When you’ve recently rebranded, and are incredibly proud of the way your new brand shows who your accounting firm truly is, it’s time to show off that brand in a whole variety of merch.
But choosing a supplier for great merchandise (or swag) is an important decision. You want high quality of whatever it is you’re ordering – from Tshirts to fleeces to mugs to wall art to…whatever.
You’d also love some great ideas about less traditional swag. You don’t want the old tired pens and cheap mugs, the ones that shout “we just grabbed this on the cheapest site we could find and slapped our logo on it”. You want your swag to tell a story about the kind of work you do, and the kind of people you are in your accounting firm. You want to be proud of what you send to new and existing clients (or prospects).
We’ve been in the merchandise-ordering game for a while here at PF – from the day we first rebranded from the old, boring, blue-and-grey to a more colourful creative agency brand, and on through the current brand which is a slight refresh (using only two colours and focusing on the ‘PF’ more than the full company name).
We knew branding was more than a logo: we knew any swag we invested in was providing a message, too. Your brand tells a story – from name to logo to colours to website to Tshirts to keychains to mugs to blog posts to videos, and on and on. Everything works together to tell your clients what it’s like working with you. If they’re already clients, they think “yes, that’s right, this is the kind of firm I work with”. If they’re not clients yet, they think “I like these people. I like their style. They’re my kind of people”. (If they don’t, great – your marketing has just done its job and qualified them right out.)
There are so many reasons to order swag – welcome gifts to new clients, gifts for special occasions, “nice to connect with you” gifts to prospects, or just something to cheer your clients and say you’re thinking of them. Our gifts range from PF personalised swag to copies of marketing books from our top 5 list, to branded coffee, to baby grows for the newest addition to a company’s team!
Before you order branded merchandise, ask the right questions
We’ve invested a lot of time in finding good companies for good swag – and we’ve investigated different locations, depending on where our clients are based, since we send merchandise globally.
Before we list out all the great companies we recommend, here are a few tips to make sure you’re ordering the best swag for the best reasons:
- Are you proud of your brand? You may be an accountant who has recently rebranded your firm and are incredibly proud of the brand and want to show it off: but if you’re not in that category and you feel kind of ehhh about your brand (or it hasn’t been changed in five or more years), you must revisit your brand and be clear about what you want it to be. The best way to do that is through a PF Foundations Workshop. It’s a series of one to one sessions on your firm, and brand is at the heart of it. If you don’t clearly know and love your brand, any swag you get is just stuff. Take a step back and get clarity on it, so your brand tells the right story about your firm (not a dated one from a long time ago)
- Do you have clear brand guidelines? Not only your name and logo, but the colours, fonts, hex codes, RGB codes, and all the other designer-speak that the best merchandise companies are going to ask you for. We’ve had countless occasions of ordering something in “yellow” only to discover it is nowhere near the PF yellow (which is more of a gold) – pale yellow or lemon yellow or overly bright yellow aren’t right, and won’t give a good impression of our brand. Always have all the codes and guidelines to hand in a branding document – PF can help you create one if you need it. Request a quote here.
- Do you know the message you want your swag to get across? Swag is much more than “a mug with your logo on it”. You want to go deeper: think about the message, the story, the feelings your brand will bring up for the person receiving the gift. If you do go for a mug, what kind of mug represents your firm? You know you don’t want one of those cheap little mugs that look and feel cheap, and people stick in the back of the cupboard and never use. But do you want a big, thick mug? A tall latte mug? A coloured or white mug? Maybe not even a mug at all – a clear glass or a cup or even something small and plastic for children (if that fits your brand and the type of clients you work with). As for other gifts, what are they saying about your firm? You wouldn’t send them a branded calculator or calendar because that’s old school. Even pens (unless they’re really, really good ones) are kind of pointless these days. If you’re considering a book or journal, how can you stand out from the thousands of other journals they’ve gotten at events over the years?
