5K Fun Run

17 09 2010

It is with great pleasure and utter shock that I announce 5,000 views of this blog (and no, that does not count my own visits).  In the blog world that still makes me small potatoes (mmm, hashbrowns…), but that’s 5,000 more views than I had 4 months ago, and it’s an important-sounding number I can use to propel me forward.

I have learned a lot.  You might not be aware of this, but the “Internet” watches everything you do, and provides some fascinating statistics.  I know how many people read my blog every day.  I know which pictures you click on.  I know what links you follow.  I know what website you were looking at before you came to my page and what site you’re leaving me for.

Based on those stats and other observations, here’s what I have learned about You:

  • You love True Blood, Batman, Snoop, and College Football
  • You spend a lot of time looking at your computer on Sunday morning
  • A lot of you are “considering” starting your own blog
  • You love watching videos, especially if they are not too long

Just a short time ago I was a guy that knew very little about social media and the technology that makes it all work.  Here is what I’ve learned about Social Media:

  • Sites like WordPress, Google, Facebook, and YouTube are incredibly powerful tools for spreading your message
  • Technology is helpful, but people that are willing to show you how to use it are much more helpful
  • Without a Social Media platform, you are becoming less and less relevant
  • You don’t need to know everything to participate

This whole project has caused me to examine myself and give serious consideration to my thoughts and actions.  Here’s what I’ve learned about myself:

  • I can turn any situation into a positive by thinking about the lesson I’m learning
  • I would rather try and fail than not try at all
  • Teaching is one of the best ways to realize what you’ve learned
  • I love having an excuse to wear t-shirts on Friday

So after achieving this mini-milestone, here is what you can expect as we move forward:

  • Stories about some really interesting people I know
  • Opportunities for your involvement
  • A blog specifically about the Batman projects we have done
  • Drink recipes (it is Friday after all)

Thank you to everyone for reading.  Special thanks to those of you that have commented publicly or privately.  I will continue to try and make sure it doesn’t suck.

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Speaking of milestones, Happy Birthday to my mom – Sandy White.  She turns 60 this week.  We might live thousands of miles apart and not talk as often as we would like, but I think about her all the time.  As a parent and as a professional, I always want to make my mom proud.  I love you Mom!

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When I say “WOLF”

10 09 2010

Why is it so easy to love college football?

– Community pride
– Marching band plays throughout the game
– Fewer commercials than the NFL
– Tailgate parties
– Raw emotion

The emotional pull of college football is huge.  The players are not being paid, they are playing for scholarships and desire.  Most of them will never play professionally.  This is probably the pinnacle of their athletic career, their fame, and their shot at glory.  These are not mega-million-dollar celebrity athletes, these are your classmates and friends, your neighbors and co-workers, your sons and brothers – representatives of your town or alma-mater.  It is pretty easy to get fired up rooting for these guys.

The loyalty of a fan is strong and it is for life.  Fans get emotional.  “Fan” is short for “fanatic” and we constantly display why.  We paint our faces.  We go shirtless in cold weather.  We rush the field.  We talk like we’re on the team:  “We had a tough week, but our defense is sweet and no one can beat us!”

We even dress like we’re on the team.  A lot of people are jersey-wearers, but it doesn’t end there.  People literally wear equipment to the games.  I saw a fan at a San Diego State game last weekend wearing not only a jersey, but pants, helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and eyeblack.  It seemed like he thought the team might give him a chance if they ran short on players.  I was almost hoping for an injury just to see if they would actually do it.

The rest of us probably prefer the team T-shirt as our method of showing school pride.  There are simple designs with the school letters, colorful shirts with slogans, or big prints of the mascot.  You’re happy to pay for those shirts, but it’s also nice to get them for free.  Many businesses will sponsor a t-shirt giveaway with the company logo printed somewhere on the shirt.  I’ve produced a ton of those, and you’ve gotten them for free at a game.  You wear it because that’s your team, you don’t mind doing a little advertising for the company that gave it to you.  On a small level it’s a business contract – and one that is agreeable to both parties.

I went to Nevada – the Wolf Pack.  Not one wolf, but the whole pack, a team.  “Wolves, running around the desert together” The Hangover.   “When I say WOLF, you say PACK!  ‘WOLF!’ (PACK!) ‘WOLF!’  (PACK!)….”  And so on.  If you want to know why the Pack is awesome, read about the Pistol Offense or email me and I will go on a ridiculous rant.

There is a college football team near you.  Be a fan, show your loyalty – go to the games, wear the t-shirt, watch on TV, throw a party, streak the quad!!

College Football season is here, and all is right in the world.

