Jun 14, 2024

Got Company Swag? How Branded Gear can boost your repair biz

Got Company Swag? How Branded Gear can boost your repair biz


Some of us have it. The rest of us wish we had it.

(Editor’s Note: Suz, you might be thinking of swagger.)

Nope. I mean, yes, I definitely wish I had more swagger, but I also wish I had more swag.

In other news, welcome to today’s post! We received a question a few weeks ago from an owner wondering if repair shops had any luck giving branded merchandise to customers, staffers, and occasionally randos off the street. In other words, did they have any swag? And did that swag do anything for them?

I cornered Fullbay’s Director of Marketing and Everyone’s Favorite Editor, Aaron Treguboff, to ask. We also tracked down the marvelous Krislyn Bio, Marketing Manager at Donahue Truck Centers, to get her take on the swag game.

(Oh, and let’s make it clear that “swag” and “gear” and “stuff” are all used interchangeably. I love the term swag, as you can no doubt tell. And for the purposes of this post, “swag” and its interchangeables refer to anything that is visibly tied to your company—say, your repair shop—and what it can do for your marketing.)


As you may or may not know, Fullbay has a lot of swag. If we can slap a logo or a cool diesel-related graphic on it, we’ve probably tried to make it. We’ve got Fullbay stickers, Fullbay pens, Fullbay charging cables, and Fullbay T-shirts. There are even Fullbay shoes (and they’re pretty badass).

Remember Diesel Connect? It had its own set of swag, including coasters and magnets (I may or may not have five of them on my fridge).

It’s all cool-looking. But to some it might seem…excessive.

“Aaron?” I asked when I started writing this piece. “Why does Fullbay have so much swag?”

“Because it is cool,” he said.


He thought for a moment.

“Because we can?”

“Hey, you assigned this article.”

He laughed and got down to business: “Branded gear is a way to keep your company’s name in front of people,” he said. Sometimes quite literally, if it’s hanging in your closet or stuck to your fridge. “It’s a great way to make customers happy. Who doesn’t like free things?”

So, what happens when your shop’s name or logo is in front of someone constantly?

Brand recognition.

Louder for the folks in back?

Everybody now! Brand recognition!

If you’ve got a repair truck or even a shirt with your shop’s name on it, then you’re already engaging in this kind of stealth marketing. Ashley Sowell of Integrity Fleet Services in Texas refers to her trucks as “rolling billboards.” At last count, she had 10 of them; that’s 10 billboards going all over her region.

Ashley didn’t stop at branding the trucks, though. People can be billboards, too! “Part of working on the business is making sure you stay relevant and making sure your imprint is large,” she said, and that’s why she invested in Integrity-branded T-shirts and gave these out to staff and customers alike. Her husband, she said, made fun of her—until the day he saw the workplace swarming in Integrity gear.

That’s a lot of eyes on what is basically an Integrity advertisement.

Donahue Truck Centers gives their customers big pads of Post-It notes and pens. Think about how long a stack of Post-It notes will last. That’s your logo in front of a person as they scratch down notes about…well, whatever people use Post-Its for these days. Phone numbers. Reminders. Bits and pieces of weird dreams. Bookmarks. All with your shop’s logo on them!

Don’t discount the power of repetition. If a driver or fleet manager constantly sees your shop’s name, they’re constantly reminded that you exist. They may not need you right this minute, but sometime down the line they might realize they need a new repair shop—and remember the name they keep seeing on their Post-Its.

Let’s go back to our Director of Marketing, who had a little more time to muse on the topic. “Swag reminds people to use your shop again,” he said. “And if people who don’t use your shop are getting your stuff, or seeing you all over the place—it might just convince them to take a look at you.”

(“I like to call it magic,” Krislyn added, and we’re tempted to agree. Just maybe don’t call it that when you’re pitching it to the C-suite.)

If you’ve got people wandering around your city wearing your T-shirts, using your pens (and possibly leaving them places), and scribbling notes on your stationary, that’s a lot of extra eyeballs on your stuff. It’s a—hang on, let me put on my buzzword hat—a significant expansion of your organization’s footprint.

