Step up your swag: Why merch matters for companies in Czechia

Tech enterprises explain why corporate gift-giving is a powerful marketing tool – and share some of the latest trends in swag. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 15.07.2022 16:00:00 (updated on 19.07.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

While mousepads, key chains, and coffee mugs are perennial favorites at trade shows and consumer markets, companies in Czechia are taking merchandising to the next level to appeal to more socially aware and eco-conscious consumers.

Start-ups and enterprises alike are not only looking to create brand awareness and leave an impression on their target audience but also to promote company culture, celebrate employees, and unite international teams. A Deloitte study shows that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

We spoke to several global companies about how their merch reflects the new work-from-home culture and today's socially aware consumers. They also shared tips for how companies can level up their approach to merch in 2022.

Merch is a powerful tool for creating loyalty and brand awareness

"Merch (or swag) can be a very powerful bonding element between an employee and a company, as well as an element of pride,” says Jana Krivenkaja, Employer Brand Specialist for Semrush.

“Merch is a valuable way to build community within an organization and can help boost crucial morale and engagement when it matters most. It can also have a tremendous impact on how a brand is perceived,” says Jordan Lukeš, Corporate Communications Director at social-media marketing company Emplifi (formerly Socialbakers). 

“Swag has always played a major role in events we have hosted and has helped with visibility since people like to share pictures of [Emplifi merch] on social media and tag the brand. We also leverage swag as a way to thank our biggest fans and thought leaders we regularly work with,” she says.

Michaela Kostirova is Head of Internal Communications at Avast, a Prague-based cybersecurity software company where merch is available only to employees. But even though Avast's fun assortment of branded hoodies and pins serves to connect employees with the company and build community internally, it’s also a powerful tool of ambassadorship.

Sustainability, flexibility, and social awareness are key when choosing swag

Many firms have changed their approach to corporate merchandise in recent years due to a number of factors.

"In 2022 the whole idea of merch is definitely not about some 'standard set' of items people receive by default but don't really care about: pens, USB drives, notebooks,” says Krivenkaja.

Lukeš says that flexibility and a sustainable approach are key ways in which companies are changing their approach to rewarding employees and connecting with clients.

“We implemented an employee advocacy program where our employees can earn points to cash in on merchandise which ranges from low-ticket to higher-end items. It's been a great way to keep employees engaged, and more importantly reward them for their advocacy efforts. Rather than send out items they may or may not want, we give them the ability to pick and choose something relevant to them,” says Lukeš.

Emplifi gives individual teams the ability to create their own swag, which they often wear at annual sales kick-off team buildings and in the office.

For companies seeking inspiration for merch, Semrush recommends sourcing ideas from within. “A colleague might come up with an idea that will spark inspiration,” says Krivenkaja.

Creativity rules the day when it comes to swag in 2022

How do these top companies ensure that the gifts they give keep on giving? Krivenkaja recommends that companies choose their merch according to their culture and internal values.

“The selection of company swag should reflect the image and the focus of the company. For example, if you are a start-up or a tech enterprise, you probably want to incorporate gadgets into your selection. Among Semrush's merchandise, one can find various power banks, keyrings with an integrated key search function, or electronic luggage tags."

Semrush also keeps an eye on seasonality. “We try to be on top of the game and add new items to the selection all the time, almost seasonally. For example, last October we introduced hand-made soy candles, an appropriate attribute for cozy evenings," says Krivenkaja.

Lukeš says: “We offer a pretty wide range of swag from laptop camera covers to clothing and yoga mats. Small stickers have always been a huge part of our culture with employees sporting them on their laptops and phones. While other reception desks offer a bowl of hard candy, we have a bowl of stickers.”

Avast and Emplifi recently marked special occasions and important milestones with fitting gifts. In a nod to its security ambassador, the chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, Avast gave out branded chess boards, while Emplifi commemorated becoming a billion-dollar company with (what else?) a symbolic unicorn.

Quality can make or break swag success

"The key is to choose your providers wisely,” Krivenkaja explains, adding that no employee wants a cheap t-shirt that shrinks after the first wash or a cup that leaks. “In contrast, a piece that is comfortable to wear or convenient to use, plus looks stylish, will always be a hit.”

The quality of apparel is vital to its success as a gift. According to ASI’s 2020 Ad Impressions study, 46% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product they received was environmentally friendly.

“Semrush offers raincoats from a known Swedish brand – they aren't cheap, but our employees love them and they've become something that can serve as an internal reward or bonus,” reveals Krivenkaja.

She adds: “You might be surprised, but socks end up being another very desirable item.” At Emplifi socks are also a coveted reward.

“The stock never lasts for very long because everyone wants a pair. It's a great way to get creative with loud and funky designs that can spice up any outfit,” says Lukeš.

Lukeš says quality and sustainability are hot topics among Emplifi employees as well. “As a result, we offer reusable dishware that's been a huge hit: bamboo coffee-to-go cups, aluminum or glass water bottles, and bamboo utensils.”

Krivenkaja believes that as times change companies can no longer afford to see merch as an insignificant set of items. "Nowadays merch is mainly about the high level of employees’ loyalty towards their company and their desire to be associated with it,” she says.

“At Semrush, we are convinced that internal swag can be immensely cool: you just need to listen and follow the desires of employees closely.”

5 top tips for swag success

  • Work-from-home-friendly items: Gifts that make sense for the hybrid-work era are in. These include gadgets, stressbusters, blue light glasses, and yoga mats, for example.
  • High-quality apparel: T-shirts, polos, socks, and even outerwear are among the most influential branded promotional items with the potential to generate over 9,000 impressions and a staying power of up to 16 months, according to experts.
  • Sustainable and locally-made gifts: Eco-friendly items such as totes, backpacks, mesh bags, lunch boxes, or drinkware made from recycled materials or gifts that respond to social causes are increasingly popular.
  • Branded tech gadgets: Wireless products like earbuds, speakers, or charger banks are good ideas, especially for companies in the tech sector.
  • Edible merch: Edible merch such as gift boxes or kits devoted to local craft goodies or gourmet condiments are also among the most popular swag items in 2022.

This article was written in cooperation with Semrush. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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