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Custom vs. Stock: Finding the Perfect Branded Merchandise for Your Business

When it comes to branded merchandise, businesses often face a crucial decision: off-the-shelf or custom-designed. Custom-made merchandise is crafted specifically for your brand, offering complete customization and a personal touch that’s unique to you. Stock merchandise involves purchasing pre-made items and adding your designs or logos to them, making them quicker and more cost-effective. There are plenty of benefits to both, but knowing which path is right for you can be overwhelming.

Don’t worry, we gotchu. Below, we break down the key differences between the two to help you make an informed decision.  All fact, no cap—did we say that right?!

Custom and Cohesive

Custom items allow you to create products—from scratch—that perfectly align with your brand’s visual identity and put in work for your objectives. The result? Lasting impressions on your audience. These tailored solutions can be designed to meet specific needs, whether for a special event, a unique marketing campaign, or a particular target audience. Additionally, custom items often appear more valuable and exclusive, enhancing your brand’s prestige and appeal.

Take this custom stuffed animal we created for the Grand River Raceway and Grand River Agricultural Society race night giveaways. Designed to look like their mascot, this unique item made a memorable impression on attendees, showcasing the impact of well-designed custom merchandise.

When should a business consider custom merchandise? If you’re aiming to elevate your brand with unique, standout items that leave a memorable impression, custom products are the way to go. They are ideal for businesses looking to create a cohesive and unified brand experience, ensuring every item aligns perfectly with your brand’s look and feel. Whether you’re launching a new product line, planning an exclusive event, or targeting a specific audience, custom merchandise can take your brand to the next level, making it feel more personalized and engaging.

However, customization usually comes with higher production costs, including design fees, setup charges, and higher per-unit costs. The creation process also takes more time, from initial design to final production, which could be a drawback if you need items quickly. So, keep this in mind if you want to capitalize on the clout that comes with customization.

Stocked and Speedy

On the other hand, stock merchandise offers a cost-effective and quick solution. Off-the-shelf items are generally less expensive than custom-designed products, making them a more budget-friendly option. Stock items are also readily available, allowing for faster turnaround times, ideal for those who value convenience and need to meet tight deadlines.

A perfect example? This kit we designed for Thrive Digital. We used their vibrant logo to decorate these classically coveted merch items and packed them neat and tidy in a simple swag box. This allowed us to get these into production quickly and ship to their remote workers far and wide.

Brands might opt for stocked merchandise for several reasons. First, the lower cost makes it an attractive option for businesses operating on a tight budget or those needing to make a significant impact without a large investment. The quick availability of these items is another considerable advantage. If you’re working with a tight deadline and need merchandise promptly for an event or campaign, stocked items can be a lifesaver. This approach ensures that you can have branded items ready to go in a fraction of the time it takes for custom products.

Despite these advantages, stock merchandise has limited branding options. Customization is usually restricted to adding your logo or text, which may not fully capture your brand’s unique identity. There’s also the risk of your merchandise being like that of other companies, reducing its impact. Stock items might be perceived as less exclusive or special compared to custom products, potentially affecting how recipients view your brand.

Creative and Captivating

Still not sold on one over the other? Why don’t we meet in the middle? Creative designs offer a fantastic middle ground between custom and stock. By incorporating unique and imaginative designs, you can elevate a standard piece of stocked merchandise into something truly special. This approach allows for a significant degree of customization without the extensive costs and time commitment of fully custom items. Creative designs can be tailored to your brand’s identity and specific campaign needs, making your merchandise stand out.

Check out these cheeky socks we designed for Billyard Insurance Group. Each pair incorporated their brand colours, icons and logos in a creative way, offering a custom feel with a stock experience.

While this method does take a little bit longer than simply adding your logo to stock items, as you should account for a minimum of 7-10 business days for the designs to be created and approved, the results can be well worth the wait and will still take much less time than custom. This strategy is perfect for businesses that want to make a bold statement and leave a lasting impression without the total investment of custom merchandise. It’s a balanced approach that combines the speed and cost-effectiveness of stock items with the uniqueness and appeal of custom designs, providing you with the best of both worlds.


Making the Right Choice

When deciding between custom, creative, and stock merchandise, consider budget, timeline, brand alignment, and quantity. Evaluate your budget and determine how much you’re willing to spend, as custom items typically require a more significant investment. Assess your timeline; stock merchandise might be the best option if you need items quickly.

Consider the importance of the merchandise to reflect your brand’s unique identity; custom items offer more flexibility here, and creative designs provide a balanced middle ground. Finally, consider the number of items you need, as some products often have higher minimum quantities than others.

You can choose the merchandise strategy that best aligns with your goals and resources by weighing these factors. Whether you opt for the uniqueness of custom-designed items, the creativity of custom designs, or the practicality of stock options, the key is to select products that effectively represent your brand and resonate with your audience.

At Brand Blvd, our team of experts, with their industry knowledge and creativity, can help source the right products for your business. We ensure you get high-quality merchandise that speaks volumes about your brand. We’ve got you covered, from custom designs to carefully selected stock items. Reach out to us today, and let’s elevate your brand with the perfect merch strategy!

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