Merchandise (merch) is clothing, accessories, souvenirs and any other functional or simply beautiful things with brand symbols.
This is not only a way to attract new customers, but also to increase company awareness – the right merchandise creates associations with the brand and becomes a tool of self-expression. Recently, the merchandise industry is reaching a new level – more and more merchandise collaborations of famous companies with fashion designers and contemporary artists appear.
Where did this concept come from and why has merch become such a powerful communication tool for the brand? Let’s figure it out!
Born to be wild: how the history of merch began
It all started in the 60s, when rock bands, touring America endlessly, began selling T-shirts with their logo to loyal fans. Since then, clothes with the symbols of their favorite bands have firmly wedged into the fans’ wardrobe. An item of clothing remains just an item until the name of the idol is written on it.
As soon as a T-shirt gets a print with the image of a favorite group or football team, it turns into an artifact that carries symbolism, a message of views and belonging to a subculture.
Over time, fan artifacts have become a fashion trend, getting into the collections of famous designers. Back in 1977, all-punk designer and grandmother Vivienne Westwood released cheeky Sex Pistols t-shirts featuring Queen Elizabeth with her lips pierced with a pin. Nowadays, such merch can be seen in any shopping center: popular brands regularly release T-shirts with covers and logos of Metallica, Black Sabbath, The Doors, etc.
What kind of merch is there?
Merch has become a vast concept in recent years, so it can take the form of anything. It all depends on the imagination of the designers. Moreover, it is not even necessary to place a logo – if the corporate identity is recognizable, only corporate colors can be used. Of course, the classic merch that everyone is used to is still alive and popular. It includes:
- notebooks and pens,
The trends in the world of merch do not stand still, and many modern companies are abandoning the timeless classics in favor of new inventive forms. With the help of merch, you can catch the eye and attract the attention of new customers. Merch is not just a collection of souvenirs, but a whole communication system, the view on which is beginning to change.
What good merchandise looks like
Good merchandise is about reimagining the things people use on a daily basis. Merch mimics the things we are used to and becomes a part of life. Until recently, branded merchandise in Russia was dull and did not try to capture a large territory. The most he could offer you was to drink coffee from a mug with a huge logo, write down the plan for the day in a branded notebook using a branded pen, and then wearily light a cigarette using a lighter in corporate colors.
Here I have collected several examples of branded products from Russian companies. Let’s take a look at what is happening in the universe of Russian merch today.
Look at the collections of merch from Alfa-Bank. The designers approached the issue of creating artifacts creatively and made a whole line of modern design items. There are bright red balance boards, high socks “Like Urgant”, and even transparent shoes with laces in the color of the corporate identity. There are classic echoes like pens and pencils, but there is also a designer spice here – red pepper seeds are included with the pencil. Why red? I think you take the hint.
Museum contemporary art Garage
The museum’s website has a separate “Store” tab. There are not only books in the Garage series, there is also a category of gift ideas. Here you will find many modern accessories such as a reusable glass, shopping bag and even a reusable safety mask. Functional things must meet the needs of society at the moment.
Online store OZON
The well-known marketplace also keeps pace with the times – the site contains a collection of branded accessories and things. Ozone has created two lines of clothes in corporate colors – “Ozon Blue” and “Ozon Margenta”: sweatshirts, raincoats, belt bags and T-shirts.
Ping Pong Club Moscow
PPCM is a table tennis court in Moscow that has created a line of minimalist merch. The collection includes long sleeves, trousers and bags with the site’s logo. In addition to the main line of clothing, PPCM has launched a collaboration with Kixbox. It features T-shirts with prints of photographs by the founder of the site and photographer Alexei Kiselev.
The Boucher confectionery chain also has a branded line of limited merchandise. The collection “City in spite of” is wonderful things with the spirit of St. Petersburg. Raincoats, hats, hoodies and sweatshirts with prints of the geographical coordinates of St. Petersburg are a great idea. You can buy things in the pastry shops themselves.
Why does a brand need merch?