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Great Idea

3 09 2010

I’m writing this thread from 30,000 feet on a flight to St. Louis.  I was inspired by SkyMall Magazine, which is my favorite part of flying.  They’ve got some crazy and awesome stuff in there.  So many cool, useful, and strange ideas.  And I wonder – why didn’t I think of the Digital Camera Swim Mask?  Couldn’t I have come up with the Bigfoot Tree Statue?  Actually, I’m sure that the Peaceful Progression Wake-Up Clock was my idea, but someone beat me to it.  And Lawn Aerating Sandals???  I could have built those in my garage!

You’ve had an idea.  You’ve thought of some invention.  We’ve all had them.  So why are we not all rich inventor types?  Because a great idea is not enough – not by a long shot.  You need product development, marketing, sales, customer service, artwork, meetings, clients, catalogs, employees, websites, strategies, people, associations, trade shows, flights – do I have to keep going?  The idea is only the beginning.

Browsing through the various SkyMall treasures, it made me think of the the great idea that is the reason I am on this plane – and on so many other planes before it.  Made me think of all the things I have seen and learned over the years – how many people I’ve met and how many places I’ve visited.  And this time I’m flying out to win an award, but none of it would have happened without one man and a great idea.

My boss Alan Davis invented something called the CompressT.  It’s a printed t-shirt shaped to look like something – a star, a guitar, a house, a pint of beer, or about 1,000 other things.  Companies, clubs, and groups, use t-shirts to promote their message at events, giveways, concerts, etc.  And shaping them as we do emphasizes the message.  But aside from the product, how did Alan get this idea off the ground?

As a smart entrepreneur, Alan knew that he couldn’t accomplish his goals on his own.  I’ve been in sales and marketing for a long time and that is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned.

  • Admit that you don’t know everything
  • Find people to help you
  • Let them use their talents to propel your vision

That’s not just how you develop a product, that’s how you build a culture.

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Speaking of great ideas – how great is this?





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.






Risky Bizness

30 07 2010

Can we all agree that you must make changes in your life if you want to improve it?  So why do people fight change so much?  Change is hard – it forces you to question yourself, break habits, admit your flaws, expose your inefficiencies and avoid the safety of your routine.  Change requires you to disrupt the status quo and not do what is expected – change requires risk.  Risk-takers open themselves to scrutiny, judgment, and ridicule from peers.

My attempt to brand myself through this blog provides an example of an uncomfortable change in the right direction.  I know that by revealing my thoughts I risk inviting negative opinions.  I know that for every person who enjoys reading what I have to say, there is another that scoffs at me.  However, writing this blog has increased visibility in my industry, expanded my network, and has directly led to business.

Here’s what I have learned:  If you worry too much about what other people think then you will never do anything.  Let me say that again – if you worry too much about what other people think then you will NEVER do ANYTHING.

I was recently chosen as a “Rising Star” in the Promotional Products industry.  It is a real honor and I am very grateful.  And now my picture is on the cover of a magazine, and my mom is proud – and I want to share with my clients and colleagues.  But I have been hesitant to publicize it because I am afraid people would consider me arrogant.  To hell with that!  That rationale will keep me comfortable, but will never propel me in my career, in my life.

So today, on “T-shirt Friday” when I normally show a picture of myself or my friends and family in a t-shirt, I will buck the trend and display my more serious side, my collared shirt side.  Some people will hate me and some will think it’s great.

If I am going to improve myself then I must remember:

  • When I am filled with doubt, I should try to believe.
  • When I want to rebel, I should try to learn.
  • When I resent, I should try to embrace.
  • When I look for comfort, I must take risks.

What’s the phrase about anything worth doing is difficult?  Insert that here.

Enjoy the results!

My friend Ken sent me this video – thanks man.  And good job to Derek Sivers.






Be A Hero

16 07 2010

I recently ran into a little car trouble – no worries though, I’ve got AAA.  Pull the card out of the wallet, call the number, and the guy on the other end answers, “AAA Roadside Assistance, how can I make your day better?”  He didn’t offer to “assist” me like so many customer service people would – he basically guaranteed me that the result of the call would be that my day got better.

I’m a guy that thinks a lot about customer service, and that greeting really impressed me.  Here I was stranded on the side of the road and all of a sudden I feel like I have a partner in turning around a stressful situation.  He politely took my information, assessed the problem, and dispatched a truck.  I thanked him for his approach to me and my situation, and of course he said, “Yes sir – that’s my job.”

Batman

Within 15 minutes the service truck arrives.  I had blown out my back tire on a steep hill and couldn’t jack up my car to change it without the car rolling backwards.  Not a problem for the AAA mechanic.  He sprang into action – he had the right tools and the right attitude – and he was done in no time.

As he’s working away, I’m feeling relieved, and thinking to myself, “How cool to have a job where it is your duty, your responsibility to be a hero?  I think I want to work for AAA just so I can spend all of my time helping people – being someone’s hero.”

