The Art of Merchandising: What It Is and Why We Do It
Merchandising either in Huntsville, Alabama, or anywhere else in the world is an interesting concept. We love and hate it. We orchestrate complicated politics, business, and relationships that have formed and stayed in place because of it. Buyers consume merchandise as part of a fad. We use merchandise to speak on our behalf when it comes to our personality traits. We also throw it out when we presume to outgrow it or expand the commercialism to new heights. Merchandising is a powerful thing and it makes companies a lot of money.
It is an entire world in and of itself, but it can be kind of hard to pinpoint it as a concept. So, we are going to look at merchandising to find out just what it is, as well as its benefits and drawbacks.
What is Merchandise?
It is a Tangible Object
It is hard to label something that is ingrained as an abstract concept and intertwined in a niche world like marketing and sales. Especially when it seems like they change the rules and intent of the message constantly to keep people interested in what they are selling. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. It’s just hard to put into words because there is a sliver of difference between what counts as merchandise, and what is just a good.
The least we can do is start at a basic point. Merchandise is always a tangible object. People, services, ideas, emotions, anything else is never called merchandise. Because no one could be able to sell a product that they do not control, or have the rights to. You also can’t reproduce a person the exact same way. You can do that with an image, but that does not make the person merchandise.
We cannot take or reshape intangible things like words or ideas. While we can do that with the written word to some degree, the flexibility and abstract nature of language, as well as individual interpretation, can vary.
It is Promotional in Nature
We buy objects all the time. It is part of a trading system that gets us what we need. Food in our bellies, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back. But what drives us to make decisions on what we pick up? What motivates us to make a split-second choice between one thing or another.
Most, if not all people, make their decision between things like visual cues, risk assessment, price points, and availability. People also have a tendency to personify objects and create their routines based on personal preference. This is why when markets are trying to sell to the general public or anyone that fills a niche, they try their best to get people to relate to brands. It is why Micky Mouse appeals to small children or why Oprah appeals to older married women. If a brand is large enough to be recognizable to many people, then they are more likely than not going to seek it out, during the purchase decision making the process.
It is especially useful when you consider how our brains are wired. Usually, we rely on symbolism, visual cues to give us a quick message so we can understand information faster. It is why we discriminate based on appearance and determine safety from danger. All we have to do is see the hint of a trait or a brand logo on something and we can quickly identify what to do with it.
So, it makes sense that anything considered merchandise would, at the very least, promotional in nature.
How it Adds Up
If merchandise is a tangible object that has some sort of symbolism for promotional purposes, you get the gist of the definition. This is a very broad definition, but a lot of promotional products fall under this umbrella. Some of which are more obvious than others.
The more popularly known merchandise tends to be associated with commercial brands that are paid for and have a copyright claim on the imagery. But merchandise can be anything that people recognizes as shorthand for something to categorize. Red Cross t-shirts given away at blood drives are technically merchandise. Merchandise does not require a price tag, nor does it have to change the face of a brand. But it does have to be distinct enough for people to recognize and identify with.
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