With rock bands and their fans, everything is clear. But why does a brand need merch? The mechanism works in much the same way here. If a brand is sufficiently prestigious, and a community is created around it, a person becomes a part of this community with the help of merch. Let’s say someone is a fan of a certain media outlet, enjoys attending events in a fashion gallery, or often dines at a popular restaurant. To show his affiliation and how to become a part of his favorite brand, he can purchase merchandise and broadcast the code non-verbally. If people are close to the philosophy of the brand, they are willing to share their views with the help of merch.
- Recognizability… Functional merch that people actually use is woven into the lifestyle. If the item looks stylish, then your merch turns into a full-fledged fashion accessory. Merch also serves as a reminder: the constant presence of your logo or your corporate color in people’s lives is a great way to stay close to customers.
- Additional income… A line of beautiful merchandise can be sold under your own brand. Many companies create mini-shops with merchandise on their websites. It is popular if the artifacts are well made and are in line with current design trends.
- Nice memories… People buy merchandise at events as souvenirs. The event is a great occasion to present a new line of merch, especially if it will be exclusively sold out only within the framework of the event.
Merch from Timeweb. For sale, by the way, here
Merch collaborations with designers
Large companies often partner with artists and fashion designers to create a top-notch and eye-catching product. Not only is the collaboration a powerful news feed, but this merch attracts rave looks and also raises hype. For the first time, the world saw a rethinking of merchandise in the Vetements collection of the Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia. Then, in the spring-summer 2016 collection, a branded DHL courier shirt was presented. This is how merch entered the modern world of postmodernism.
Cool examples of merch collaborations
For large brands, merch is one of the ways to build an image. Inventive merch becomes like art. Collaborations sustain interest in the brand, the art world mixes with merchandise, and the result is a completely new cultural product. Below I have collected great examples of design merch from well-known companies for you.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has already created several excellent collaborations with leading streetwear brands, including Puma, Yohji Yamamoto, Heron Preston and others.
Yandex has already done several great collaborations. One of them is under the Yandex.Taxi brand.
The collection of clothes from Yandex.Taxi and designer Crosby Studios Garry Nureyev is called “Safe is the new sexy”. When creating the collection, real car accessories were used – car locks, eco-leather, microfiber, car first-aid kits and seat belts.
Another merch collaboration is the Yandex Museum and the Russian clothing brand Kruzhok. The designers used the exhibits of the museum as a source of inspiration, and the collection itself is made in a working style with a touch of nostalgia for the nineties.
Japanese sportswear and footwear brand Asics, together with the Moscow Metro, have created an original merchandise – a limited edition sneaker. The design of the sneakers belongs to the hands of Artemy Lebedev. The design uses the colors of the metro lines, and the laces have a pattern with partners’ logos.
ZASPORT and Usachevsky market
Usachevsky Market in collaboration with ZAPSPORT created hoodies, T-shirts and trousers with prints of recipes in retro-sketch style. Part of the proceeds from the sale of merch will go to a charitable foundation.
Theater “Gogol Center”
Gogol Center, together with the Moscow clothing brand Smerch and several contemporary artists, have created a collection of merch. The result is trendy hoodies and sweatshirts with original prints.
J Balvin and McDonald’s
This unusual merch was born from a collaboration between McDonald’s and reggae singer J Balvin. The collection contains many funny colored panamas, glasses, watches and blankets. There’s even a transferable McDonald’s check tattoo and soft burger-shaped slippers. For true connoisseurs!
In contact with
Designers from Esthetic Joys, together with VKontakte, have made an original merch: this is a collection of clothes with prints that come to life using AR technology. The collection of merch includes hoodies, bags, hats and scarves. The clothes have instructions for launching: the QR code is scanned through the VK application, and when you point the camera at the jacket, an animated 3D logo appears. Technologies!
Trends in modern merch suggest that classic forms are undergoing a change. The experience of large companies shows that people are ready to become part of the brand philosophy if it resonates in their hearts. Collaborations with artists have given birth to a new perspective on what good merchandise can be. The merchandise industry is growing every year and becoming more inventive, and design trends only fuel this environment.