Through the end of 2020 and the first few weeks of the new year, the Identity Works team has noticed some interesting changes in the custom corporate branding world. I virtually “sat down” with our merchandising guru and a few account managers recently to gain a better understanding of what our clients can look forward to for the next 10 months of 2021. As you plan for this year’s events, buy new team apparel or giveaways, and update your employee welcome kits, keep your brand plans on-trend with these new perspectives, decoration locations, and promotional pieces.
Many teams will continue to be home all day for the next few months, for some maybe even permanently. Because of this, making the work from home experience better will continue to stay at the forefront in 2021. Look for spa and wellness products, home or kitchen items, blankets, etc.
Batches of Patches
The vintage looks that came on to the scene in 2020 are here to stay. Patches (either embroidered or stamped leather) and woven fabric labels are a great way to transform your custom apparel from a piece of branded clothing to a retail-ready style your internal or external customers would love to wear! As Maggie Peters-Voss commented in our 2020 trend discussion “Patches give the same old work shirt, trucker hat, or giveaway a trendy retro look that’s so popular right now. A company can order a batch of patches, then use them on a variety of different pieces to create a unified look that’s unique to their needs without a ton of additional cost”.
Video Inspired Decoration Locations
Move over left chest. In 2021 you’ll see logos moved off the chest and onto the front shoulder or closer to the neck line. “Why the migration?” you may ask. Moving to these new locations makes company branding visible during video calls! 😉
Sustainable & Comfortable Apparel
“Just because your team or customers aren’t going into an office every day, doesn’t mean there isn’t a demand for high quality branded apparel. We have seen a huge surge in demand for sweatshirts, including a resurgence of crewneck sweatshirts; ultra-soft t-shirts; and joggers”, said Matt Gonzales, Identity Works’ Resident Merchandising Expert. He added: “This trend, coupled with some great new brand additions gives our clients the ability to offer sustainable apparel that looks great, feels great, and that they feel great about buying! Clients have been pairing these pieces with our high-impact decoration like leather patches, woven fabric labels, or retail soft-hand screen print for branded apparel pieces their teams want to wear all day, every day.”
According to the team, District’s Re-Fleece and Re-Tee styles have been very popular with clients because they are insanely comfortable and made from 100% recycled and reclaimed material that has been directly removed from the waste stream and uses a low-impact dye process.
Sustainably-made branded products from Allmade have also grown in popularity as of late due to their socially-conscious business model – and extremely soft and comfortable shirts. Their tri-blend shirts are made from a combination of polyester made from recovered plastic, sustainably grown modal, and organic cotton. In addition to awesome products, Allmade production factories are strategically located to create sustainable fair-wage employment for people in economically and environmentally distressed areas.
Expect continued retail brand expansion into the corporate space in 2021. Camelbak, Thule, Hershel, Skullcandy, TravisMathew, and W&P have all made massive expansions, allowing them to offer even more retail products to the corporate world for customization.
While some organizations are targeting bringing employees back into the office in the near future, fully- or partially-remote workforces are expected to be the norm going forward. With this comes a focus on a new breed of custom branded items that are tasked with boosting employee productivity when they’re working outside of the traditional office. From big-ticket gear to smaller tools, here are four pieces that we expect to make a splash in 2021:
- The do-it-all Docksy Charging Station organizes and powers a myriad of devices at one time.
- The Moniclp Phone Holder keeps an employee’s phone at the ready and usable as a web cam while they work on a nearby computer.
- Custom branded ring lights are new on the scene and help offer perfect lighting during virtual webinars and sales meetings.
- The Rocketbook Fusion journal gives team members the ability to sketch, brainstorm, take notes, and more while effortlessly syncing and sharing written output into an electronic world, and everything in-between. Yes, you read that right: if you write or draw something in the Rocketbook journal, it will appear on your computer screen. Let that sink in for a moment…
Creative Communication Delivery
With opportunities for in-person interaction still limited in 2021, it will become increasingly important for sales and leadership teams to find creative ways to make meaningful impressions on employees, customers, and prospects. Because of this, we expect the use of video box and video brochures to increase. Custom branded video boxes and brochures offer companies the ability to load videos of product presentations, training materials, onboarding content, conference content, etc. onto completely customized packaging for the viewer to watch when they receive it. For more in-depth content, chapter controls can be added to the viewing experience. According to Gonzales, “Communications using these tools can be extremely powerful in these situations because they allow a recipient to enjoy both direct communication via video content and complimentary branded gear delivered at the same time.”
Health + Fitness Focus
After nearly a year of staying at home, snacking while binging your favorite streaming service, and not having a daily commute or walks around the office, it’s easy to feel like 2021 needs to start on a better foot health-wise. Branded health and fitness-related gear is a great way for companies to show their teams that they care about them, while also giving them tools to be their best selves. Top options we’re seeing include:
- Yoga mats complete with custom branding on the carrying bag and mat itself.
- The new Dripz waterproof earbuds that can be used while swimming or running in the rain.
- Hidrate’s HidrateSpark water bottles that help easily track water consumption.
- Health and Wellness Journals that make tracking progress toward health goals easier.
- Runner’s lights to ensure safety when jogging or cycling in low-light conditions before and after the workday.
Custom swag kits are a trend that exploded in popularity last year and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. With so much flexibility and infinite options for customization, we see kits being used extensively for both internal and external marketing in tons of different ways:
- Team recognition.
- As a replacement for a company retreat.
- New hire kits that can be sent straight to the employee’s home.
- Swag kits as a companion for virtual conferences.
- Customer care kits for clients to keep them engaged.
- As traditional “Thank you” or holiday gift with a little extra panache.
Not only is there a laundry list of pre-curated kits to choose from for every price point (a great option for those short on time), in the past few months the Identity Works team has seen many more companies choosing to do fully customized kits than ever before. With the fully customized option, clients and account managers work together to hand pick each kit’s element, making it a truly one-of-a-kind experience for the recipient.
“In addition to one-time kit projects, we’ve also seen an increase in ongoing kit programs in the past few months.” Gonzales noted. He added, “Due to the decreased number of people physically in office locations these days, businesses have found it challenging to get mailings assembled and shipped in a timely manner for a variety of programs that they used to handle themselves.” As a result, a larger number of clients have reached out to Identity Works to handle the fulfillment of everything from new hire kits, custom onboarding kits, anniversary kits, or even product and literature bundles that support their sales cycle.
Personal Health & Safety Items
This certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise: Personal health and safety items aren’t going anywhere in the near future. In 2021 you’ll notice a larger variety of options in the “no touch” tool category, as well as new and improved versions of high-touch items like pens and water bottles with new antimicrobial finishes(!). Expect to see more varieties of UV-C light device sanitizers available for decoration with custom company branding as well.
Finally, options for branded masks and face coverings have come a long way from where they were 365 days ago. These days you can find reusable face masks readily available to be customized with your logo and offering all kinds of features, like multiple layers, adjustable ear loops, nose bridges for a tighter fit, and filter pockets. There are even low-minimum mask options now where the mask fabric color can be matched to an organization’s Pantone colors for all-over, full-color printing on the face for adults or kiddos.
*This article was originally posted on 12-9-2019 and updated on 2/10/2021 to reflect new trends.