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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

How to Promote your Clothing Brand for Beginners

clothing brand image

So you’ve made some awesome t-shirt designs and have received rave reviews from family and friends. Now you’re ready to sit back and let the cash roll in? Unfortunately that scenario is true mostly never. If you ignore marketing your clothing brand, only one thing will happen, which is a lot of nothing. We understand you’re likely more engaged in the creative aspect of your business but unless you have a professional marketer budgeted into your business plan you’re going to have to do some of the heavy lifting on your own. Fortunately there are many ways you can promote your clothing brand with a little money. What you will need to do is use your creativity in how and where you present your clothing designs.

Come up with your brands identity

Before your splatter your designs all over Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr, figure out how you want your brand to be perceived by potential customers. Come up with an overall feel that emulates the lifestyle your brand represents. Developing clear brand messaging is one of the hallmarks of successful clothing brands. People that are passionate about a brand aren’t that way because of the product alone. It’s a deeper psychological relationship where they identify with the overall image of the brand and want to be seen living the lifestyle the brand is expressing through their advertising.

If you’re not sure what your brand’s identity really is ask for opinions from people who you really trust. What type of personality would be interested in your t-shirt designs? Do they see your style being attractive to any specific segment of society? People who pursue and active lifestyle? If so, what kind? Are they gym people or they more inclined to get their exercise doing outdoor sports? You can drill that down ever further by asking if they like group sports or if they are more into solitary hiking or running.

When you understand who your audience is, think about where this audience is most likely to congregate and go there with a camera in hand. Take lots of pictures for inspiration, you’ll need them when you’re ready to do your own photo shoot with your products. You can collect all of your photos on a Pinterest board for easy visualization of the mood you’re trying create for your brand.

t-shirt mockup

Content Creation

Now you should be ready to create content for your marketing efforts. There are two opposing ideologies for how you should present designs. To use a model or let the t-shirt speak for itself. Both have their advantages. By using a model, the choice of model can go a long way to conveying the image you want for your brand. A heavily bearded male with lots of tattoos in a street setting can convey a trendy urban feel while a clean cut guy on campus walking to class can convey a conservative preppy feel. Likewise a female model in the wilderness walking a dog can provide a free spirit feel while a woman in a restaurant surrounded by friends can convey a feeling of modernity and popularity.

If you choose no models, the props and location of the shoot will help to define the ambience. Including a full outfit in the shoot is a popular method to showcase and entire look. Choosing the appropriate supporting clothing items is important. Here again, you need to keep your target audience in mind. If you’ve identified your audience as the outdoorsy type, you wouldn’t want your marketing picture to feature high heel shoes with flashy jewelry. Nor would you pair combat boots with a design that is supposed to appeal to a fraternity member.

posed t-shirt model

Videos are a very popular way for audiences to consume content. There are so many affordable ways for beginners to make their own video content even when shot with a phone. There are easy to use film editing software like iMovie and Magisto. Scheduling your shoot to take advantage of outdoor lighting can save you some bucks on expensive lighting equipment. Some software like Lumen5 even provides you with ways to repurpose your blog or look book content into easily consumable video ready to be uploaded to Facebook and YouTube.

Promoting your clothing brand on social media is essential and can garner some free publicity. While Facebook is a tough nut to crack without paying to play, sites like Instagram and Pinterest can allow you to gain traction by popularity. Initial success on Instagram is a hashtag game. Research other popular posts that seem to target segments of society you think would be interested in your designs and include them in your posts. Pinterest is not hashtag driven but featuring keywords in your uploaded description is how your content can be discovered by people who might appreciate it.


It’s amazing to get some help through others when just starting out. We’ve all heard the term “influencer” on social media. These people can be really tough to get in touch with since they are inundated with requests all the time and can be frankly quite expensive. Instead of chasing this strategy, look a little closer to home. Do you personally know any members of popular local bands? Ask them if they’d be willing to wear your t-shirt to their next gig and take pictures of it. You can then post the pics on social with tags back to the band. This is an easy way to engage both your own and their fan base.

Giving away your t-shirts may not be what you ideally had in mind but when given to the right people that are willing to talk about your brand, it is often far cheaper than other methods of advertising.

Do you know anyone who operates a boutique style retail store? Would any of your designs make sense to appear alongside their merchandise? Talk to the store owner to see if they’d be willing to feature some of your t-shirts in exchange for a cut of any proceeds.

clothing brand mockup

Do you know anyone who operates a boutique style retail store? Would any of your designs make sense to appear alongside their merchandise? Talk to the store owner to see if they’d be willing to feature some of your t-shirts in exchange for a cut of any proceeds.

