Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.