14/09/2016 2:03 PM IST | Updated 14/09/2016 2:05 PM IST

Merchandise Campaigns: When Returns On Your Gifts Really Matter

Most of us have been handed our share of cheap mugs emblazoned with a company brand name. It's a fairly standard practice in promotional campaigns to offload generic doodads on potential customers or some other target audience. Now, I don't want to say that business owners are cheap, but a lot of times that's what it boils down to. Rather than see promotional products as an investment in their brand they see it as just an expense. I think this is short-sighted. Investing just a little bit more on the right product -- preferably something unique – will leave a better impression and, therefore, will bring you a bigger return. That being said, I don't think people have to spend a fortune. When you pick the right products, you'll buy a lower quantity of better quality items, give them out to more qualified traffic, and spend about the same on something that will last rather than inflicting thousands of low-quality mugs on your targets.

Every product with a logo works as a silent brand ambassador, which is something that brand managers often tend to forget.

The gifting market in India is estimated at $30 billion, two-thirds of which is festive gifting. Unfortunately, innovation in this segment seems to be in its death throes in India, which means that run-of-the-mill Chinese products are ruling the roost. I wish brands would understand that there's more to the business of "gifting" than getting a logo printed on merchandise. Every product with a logo works as a silent brand ambassador, which is something that brand managers (due to procurement pressure) often tend to forget. A tatty keychain or undistinguished mug isn't going to do your brand any favours.

Over the years, I've witnessed some successful merchandise campaigns and seen a few that couldn't even get off the ground. I also realized that the highly successful campaigns had something in common: they were innovative. The ones that failed also had a common flaw: a lack of organization in the early planning stages. So, how can we prevent costly mistakes, especially when festive season is around the corner?

Here are my top three must-dos to ensure you get maximum ROI out of your merchandise campaign:

1. Identify a roadmap for your campaign

It's pretty hard to measure success or create a budget without having a goal for your campaign. Start with a clear vision: what do you want to accomplish with your merchandise? Is it to increase brand revenue, extend brand visibility or influence a distributor network? Identifying a vision beforehand will help you make decisions later on.

2. Clear distribution strategy

Obviously, you don't want merchandise that just sits in your corner office. Think hard about how you will get your merchandise into the hands of your qualified target audience. Is there a specific deadline you must hit? Will you distribute your merchandise in multiple locations or will it be a city-specific campaign?

3. Be smart with your ₹₹₹

Think about your campaign goal and estimate the merchandise quantities you will need. For example, if your goal is to influence a consumer/ distributor network, how many people are in your network? Or if your goal is to expand brand visibility by giving away merchandise at an exhibition, what is the estimated flow of people and how many do you expect will visit your stall? Determine an approximate quantity of products you will need and compare that number to the rupees you have to spend. As you narrow your product search, stick to your budget and make sure to avoid over-ordering.

How you plan for your merchandise campaign can make all the difference between a cracking campaign and a damp squib. Those that identify their campaign vision, think about product/ merchandise distribution tactics and spend their budget wisely will come out ahead. Well planned is half done, after all.