Merchandise isn’t the first revenue stream for most creators. After all, you need an audience interested enough in your content brand to want to buy something from you. But it’s great for revenue diversification.

Merch also can help grow your brand and community. But don’t consider it a passive income stream. It takes some work.

Renee Teeley at CEX discussing merch tips for creators
Renee Teeley at Creator Economy Expo

Renee Teeley, co-host of The Creator Feed podcast and creator advisor at Spreadshop, shared the top five mistakes creators make with merch at Creator Economy Expo. More importantly, she shared the five things to do to fix them:

1. Create unique designs to build a connection: Too many creators treat their audiences like billboards. They slap their logo on a shirt, mug, etc., and expect people to buy them. Instead, create designs people actually want to wear (and if you don’t have the experience, get professional help). 

Don't treat your audience like a billboard by just slapping your logo on merch. Create designs to build a connection, says @RTeeley. #ContentEntrepreneur #CreatorExpo Share on X

Infuse your brand personality, values, and unique selling points into the merch audiences. Finally, tap into emotions by capturing meaningful messages, inside jokes, or shared interests.

Example: Creator Philip DeFranco’s Beautiful Bastard merch

2. Refresh your merch: Creators who never change the merch in their store won’t see buyers return. Give your fans a reason to come back. Generate a buzz by treating each merch drop as a special event, including exclusive previews for loyal audience members. Released limited editions to create an urgency to buy so they don’t miss out.

Example: Yes Theory’s Seek Discomfort merch

3. Curate your products: Selling a lot of product types doesn’t lead to selling a lot of products. Your customers get overwhelmed. Instead, curate the best selection of merch for your audience now. Retire old designs. Also, analyze what your customers return and what they ask or complain about through customer service. (Yes, you – or your merch provider – will have to deal with dissatisfied customers.)

Creators should analyze what merch customers return and why to inform their future product selection and services, says @RTeeley. #ContentBusiness #CreatorEconomy Share on X

4. Sell merch of the same quality as your brand: Given merch is a reflection of your brand, low-quality merch won’t cut it. Ask for sample products to see and feel the quality. Ensure sizing is consistent. For example, test the fit of a medium to ensure it’s a true medium. Walk through the buying process as a customer would. Is it a seamless process or do you get tripped up at points? Can the experience be improved?

5. Integrated merch into your brand: Drive memberships and cultivate a sense of exclusivity by offering unique items to paid members. Use a “gift-with-purchase” strategy by offering exclusive perks and benefits to those who purchase your merch. You also can connect merch to your brand’s charitable mission. Donate a portion of the proceeds to a reputable cause or charity to foster a shared purpose among your brand and your fans.

Example: Mythical Society exclusive merch for members

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.