Translating Personal Brand Identity into a Physical Product Range
Let’s say you had £25k (approx $33k) readily available to spend, what’s your dream luxury purchase?
Buy a Mercedes with cash? Your dream wedding, including the honeymoon? A five-month trip around the world? Two terms of private education at Eton College? You could have any of these big luxurious purchases…
…Or you could buy a single Instagram post from beauty influencer Huda Kattan!
Who is Huda Kattan? She’s a beauty influencer with 26 million (and growing) followers and is worth approximately $45 million. And yes, $33k (approx £25k) is what it will cost for one single Instagram post from her.
Proof – if you needed it – that influencer marketing is huge, and influencers are big money! (Read more on that here.)
Huda Kattan isn’t on her own. All around the world, people are using digital platforms to build a brand identity around their most basic commodity- themselves.
Whether you’re a YouTuber, blogger, photographer, illustrator, musician or artist, if you have an audience, you also have a personal brand- and the potential to monetise it.
While the platforms you use may be digital, one of the best, and most popular ways, to unlock that revenue is to create a physical product range. After all, what could be more authentic than promoting your own product range?
A physical product range gives your online followers a real-life piece of your brand to have, and hold.
It can develop a sense of belonging to your brand, increasing loyalty and engagement, while developing a valuable additional revenue stream – which is never a bad thing!
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about translating personal brand identity into a physical product range…
Defining your Brand & Choosing the Right Merchandise for You
To be truly successful, you need to first define your brand, that way, you can then decide on the right merchandise for you and your audience.
You shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this is going to be a few quick decisions, it’s going to take a bit of work, but work that is going to benefit your merchandise campaign in the long run.
- Determine your brand’s target audience
There are a lot of tools to help generate meaningful insights about your audience. Your first port of call, if you’re a YouTube influencer, should be your YouTube demographic report. This can tell you loads about your audience including age, gender, and their location.
This is super useful, especially as a starting point in defining who your audience actually is.
If you’re not on YouTube, there are other avenues you can explore, such as doing a survey or the very popular, social media polls.
Social media polls can be particularly effective, as your audience is already there! It’s not a lot of hassle for them to take part, and they’re usually completed in just one click.
You can have the polls on:
So you’re able to get a set of results from across all of your social media channels, meaning you can get a fair representation of your whole fanbase.
As a little bonus, you’re also encouraging engagement with the rest of your posts whilst they’re on your page to cast their vote in the poll.
Also, anybody who takes part in the poll usually gets a notification when the poll has ended to check the results. This will point them back towards your content, with no extra effort whatsoever!
2. Define your brand’s mission statement
Having a mission statement is essential. Not only does it tell your followers/customers exactly what you’re about, but also keeps you on track as to what you’re offering people.
So everything you do should point back to your mission statement.
Nike are a really good example of a company with an effective and inclusive mission statement:
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.”
And then in addition, they say:
“If you have a body, you are an athlete”
This is so effective because, every single person who reads the statement is included- which is great marketing!
To get started on coming up with your mission statement, you need to follow these steps:
- Define your purpose: ask yourself the question- why does our brand exist?
- Be specific: jargon and buzzwords are usually ineffective in mission statements.
- Aim to inspire: obviously, it’s important to be plausible make sure your mission is attainable, but try to have an inspirational element in there too!
- And finally, keep it succinct!
3. Research brands within your industry
This is a must, not to imitate, but purely to just be aware of what they do (and where they may fail!).
The end goal is to differentiate yourself from the competitors- and to convince people to buy from you instead
Don’t be like Kylie Jenner! A lot of small beauty brands have come forward to highlight posts that have been copied by Jenner, just like this example:
Followers will spot any imitation from a mile off, and won’t be scared to publically call you out on it!
4. Create a brand logo
Now, you may already have one, but you may as well take this opportunity to make sure you’re completely happy with it.
But whether you’re starting afresh or just getting your logo re-made, it’s definitely worth considering investing some time and money into hiring a professional designer.
A quick Google search will give you a variety of designers in your local area. So just be sure to check out their work history, reviews, and their price so you can make an informed decision!
5. Form your brand voice
Your brand voice will be determined by your mission statement. It’s how you communicate with your customers and how they respond to you.
Once you have your brand voice on point, you should integrate it into every part of your brand.
It’s important to be consistent, everywhere!
Sending an email? Brand voice! Social media post? Brand voice! Product descriptions? Brand voice! You get the point.
Every part of your business should reflect the brand you’ve created. Maintaining a consistent brand voice will help your brand to become recognisable and memorable.
You can even base your merch on your brand voice! Marcus Butler was well known for starting all of his YouTube videos with an elongated ‘Helloooooo’, so lo and behold, when he released this t-shirt…
…it was a huge hit! A great example of how having a consistent brand works.