- Think about your target audience. In the same vein, the type of swag depends on the type of person receiving it. What about branded colouring books if your target audience is parents with families? Or some sort of tech or connector for the car, if most of your clients do a lot of driving? PF sends out branded coffee (beans or ground), mostly because we love coffee but also because most of our clients and team enjoy coffee, too. And even if they don’t love coffee, someone they care about usually does, and they get to pass it on and get all the credit. (From time to time they message us to say “I’m not a coffee fan, but I gave your coffee to my partner/sister/friend/cousin/client and they loved it!”) Pick swag that fits the type of person you’re sending it to – not just random junk which will look clever and never get used. That’s not a good brand message.
- Get your branded swag properly designed. Sometimes it is as simple as uploading your amazing new logo to a website – but your merchandise will be more impressive when a good designer has given it proper thought. Where will the design be used? How will it be used? How will it appear once worn or put together or set on a shelf? Is the logo being used to full advantage? Or does it need more of a subtle impression rather than an obvious statement? What materials is it being printed on (metal, plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, ceramics)? What messages do those give? What size is the item? Ask PF for a quote on designing your swag before starting.
- Always, always get samples or a tester sent to you first. This is the greatest piece of advice we can give you, to help ensure your swag is of the highest quality. Before you get all excited about what the website shows (with someone else’s brand or a ‘demo’ logo) and order 50 of them to send out to clients, always spend the money and time to get a sample sent to you or one of the team. Order a tshirt or a hoodie or a fleece and put it on. Wear it for a day to see how it feels. Order stickers and put them on things and see how they actually stick (or don’t). Order a phone case or a watch strap, and put it on your own phone or watch and use them for a few days. If you don’t like it, your clients won’t like it. And if it isn’t good quality, the message you’re giving is that your firm isn’t good quality either. Some companies will let you order free samples to get an idea of the type of thing you’d be getting – most companies will charge you something, which is fair enough. Pay the money. Get multiple samples from multiple companies. The ones we recommend below have been tested after many, many samples were received which were not good quality – but just because we love it isn’t a guarantee for your brand and your style. Always get testers and take the time to properly review them. Once we spent £16 on a mug to see how it would come out, and it looked brilliant on screen and we went back and forth choosing white lettering or black lettering, how to place the logo on the bottom of the mug….and then we ordered it in great excitement and discovered it wasn’t quite right. The mug was a bit too small, hard to hold in the hand, and the white lettering didn’t show up well in “real life” (it looked okay in a photo).
- One company doesn’t fit all kinds of swag. Some websites are great for printed cards or wall art, but not so great for Tshirts or clothing. Some Tshirt places don’t do good hoodies. Some clothing lines are brilliant but didn’t have the right colours we needed for our brand. Just because you find a good company for one type of merch, don’t presume you can get all your merch in one place. The jack of all merchandise trades is master of none. Even Awesome Merchandise, who we’ve used for a huge variety of merch and would highly recommend for printing, pins, keyrings, and bottle openers, has its limits and having tried a variety of samples, we’d recommend someone else for Tshirts or clothing.
All those prerequisites being set, we’ll now share with you the actual companies we’ve worked with directly and have ordered good merchandise from. (Bear in mind we are a creative agency, so all our swag is properly designed by our entire team, including our graphic designers and marketing manager.)
PF branded cards – these are designed by our inhouse graphic designer Chryzia Itay and supplied by Printed.com.
PF Stickers – We’ve bought sticker sheets from Printed.com – great for events where you will be using the stickers on products, as well as cut out vinyl stickers from Awesome Merchandise in the shape of our company logo. We’ve used StickerYou in the US for a ‘patch’ for a client gift. They also sell a range of stickers you can either brand or personalise as a gift.
Wall stickers – Karen noticed the wall behind her was blank in all of her videos and Zoom calls, so we tried several different places before working with RS Print (who Beccy knew locally) to get a large vinyl sticker of the PF logo. We also ordered small stickers from Awesome Merchandise, to place on a Yeti Microphone or ipad case or laptop case. Best of all, you can even get stickers which are cut in the shape of the icon or logo or wording – rather than having lots of square white space around it. Again we tried a few suppliers and got disappointing or bad quality stickers, and were grateful we had paid a little to check the quality first!
