Your Social Media State of Being

18 02 2013

yoga meditation hands

We have been engaged in social media long enough to do some evaluation, right?  Are all the tweets, posts, fan pages, blogs and status updates worth our energy?  Millions of businesses and professional individuals have spent time and money on social media to build relationships and develop brands – is it paying off?  Certainly, there are people that are profiting from their efforts – are you one of them?  Are you meeting your expectations?  Do you have expectations?  It is time to pause for reflection.

If you hope to achieve some level of success in business through social media, then you should contemplate your Social Media State of Being.  Who are you?  Why are you here?  What do you value?  What is true connection?  OOohhhmmm.

To achieve a higher Social Media State of Being, consider these principles:

  • Being generous. Successful companies are really good at giving products and services specifically designed to solve client’s problems or make their lives better.  Why should social media be any different?  What are you contributing?  Stop thinking of yourself and start thinking about what your online marketing efforts are doing to enhance the lives your audience.
  • Being simple. You’ve seen this one:  “Scan the code, visit our website, like our page, invite a friend, share our post – and then you might win a free cup of tea.”  Don’t force your audience to have to think too much or do too much work to participate in your efforts.  Create a benefit and make it easy to attain.
  • Being studious. We are so focused on what we put into social media, but how about what we get out of it?  What can we learn?  Data, loads of it.  Businesses can sort data to adjust their strategy or find opportunity in the market.  And for sales people, your calls don’t have to be cold.  You can gain tremendous knowledge about a company or an individual online before you make contact, and then have a warm conversation with someone you’ve never met.
  • Being original. Branding is about differentiation, so how are you showing that you are unique?  If someone in your audience used one sentence to describe you, what would it be?  You have original thoughts – present them.  Focus not on what makes you good, but what makes you different.  You must contribute something different to get noticed.
  • Being connected. You spend time trying to increase your “followers” and “friends,” but are you spending enough time truly connecting with people?  How many people “Like” your company page?  Okay, now how many of them have you contacted to ask them what they like, or to discuss how you can help them?  Going online is a great way to build a large network, going to the phone is a great way to make a genuine connection.
  • Being productive. Generating “Likes” does not equate to generating revenue.  Have you set any goals related to your social media efforts?  Do those goals contain a revenue component?  Does your daily action directly affect those goals?  Are you tracking your progress?

If you are simply using social media as a way to stay in touch with friends and family, then it readily provides your desired benefit.  For professional use, social media is a fantastic opportunity to brand your culture, share your vision, connect with your audience, and build relationships.  You must approach your efforts with purposeful ideals, follow basic business principles, and focus on specific goals.  Find your center.


Outside The Box is Not Far Enough

25 10 2012

Yesterday, at businesses everywhere, this meeting happened:

“Okay everyone, we need to think outside the box for next year’s marketing campaign.  We want some ideas that will really shake things up.  What we want is a game-changer!  What crazy ideas do you have?”

Then the ideas start rolling.  “Let’s throw a launch-party!  Let’s give away a car!  Let’s support a charity!  Let’s wear crazy pants at the tradeshow!  Let’s make YouTube videos!  Let’s get people to like our Facebook page!”

And then there’s Red Bull.  I can imagine their meetings:

“Let’s have an inter-continental airplane race!”

“No, we did that last year.”

“Let’s have people fly homemade aircraft at dangerously high speeds over bodies of water!”

“Been there, done that.”

“Let’s get a Major League Soccer team to change its name to the Red Bulls!”

“2006 called – it wants its idea back.”

“Wait, I got it, let’s send a guy 24 miles above the earth in a Red Bull logo’d shuttle, have him jump out in a Red Bull suit, and break a world record.  Then let’s broadcast it around the globe!”

“Okay, now we’re talking.  If he breaks the sound barrier – you get a raise.”

If there is one term I really can’t stand it is: “Think outside the box.”  If you really want to get some attention, if you really want exponential growth, then you have to explode the box, run over the remains with a monster truck, bury the rubble in a landfill, and then dump nuclear waste on the wreckage (apologies to the environmentalists).

Often, “outside-the-box-thinking” results in slight changes to the old plan, which of course is fine if you only want slightly better results.  Even more often, the so-called “crazy” ideas are scrapped altogether when it comes down to crunch time because decision-makers fear the repercussions of a failed experiment.

