(Five-minute read)

The insight is backed by successful case studies of brands that are quite simply winning with their approach to marketing.


4imprint commissioned independent research asking business leaders their views on brand development, the challenges to promoting their brand in the next 12 months and what marketing resources and tools they will rely on.

The research also looked at where leaders were in their brand cycle, creating five categories, to provide useful insight for businesses from sole traders to those who have been operating over 25 years.


Five brand cycle categories:

Baby brand: A young enterprise which is one to three years old, with employees and founders juggling many different roles. They are limited in terms of budget and external resources. 

Not-for-profit brand: For example, a school, community, sports, or charity group who have created a brand identity to raise awareness or attract donations. Brand activity is implemented by either volunteers or as part of an additional responsibility by employees to their key job.

Toddler brand: Businesses that are over three years old and have started to create a brand identity. They are ready to take their next steps.

Teen brand: A business that is over ten years old and is now competing with more established firms. It is also challenging others and is creating waves by being competitive and disruptive.

Boomer brand:  A business that is more than 25 years old and is familiar to its customers with a heritage it has built up through decades in the sector.


Spotlight on Baby brands in 2024 – nobody puts baby in the corner 

Baby brands are full of enthusiasm and are fearless as they have less to lose than our other brands as they are just starting out in business life!

Many are sole traders, relying on the founder to manage all roles and 2024 looks set to be no exception.

Baby brands have the most time on their hands with just 12% saying there are not enough hours in the day.

Over a quarter of baby brands (29%) will have limited finance in the next 12 months, which is understandable as they are just starting their business. Not surprisingly, the majority (73%) are planning to do their own marketing.

Baby brands are the most adventurous of those surveyed with most willing to use more varieties of marketing than any other category in the brand cycle.

Baby brands will be spreading budgets across social media (38%), to experiential events (9%), and influencer marketing (13%), with branded merchandise playing a large part in their plans for the year ahead.

Case study: Dear Cece

Dear Cece is the brainchild of entrepreneur Jessica Ward and is named after her 18-month-old daughter.

Set up in 2023, the 33-year-old needed a business model that would work with childcare and the results is a beautiful gifting platform.

With a background in marketing, Jessica was able to use her skills to build a website and focus on presentation, creating a gorgeous design to entice online shoppers.

Now a force to be reckoned with in the gifting sector, Dear Cece has exciting plans for the future.


Spotlight on Not-For-Profit organisations in 2024 – using brand power for good

Founders of not-for-profit organisations (NFP) take a lot on and are juggling many roles.

Of those surveyed, NFPs are the most tightly squeezed for time (40%) meaning 1 in 8 are planning to handle their marketing in-house in 2024.

Three-quarters of NFPs surveyed feel they have enough budget for the year ahead and rank as our biggest users of traditional public relations.

Branded merchandise will also be a key part of their marketing mix both to create visibility and to fund raise which is critical to campaigning not-for-profits.

And NFPs are also big users of social media with nearly two-thirds (60%) saying it will form a key part of their marketing mix in 2024.

Case study: Warm This Winter 

Warm This Winter is a coalition of over 40 charities and campaign groups who are calling on the government to create a fairer energy system and end reliance on fossil fuels.

It is rarely out of the papers, choosing to use traditional PR to promote its campaign demands and get them in front of not only the public but decision-makers too, from political parties to regulatory bodies and high-profile individuals.

As well as comment on topical issues, from energy profits to changes in the energy price cap, the campaign group uses research to provide new content and case studies to highlight the lived experience of people who are struggling with energy bills.

The year ahead will see Warm This Winter continue this trajectory to ensure the UK’s energy landscape stays top of the media agenda.


Spotlight on Toddler brands in 2024 – Toddler brands find their feet

Toddlers are not quite sure of their next steps but are the most confident of all the entrepreneurs we spoke to in their brand for the year ahead.

They have all the growing pains of a new business; they are investing in their businesses and are beginning to find their voice.

Overall, they see 2024 as a year of opportunity but worry about falling over and wear many hats to get the job done, including marketing.

