Blue tshirt merchandise with customer print via heat transfer

Merchandise Branding 101: How to Tell Your Story Through Custom Prints

Ever been on the receiving end of a T-shirt cannon? You suddenly focus all your energy and adrenaline on fulfilling your wide-receiver dreams and catching a free T-shirt in your own hands. There’s something magical about free stuff. It’s why merchandise branding has remained a pillar of marketing strategies: it works. 

When you’re designing merch for your business, you don’t just throw colors and fonts together and hope it’s effective. It has to be cohesive with your brand image and illustrate your brand’s narrative. But how do you convey your brand’s story through merch? That’s where a dynamic combo of high-quality graphic design and expert storytelling comes in. 

Understanding Merchandise Branding

Merch is an easy way to connect with your audience. It lets the public feel like they’re part of your brand community. You can turn any product or apparel into merch by putting your logo on it. From T-shirts, hats, and hoodies to tote bags, water bottles, and portable chargers, merch incentivizes your audience to connect with your brand.

Using custom prints in your merch helps customers identify with and recognize your brand. There may be other businesses comparable to yours that sell similar products. You can use varying fonts, colors, and graphics to create unique prints that set your merch apart. 

Your business’s merch determines how the world perceives your brand. If you can create merch your audience responds to positively, they’ll associate that sentiment with your brand. 

Plus, merch turns your clients, customers, and team members into walking billboards for your business. It’s your job (or your marketing team’s job) to promote your brand identity and stand out from competitors. Top-tier merch sets your business apart. 

Crafting Your Brand’s Story

A brand story is a cohesive narrative that encapsulates your company’s mission, purpose, and values and builds a connection between your brand and your target audience. It informs your audience why you exist. Customers who can find a personal, memorable connection with your brand are more likely to remain loyal. Your story must be true to your business origins and authentic to your values. 

Your brand story should have a clear voice and tone. It answers questions your audience is asking. Who are you? What does your brand seek to accomplish? Why does your brand exist? If your brand story is strong, it will elicit an emotional response from your audience. 

Don’t just rely on facts and figures to tell your story. Customers are 22 times more likely to remember details when communicated through storytelling. Ensure your story is cohesive by making it consistent across all branding, platforms, and merch. 

Structuring Your Story

However you structure your story, you must hook your audience from the beginning. It works well to tell your story chronologically if your business has an interesting origin or creation. You can open with a compelling anecdote and then frame your story in the order events happened.

Another method for structuring your story is through thematic blocks, which focus on different aspects of your business. These blocks could include your brand’s values, mission, purpose, customer experience, location, or what people say about your brand. 

Pack your story with interesting narration, relevant details, and unique facts.

Key Elements of Effective Brand Storytelling

To focus your story, you need to use the key elements of effective brand storytelling. Those elements are presented by “the four Cs:” conflict, characters, community, and confidence.

1. Conflict

Present the problem that your customers experience and how your brand offers a solution. ​

Take organic pet grooming company WildWash. They were concerned about harmful chemicals in the shampoos they used on their own pets, so they developed a range of natural products that are transparent about their ingredients and really work. 

Through their brand story, they articulated the problem and presented a solution.

Wildwash website showing effective brand story telling on their products

2. Characters

Illustrate the human element behind the brand​​. Who are the founders, and why did they start the business? Who are the people who invest their time and energy in the business? 

Communicate your brand’s personality through a conversational tone. After all, you’re just humans speaking to other humans. 

3. Community

When you involve your audience in your brand story​​, it builds credibility and encourages brand loyalty. 

Use your story to address issues important to your brand and illustrate how your brand gives back to the community. Beelove is a Black-owned ethical honey company that trains and employs formerly incarcerated people. Their custom hoodies sport the phrase, “There’s power in honey,” illustrating the brand’s influential impact on educating, offering opportunities, and supporting their community.

Beelove website giving back to community by involving their audience on brand story
Beelove's  black hoodie with custom statement

4. Confidence

The brand story isn’t the only place to share your values. Your pride and belief in your brand​​ should be evident across all your marketing materials, branding, and products. 

If you believe in your brand’s mission, others will feel inspired to follow. That’s why it’s important to create custom merch that communicates your authentic story so your team and clients will be proud to rep your brand. 

Remember that your story should be empathetic to the problem your brand seeks to solve, attention-grabbing, and aligned with your business goals. 

Encourage your audience to engage with your brand story by sharing stories of how they’ve been positively impacted by your brand and wearing your merch with pride.

Using Custom Prints to Enhance Your Story

To translate your brand story into custom merch, you can express your brand’s values through fonts, colors, shapes, and textures. From screen printing to digital printing to embroidery, how you execute your merch can change the vibe of the final product.

For a brand that’s modern, sophisticated, and chic, design merch may cater to a minimalist look with a classy design, delicate fonts, and a muted color palette. 

Maybe your brand keeps it fun with a style that’s funky and youthful. Explore creative fonts, curved shapes, and quirky designs. Find what makes your brand unique and express that style through the beautiful custom merch you create. 

Custom merch creates a tangible connection between your brand and the customer. That’s why your merch matters. It translates what makes your brand special into a wearable design.

Take the sustainable coffee company Easy Jose. They harvest and regeneratively farm coffee beans, work alongside the indigenous community, and provide ethical wages. Easy Jose’s brand story revolves around building strong relationships with the indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon and preventing deforestation. Their brand story is evident through their custom merch.

Man wearing army green cotton shirt with custom statement at the back
Easy Jose aat white cotton cap available on their website

Practical Tips for Merchandise Branding and Storytelling

Brand storytelling makes your business more memorable than just facts about your product. When merch accurately reflects a brand’s story, it leaves a lasting impression on anyone who sees it. 

Tips for fusing merch branding and storytelling include: 

  • Find Your Brand’s ‘Why.’ Why does your brand exist? What story do you want to convey to your audience? How can you illustrate that through your merch design? Your merch should reflect your brand’s purpose.
  • Understand Your Product. What is your product’s relevance to your story? Gourmet sweets company Candy Kittens creates vegan gummies with no artificial ingredients. They don’t have to say much to express that sentiment accurately through their merch.
No tasties statement oat white colored cap available on Candy Kittens website
  • Know Your Audience. Think about how you want your brand to be perceived and how your audience fits into that perception. How does your audience relate to your brand’s story? What kind of merch would your audience want to wear? Survey your loyal customers. There’s no shame in simply asking!

Share Your Story in Style

Merch is an opportunity to connect with your audience and share your brand story in a fun, creative, and expressive way. Tap into the core of your brand’s story through your mission, values, and goals when designing your merch. Remember that merch should be cohesive and harmonious with the style of your brand as well as relevant to your product. 

Fusing merchandise branding and your story is powerful. Not only is it cool to have stylish merch that reps your brand identity, but it communicates what makes your brand unique (and serves as on-the-go advertising for your business). Creating custom prints representing your brand’s story is easy with high-quality apparel and products from Lettering Express. With our team of expert graphic designers, we can help you design gorgeous custom merch that breathes life into your brand. 

Lettering Express provides businesses with the products they need to get noticed and be remembered. Browse our huge selection of merch options or give us a call today to create the custom merch you’ve been waiting for.