Meanwhile Red Bull, the most popular energy drink on the planet, sells nearly 5 billion (yes, with a “b”) cans of their drink every year.  How does sending a man to jump from record-setting heights sell energy drinks?  How does creating new sports help promote your company?  Who knows?  Frankly, who cares?  Results are all that matter.

How can we achieve our own great results?  Here is what I think we can learn from the Red Bull approach to marketing:

  • Don’t improve an old idea.  Stop looking at what your competitors are doing and don’t begin your meetings with, “Here’s what we did last year.”  Start fresh and create something totally different.
  • Embrace the weird.  When asking your team for creative ideas, don’t make them feel bad if they come up with something kind of stupid.  Doing so will squash any hope of getting creative ideas from them in the future.
  • Take risks.  It takes some big brass ones to put your job and reputation on the line to create and implement a crazy idea.  Yes, it might crash and burn – but what if it actually works?
  • It’s all about eyeballs.  It doesn’t matter how great your products and services are if no one knows you or cares enough to find out more.  If you want to grow your business, you had better find a way to get in front of people and give them a reason to pay attention.

Okay, so you don’t have a marketing budget like Red Bull, but at some point in time, neither did they.  I am not in position to tell you what your next crazy idea should be, but I am really looking forward to watching you take the leap!

Create Valuable Content

6 05 2011

People ask me a lot of questions about blogging, making videos, and participating in Social Media.  Quite commonly I am asked this:  “What should I post?”

It seems that although people and businesses want to increase their participation in the digital community, they are unsure how to engage their audience – perhaps afraid that they will misrepresent themselves, post something that makes them sound stupid, or just produce content that is deemed worthless.

There is one simple principle to help companies and individuals as they market themselves – Add Value.  It could certainly be argued that there is an information overload in the world of Social Media – much of which mostly becomes noise and distraction.  If you don’t provide some kind of unique value then your efforts will go largely unnoticed.

So how do you add value?  Here are three concepts to consider when creating content:


One of my favorite quotes is “I’ve never met a person that I couldn’t learn something from.” – Dan Collins.  Everyone has insight that others would find valuable.  Enlighten your audience with knowledge related to your products and services – report customer success stories, showcase new ideas, or share information related to your industry.  We all like to learn from experts, and most likely, you are an expert about something.  Teach us.


Go ahead and admit that you have a guilty online pleasure like  Maybe you love watching silly videos or listening to new music.  Maybe you appreciate a quality “funny forward,” or maybe you like to participate in a discussion on Facebook.  Guess what, so does your audience.  Branding does not always have to be serious.  Providing a laugh, recommending a good restaurant, telling a silly story, or sharing interesting photos, are all great ways to get your audience to pay attention.


We can all use a little extra motivation.  When you run across an inspiring story, share it.  For example, today is the anniversary of Roger Bannister running the mile in under 4 minutes.  There are hundreds of ways to spin that to create engaging content.  Certainly there are plenty of stories about sacrifice, perseverance, charity, determination, etc. that can be emotionally rousing and encouraging for your audience.  Inspirational content is interesting to read, and as the curator of that information, you reveal your personal character or the ethical standard of your business.

In this age of digital interaction, I don’t think there is necessarily any “right” or “wrong” approach, but I do think that focusing on education, entertainment, and inspiration can help steer your branding efforts.


In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to say “I Love You” to my Mom, my Mother-In-Law, and my beautiful wife.  You “educate, entertain, and inspire” me all the time.

What’s Next: The Greatest Thing Ever

18 03 2011

Walking the streets of Austin during South by Southwest (SXSW), I am startled by the difference since I first attended (and rocked) this event 12 years ago.  What with the tweets, and blogs, and webinars, oh my!  But even “Back in my day” this Interactive/Film/Music festival was alive with talk of the latest and greatest.   The video industry was changing at the widespread adoption of DVD’s:  “You mean I can just skip from scene-to-scene with the click of a button??”  There were no iPods back then, so bands were pushing CD’s.  Websites were trying to build and engage online community participation, but there was no Facebook or Twitter to help implement the strategy.  Speaking of communication, I remember waiting in line at the payphone my first SXSW.  What’s a payphone?  For that matter, what’s a cell phone?  They have been replaced by “mobile devices” capable of so much more than making calls – capable of changing the way we live.

So as we say goodbye to CD’s, DVD’s, phones and all the other antiqued technology of our recent past, I just want to say to everyone, especially to those in the younger generation – don’t get too attached to this next best thing – whatever it is.  Today’s latest innovation is tomorrow’s punchline.  Change happens fast in our relentless pursuit of “The Greatest Thing Ever.”