The majority are happy that they have capacity to do so in the year to come but a worried 18% say they will be stretched for time.

Toddler brands will be using social media to market their companies in 2024, (27%) with the focus on customer service approach.

They will also spend time and budget on associated tools such as creating video content (24%) and are the biggest user of influencer activity (15%).

Case study: Dylan’s Restaurants  

The company has grown quickly within its first few years of trading opening several new restaurants with a prime focus on Welsh produce across its menus.

What drives the owners is their strong passion for local foods. It delivers the freshest, best quality produce and guarantees food provenance to its customers.

It has since developed its own range of sauces in line with food served in its restaurants and its products are now sold in retail outlets including Selfridges and The Co-Op.

The company combines quality and value with an ambition not only to be seen as a restaurant brand, but as a retail brand too, standing toe to toe with top quality produce from around the world that it can sell and champion not just in Wales, but in England and across Europe.


Spotlight on Teen brands in 2024 – watch out for the confident teenagers

With challenges come opportunities and it is the Teen brands who are set to make 2024 their year with over half fully confident in their brand power for the year ahead.

Fearless and ready to rock the boat, they are used to disrupting the status quo and are not afraid to try out new marketing strategies to take business off more complacent companies.

Because they are still growing, half of Teen brands have limited budgets but that just makes them more innovative and value is key.

That is why they are the biggest users of promotional products with one in three planning to prioritise spend on branded merchandise to gain visibility in the next 12 months.

They are also the highest users of qualitative research (30%), and white papers which are used by 1 in 5 Teen brands.

They are ready to grow with 60% saying their business is scalable and a staggering 90% are confident of the future they have no interest in selling their business in the next two years.

Case study: I Love Manchester

Born out of the riots in Manchester in 2011, this Teen brand is a model of brand power, adapting the iconic ‘I heart NY’ logo for the UK’s second largest city.

Founder Chris Greenhalgh initially created a community platform to spread positivity and literally clean up the city, galvanising Mancunians to take to the streets and tidy the aftermath of smashed windows and other damage – putting the heart back into Manchester.

Now it is a thriving media platform showcasing the bustling city and the range of ‘I Love Mcr’ merchandise, from mugs to t-shirts, are a hit with thousands of visitors and selling globally online.

Not only does its range of promotional products generate business revenue, part of the profits go back to the community and the logo is recognisable not only in the UK but internationally.

This year it held the first ‘I Love Mcr’ awards, attended by over 800 celebrities, movers & shakers and nominees.

Although there are big plans for the year ahead, the founder is keeping those close to his heart.

One thing is sure, the now iconic brand is set to be more visible than ever before in 2024 through its use of promotional products and entrepreneurial guts that have helped the brand go from strength to strength.


Spotlight on Boomer brands in 2024 – business is booming 

Boomer brands are blessed with the resources to take on 2024 and have the most optimism regarding their marketing budget of all those in the brand cycle with 70% happy with their marketing spend for the next 12 months.

With a minimum of a quarter of a century in business, they know their worth and will be ‘sticking to their knitting’ in 2024.

Boomer brands are proud users of long-standing marketing methods such as traditional and digital PR marketing, but will also use paid social media in the next 12 months.

Whilst the majority are confident in their brand power for 2024, boomer brands cannot afford to be complacent and will be exploring various kinds of marketing tactics to engage existing audiences and reach new customers.


Finally …

Our research produced numerous marketing insights for the year ahead. There’ll be opportunities for brand development with Teen brands most likely to seize share from the more established businesses, using promotional products to spearhead their marketing.

Boomer brands are sitting tight and doing what they know best whilst our Baby and Toddler brands are most likely to be risk takers and try out different marketing tools.

Not-for-profits will continue to use their brand for the greater good with promotional merchandise high on their shopping list as both a fundraising tool and a great way to gain visibility.

4imprint is delighted to be here throughout 2024 as a resource all businesses can rely on to help them in their brand journey whatever stage they are at.


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