6. Be your brand’s biggest advocate!
No-one knows your brand better than you, so who better to spread the word?
There are loads of different ways to do this; have your mission statement in all your social media bio’s, slap that logo on everything you own, live and breathe your brand!
If people can see and feel that you’re passionate about the brand, it’s infectious, so they’re much more likely to feel the same!
Map your Merchandise Strategy
- Keep it Relevant
The first question to ask yourself is, does your audience want these items?
For example, there’s no point releasing a range of products that would be popular with beauty fans, if your audience is gamers.
Using the audience research techniques we discussed earlier in the post, you should be able to find out lots about your audience, so in turn be able to grasp exactly what it is they would want to purchase.
2. Start Slow & Keep it Focused
You don’t have to release a range of merch with 50 different items to start off. Test your audiences appetite first!
Consider what type of merch you really want to release, and what your audience will respond to the best and release that first.
You can decide how long you want to release ranges for- they don’t have to be indefinitely available to buy. Having ranges available for the long term can in fact harm sales, due to taking away the urgency to buy.
Maybe start by introducing one product or one range to start?
3. Keep it Easy to Sustain
Right, so you’re pretty sure you know who your audience is and you’re confident they will like the product, so you should just make it. Right?
Well, hold your horses. There’s a couple more things to consider first.
You need to weigh up whether the product to you choose is sustainable- not all products are easy or cost efficient to make.
So do your research before you decide on products! The last thing you want is to run out of your supply and not be able to keep up with customer demand.
Some things to consider are:
- Is the ordering process easy?
- Do you know how much of each item is available?
- Am I only stocking this item because it’s cheap?
4. Make it Extra Special
Merch works better when it MEANS something. The more special you can make your products in the mind of your audience, the more successful it’s likely to be.
Releasing merch to celebrate surpassing a certain milestone in your amount of followers, is a great example.
This type of release sparks new interest every time, a buzz of excitement that your audience will want to be a part of.
As an example, popular vloggers Ireland Boys released special hoodies to commemorate reaching 1 million subscribers:
Bringing products our as ‘limited editions’ just increases the excitement even more!
Another way to keep your merch exciting is, to release seasonal merchandise. Think Christmas-theme, Summertime-themed or at Halloween-theme and any other calendar dates that matter to your audience.
For example, Mark Ferris released Halloween T-shirts:
Again, seasonal merchandise is, by definition, limited edition. This inspires an urgency among your followers.
You can also have a bit of fun with seasonal merch – whether you’re releasing your own ugly Christmas jumper, or a garish Hawaiian-style shirt for your followers’ summer vacation
Budget, Pricing, Distribution, and Design
So you’ve got your brand nailed down, you’ve mapped your strategy, it’s now time to get down to the serious stuff!
How are you going to get the merch to your customers?
If you’re wanting to do everything yourself- be prepared to put some time in.
Things to consider:
- How much you would like to invest
- Your budget
- Costs of production and delivery
- Pricing/desired profit per item
A lot of these decisions can be taken off your hands if you choose to use a Print-on-Demand service (POD).
POD is exactly what it says on the tin. Your products don’t get printed until an order is received. You don’t have to keep any stock yourself, and all of the packaging and posting processes are taken care of by someone else.
This is an extremely viable option for you, as a super busy influencer.
To read more check out The Golden Advantage Influencers Have in eCommerce and Merchandising.
We’ve also written a complete guide to creating a Shopify store populated with a range of POD merchandise here. This whole process can literally take a matter of minutes, and anybody can do it.
Market your Merchandise
- Share it!
Post about your merchandise EVERYWHERE!
Social media has its pitfalls, but when it comes to promotional purposes, it’s going to be your best friend.
Your followers/customers are also going to be a great tool in spreading the word about your range. Encourage them to share your posts, and to post pictures of them with your products.
To give all of this maximum visibility, create a hashtag for everybody to use when posting, that way when anybody searches the term, a whole host of organic content will come up.
2. Promotions and Contests
Promotions are a sure fire way to drum up extra business, whether it’s a free gift with a purchase over a certain amount or BOGOF/342 offers, they’re going to help persuade people to buy.
Hosting a contest is also really effective- everybody loves free stuff, after all? The chance of winning free product can help create excitement around your new product range.
Make the competition entry beneficial for you! For example, get your followers to either share a post or like your page in order to qualify to enter. You can even get them to tag their friends, so you’re gaining more traction on your posts with very minimal effort. If you’re selling through Shopify, you can setup and manage your contest through Shopify using an app like ViralSweep.
3. Share the Link
Make sure you share you always share the link to your products!
In this day and age, people want content in front of them quickly, they don’t want to have to search for anything!
So whenever you post about your merch (every single time), make sure you include the link to your online store.