What truly is “The Greatest Thing Ever” is our ability to adapt, to let go of the things we value, and be open to the possibilities that something better will come along – because it always does.  Don’t fight it!   This generation – these kids filling the streets of Austin – they will be required to constantly adapt in a rapidly-advancing world, with a life of perpetual learning.  You can fight the change.  I see that mentality all the time from my senior peers – people that are hoping to retire or pass away before they ever have to learn anything new.  In today’s generation, those that are unwilling to embrace change will face a life of extreme disadvantage compared to the enabled believers.

From a marketing perspective, there certainly are changes to the way companies are spreading their message:

  • Companies paying to rename a bar for the week
  • People being sponsored to wear t-shirts and blast a message to the world
  • Conducting surveys with potential clients
  • Offering special deals through mobile devices
  • Encouraging fun interaction with company mascots/brand icons

I can’t wait to see how these methods will continue to evolve and impact the way companies interact with clients.  It’s a strange new world people – soak it in, but don’t get too attached.

Open Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown

28 02 2011

Dear Governor Brown,

Last week, in an attempt to ease California’s budget deficit, you ordered state agencies to stop using promotional products to as a means to market their programs and services.  I was born in California and lived there for 25 years – I certainly understand the mess the state is in.  What I don’t understand is why you chose to ban one form of marketing but not others.  I don’t understand why you specifically went after promotional products:

“Not a cent of taxpayer money should be spent on flashlights, ashtrays or other unnecessary items, most of which likely end up in landfills.”

Pardon my tone, but are you really qualified to determine what kind of marketing is effective?  Speaking of things ending up in landfills, did you know that 99% of all direct mail is thrown away?  Why didn’t you ban direct mail?  I know why – because that mail is delivered by government employees.  Why didn’t you ban TV ads?  Well, we all know that it’s not smart for politicians to upset folks in entertainment.  And why not get rid of billboard advertising?  Oh that’s right, billboard company CBS Outdoor donates money to your art school charity – not to public schools, but to your hand-chosen art schools – so you better not upset the billboard guys.

And what about the products you are banning?  The “plastic gewgaws” as you call them.  Things like buttons, mugs, bags, bumper stickers, and t-shirts.

If using logoed merchandise is not a good way to promote your message, then why did you use so much of it in your election campaign?  You remember the election, the one where you and Meg Whitman fought tooth and nail to see who could spend the most money?

Governor Brown, I have no problem with you cutting spending – it must be done.  But why are you picking on promotional products instead of all forms of marketing?  Clearly you believe this is an effective form of marketing or you would not have used it.  If you want to cut marketing spending then cut it all – TV, radio, mail, billboards – ban all of it, or LEGALIZE PROMO!!!

I welcome your comment.

Follow updates on Facebook:  Legalize Promo

How To Waste 3 Million Dollars

4 02 2011

Advertisers love the Super Bowl – and why wouldn’t they?  It’s like the Oscars of advertising.  They have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage, to be in direct competition for popularity and supremacy against their rivals, the chance to be the one that everybody talks about on Monday – and of course, they bank a ton of dough.

I can imagine the pitches they might give:

  • The statistics – “20 Bajillion Viewers!!!”
  • The clichés – “Maximum Brand Exposure”
  • The competitor leverage – “Well, Budweiser’s doing it”
  • The blatant lies – “This is how you build Customer Loyalty”

I like the theatrics and the entertainment value of Super Bowl ads.  I appreciate that someone paid $3 million to give me a 30-second exhibition for me to discuss with my co-workers on Monday, I really do.  But I have never once in my life actually purchased a product because of their Super Bowl ad – ever.  Funny talking babies do not make me want to invest my hard-earned money with your company.  Horses playing football are neat, but they don’t make me want to drink your crappy beer.

For small and mid-size businesses, how can you market your brand without wasting an obscene amount of money?  Here are the 3 best ways to gain exposure for companies who have modest marketing budgets:

Give consumers something for Free. Logoed merchandise is inexpensive and can be useful and fun for your audience.  A Frisbee, a t-shirt, a mug, or a bottle opener with your logo on it will be used for a long  time.  The item becomes part of someone’s life, and is a constant reminder of your brand.  If you don’t know where to get this stuff, contact me – I have a whole network of professionals that can help.