Quote stickers for a wall – Another great thing to do with vinyl wall stickers is have them custom printed with a particular quote you love or want to see every day. Karen used Awesome Merchandise to get a quote from one of the Harry Potter books – “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve”. Awesome Merchandise will print this in any font you like, any colour and background, so she got the quote on white vinyl, cut out around the letters, so each letter is placed carefully on the wall and the result is a white quote in PF font on the brightly coloured wall!
Wall art/office pictures – Think big, think the whole wall, think filling that white space! When we’ve spent time working with a client on their amazing new brand and values, or a manifesto sharing those values, we’ll sometimes get them printed (or design the image and they will get it printed in their own country or by someone local they trust). Check out HelloCanvas or printed.com for good quality canvas prints. Here is one we designed for Saint & Co:
Food and snacks
PF branded coffee – we buy our coffee from Blend Tea & Coffee Company based in the Midlands. They stock a wide variety of both coffee beans and ground coffee. This one took a lot of research – Karen took it upon herself to try a LOT of coffee samples a few years ago. Just had to be done!! Beccy researched many different places, looking for a company who make great coffee AND were willing to print our designed labels on their coffee bags. Blend kindly sent us samples before ordering the preferred PF coffee, and when we tried theirs alongside many others, we really enjoyed the quality and felt it was something we could put the PF name on. Blend can provide the coffee in plain coffee bags, so you can print and place your own labels on. Originally we were presuming we’d need to do all the labeling, but when we shared with them what we were looking for, they kindly said we could send them a pre-designed label courtesy of our inhouse graphic designer which met their design specification, and they now print and attach to each coffee bag prior to delivery.
PF sweets – branded colour Jellybeans. Prior to exhibiting at events, we thought about what kind of sweets we could hand out – because everybody likes sweets, right?? Latterly we’ve started thinking about sugar free options and vegan options and all those things, but initially we kept it simple. We loved the idea of sweets in our brand colours, so we ordered some in yellow and green, and then bought clear bags to put them in (and seal with a PF sticker). Then at the events we would hand out small bags of a mix of Jellybeans which match our branded colours. The clear sweet bags are then sealed with a PF sticker we purchased from Printed.com.
Personalised cake – The Cake Nest is an online bakery allowing you to pick and send cakes in the post. We tend to use the personalised cake option. Here you upload a PNG/Jpeg of the image you want to use (in our case the PF or client logo, or something custom designed by our team). You can include a short message, which is noted in the cake-card. You can choose your preferred cake flavour and dietary requirements. We’ve also used the ‘message cake’ where they will ice a message onto a larger cake for you. They don’t just stock cake, you can order cake balls and cupcakes as well as cake subscriptions!
Branded cookies – we have sent branded cookies to a client following the launch of their website. They were sent by Dunton Cakes who iced/printed the client’s logo onto the cookies. They looked amazing. Branded cookies can be purchased from a variety of companies.
PF Keyrings – When thinking about something fun and useful to hand out at events, we thought about keyrings, but felt these might just disappear and never get used. While doing our research, we found some great bottle opener keyrings courtesy of Awesome Merchandise. Our PF icon fits perfectly into the circular keyring, and lo and behold you have a keyring that also opens any bottle. Simply follow the simple steps on their website, upload your logo – to the keyring specification – and your order will quickly be delivered.
PF Pop Socket – This is one of those handy swag items which is really, really useful. You stick it on the back of your phone and can hold and grasp your phone so much better, including for selfies or propping the phone to take video. We tend to find the design of a popsocket is something you are happy to see and show off every day – so we would use these more for ourselves and our team, rather than handing them out to others (although we have had requests from clients for a PF popsocket!). They’re not cheap, but that’s because they’re a really high quality and last for literal years (on your phone case or directly on the back of your phone). After trying a few, we recommend the official Popsocket.co.uk site, where you can upload your logo (or a client’s logo) as a PNG file and order your own personalised Popsocket in just a few clicks. Popsocket is a global company and we’ve used their US service for our global clients. www.popsockets.com/pages/country-select
Personalised Mug – When we thought about mugs, it was important to get a really high quality mug – one we would like to use ourselves day to day. We spent a good bit of time thinking about what would go on the mug – would it be the PF logo, or some sort of design…? At the same time we were all working on our personal pillars & values, and the idea came to us to get custom mugs printed for each team member, with a unique design sharing their own personal pillars and values – as a reminder to them of what’s important, and that PF supports this. Our internal design team uniquely created the pillar icons, and worked with Beccy to find a company who could print them one by one (instead of large minimum order requirements). We also decided on a more ‘latte’ style mug, partly to look different and also because tiny mugs are annoying and empty too fast. Now every team member has their own PF mug which we ordered from Awesome Merchandise, and we’ve realised they make a great gift for a client too. Best of all, the team actually use them and are often seen in a Zoom call drinking from their personalised mug!
