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2024 Branded Merch Trends Uncovered

2024 Trends in the promo merch industry

Along with Hannah Batts and Cassi Dreyer, I went to Vegas in January to attend the PPAI Expo. This is our industry’s largest trade show where our production partners showcase their products. After our reflection, we identified some interesting trends that our clients should be aware of. In addition, we reviewed some trends from previous years to see how those are evolving.   

Handles on Drinkware – Overall the drinkware category in branded merch continues to explode. The options seem to multiply two-fold every year and the trend continues to be into high performance options. While last year we saw the launch of the Stanley style cup (I love how this has wreaked havoc with the internet search results with the NHL Stanley Cup), this year we saw the evolution of handles being added to the tops of large (32 oz and more) drinkware vessels. Drinkware is always about style and this is what we are seeing as the “next style.” One example is this!   

2024 Trends in the promo merch industryPlants-A-Growing – We recently looked through our PPAI pictures from 2017 and 2018 and plants and flowers did not really show up. This year on the tradeshow floor, plants were growing everywhere! Plants, flowers and seed kits make for interactive and potential long-lasting promo merch options that work well in both a home and office. Our options have “grown” to succulents, plants that come in camper mugs, planter kits and much more.  

Packaging: Repurposed! – Repurposed packaging is where the packaging that a product arrives in can be reused for another purpose. This is not yet a trend, as we only saw one example, but it is worth watching now as an innovation. We saw this from a brand new partner to our industry that launched this concept for all of their products in 2024. For example, the packaging for one of their water bottles can be reused as a bird feeder. Other packaging transforms to a cord organizer, a pen holder and spice rack. With an industry focus on reducing waste, packaging is the next frontier and this production partner is the first that we are seeing take this head on.  

Hats With a Rope – The phrase “what is old is new again” perfectly captures this hat trend. We were really surprised when we saw a hat with a rope going along the front of the cap, as that is an old school look. When we saw it again and again at different booths, we had to inquire more as we were surprised…indeed the rope hat is back in style and options are booming. Expect to see more options come available over the next several months (and maybe even worn by coaches at next year’s Super Bowl!).

Pet Power – With the rising prominence of pets in our society, the branded merch industry has enthusiastically embraced this trend. What initially began with simple dog bandannas and leashes has now expanded to include an array of products such as bowls, toys and more. We expect to see more and more items being added to this category in upcoming years. Check out how Pet Smart has jumped in on the pet merch trend! For more inspiration, check out pet-inspired campaigns like ‘Cornell’s Dog Days of Summer.’

Updates on Previous Trends – We looked at the trends from previous years that we identified and have a few updates on these as well. 

2024 Trends in the promo merch industryWearables – Over the past years we have seen a huge influx of branded merch that people wear and stick to show off their tribes. These products have included shoes, zipper pulls and croc charms (there was even a time when no one was doing branded socks). The latest example of a worn trending product is shoelaces. We saw a number of options and while we will not predict that they will be as popular as other wearables,  we certainly see the potential of this product in our collegiate markets that serve current and prospective students!  

Retail – We continue to see an influx of retail brands into the branded merch space. I remember when I started in branded merch 19 years ago, Nike and Adidas were just entering the space. Now retail brands are fully immersed into this marketplace. New entries over the past few months include Owala, La Cuisine and Parkit!

Eco-Friendly – The industry continues to introduce more eco-conscious branded merch each year. In addition to the reusable packaging mentioned above, we continue to see products made from recycled materials, including this journal which was once fruit! 

One-Piece Minimums – We continue to see a movement towards print-on-demand capabilities in the industry. One of our main production partners launched a program where we can now only print logoed products on over 50 items, each item can be personalized with their name.  We foresee these types of programs growing in popularity as the capabilities continue to evolve.  

We will continue to keep our antennas up on identifying trends and are already excited about PPAI 2025! 2024 Trends in the promo merch industry

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