Glacier Outdoor blog

Write a Blog. Expose your audience to consistent messaging that shows your culture and thought process.  Blogs are free, and as newspapers and magazines go the way of the dinosaur, they are a good source of entertainment and education for potential clients.

Make a Video. Consumers like advertising that is honest, tells a story, and shows why something is cool.  Marketers like advertising that shows results and can easily be shared.  A nice digital video camera costs about $250.  That’s $2,999,750 cheaper than a Super Bowl ad.  Wilson Football provides a great example of how to use video.

Enjoy the game on Sunday.  You’ll have fun watching the ads, but not nearly as much as the ad agencies.  When you’re ears are ringing Monday morning, it’s because you drank too much – for them it sounds more like a cash register.

Tips for Trade Show Exhibitors

17 01 2011

For over a decade I was an exhibitor at hundreds of trade shows.  The amount of details that led to the success or failure of an exhibitor’s trade show experience is staggering:

“Do we have enough samples?”
“Did we pack extra lightbulbs?”
“Where’s the extension cord?”
“Who ordered the badge scanner?”
“What happened to the tool-kit?”

If you have ever exhibited at a trade show then you panic a little at each of these questions – or at least you can tell a story of your own personal trade show fiasco.  There are so many little things that can go wrong.

Now that I am someone walking the aisles talking to exhibitors instead of being one, I wish I knew years ago all the things that I have learned since my perspective changed.  So, as the trade show season has kicked-off in all industries, here are my Top 10 Tips for Being a Successful Exhibitor:

1.  Set appointments. It is very easy for attendees to become distracted and completely miss large stretches of exhibits.  If there are clients that you must see, then set appointments with specific meeting times.

2.  Chill out with the catalogs. Seriously, if the only reason you came to the show was to hand me a catalog, then you should have done a mailing and stayed home.  Trade shows are about forming and expanding relationships.

3.  Stop talking to your coworkers. I appreciate that you like the people you work with, I really do.  But if you are talking to them then you are not talking to your customers.  Unless you plan on selling to your colleagues you should focus on the people in the aisle, not in the booth.

4.  Make noise. There were many booths I walked past without noticing, but it was hard to ignore booths playing music or having some kind of loud demonstration.

5.  Smile. Okay look, I completely understand that you have been standing in the same spot all day saying the same thing.  Get over it.  If you look sad, frustrated, or in any way unpleasant then you make yourself unapproachable.

6.  Have a goal. There is a significant difference between talking to an exhibitor that leads a conversation compared to one that is just making conversation.  Set goals before the show and focus your actions toward meeting them.

7.  Be different. Your competitors go to the same trade shows that you go to.  Take a hard look at your approach to differentiating your value.  Think about what you can do at a show to genuinely set yourself apart from competitors.  Don’t be scared to go against the grain.

8.  Burn the booth. No one notices if your lights break, if the table falls apart, or if the scanner stops working.  They will remember the interaction they have with YOU – they will remember how you make them FEEL – they will not remember if your sign has been duct-taped to the wall.

9.  Hang ‘Em High. Speaking of signs, those signs that hang from the rafters are a little pricey but they are worth every penny for exhibitors.  That is definitely the easiest way for your clients to find you.

10.  Follow-Up. How many exhibitors say they will contact you the week after the show?  How many actually will?  The first week after the show is your big chance to show potential clients that you are serious about moving your business relationship forward – especially if you told someone that you would do so.  After the first week it is awfully hard for your potential clients to remember you or the conversations you had at the show – so act fast!

Exhibitors, I feel your pain.  I know what it’s like to answer silly questions all day long.  I know how difficult it is to live on hot-dog lunches all week.  But you CAN have a good show if you build a strategy and focus your efforts.  Good luck!

Branding with Video

20 11 2010

Since I began writing my blog I get asked a lot of questions, and many of them are related to the videos I have made.   Here are some tips for making videos to promote your brand:

Keep it Short. Try to keep it around two minutes long.  If you have more content than that, split is up in to sections – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – and name each part with the specific content so people know what to expect.

Amateur is OK. So you don’t have a recording studio or a video editor on staff – no big deal.  Get a decent video camera (very affordable right now), or you can even use the camera in your smartphone, as many of them are pretty high quality.  Personally I enjoy amateur-looking videos (like this one) because I feel I get to know the real person.

