Wearing Your Brand on Your Sleeve: Customizing and Printing T-Shirts As a Marketing Strategy

Jessica Smith / June 3, 2018 | 4 Mins Read

Wearing Your Brand on Your Sleeve: Customizing and Printing T-Shirts As a Marketing Strategy

How you know your marketing has been a success? Check out how customizing and printing T-shirts is added as a new marketing strategy.

The Magic of a T-Shirt

What do a blue, yellow, green or red background with the word “Sorted” on it and a black background with “Watcher on the Wall” have in common? You have seen it printed on a t-shirt.

It does not matter if you have never read Harry Potter or watched Game of Thrones. If you are a twenty-something, you have at least one friend who owns these phrases printed on a t-shirt. This friend may even point at this t-shirt as a way of introducing themselves to someone new.

Even stranger, this new person may nod along, fully understanding what your friend means. It’s a clear inside joke. Even if you aren’t on it, you know that the root of the inside joke lies in the houses of Harry Potter, and in a reference to Game of Thrones.

It is likely that the stranger and your friend will hit it off after this wordless exchange. Just wearing this t-shirt has created a sense of membership between them. The t-shirt helps them recognize that they have something in common. They both appreciate and support the same fandom.

For Harry Potter and Game of Thrones—which are ultimately brands—this is easy advertising. These two new people may begin conversing with each other about these brands, becoming unsuspecting promoters. If you were to say you do not understand, they will start selling the brand to you too.

Before you know it, this simple t-shirt has thus resulted in cost-free, word-of-mouth, aggressive promotion for a brand.

What Customized T-Shirts Can Do For Promoting Businesses

If you are starting a new business, printing customized t-shirts is often the most cost-effective way of advertising. T-shirts can be customized to have text or logos of your company printed. Besides, they can be mass-produced cheaply. They are also more lasting than banners or consumable giveaways—which means there will be more promotion for a longer period.

A great example of t-shirt branding meaning long-term promotion is in the “I <3 NY” t-shirt. It is a simple white shirt, with a printed logo that has clear message in plain text. Unknown to most, this t-shirt was actually part of a 1977 campaign to promote tourism in New York.

Tourism in New York had been at an all-time low, but this simple logo on a t-shirt flipped things around. The minimalism of its design, coupled with the exclusivity of the t-shirt (this t-shirt was accessible only to those who visited New York), caused tourism to shoot up.

This became so popular, that several other cities customized this t-shirt design to promote themselves. As of 2011, this t-shirt, and other printed items generated more than $30 Million a year in New York.  This t-shirt has surpassed its utility as an ordinary campaign t-shirt. It has become a greatly successful brand in itself because it is emulated worldwide.

If You Are New, Here’s What a T-Shirt Can Do

The success story of the “I <3 NY” t-shirt can actually be applied to many businesses, even if they are just starting out. It shows that how you market your t-shirt can also mean revenue production or enduring brand following for your business. The best part is, t-shirts can work, regardless of how new or old your brand is.

1. If you are just starting out

If you are just starting out, you can actually use t-shirts as part of free giveaways. Most people are more than happy to accept and use freebies. This alone is enough to cause the freebie winners to remember your brand. It helps that unlike free coffee or a coupon, a t-shirt can be used again and again. The actual benefit really comes from this.

On wearing t-shirts that are printed and customized to mention your brand, consumers unsuspectingly become promoters for you. All the people around them can see your brand logo, or a mention of its name, and remember it. This is even more effective if you use puns or hashtags of some form.

A smart joke can sustainably catch another person’s attention, driving home the name of the brand. As for hashtags, their popularity and their potential to go viral ensure good brand visibility. The interest in these signs (which are easily transmittable on a t-shirt) can ensure that a consumer goes from merely viewing a product, to actually later engaging with and purchasing it.

One deterrent that often stops a newly-starting company from advertising through a t-shirt is, ironically, the initial limited visibility of its brand. Many new business owners fear that this may result in fewer takers or buyers for t-shirts. But the beauty of promoting through a customized printed t-shirt is that unlike any other advertising campaign, there is no need to emblazon your brand and product on it.

One can ensure visibility by simply associating with another brand. Many food and beverages companies often associate with music festivals and promote themselves through printing their names on band and festival t-shirts. This actually guarantees visibility in a potentially untapped audience.

2. If your new business is niche or has a select fan following:

Say that your brand is a video production house or a music band. Or maybe you are catering to a niche hobby, like quilling or font creation. It is likely that the public outreach or the specific nature of brand is already reasonably established among your consumers. You can actually sell printed t-shirts with brand names and logos to your consumers.

Your consumers are likely to purchase these t-shirts because, like in the case of the “I <3 NY” t-shirt, the logo and name produce a feeling of membership and exclusivity. Through these purchases, the cost of producing the t-shirt can be undercut, and result in some profits for your brand. Popular meme pages have done this to create a sound revenue source for themselves.

3. T-Shirts as Smart Advertising for Companies that Cannot Otherwise Advertise

For some businesses, which cannot properly advertise themselves through popular media networks, t-shirts often become a subversive mode of promotion. This is especially true of companies selling alcohol: you can find t-shirts printed with the logos of Bacardi, Budweiser and even Old Monk (famous for having a strict zero-advertising campaign).

The t-shirt becomes a way of recognizing these brands. Unlike in televised advertisements and billboards, they can openly refer to themselves as alcohol companies here. If your company wishes to create brand loyalty, even when it cannot openly advertise, t-shirts are the way to go.

Why You Should Get a Customised Printed T-Shirt For Your Brand Right No

A customized printed t-shirt, therefore, represents possibilities of branding and promotion that no other media form does, because it creates evangelism and word-of-mouth promotion, even before a word has been said.

The widely consumed nature of a t-shirt can mean that after a point, wearing the t-shirt itself can result in promotion, even if it excludes any explicit name of its brand. And that’s how you know your marketing has been a success.

Jessica Smith

Jessica is a marketing enthusiast and an influencer in Fashion & FnB verticals. She keeps special interest in impact of visual branding on business growth. She has been writing for Stuartsignstore for a long time now. At heart she’s a fashionista and enjoys to have an occasional glass of wine with her friends.

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