Flatman

After a little more consideration, I realized that my job is to help people – all of our jobs are to help people, or we would have no value and therefore no job – but it’s the way we do those jobs that makes us heroes.  There are obvious hero jobs like Fireman, Doctor, etc.  But if you are a hair dresser and you give the extra effort to make a bride her most beautiful on her wedding day – you are a hero.  If you are a marketer and you help a client exceed their goals – you are a hero.  If you are a teacher and you encourage a struggling student to graduate in the face of adversity – you are a hero.  If you work for AAA and provide safety, security, and a positive attitude in stressful situations – you definitely are a hero.

So I look inward – am I just doing my job, or am I improving my surroundings and exceeding expectations?  Am I willing to guarantee a client that their day will be better after we speak?  Am I saving someone from a difficult situation?  Am I being someone’s hero?  Are you?





In The Posse

9 07 2010

The Doggfather

How does it feel to be included?  When someone makes the special effort to make sure you know that you are part of the team, a member of the inner circle – feels good right?

Snoop Dogg is a hip-hop legend, an icon, a master marketer, and a shrewd businessman.  In 2009, Snoop was named the new Creative Chairman of Priority Records – the label that gave us Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, EPMD, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, Master P, and other legendary rappers.  After folding in 2004, Priority was recently revived with “S-N-Double-O-P” as the face of the brand and the man running the show.

While preparing his new business venture and building his team, Snoop took the time to make sure his guys knew that they were still his guys.  He gave them a custom Priority Records t-shirt so they could flaunt the new old name.

Westside

I got the call to print these shirts for Snoop and his posse.  It was a small order for me, because there are only a few dudes that are close enough to matter to Snoop.  Actually it wasn’t a “small” order – all these shirts were 3XLT, 4XLT, 5XLT.  These were some of the biggest shirts I’ve ever seen.  I could fit into them twice.  When I printed a size Large for myself, it looked ridiculous compared to the others.

I’ve never been in Snoop’s posse, but I’m guessing it’s pretty sweet.  Somebody drives, somebody is head of security, somebody keeps groupies in line and somebody rolls blunts.  Everybody has a job and they are all part of Team Snoop, the inner circle.  How must that feel?

Okay, you’re not a celebrity, but you have people in your inner circle, your posse – how do you make them feel?  Do they know they are important?  How do you show it?

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Oh, and don’t worry – he didn’t forget to show love to his fans.

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Be Independent

2 07 2010

What does “Independence” mean to you?  For me it means freedom from rule, with the power to choose, the right to be an individual and live by your own standards.  4th of July is a celebration of our rebel roots.

Born To Be Wild over 100 years ago, Harley-Davidson is synonymous with individuality, freedom, and independence.  Developed and engineered in America, Harley-Davidson fought in two World Wars and survived to spawn a new form of recreation.  In the process, it became a symbol of rebellion – inspiring an attitude and a culture.

I’m far from being a Harley guy, but as a guy that studies brands, I cannot think of a better example of a uniqueness and differentiation than Harley-Davidson.  I am proud to have produced projects for this iconic brand – popular to the point that during the year of their 100th birthday celebration they used so many black t-shirts it caused a severe shortage in the marketplace.

So how do they do it?  How did they build a brand to carve out an iconic niche in Americana?

Ride Easy

  • Blend substance with style
  • Become part of a culture
  • Be different than anything else

And how do they represent themselves?   Two-color shield – that’s it.  You don’t have to read the words to know what that sign means.

Any company can do this – any company that is willing to completely commit to superior quality, innovation, consistent market presence, and an undeniable uniqueness from other brands.  That’s good business.  That’s independence.

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Big barbeque weekend out there – just remember, Red Shirts not only look patriotic, but they also hide spills of BBQ sauce, ketchup, and wine.

Have a safe and festive Independence Day weekend!





It’s a Team Sport

25 06 2010

Congratulations to the US World Cup Soccer Team – nice job advancing to the next round!  I’ll admit I’m not the biggest soccer fan in the world, but I am all about cheering for Team USA.  For me it’s kind of like a lot of the sports in the Olympics – I don’t completely understand the rules or the strategy, but I really want us to win – USA!  USA!  USA!

Pardon me for the patriotism, but teamwork is what made this country.  You’ll see teamwork everywhere if you pay attention, and not just in sports:

  • Strangers pushing a stranded driver’s car through an intersection
  • A family cooking a meal together
  • A charity accomplishing a goal

And what of teamwork in business?  What about the success of good teams in the workplace?  Would you rather have “co-workers” and “clients,” or “teammates” and “fans”?

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits.  Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”  Lee Iacocca

My company is a great team – and it is easy for us to help other companies and groups celebrate their team.  I have always liked when we design shirts to look like sports jerseys.  Whether they conjure visions of a European soccer or a Big League ballclub – this style promotes the identity of a group, the relationship between co-workers and partners, a competitive spirit, and the concept of winning.