Build Value. So why should we watch your video?  Why would anyone care?  Educate and Entertain.  You have a specific audience you are speaking to – what educational value or entertainment value can you bring to them?  We are a “what’s in it for me?” society – if you can’t educate or entertain us, we will click off after 20 seconds.

Edit. You probably already have a program on your computer – if not, there are a number of great programs you can download for free.  Clip out the beginning and end where you were fumbling with the camera – add music, add text, splice sections together.  Remember, this is YOUR creation – there is no right and wrong.

Practice Makes Perfect (or at least better). Before I ever published my first video I hooked up my webcam and just looked at it and started talking.  I was very uncomfortable in the beginning.  I thought, “Who will see this?  What if I look stupid?  Am I making sense?  Do I have a booger?”  In time I grew less nervous, more confident, and eventually forgot the camera was there and focused on my message.

Broadcast. YouTube, Facebook, your website, etc. – there are many ways to get your videos watched.  Put them out there, encourage sharing, and post updated content.  We are hungry for original, interesting material – just give us access to it.

Good luck everybody.  Hope to SEE you soon!

Halloween: Personal Brand 1.0

29 10 2010

T-shirt + Duct Tape = Racer X

I went to Catholic school until 7th Grade.  We wore uniforms – navy blue cords, white collared shirt, and the optional red v-neck sweater.  Not a lot of opportunity for personal expression.

But once a year there was Halloween.  On Halloween I could be anything I wanted.  Express the inner me and show some personality.  I had my favorites – Evel Knievel, Wolfman, Batman, baseball player.  I think I was a pirate 3 or 4 times.  Everybody got into the spirit.  My older brother was often an Indian, and my kid brother was usually the Hulk.  Our friends all dressed up at the school carnival, and the streets filled with trick-or-treaters dressed as Jedi’s, vampires, and princesses.

Growing older, I was surprised to see that everyone continued to dress up.  We got decked-out for events in high school and college.  After that it became bars, clubs, and late-night house parties.  Talk about your self expression.  Seems a lot of people like to express themselves with very little clothing these days.

The costumes people choose have always intrigued me – actually, not the costumes, but the intention behind them.  What makes people choose their costume?  What influences that thought process?  Scary, silly, or sexy?  Funny, flirty, or famous?  Wonder Woman, a Banana, Scarlett O’Hara, Billy Idol, Popeye and Olive, a Cheerleader – you were those things for a reason.  You have to be comfortable in your costume, and I doubt you would be comfortable in something that wasn’t a personal reflection of some defining characteristic.  Seems to me that on Halloween we reach inside ourselves and find a quality that we can display on the outside, if only for one night a year.

At least that’s how we used to do it.  Now we constantly share our pictures, our thoughts, our friends, our likes.  We display everything – and we do it all 365.  Never have we been more able to express ourselves – or see the character of other people.  Everyone establishing their “personal brand” whether they realize it or not.  Halloween is a fun outlet for personal expression, but I do prefer this ability to do it on a more regular basis.

Happy Halloween everybody!

That’s What She Said

24 09 2010

I’ve been waiting until the season premier of The Office to write about the shirts we recently produced for the show.  This post was supposed to be about how t-shirts can start conversations – about how the guys in the art department and I talk about the show every Friday morning:  “Why was Dwight holding a knife??” – stuff like that.  But after last night’s premier of The Office, something else happened and I have to change direction.

The Office is not just “ha-ha” funny – it is filled with such strange, inappropriate, and unethical behavior that it becomes almost uncomfortable to watch – and you can’t help but laugh.  As you learn the flaws of the characters you eventually feel like an insider.  NBC capitalizes on this and promotes the show by making items that appear in the episodes available for the public – the Dwight Schrute bobblehead, the personalized mugs, the Dunder Mifflin fun run t-shirts.

Last night they took it a step farther.  On the season premier, the staff made a YouTube video (sounds familiar) and “Ryan” wore a shirt advertising his website:  Of course I had to look it up, and it exists.  The site asks for all kinds of sensitive personal information but does not actually allow you to enter – although I wonder how many people tried.  The hoax becomes clear, especially since it’s backed by Ryan who has already done time for fraud.

What point are they trying to make?  Who knows – does it really matter?  The bottom line is that they got me and a lot of other people to participate.  They used a printed t-shirt to make me curious enough to take action.  And yes, I’m the shirt guy, and I was giddy.  I sat back in my comfy chair, sipped my traditional Thursday cognac and smiled.  Thank you NBC, thank you The Office.

Full Disclosure

27 08 2010

The blind date is a thing of the past – in personal relationships and in business.  You would not date someone without looking at their Facebook page first.  You would not buy online without investigating the company website.  People, products and services are available to anyone at anytime.  Websites and social media portholes give us complete access to all kinds of information about the people we want to date, work with, or buy from.

Consider this:  You need to choose a dentist.  You go online and search for dentists in your area.  You find two sites:

Dentist #1:  This site has a phone number, a catchy slogan about your smile, and offers some kind of special deal.

Dentist #2:  This site has a picture of the staff, a video tour of the facility, and comments from happy clients.  500 people “Like” them on Facebook.  The main dentist has posted a video.  He looks right into the camera and tells you why he loves his job and why healthy teeth are important.  He cracks a dry joke and has a pleasant demeanor.  He seems like a nice guy that you can trust.

Now, which dentist are you going to choose?

This is the age of transparency.  If you are not forthcoming about yourself, you seem to be hiding something, and are not to be trusted – or at least you will not be trusted nearly as much as someone that puts themselves out there for public view.

Trust is the complete confidence that something is as it appears.  In marketing, in sales, the common approach is to present a pretty picture and make something seem better than it actually is – that approach causes distrust.  How can you avoid it?

Portray yourself honestly, expose your true character – love you or hate you, people know who they are dealing with.  Those that align with you do so with full disclosure, full knowledge, and they participate by choice.  Why should people have to spend so much time trying to figure out the truth?  You are what you are.  Be that.  Show that.

I write this blog to be a resource for my network and to expose my true character.  Sometimes I am serious and sometimes I am silly – and good or bad, I put it all out there publicly.  This video is a little behind the scenes from last week’s photo shoot.  Judge me as you will – I only hope that I can encourage you to reveal yourself.

Free Cigars?

18 06 2010

I spend a lot of time helping companies make a shirt look “cool” enough for you to wear into the world.  Today I would like to introduce a new way to get that coveted public endorsement – I call it the T-shirt Coupon.

“Half-off,” “Buy one get one,” “Sign a contract, get a discount”.  You’ve been offered these incentives.  You fold your coupon, stuff it in your pocket, and bring it into the store – who sees that?  You do, and that’s about it.  But alas, the T-shirt Coupon:

“Wear this shirt into 7/ll for a free Slurpee on Saturday.”

“Wear this shirt to a hardware store for a free can of WD-40.”

“Wear this shirt for a free pack of Hormel bacon with any grocery store purchase.”

I would wear all of those shirts with pride.

So today, on T-shirt Friday, I am wearing my Camacho Cigar shirt in hopes that Excalibur Cigars (the greatest cigar shop in San Diego) will honor my T-shirt Coupon idea and give me a free cigar.

Every Father’s Day I like to kick back in the afternoon with a cigar and a Scotch or a Cognac.  So I need to go to Excalibur and pick out something nice.  It’s true that I wear this Camacho shirt anyway, but if I could use it to get a discount on my favorite brand of cigars, I would wear it every day.


THE dad

And in the holiday spirit – Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!  It ain’t easy being a role model, jar opener, protector, coach, hair braider, butt wiper, sensitive guy, tough guy, provider, supporter, joke teller, pitcher, lawn mower, bug squisher, tent builder, homework helper, taxi driver, teacher – but we do all these things and more.

As a father myself, I try every day to follow the example of my dad, Dale White, the greatest guy I know.  Love you dad.

And love to all the great dads out there on Father’s Day.  You deserve a free cigar.

True Blood, So Good

11 06 2010

I have been trying so hard not to write about the True Blood shirts we produced a couple months ago.  Aware that the new season is set to begin June 13, I have remained as patient as possible – but the time is now, and I couldn’t be more excited.

If you’ve never watched it, the short version is that True Blood is a vampire series on HBO.  If you have watched it you know how cool it is, and you also know what these shirts are all about.

As an avid viewer, I could go on and on about why True Blood is great, but you will have to judge for yourself.  As a guy that makes a living producing t-shirts for marketing, I am a fan of these shirts for different reasons:

  • No obvious advertising message
  • Specific styling to create unique looks
  • Simple prints with subtle design elements

So what does that do?  It makes people want to wear them.  Nowhere on the shirt does it say, “True Blood, HBO, Sunday at 9:00.”  If it did then I would not have worn mine to a Memorial Day party – but I did.

Someone said to me, “What’s ‘Good Times’ Football?”

