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customized promotional gifts branding methods

Decoration - Getting the Branding Right

Decoration, or getting your brand or logo onto the product, is a critical consideration. The decoration needs to be in line with your corporate values and customer expectations.
The first decision you have to consider is size. Large or small? Yes, there is not a lot of choice on a ball pen, but there is on a jacket.
Another point to consider is the number of colours. Apart from embroidery, increasing the number of colours does increase the cost. You need to balance this increase in cost with your brand requirements.
The next variable to consider is how many times you will want your brand on the item? Your brand alone? A co-brand? A positioning statement? An extra brand impression?
All of this is done, of course, with full consideration to the limitations of the product you have chosen to brand.
Let's look at some of the most commonly used branding methods:

Pad Printing

- a quick method of branding, generally up to 4-colour printing is available, but that does depend upon what your supplier can access. Note that soft products (like stress toys) are generally only branded in 1 colour due to registration problems with subsequent colours. Every extra colour will usually carry an extra set-up cost.
Registration - aligning the product or garment correctly so that the next colour appears in the right place.

Laser engraving

- using a computer-controlled laser to create the desired logo, design or pattern. Surprisingly, laser engraving isn't just for metal objects. It can give wood a burnt finish, and will even produce an interesting effect on leather compendiums and note pad covers. The technology is continually evolving, so look for more surfaces to be laser engraved in the future.

Screen printing

- in reality, up to 7 colours can be achieved with screen printing, but why would you? Screen printing for more than 2 colours is fast becoming a victim of technology (see the next entry on digital transfer). Just like with pad printing, every extra colour will carry an extra set-up cost. Your print size is limited to the size of the screens used.

Digital transfer

- the image to be printed is created on the computer and the whole image is produced at one time. It is affixed in a very similar way to an iron-on transfer. This is more economical than screen printing because there is only one set-up cost rather than one per colour. Just like with screen printing, you will get a "plasticy" feel to the branded area. You can achieve a larger print area by joining individual transfers together, with care taken to line the transfers up (register) correctly.


- commonly used on all apparel other than t-shirts (which are usually screen printed). Embroidery cannot match PMS colours as the cotton colours are what the embroiderer has to work with. That said, embroidery will get fairly close. Large embroidered areas can get very itchy. This is why you will see many jackets have embroidery that only stitches through the first layer of material. They were embroidered at the point of manufacture (and that requires a sufficiently large order).

Digital sublimation

will permanently colour the fabric with full colour and give a result that lasts as long as the cloth (without the "plasticy" feel of screen printing or digital transfer). Often a more expensive method, but one that suits a vast number of situations (including flags, banners, and table cloths). It allows a much larger print area than digital transfer or screen printing.

Digital print

- often used in short runs, especially for pull-up banners and banner signage. Also used for point-of-sale materials, fridge magnets, etc. Full colour print is available with no extra cost for extra colours; it is all the same to a digital printer.


- this is most commonly used on glass products and is (basically) engraving on glass. Obviously, since etching is similar to engraving, it only comes in the one colour, that of the glass.

Kiln-fired & etch-effect - This is a permanent method used for ceramic and glass products. Glasses can have a permanent brand that looks as though it has been etched in. Multiple colours are available. Extra colours may cost extra in set-up costs.
There are "niche" methods like applique, but they are so seldom used because they have been superseded by the methods already mentioned.
The branding method you settle on will depend on many variables (including what the product is that you are branding), so ask your promotional products advisor what they recommend for a particular product.
My advice is to ALWAYS use PMS colours (a very widely accepted colour chart using the Pantone Matching System) when ordering branded merchandise. Your brand is an important part of your business, and brand integrity is vital.
If you don't already have a brand style guide, engage a graphic designer (or your Marketing Manager) to create one for each of your brands. That style guide will ensure that your brand is seen in exactly the same way wherever and whenever it is printed.
In your branding style manual clearly spell out what branded merchandise products you have used in the past and how they were decorated (method and artwork). This allows someone new to your organisation to get it right when they are tasked with sourcing your next batch of printed pens.