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The Home Team

Got a favorite team?  Feel free to comment and tell us why they rule.

If your organization is a great team, give them a free plug.

If your charity accomplished a goal, tell us about it.

If your favorite sports team is destined to kick butt this year, let’s hear it.

If you’re talkin’ smack, bring it.

Go team!

  • __________________________________________________________________________________________





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?





Cool After 40?

4 06 2010

The word is “Classic”

Next week my brother turns 40.  He has climbed completely out of the advertiser’s coveted 18 to 35 demographic, but his money is still good to those companies targeting the oldie-but-goodie customer.

So how can a company create shirts that the over 40 crowd will wear?  If a shirt is too cool, too trendy, or something that your teenage son would wear, then it’s probably not going to work for the older demographic.

Have hope brother!   You can still be cool over 40, and there are shirts you can feel comfortable wearing.

I am frequently asked for advice by my clients when designing a promotional shirt for this crowd.

Do:

  • Simple
  • Nostalgic
  • Artistic

Don’t:

  • Form-fitting shirts
  • Enormous imprints
  • Big ad messages

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Happy birthday Brian, I love you.  You still look cool – even if you are a fossil.

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Be Like Jack

21 05 2010

It’s over.

You know you love a TV show if you’re upset when each episode ends.  That’s how I feel every week after 24.  And now, not just the end of an episode – the end of a series – the final chapter.

Jack Bauer will kick your butt.  He always escapes and he never quits.  He doesn’t do what he’s told – he does what’s right.  In twenty-four hours Jack Bauer makes more tough decisions than most of us do in a lifetime.  He’s the good guy and the bad guy.  He’s reckless, he’s tough, he’s a rebel – and we all wish we were a little more like him.

Yeah, so I love 24, and I’m not alone.  Millions of us have tuned-in twenty-four times a year to hear that unmistakable “tick-TICK, tick-TICK” which means it’s time for another episode.  Jack Bauer is part of our culture.  Ever see a list of Jack Bauer facts?  If someone said “David Palmer”, “Tony Almeida”, or “CTU” – would you know exactly what they were talking about?

Now that the show is over I’m going to get DVD’s of each of the seasons.  I will probably watch 2 or 3 episodes at a time.  Ahhh – no commercials!  With the release of Season 5, Fox Studios gave away a free t-shirt when you bought the DVD.  I was lucky enough to make those shirts.  What an honor to produce a project for my favorite TV show of all-time.

Don’t mess with me today.

The shirt is exactly as it should be – Gunmetal gray, with a big “CTU” logo that only a fan would understand, printed distressed to look like you’ve had it since Jack first started beating bad guys.  When I wear mine, I feel like I can make quick decisions, use a firearm, and probably escape if I had to.  That’s a feeling that doesn’t stop when the show is over.  They can end the series – they can’t kill Jack Bauer.

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Classic Jack Quotes:

  • “I have killed two people since midnight.  I haven’t slept in over 24 hours.  So maybe you should be a little more afraid of me than you are now.”
  • “If I’d wanted to kill you, I’d have come in shooting!”
  • “You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time.”
  • “You either do as I say and you live, or you don’t and you die for nothing.”
  • “The only reason you’re still conscious is because I don’t want to carry you.”

And from the man himself:

  • “There are two things that Jack Bauer never does. Show mercy, and go to the bathroom.”  Kiefer Sutherland

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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.

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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.

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Partner Power

11 05 2010

Sorry Ozzy, I am Iron Man

Iron Man 2 did over $130 million at the box office in the first weekend – shocker.  So why did it do so well?

1. Robert Downey Jr. is a gold mine.

2. Superhero movies capture the older crowd that remembers the original AND the young crowd that doesn’t care, as long as the effects are sweet.

3. Every summer needs a blockbuster movie.

Ah yes, the summer blockbuster.  Personally, I’m a “wait for video” guy because I can’t sit still for two hours, but I’ll probably make an exception for Iron Man – I love superhero movies.  You do too.  You know who else loves them?  Advertisers.

My company produced Iron Man 2 t-shirts with Norton (Symantec) as a sponsor.  They tied it to their “Allow/Deny” campaign because “Tony Stark’s identity is at risk.”  Symantec understands that aligning your brand with the proper character or concept speaks louder than words.  They’ve done it before with Dokken:  Chicken vs. Dokken and with Kimbo Slice:  Caterpillar vs. Kimbo

Shirt back

But when you partner with a franchise and an icon like Iron Man, you are pulling out the big guns.

I brought one home for my son (to whom I am the Santa Claus of t-shirts), and he wants to wear it every day.  And when he does, he brings Norton’s ad message with him – to the park, the ballgame, to school, etc.  Does he care?  Heck no – they gave him his favorite shirt for free.








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