For anyone who has overseen a branded merchandise program, you can likely appreciate the effort that it takes to create a seamless warehousing and fulfillment program.
It’s safe to assume that many others have never considered a merchandise program. Maybe they’re not sure what it is or how it might fit into their corporate marketing strategy.
Simply put, a program is a supply and management solution for branded merchandise where we help curate a well-balanced collection that best portrays the client’s brand image.
As a loyal partner, we take it from start to finish, managing the inventory and ensuring that all aspects of the fulfillment program function as efficiently as possible. This inventory is replenished as needed until it’s time to refresh the program with a new and trendy product assortment.
When INM was founded by the fabulous Chuck Fowler over 33 years ago (yep, we’ve been around a while), there were only a few different types of programs – think safety, service, incentives, and eventually the traditional company store. While all of those are still around for merchandise programs, there are many additional options available now that are exploding with new purpose.
When programs first became a thing, one of the main purposes was incentive programs such as service and safety awards, which consisted of providing a reward for those who met or exceeded specific annual company goals. For example, school bus drivers who followed the protocol established by the safety committee would be rewarded with coveted awards at the end of the year, provided of course they did not have any negative safety issues during that period.
These incentive programs instilled FOMO among participants by providing the “flair” that belonged only to the best of the best. It was a win-win since the recipient felt engaged and appreciated while the strategy minimized risk and enhanced safety recognition within the company and the communities served.
Along with incentivizing, these programs were also the perfect way to offer consistent branded merchandise to regional offices throughout the nation. What began as printed catalogs transitioned into online stores, but the programs were always developed with specific intentions: to provide a way to distribute a consistent branded merchandise collection to surprise and delight.
Over the past few years, the FOMO has remained strong, and overall efficiency is still the main goal. Recently, programs have seen a sharp shift in focus toward onboarding and retention. This has actually been a truly remarkable (and unanticipated) positive outcome of the 2020 pandemic.
You may hear quite a bit more of the buzz word “campaign” these days as well. A campaign is similar to a program, but with short “mini programs” that work together to accomplish a single goal.
Campaign: Shorter timeline, multiple touch points, specific CTA
Program: Longer timeline (recurring), Focused singular purpose (gifting, appreciation, etc) and broad in nature
Some examples of new program opportunities that we see trending heavily are: