- To not rely solely on ads, many influencers sell products directly to their fans.
- Insider highlights the best companies working with creators to produce and sell merchandise.
- These nine companies help designers develop products, from plush toys to branded sweatshirts.
Selling branded merchandise has long been a popular source of income for celebrities and entertainers. Now YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok influencers who don’t want to rely solely on ads and brand endorsements are moving into the space.
And merch doesn’t just mean t-shirts and hoodies anymore. Designers are inventive with the products they make, from plush toys to notebooks to water bottles.
Merch companies are reacting to the trend. Teespring for example, which started out as a print-on-demand service to create custom t-shirts, rebranded as Spring last year to reflect that they’ve expanded beyond t-shirts and into manufacturing. of items like phone cases, mugs, and bobble heads.
“At first it was do you want to do a T-shirt or do you want to do a hoodie?” Bobby Maylack, marketing director of merchandising company Represent, said. “Today it’s gotten a lot more complex, and merch is a monetization channel that every celebrity knows they have to do, whether they’re a YouTube creator or an athlete.”
Represent, along with other companies like Warren James, employ designers who work directly with creators to create highly personalized products, like a line of yo-yos for YouTuber PewDiePie.
“The creator economy is growing so rapidly that there are commodity companies that are focused on certain segments of the market,” said Kevin Ramsey, CEO of Warren James.
Merchandising companies have different business models: some sign licensing agreements with creators and then pay them a royalty on sales, while others work with creators as partners, with each party taking a share of the profits. Others charge creators a base price to make the products, allowing creators to sell the items at whatever price they choose and keep the difference as profit.
For the second time, Insider shines a light on top merch companies that have built lasting partnerships with creators on social media, working with influencers to design, manufacture and sell personalized products.
To form this list, we relied on a mix of our own reports, reader nominations, and opinions from industry experts. We chose these companies based on factors such as reach, accessibility to join, and impact on the influencer business as a whole.
The top 9 commodity companies are listed below in alphabetical order: