Why you Need Merch that Motivates

July 7, 2022
Why you Need Merch that Motivates

Not all employee engagement programs are created equal. Keep reading to see what we mean. (And get a few insights into what your employees really want.)

It used to be that you worked for 30 years and got a gold watch and a few slaps on the back at the end of your career. “Here’s a fancy wood plaque to show our appreciation for your decades of service.”

Fortunately, we’ve evolved since the Mad Man-Esque days of corner offices and clichéd gifts. As employee expectations have changed, the role of branded merchandise has become more sophisticated and nuanced. Sorry, Don Draper.

Employee engagement and recognition programs are no longer just an “oh, that’s nice” thing for companies to have. They’re essential for motivating and retaining good employees, as well as pivotal for brand culture assimilation and marketing. Whether it’s onboarding kits, anniversary gifts, sales and training incentives, or other types of recognition, employees who are celebrated for their efforts are more likely to connect with their purpose, help their colleagues succeed, and produce great work.

Gallup defines engaged employees as involved, enthusiastic, and committed to their work and workplace. By this definition, disengaged employees have the opposite qualities—distracted, indifferent, and unavailable. (Kind of like your neighbor who leaves his trash can by the curb for days. So what’s it going to take, Brad?)

It’s estimated that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies a stunning $450-550 billion yearly in lost productivity. Crazy, right?

Hmmm…if only there was a way to keep employees happily engaged.


You might be thinking, “But my employees only want money!”

Yeah, we get it. People like money. But, interestingly enough, money is not always the greatest motivator. An Incentive Research Foundation study showed that tangible, non-cash gifts are more effective than money. The reason? Recipients typically use the extra money for basic expenses such as gas or groceries. This fails to create any real excitement or anticipation. Cash is forgettable. Tangible incentives and rewards feel like actual gifts and promote appreciation over obligation.


People like things. TA-DA.

Branded merchandise is the perfect opportunity to make employees fall in love with your company. It’s more than slapping your logo on random stuff, though. How can you use merch to motivate and inspire your employees over their work lifecycle?


Branded merch can create a memorable and meaningful experience for new hires. Increasing the engagement and retention rate for a new employee starts with your onboarding process.

Yes, you chose your employees. But they also chose you. Acknowledge that fact and show them that they made the right decision.

First impressions are everything. A personalized onboarding kit—with a handwritten card and collection of cool items they will likely need on and off the job—is a chance to introduce your company culture, mission, and values to new employees. Done thoughtfully, it engages them from the beginning and makes them feel like part of a team. In fact, we would encourage you to send them the kit before they even start.

An engaged employee opens a gift from her employer Successful employee engagement programs begin with a great first impression.


There is no such thing as too much recognition.

When you only celebrate work anniversaries, you neglect the very thing employees need to keep doing good work: positive reinforcement. Imagine going for an entire year without receiving any type of recognition for your contributions or efforts. Um yeah, no thanks.

It’s like the great Maya Angelou once said:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The following stats offer up insights into what employees actually want:

69% of employees would work harder if they felt more appreciated for their efforts.

53% of employees say they would stay longer in a company if they felt appreciated.

Companies with effective recognition programs have 31% lower voluntary turnover.

79% of millennials surveyed said an increase in rewards would make them more loyal to their employer.

In a world where everyone is continuously weighing their options, prioritize a thriving workplace where people are connected, committed, and, most of all, appreciated.


Don’t guess what matters most to your employees. Let them choose their reward. When everyone gets the same fleece jacket or bullet blender, the moment becomes ordinary. Or worse, forgettable.

Merch is no longer simply slapping a logo on t shirts and hoping people like it. It’s a vibe. It’s an occasion. People crave a retail feel, not a promo look. They want “cool” merch and accessories. With innovative decoration, printing, and packaging, your branded products can create that retail experience. And guess what? You can customize many retail items with your logo and colors.

For example, a Fortune 500 client of ours is rolling out a program where recognized employees can select from a range of categories containing impactful branded gifts from leading retail brands (including Apple Airpods, Roombas, Nintendo Switches), products that support specific causes, as well as fun branded experiences. Adding to the excitement: the items change every month! The response so far has been incredible–employees are totally invested in the program and motivated to perform.


One last stat worthy of your eyeballs:

Happier workers are 13% more productive at work.

While 13% might not seem like much, it’s the difference between $1,800,000 and $2,034,000 in revenue. Those extra bucks certainly make a difference. That gain in productivity is well worth the incremental increase in employee spending. Renowned business leader Douglas Conant once said, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” While a creative and strategic employee recognition program won’t solve every business woe, it can create a connected and committed workforce.

Happiness is a valid metric. When employees are engaged and productive, businesses win. Happy employees mean happy customers. And happy customers mean a happy bottom line.

Building and managing employee engagement programs can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Or time-consuming. These programs can be automated entirely through integrated brand stores or a website that offer employees an excellent experience.

It’s what we do every day here at Thumbprint.

See one of our many employee engagement programs in action. Reach out to us today to set up a demo!


Then shop official engagement merch! 50% of your purchase goes directly to the Kids in Need foundation.


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