If you read this tip and think ‘Pffftttt, they can just google it!’- think again!
For someone to find your merch, they’ll have to click go on google, write in the search term, click search, probably get directed to your website, click on your website link, then click to find the merch section, and so on….
A survey found that 57% of online shoppers will abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. So just imagine how many potential customers will simply abandon the task of getting to your merch if it’s not a one-click process for them?
Definitely something to keep in mind!
4. Keep the Momentum Up
A mistake that is made far too often, is people losing momentum on promoting their merch after only a short time.
This can be so harmful to your brand! Don’t assume that everybody who follows you will have seen your posts after the first week of the range being released.
These platforms want you to spend ad dollars with them, and are making it increasingly difficult to reach your followers organically. For example:
“While a smaller page with less than one thousand Likes reaches on average 33.2% of its fan base with a single post, a bigger page with between 100 and 999 thousand fans reaches “only” 8.2%” (Social Bakers)
Timing and engagement are both important, but the reality is, only a small percentage of people might see your organic posts.
You can maximise the potential of organic posting by simply posting a number of different times, varying the time of day and content you post to avoid being spammy.
** Extra Tip**
Take advantage of scheduling posts across your social media to make this even easier to keep up with. You can use a tool like Hootsuite to do this.
Influencers and Their Merch
For inspiration, let’s take a look at some influencer merch that has been a hit!
Jenna Marbles, who has been the labeled the ‘Queen of YouTube’ by her hoards of adoring fans, and fellow content creators, went down a really cool, niche route when it came to releasing her first collection of ‘merch’.
Jenna’s brand centered around the love of her dogs, and what they were up to on a daily basis- so she released dog toys:
Not only a nice change from the typical merchandise market but also, so a great brand fit for Jenna.
Her viewers went crazy for them. They also encouraged lots of organic content- with a large percentage of people who bought them posting pictures of their dogs with their new toys.
You also don’t have to have millions of followers to release merch. Take this mug for example:
This example comes from True Crime Garage, a podcast with around 60,000 followers. Again, it’s cool, it’s niche and so on-brand!
Remember what we said earlier, about your products not having to be super ‘merchy’? Well Itsmarziapie has nailed that with her jewellery range:
It’s something a little different, and appeals to those who aren’t huge fans of your typical merch items.
When it goes wrong…
Not everybody gets merch right, and it can have disastrous consequences…
Christmas 2017 brought a massive scandal surrounding Zoella’s advent calendar which retailed for £50.
This incident made mainstream news, so even if you’d never heard of Zoella beforehand, you probably heard about this. She’s one of the UK’s most influential influencers, she has millions of followers and has product ranges sold in Boots and Superdrug.
One of those products was her ‘All you need is Xmas’ advent calendar. Now £50 for an advent calendar is pretty steep as it is, but if we delve even further into it, the whole thing gets pretty scandalous!
For a start, it only has twelve windows and the contents were as follows:
A cookie cutter, a small pack of confetti, a packet of 7 stickers, a star-shaped cookie cutter, a small bag, a 130g ‘Festive Cookie’ candle, a 30ml ‘Christmas Clementine’ room spray, a pen, a fluffy keyring, a gingerbread cookie cutter, a mini notepad, and a 130g ‘Cosy Christmas’ candle.
It all looks lovely when it’s strategically placed on an fancy flat lay for Instagram, but customers just weren’t pleased. Who can blame them really? If you were to buy these items separately, from a number of different stores, you’re looking at a value of around £20.
Poundland even released this rather clever, if not a little cheeky ad campaign:
Zoella addressed the issue, saying she had no input on pricing. Boots then clapped back saying they just sold it at the RRP- it all just got a bit messy.
As a result, Zoella’s 2018 Christmas range has been released with no big announcement, no big launch and most interestingly- no advent calendar!
The main lesson from this should be, that you simply can’t fool the public. Taking advantage of your audience is NEVER a good idea. It’s not ethical, it’s not right and it will only hurt your brand in the long-run.
The power of influencer marketing is founded on the trust, credibility and authenticity of influencers. Incidents like this only undermine that.
Whenever you’re looking to release any product, look it from your followers perspective, is this of interest to them, and is it of value to them?
All of the tips above will help you to take your personal brand identity and transform it into a physical product range that will be a success.
This whole process is going to require you putting in some hard work, but it should also be fun and really rewarding!
If you’re thinking about releasing a product range, it means you’ve already put a lot of hard work into getting to this point, so what’s the harm in a little more graft?
Let’s get you to the point, that when your merch is released, your audience says:
“OMG I NEED THAT RIGHT NOW!”
And that’s when you’ll know, all the hard work was worth it.
To learn just how POD can be the perfect way to get merchandise in the hands of your audience, check out our Ultimate Guide to Print-on-Demand Merchandising for Social Media Influencers.