Just a small town girl with a vampire boyfriend

“Very clever” I replied, “you speak French?”

“No, but I know what ‘Bon Temps’ means.”

“No you don’t – it’s the city in True Blood.”

“The show on HBO?” he inquired.

“Yep, I love it, and I can’t wait for it to start again in two more weeks!”

I described the show for him – sex, violence, creatures, action, humor, mystery, and drama – dripping with attitude, cool from the opening song to the final scene.  This conversation and my personal endorsement, all because of a cool shirt.  There have been other times I wore it in public and someone who watches the show has smiled at me or done a double take or given me the “Right on, man.”

True Blood asks a lot from the viewer.  It asks you to completely suspend disbelief, bury your cynicism for an hour, and let it suck you in.  If you do, then you will understand what all the fuss is about.  You will also understand why HBO can charge for their promotional t-shirts and not give them away.

My company compressed these shirts into the shape of a DVD case, so when they were sold in stores, the buyer couldn’t help but consider purchasing the series as well.  Smart HBO, bloody smart – no wonder they can charge for their channel while the rest of them are free.

I feel lucky to have been a part of this promotion, and am so excited to have anything to do with this show on any level.  As a marketing professional, I am so happy to see companies using promotional products with such thought and purpose.  As a dude who likes to wear cool t-shirts, I am so glad to own this one.  As a completely impatient person, is it Sunday yet?

What is Cool to you?

14 05 2010

Nice shirt – got your party pants on?

My clients hear me say this all the time – make a cool shirt first, make a logoed shirt second.  No one wants to be your billboard unless the shirt is a reflection of them, their interests, or their style.

This is a shirt for a band here in San Diego, Vokab Kompany (you might not have heard of them yet, but you will – they are sweet).  We produced shirts with their logo and they sell them at shows.  They know exactly the type of person that follows their music and they sell apparel (or as the bands call it – “merch”) that their audience would dig.  All fine for a cool band, but how can a corporation employ the same strategy, bring the cool factor, and build a culture?

Several years ago, we did a large order of shirts for a certain national bank.  Their goal in giving shirts away was to encourage potential customers to sign up for a checking account.  The front of the shirt had their logo, their slogan, and a big picture of a stagecoach.  Would a shirt like that motivate you to take part in a company’s programs?  Exactly.  Well, give them credit, in time they figured it out.  For a more recent promotion, the same bank wanted to encourage college students to sign up for a checking account.  How did they do it?

“A bank gave you that shirt?”

No logo, no message, no stagecoach – just a cool image on the front and a small website on the back.  We produced a shirt that a college kid would not only want to wear, but actually sign up for a checking account to get.  How do I know it worked?  They came back to me for re-order after re-order.  I also saw someone wearing the shirt on the show “Rob and Big” on MTV.  Cool factor?  I think so.


Advice to companies considering a t-shirt promotion:

1. Profile your audience – who are they?

2. Create a design that represents them first, your company second.

3. Encourage them to take an action – after all, you are giving them a cool shirt.


Create Curiosity

7 05 2010

“What is F9?” I have been asked that question at least once every time I wear this t-shirt.  I know it’s a cool logo, but other than that I didn’t really have an answer.  Trust me, you sound pretty stupid when someone asks you about the shirt you’re wearing and you have no idea.

So I Googled it and what did I find?  The “F9 Falcon” is a wonder of modern technology, “capable of lifting over 28,000 kg to Low Earth Orbit, and over 15,000 kg to Geostationary Transfer Orbit.”

My unscientific interpretation is that the F9 is a super rocket that will propel space exploration farther than ever – perhaps even making it possible to someday colonize other planets.  It’s made by a company called SpaceX.  Obviously they are smart because the make things like the F9 Falcon, but they are also very smart about the way they market themselves because they promote their brand with products that people appreciate.  Here’s how:

Step 1 – Produce merchandise for the public that is simple and usable (in this case wearable).

Step 2Don’t make it a blatant and obnoxious advertising message so people don’t feel like they are marketing for you.

Step 3 – Scale the message back so much that it makes people curious enough to do the research on their own.

The result?

People like me that gladly wear the shirt and have an acceptable answer to “What is F9?”

It’s one thing to tell the world that your products and services are awesome.  But having random people wear your logo, walk around and talk to people about your company – well that’s something else entirely.  That’s a great example of valuable brand promotion and word-of-mouth marketing.

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