Branded Merch From Retailers Is Booming

Playful apparel and accessories can spark social media conversations.

March 08, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Panera came up with a novel promotion for its new toasted baguettes. The fast-casual restaurant created a BAGuette. Glamour describes the purse as “made of faux green leather with a repeating ‘P’ monogram. A gold magnetic clasp bears the same logo. It’s long and shallow, and the perfect size for holding an actual sandwich—or a phone, keys, lip liner, and other everyday essentials,” the magazine reports.

“On Feb. 7, the day the baguette bag was teased by Panera, the $40 accessory took TikTok by storm,” reports Modern Retail. “The launch day resulted in hundreds of likes and comments from people wanting to get their hands on the purse. The bag has since sold out and is already being listed on the secondhand market, with eBay listings currently for over $200.” 

The Panera purse is reminiscent of KFC’s Wrapuette, a red leather purse that celebrated the QSR’s Twister Wrap.

The site reports that these merch drops are becoming more frequent. The motivations: “For one, merch releases often help generate social media impressions and press coverage. Secondly, having big fans wearing a brand’s apparel creates a walking billboard effect on the company’s behalf. And finally, on-trend merch such as Panera’s bag can appeal to a different type of customers, even those who may not visit the chain often.”

According to the website Common SKU, “Branded merchandise has long been a staple of consumer marketing and trade shows, but the industry has been evolving and is now so much more than a product with a logo. Brands in every industry today are recognizing this shift in customer perception and elevating their branded swag. The meaning of ‘brand’ itself has evolved beyond the product or service, to ideology, culture and a sense of belonging. Branded swag is becoming an extension of the personality.”

In August, 7-Eleven announced the launch of its 7Collection, an online merchandise shop featuring exclusive apparel and accessories inspired by 7-Eleven and its products, such as Big Gulp and Slurpee drinks.