Best in show branded merchandise for your next exhibition

Merchandise world 2022Merchandise, giveaways, freebies – whatever you call them, branded promotional products are synonymous with events and trade shows.  After all, who doesn’t love a goody bag. 

However, hands up if you have you ever left an exhibition with a big bag of goodies, then either left it in the car (in the boot of doom) or passed it over to your children or colleagues to share out the swag? 

A quick straw poll amongst friends and colleagues revealed a fair few red faces.  Conversely though, the same group were quick to recall their all time favourite freebies.  Gifts that hit the mark and made a long lasting impression. 

So if you are planning on exhibiting at events this year, how do you make sure that you maximise on your presence – and your merchandise?  

Practicalities and logistics 

Budget Organisation is key to event planning, and with decisions to make and deadlines to meet on everything from shell schemes and A/V to collateral, colleagues and insurance cover, it’s all too easy for merchandise to slip down the list and get left to the last minute.   

Whilst there is always something we can get branded up super quickly, don’t let your choices be limited by what is available rather than what you really wanted or spent hours researching.  Move it up the list instead. 

Balancing the budget is also a primary consideration.  You know how much you can spend, and you know how many people to expect.  The balancing comes down to how you chose to use your budget.  Are you looking to source as many items as possible, or to invest in just one item of quality merchandise per visitor?  There’s no right or wrong answer here, as it entirely depends on your overall objectives and your target audience.  Maybe consider a number of tiered gifts, meaning you have a range of merchandise readily available on display for anyone, but a higher value item/s under the counter for engaged prospects or existing customers.   

Fulfillment / Storage

(Remember to factor in minimum order quantities (MOQ) and any charges for artwork, set up, special finishes or delivery when setting your budget too.)  

When it comes to practicalities, don’t forget transportation and storage.  Can your goods be delivered directly to the venue?  How much space will you have on your stand or in your booth to store your giveaways – or is there a safe, central storage area you can easily access when you need to top up?  And is your chosen merchandise something a delegate will be happy to carry round with them on the day, and possibly on public transport on the way home, or is it too sizeable, heavy, fragile or awkward?   

Relevance, goals and values 

Choices for branded merchandise these days are virtually limitless – and it’s easy to set your heart on something that you personally love or think is the ultimate giveaway.  But before you sign off on the PO, take a few steps back.   

What are you trying to achieve from the exhibition and associated giveaway?  Is it useful, reusable and relevant?  What messages are you trying to convey, and which emotions are you trying to elicit?  What does the product say about your brand and your values, or those of your target audience?  And just who is your target audience – what do they ‘look’ like?  Are you giving them something they will want to use and want to keep?  Will they be telling or sharing it with their friends or colleagues for the right (or wrong) reasons? 

Eco merchandise ideasGoing back to values, if sustainability counts for you and your audience, it shouldn’t hinder your choice of merchandise or event essentials.  Think lanyards made from rPET, badges or printed collateral using seeded paper (and vegan inks or finishes) and pens made from waste wheat straw bi-products or aluminium cans.  There are so many eco-friendly alternatives to most merchandise choices and you could even pack any gift in a (goody) bag for life that supports a circular economy and comes with embedded trace fibres, to track its sustainable story.   

With so much innovation in this aspect of merchandise, there are plenty of options to cause your visitors to do a double take when you reveal what something is really made of or its backstory (like reusable coffee cups made of waste disposable paper coffee cups!). 

Footfall, incentives and branding 

Sweet TreatsGiveaways can be a great way to entice delegates onto your stand and refreshments are always a popular choice.  Exhibitions can be thirty and hungry work, and visitors will generally welcome a caffeine kick or blood sugar boost.  But whilst refreshments might do the job in terms of starting a conversation, maybe leading to data capture or a competition entry, what about brand engagement.  Will a handful of sweets or a logo topped cupcake engender brand recall when the craving has been quenched. 

BrandingAs an alternative, what if you have a hot drinks station or coffee machine on your stand, with drinks delivered in branded and reusable thermal mugs – now you have attraction, engagement and a takeaway.  In the same vein, you could hire a water fountain and stock with reusable bottles, or an ice cream freezer, with branded lidded bowls (perfect for future lunchbox use). 

In addition to your shell scheme, think about add-ons to your branding, from the simple touches like printed tablecloths to eye catching LED lightboxes.  What about clothing?  Branded workwear is no longer just about polo shirts or sweatshirts, with a vast range of items and styles.  If you have floor walkers amongst your team, maybe consider a backpack flag or an LED backpack, as a walking billboard.  And interactive games can also work well with certain settings or audiences, like the popular Wheel of Fortune spinner, which can be customised with your branding. 

And finally… 


At the beginning of this article, we said everyone loves a goody bag – so you want to make sure it’s yours that is being toted around.   

There’s a reason that quality reusable bags are an ever popular promotional product, and the range keeps on growing, with something to match every style, budget and backstory.  Get it right and it won’t just be used for collecting goodies but will get your branding out and about day after day. 


Whether you are organising an in-house event or attending a major trade show, you’ll want your merchandise to help deliver optimum ROI.  We hope the information in this blog has helped – but we’d rather have a chat.  At M&M we’ve been supporting our clients with events and exhibition merchandise for 20 years, so get in touch for ideas, inspiration and advice. 

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