A successful brand strategy can make a big difference.

There’s an old adage that says you only get one chance to make a first impression. With that in mind, it’s incredibly important to have a brand strategy that wget results. Here’s an example of how branded merchandise helped one business owner make a big impact.

The Company

Ryan Kowalski followed his heart when he opened WOOF Day Care & Boarding in Mantua, New Jersey. The facility offers full service care for pets, including cage-free play inside and out, while their owners are at work or on vacation.

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved animals — especially dogs!” Kowalski said. “I’ve always been the guy with all the dogs following him. I just reached a point in my life where I decided: Do what you love and love what you do. So I decided to open up WOOF.”

The Challenge

As a new business, WOOF did not have an established brand identity within its community. The company needed to generate awareness and recognition. Moreover, Kowalski needed to project a professional image that would ensure potential customers trusted his company with the care of their furry family members.

The Solution

From the beginning, Kowalski invested in branded merchandise, including staff uniforms, client gifts and display advertising for local events.

Custom apparel is one of the easiest ways for companies to present a unified image to customers. Kowalski outfitted his employees in quality logoed caps, shirts and hoodies that helped keep them comfortable on the job and identifiable to customers.

When choosing promotional merchandise, Kowalski thought about his customers, too. At the end of a first stay at WOOF Day Care, clients received their pets’ belongings back in a logoed cinch bag. The idea was to make it easier for customers to gather toys, treats and supplies for the next visit and keep the brand top of mind.

“The bags have our logo, which is a dog with a collar, and we write the dog’s name on the collar and give them away to all boarders and at different events,” Kowalski said. “The customers think they’re super cute.”

One customer even sent Kowalski a picture of a dog wearing his cinch bag like a backpack. The image is now the company’s profile picture on Facebook. Because they are so convenient and reusable, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute, promotional bags can produce more than 5,000 brand impressions.

Event marketing was also part of Kowalski’s promotional strategy for his new business. Logoed signage and banners helped him attract attention at local events, like pet festivals, where his target demographic gathered.

The Result

Thanks to his branded merchandise strategy, Kowalski says people took his brand more seriously from the day he opened his doors. Some people even thought WOOF was part of a larger pet care chain instead of a new local business.

“Just because you’re small, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t project a bigger and bolder image,” Kowalski says. “From our work with Staples Promotional Products, we’ve been able to project a consistent message that rings of professionalism.”

A year after opening his company, Kowalski reported that business was good. He sees franchising opportunities in his future.