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Case Study: 3 Big Companies That Use Promotional Products

Miriam Diiren
Digital Content Creator & Marketing Coordinator

Promotional products have a lot of potential. That is why large corporations, medium sized enterprises and small businesses use promotional products to their advantage to increase sales. Particularly when you understand your target market and their needs, your promotional products will be valued and appreciated — your business will generate ROI on branded merchandise.

We understand that producing promotional products can be an up-front investment with uncertain ROI for some businesses. We’re here to tell you that branded merchandise is worthwhile. Some of the biggest brands in the world rely on promotional products and branded merchandise accessories as part of their online catalogues.

Let’s start with the basics about branded merchandise before providing you with 3 examples of brands that optimise their promotional products. 


What is branded merchandise?What-is-promotional-products-merchandise

Branded merchandise is a powerful tool for companies to connect with their audience and showcase their brand identity. It offers a tangible representation of a brand and is a daily reminder of its positive impact on our lives. From cosy hoodies to trendy water bottles, branded merchandise can bring customers joy and a sense of value, inspiring them to be more loyal to the brand.

The benefits of branded merchandise go beyond customer satisfaction. It can also be a powerful marketing tool, increasing brand awareness and attracting new customers. By creating unique and eye-catching merchandise, companies can stand out from the competition and leave a lasting impression on their audience. Branded merchandise is a win-win for businesses and customers alike, offering a way to spread positivity, build brand loyalty, and create a lasting impact that extends beyond a simple transaction.


How much do companies spend on branded merchandise?

Interestingly, medium to large organisations were the largest contributors to the promotional products industry in 2022. Companies within the $1M – 2.5M(USD) revenue bracket sold almost $6M(USD) of promotional goods in 2022. Although there was a dramatic dip in sales during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the 2022 industry results not only show that the market has rebounded, but it is also growing!


Which companies use promotional products to their advantage?


When many of us think of merchandise we think of it as the local brewery selling bottle openers, or going to a concert and buying the musicians’ merch, or winning a Gift With Purchase product. We tend to think of small to medium sized businesses or specific events using promotional products and branded merchandise the most. Surprisingly though, large companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Microsoft also use promotional products to their advantage.

The key to successful merchandise for these large companies is subtlety. Apple’s best selling merchandise is their product accessories, while Coca-Cola focuses on B2B merchandise and Microsoft has a mixture of B2B merchandise and B2C merchandise, with particular popularity of Xbox accessories. 

Let’s have a look at these three companies and how they use promotional products to their advantage.


1. Apple


As of January 2022, Apple was the first company to surpass $3 trillion (USD) in market value and made over $385.095 billion USD of revenue in 2022. Now, we’re not saying that Apple made all this money simply from having merchandise as part of their marketing strategy, but it certainly contributes to their annual revenue because the products are so simple.

Apple is the chapel of tech — quite literally. Some even say that Apple stores are the modern version of a temple, with people meeting outside stores on product release days and feeling valued when being allowed to enter. Right down the architecture of the stores mirror that of a church or temple; big heavy doors at the front, isles on the inside, bright lights on both sides of the store and the ‘alter’ at the back where you purchase your Apple goods.

Owning the latest Apple goods has become somewhat of a ritual and Apple is taking this to their advantage by creating everything and anything a customer would need for their product — this is where their merchandise comes in. Apple offers Apple branded iPhone cases, iPad cases, MacBook cases plus phone leather wallets, stylist pens and even their brand new AirTag luggage bag tags. These are all things you could live without, but when you purchase an Apple product and are then offered these additional promotional products to enhance your customer experience, it just makes sense to add it to your cart. 