Personalised flask/thermos – for our US clients we have sent a personalised Yeti Rambler. They’ve got a great select of drinkware and colours to choose and there is a UK site as well.
USA-specific branded Merch – we’ve used Promotique in the US to order branded merch as caps for clients as a gift.
PF T-shirts & Hoodies – it took us a LOT of effort to find the right place to buy PF clothing. It was extremely important to have good quality clothing, including wearability and how well the items washed after many uses. (We found a number of t-shirts looked good at first, but then shrunk in the wash, and became uncomfortable or the wrong size or didn’t look good.) The other issue was colour: we didn’t just want yellow, we wanted PF yellow, which is a sort of gold colour, bright but not too bright. We tried so many places – Beccy sent Karen box after box and bag after bag of sample Tshirts in varying colours and styles. Mens fit, womens fit, unisex fit. Large, small, XL, XS. Sizes varied. Fabric varied. Colours varied. Finally Karen remembered someone who did the Tshirts at a Xerocon conference she attended, and she remembered how high quality the Tshirt was, and how she still wore it all the time and loved the fit. We asked around and found the person who did those shirts, and got connected with Rated-R by Ross. He was incredibly helpful in our search for t-shirts and hoodies that matched our branded colours, had a high quality of fabric, and can be worn and washed without losing their shape or colour. We found the Tshirt sizes (particularly for women) on the small size, so once we figured that out we were able to tell new employees how the sizes tend so they could choose what was most comfortable. We highly recommend Rated-R for all your branded clothing.
PF Baby grow – Whenever a client (or team member or team’s family member) has a baby, we love to celebrate that good news. The team suggested baby grows with a PF branded design, and Beccy did quite a lot of research to find a company whose baby grows were soft and comfortable and showed the design well. We use the T-Shirt Studio for our PF baby grows which are 100% organic cotton and have been warmly received by a number of clients and team. (They stock a variety of clothing you can personalise, but we specifically use them for this item.)
Outside the swag box (other stuff)
Books – We are regularly recommending great business books for our clients and those on our courses, and when sending a book to a client as a gift, we tend to purchase from Amazon (UK or USA), or if sending globally from Book Depository. When sending to South Africa specifically we used Takealot.
Shop local – we support the ‘shop local’ campaign and have purchased the Gift Boxes to Help Edinburgh which include items from local retailers.
Flowers & plants –bouquets and plants will always brighten things up. Sometimes a team member or client is unwell, or has had a major illness or even death in the family, and we want to show we care. When sending botanics we’ve ordered from various main street retailers and M&S and Next have always fared well. But our new love is Patch Plant who has an amazing range of plants and pots if you are looking for something that little bit different.
Wellbeing gift (US) – we recently used a company to send a well wish gift called GiveSunshine who have some amazing gift boxes to choose from including a Sunshine box (which we ordered) and a quarantine box! But you could also look at sites such as My Thera Box, Gourmet Soup Delivery, or Spruce Eats that list the 7 best US companies to use for soup delivery.
Remarkably, this is actually the shortlist of just some of the swag we’ve ordered for PF and for our clients over the years. We’ll continue adding to the list, and you can rest assured that every provider listed here has been used personally by us and the merchandise received by our team or our clients, with great feedback. And just as importantly, these companies and the people working for them are really pleasant, helpful, and supportive in our search for the best merch ever.
Because your firm and team and values are so important to you, the swag bearing your firm’s name and brand needs to be done well, too. If you’ve gotten some particularly high quality swag recently, share it with us on the socials using the hashtag #pfswag. We’d love to see it!