Let’s face it. Many companies and organizations sell the same products or services to the point they are considered commodities. The best way they can differentiate themselves is through creating a powerful brand or image. This causes potential customers to think of the company or organization with the strongest image first when a particular product or service is mentioned.
While it does not have the glamour of a Super Bowl ad or a slick print ad, t-shirt marketing can be very effective in creating the kind of image that attracts customers and makes them think of you first. It is fallacious to dismiss such marketing as bush league or a desperate move from a startup.
T-Shirts for Marketing?
Indeed, many Fortune 500 companies use t-shirts as marketing tools. This has created a verdant landscape for the customized apparel industry. These days, custom t-shirts play a huge role in everything from social media campaigns to in-house branding.
Color in T-Shirt Marketing
The importance of color in marketing cannot be stressed enough, as humans often make mental associations based upon shading and hue. Athletic team uniforms, national flags, road signs and even gang attire all have either a certain meaning or uniting factor that appeals to the audience on a subconscious level with near permanent effects.
One of the most successful users of clothing and color to create an image is coffee giant Starbucks. Even without t-shirts, the company uses color in a way that is consistent with its logo and image. Store employees must wear green aprons when on duty. Normally they must also wear a white or black shirt with khaki or black pants or shorts that meet company specifications.
For years, the round Starbucks logo with the iconic siren and the ‘Starbucks Coffee’ wording was a combination of green, black and white. Employees’ attire matched this color scheme. The power of this brand turned out to be so great that the current green and white logo consists only of the siren, and no longer includes the company name because it’s no longer necessary. Store employees may still wear black shirts with the green aprons as the neutral shirt color does not detract from the green color and the association the public has with it.
Starbucks does not stop there; the world’s largest coffee company applies the same use of color to many of its promotional campaigns. During the Christmas season, the company sells seasonal pastries, drinks, memorabilia and gift sets. Employees have worn red company-issued t-shirts, a color scheme that effectively lets the public know that it’s the holiday season and Starbucks has new product to offer. An interesting irony of these seasonal campaigns is that strategically allowing deviation from the normal color scheme that helped strengthen the company’s brand can be just as effective as adherence is.
Keep in mind that there are thousands of places one can go to for a cup of coffee, but none are in the same ballpark as Starbucks. All because of a bold, yet simple design and memorable colors.
Where Do Companies Use T-Shirts?
One of the most common venues companies use for t-shirts is at trade conventions, which may best be described as ‘commoditization under one roof.’ As companies promote their products, many wear knit or tees of the same color to promote unity under a brand and differentiate from competitors. These same shirts may be given as freebies to convention goers as well. Compared to many types of advertising, t-shirts continue to send a message as long as someone wears one out in public, exist longer than a billboard or print ad and usually cost much less.
One important thing to remember is that colors, marketing and brand awareness don’t mean much if offset by negatives. Poor service and inferior quality can demolish a business’ image faster than it was built.
A good example of both of these is the Kony story. Invisible Children made a video and promoted their t-shirt, stating proceeds would be donated toward the capturing of Joseph Kony. Invisible Children sold millions of t-shirts. However, Invisible Children was then revealed to be a huge scam, which ended their profits fast. To this day though, people still wear the t-shirts in support of children’s rights – which is great as t-shirts still continue to carry that message and create awareness.
What Can Small Businesses Do?
Nevertheless, the power of colors and imagery are undeniable and effective. T-shirt marketing can help a business harness this power to create a long-lasting customer base. If interested in trying this campaign, purchase a mass amount of custom t-shirts from Ooshirts and use a company logo that is bold, creative and colorful. With memorable t-shirts, future customers will know your brand and business as soon as they see someone wear it.
Combining a custom t-shirt campaign with various others (such as social media, SEO marketing, television commercials, billboard advertising, etc) will maximize the chances of your business being seen, which will likely improve foot traffic. Make sure to research and do every possible venture you can and make your profits multiply!
John Walker is a community manager for ooShirts, a custom t-shirt design company focused on creativity and design for custom shirts. Jim has been involved in the marketing, design, and printing of shirts for quite some time as his interest in the business of fashion led him into the personalized shirt business.
This is a guest post