2. Coca-Cola


Everyone recognises the red and white soft drink Coca-Cola. Although not as highly ranked on the market economy ladder compared to Apple, Coca-Cola’s market value reached $282.86 billion USD last year. In total, they still made over $43 billion USD of revenue in 2022

You may be familiar with Coca-Cola’s named bottles that occasionally make appearances on the supermarket shelves; with all the common names like John, Molly and Rob selling out the fastest. These named bottles were so popular in the 2010’s that Coca-Cola has taken it to the next level this decade, with individual customisable labels! This means anyone, anywhere, can customise a Coca-Cola label with a special message or name. It’s a promotional product that customers will really value.

Coca-Cola is also masters of Gift With Purchase promotional products — partnering with McDonalds across the globe has resulted in thousands of household having Coca-Cola merch in their own homes. If you grew up in Australia during the 2010s, you might remember the ‘Coca-Cola bottle shaped’ glassware that McDonalds was giving away. You could collect all 6 colours and we’d take them home and make milo in those glasses. Everyone learned the hard way that the last little bit of milo at the bottom of the glass was impossible to get due to the ‘bottle cap lip’.


Coca-Cola has really reigned in on their B2B merchandise distribution. You may notice your local cinemas or bistro have Coca-Cola branded fridges or glass cups. But did you know that Coca-Cola has been one of the longest standing partners of the Olympics? Since 1928, Coca-Cola has been supplying the Olympics with beverages. One of the most well-known B2B collaborations was with the London Olympics in 2012, with their 100% recyclable plastic bottles released for the games. Since then Coca-Cola has continued using 100% recyclable plastic bottles for their products.



3. Microsoft (including Xbox)


When most of us think of Microsoft, we think of the desktop screen we use at work or using Microsoft Teams during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The Microsoft enterprise has expanded beyond just computer parts and program accessories. The widely popular gaming console, Xbox, is actually owned by Microsoft.

Microsoft was the third largest company in market capitalization in 2022. They started 2022 with a total market value of over $2 trillion USD and made $198.27 billion USD in revenue. A large part of this would be from Microsoft software subscriptions, but a portion of it also would have been from the promotional product range that Microsoft offer. Similarly to Coca-Cola though, Microsoft offers both B2B and B2C merchandise, largely because of the wide variety of products they provide. As part of Microsoft’s online merch store, you can purchase anything from Microsoft branded notebooks to limited edition Xbox controllers.


The range of promotional products on the Microsoft online merch store is quite incredible actually. They’ve got almost anything you can think of from retail apparel to commercial office stationary. Microsoft have cleverly designed their marketing strategy to include merchandise offers to both their B2B clients as well as B2C target audience. For example, if a business purchases over a certain amount of Microsoft products they may be surprised to receive on order arrival that they’ve included Microsoft branded laptop sleeves or complimentary wireless desk phone charges.

The gaming world of Xbox though, is a whole other world of merchandise. Xboxs users go crazy for merchandise, especially at gaming conventions like PAX Aus.Like we mentioned before, gamers love hoodies to sit back and game in. So Xbox has of course created their iconic green branded hoodie as well as a very fluffy and comfy gaming robe complete with a hoodie hood! A bit fancy and extra, but we love it. Items like these are great for gaming convention show bags or for gaming influencers on platforms like Twitch to give away in competitions.




Summing it all up…


Here at Good Things, we understand that it can sometimes be daunting thinking about new promotional products that can leverage your brand. By looking at these case studies, you can get an insight into how the biggest companies of the world use merchandise too. Firstly, you must understand your target audience — ask the questions “Who is going to use this product?” or “Will they want it?” and “Will they tell people about it?” 


If you’ve been inspired by some of the merchandise examples from Apple, Coca-Cola or Microsoft, then look no further! We have some great options of promotional products that could add value to your customer’s brand experience; products like our brandable laptop sleeves, caps & hats, power banks & chargers and apparel too.

If sustainability is going to be a focus for your business leading up to the global 2030 sustainability goal, then let us know. Like Coca-Cola, we have the resources to produce recyclable products for your brand. So get in touch with us, let’s create some awesome merch together.