So swag can help you get the word out. But before going all-in on shop-branded frisbees*, think about what makes you keep an item.


You can slap your name on anything and call it promotional, but be warned that people won’t think twice about tossing something they don’t like—especially if it’s free. You want to keep your shop’s name in front of people? Make sure it’s on high-quality products that people will want to use, look at, or at least not instantly chuck into the nearest dumpster.

So…what’s endlessly useful? Or at least not hideous? Here’s a list of neat stuff Fullbay and other shops have given out:

  • Pens
  • Notepads
  • USB drives
  • Charging cables
  • Magnets
  • Coffee mugs
  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Beanies
  • Hats
  • Bottle openers on keychains
  • Air fresheners (these are big ones for Donahue!)

Note that those are pretty much all items you can use on a daily basis (well, maybe the sweatshirts and beanies are better for cooler weather). But coffee mugs? Every coffee drinker needs more of those. USB drives? Even if you don’t use it, you probably know someone who can.

What should you put on your swag? You can get creative. It doesn’t have to be to just be your shop’s name in all caps and nothing else. “Think about all your branding,” Aaron suggested. “It could be just your name, but you might also have company colors. Some shops have a mascot or a motto…you can get creative.”

You probably have a logo, right? That’s your starting point. If you don’t—or if your current logo needs some jazzing up—find yourself a talented graphic designer who will be able to create something that’s both badass and renders well on clothes, pens, and so on. (We’re really spoiled at Fullbay, as we’ve got the incomparable Sam Rapp designing all of our swag!)


We get it: costs are a concern. Especially if this is stuff you’re giving away.

We don’t have a tried-and-true, one-size-fits-all formula. A one-man band probably isn’t going to have a ton of cash to spend on T-shirts and branded toys (and won’t have the storage for them, anyway). A big shop with lots of bays can go wild with hats, stuffed animals, and so on.

If you decide you want to go the swag route, the money will usually come from your marketing budget (you have one of those, right?). If marketing takes up 5% of your budget, then figure on pointing 5% of your marketing money at swag. A bigger biz like Donahue or Fullbay might go even bigger.

Obtaining branded merchandise seems like it should be easy. Upload your logo and see how it looks on stuff, right? You can bulk order gear from VistaPrint and Sticker Mule, for instance. But hold up—don’t throw all your swag cash at stuff you haven’t tested!

The heavy-duty industry is, well, it’s tough. Things need to hold up. Springing for the cheapest option may end up biting you in the backside when that item falls apart after a couple of uses. “It took us a long time to find a shirt we liked and a hat we liked,” Krislyn recalled, adding that Donahue tested out at least ten shirts before landing on one that met everyone’s approval. Her criteria? It had to be soft (but not too soft) and hold up well to repeated wear and turns in the washing machine.

You should establish similar criteria and testing for anything you’re planning on giving out to customers. Do pens write well? Does the air freshener actually work? And so on.

You provide high-quality repairs. Any swag you give out should be high-quality, too!


There is one question left, and that’s another you’ll have to answer for yourself: How do I give this stuff to my customers?

You can leave Post-Its and pens on the counter for them to take. You can tuck swag into a goodie bag and hand it off to customers after they pay—yes, dentists do this a lot, too. You can hand them a T-shirt after they’ve become a regular customer (or before!). You can stuff keychains and air fresheners into nooks and crannies and really freak people out.

(Editor’s Note: We do not advise freaking out your customers.)

Really, how you hand off the swag—much like how much you spend on it and what kind of swag you produce—is up to you. Maybe you hand it out in person. Maybe you mail it. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

The important thing is you give it a shot.

Choose your swag wisely, for it represents your shop. And make sure it’s cool-looking—you never know whose hands it will end up in!

*A local realtor handed out branded frisbees a couple years ago and a bunch of them wound up in the trash.

Suz Baldwin