July 14, 2016

​Promotional T-Shirts: Give Them What They Want

Submitted by Kelly Glass

Sometimes just knowing what your customers want can seem like the biggest challenge of all. In the promotional products industry, we know that t-shirts are extremely popular with both consumers and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Yet when businesses place orders, what they buy is focused on what will best promote their businesses. Meanwhile, consumers consider personal preferences, such as fashion, fit and their own personalities, when making t-shirt purchases.

Tee Time?

Summer is in full swing and, if you live anywhere between the equator and the North Pole, you are seeing t-shirts everywhere. A few years ago, the New York Times pointed out that 95% of Americans wear t-shirts and that 89% do so at least once a week. That's probably no surprise to any of us. 

What started out mainly as a wearable for the workday for average Americans has become not only a simple, comfortable staple, but also a well thought-out fashion choice. In 2016, individuals are choosing their t-shirts to reflect their tastes and attitudes regarding everything from social issues to sports teams and charities.

Likewise music and pop culture have always been a huge influence on consumer choices. As such the concert t-shirt has become a very popular wearable. But according to one designer, it's not so much whether or not garments were actually bought at rock concerts, amusement parks or famous landmarks that counts, it's the look that matters.

Christin Wada, a costume designer, says the tee is “a way to express something personal about yourself without having to be all that personal . . . You’re ultimately saying, ‘I’m a little bit rebellious but I don’t want to tell you too much about it.’" There's even a tutorial out this week from a fashion writer about how to wear your concert t-shirt both for the evening out as well as in the office.

Keep the End User in Mind

Certainly when SMBs purchase promotional products, it is important for them to keep consumer wants and tastes in mind. This is important because, when SMBs spend their money on specialty advertising and promotional products — versus other things including billboard advertising, TV commercials and newspaper ads — they do so for a simple reason. They know that consumers like promo products and will keep and use them regularly if their needs are met.

But only when t-shirts are worn does the world actually see SMB logos and brand marks. As the Promotional Products Association International points out in their study of consumer and buyer preferences, wearable items such as t-shirts, caps, jackets and other wearables stand out as favorites. That's good for businesses that give out t-shirts to existing and future customers.

Keep in mind that businesses are also mindful of what they are paying for, the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) wrote in an article last month that the price, quality, and usefulness of items to end users are very important considerations. Specifically, businesses responded that 65% of them think price is important in making their purchases and 68% either agree or strongly agree that a quality logo on the product is essential too. Regarding products, 52% of the businesses surveyed said they placed orders for t-shirts in the last 12 months, making it the most popular promo item for the businesses surveyed.

Also notable is that 71% of businesses said that their promotional products are bought to give away to customers or consumers, with 68% of all businesses surveyed saying that promotional products are an important part of their marketing mix.

Back to the consumer, what's interesting is that the image or style of t-shirts often makes them winners. ASI points out too that pop culture pretty much rules their all-time list of top 15 promotional t-shirts. But that's not to say that a good promotional t-shirt has to have Taylor Swift, Nike or Mickey Mouse on it.

As Betsy Cummings wrote in Counselor last month, buyers of promotional t-shirts should aim to offer something that users will wear over and over, that also incorporates fashion, function and fit. "“If I won’t wear it, I won’t sell it,” said one distributor of t-shirts to businesses, speaking about quality, look and fit.

Whatever designs businesses pick for their promotional t-shirts, distributors of specialty advertising and promotional products have much to offer the SMBs they serve. In 2016, there are a wide variety of techniques that can make t-shirts stand out for customers.

When it comes to crafting top-notch designs, you can rely on Idea Custom Solutions for the best of graphic design from vector artwork to embroidery digitizing to image editing, as well as the virtual samples of t-shirts and other products that can help you win over customers for the long-term.


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