T-Shirt Industry Marketing Lessons from Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake

You may not think that fame and marketing have anything to do with one another but some of the most famous people carefully plot their path to fame by controlling every aspect of their image and doggedly employing known traits from successful marketing campaigns. If you’re trying to break into the t-shirt design game, or make your branded apparel stand out from the competition you’re chasing fame as sure as any performing artist.

Justin Timberlake is one such person that’s employed great marketing tactics in his career trajectory. So how did a boy from Memphis, Tennessee achieve dizzying heights of fame in a manner few have ever accomplished for going on almost two decades? Here’s a breakdown of how he’s applied marketing strategies throughout his career.

Perfect Timing- If you’ve ever watched Justin Timberlake perform, you know his choreography is well rehearsed with everything synced up to build tension and release at the right moments. Show stopping moves and signature dance steps at the perfect time make his performances worthy of the top dollar he commands.

T-shirt Industry Takeaway-Follow trending topics and movements on social channels and other media. You never know when you may be able to come up with the next best slogan for a social movement or distill the passion felt about a particular incident into the perfect t-shirt design. Embodying feelings and sentiments into meaningful graphics is what t-shirt designers do.

Stay Humble-A big star like Justin Timberlake wouldn’t be expected to interact with fans of his work on a one-to-one level but that’s exactly what he’s been known to do. At a screening of his Coen Brother’s collaboration, “Inside Llewyn Davis” at the ArcLight Theater in 2013, he stayed after the public Q &A to take selfies with fans, answer questions, and sign autographs. Instead of being whisked away immediately after his scheduled appearance he stayed to show his fans how much he appreciated them and obviously understands they are the reason he is famous.

T-shirt Industry Takeaway- Thank your buyers in unexpected ways to delight them from time to time. It’s not reasonable to be expected to giveaway all the time but there are inexpensive ways to surprise and show you feel it’s a two way street. You could include a free artistic sticker with every purchase, offer a rewards program, or send them a coupon for their next purchase to keep your brand top of mind.

Sweat the Details- Justin Timberlake stated, “If you put out 150 percent, then you can always expect 100 percent back. That’s what I was always told as a kid, and it’s worked for me so far!” Everyone knows JT is a singer, but he’s also an actor, he owns restaurants, a clothing brand, a golf course and a vodka brand. Being that diverse in your business interests requires a lot of dedication and a strong work ethic. Even in his early days, his history as an athlete made him focus on perfecting every aspect of his performance.

T-shirt Industry Takeaway- If you work hard at creating a design but get lazy with precise PMS colors choices and product selection, the perfection of the design won’t matter. Your customers will expect a quality product with a quality print each and every time. It pays to be selective about your t-shirt product and demand consistency from your custom t-shirt screen printer.

Marketing is for Life- Justin Timberlake is always “on.” He has his interests in so many pots he must maintain a steady and consistent approach to stay in control and remain relevant. Sure, if he quit releasing albums he would go down in history as a pop icon but over the span of his career, he has paced his releases to come up with amazing new music that awes his fans and tops previous achievements. He keeps pushing himself and collaborates with other musicians that push the envelope as well. He does not go quiet between albums. Rather we see him in movies, hosting Saturday Night Live, and making public appearances.

T-shirt Industry Takeaway- Take the time to create designs that are amazing. Don’t approach your branding by throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Be consistent and find ways to repurpose your marketing efforts across different channels. If you release a new design, make a video about it, develop posts for social, create an email blast, and write a blog. There’s many ways to keep putting yourself in the public eye. Don’t release one marketing blitz and then sit back to see what happens. Keep presenting your designs in new formats and research channels you may have never considered before.

Take Chances- Justin Timberlake started out his singing career performing songs by Al Greene, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. That’s not what one might expect from a white kid from the South. His passion for R&B led him down a path where he was an exception to the rule. He was not afraid to perform the kind of music he loved and appreciated and his passion showed when performing this genre to the delight of anyone listening. Staying safe and being predictable rarely presents an opportunity to stand out in a crowded market.

T-shirt Industry Takeaway- Don’t be afraid to explore the obscure and put your own spin on the more obvious. Developing new ideas takes a tremendous amount of work and repetition. Certainly you must take cues from your fan base if something isn’t resonating with them, but keep pushing boundaries to create something unique and memorable with your signature style.

The 10 Best State Pride T-shirt Designs

Whether you feel state pride because it’s your birthplace or because you’ve relocated, or simply love vacationing there, state pride t-shirts are probably something you’ve purchased at some point in your life. The problem with these types of t-shirts is they are often designed with minimal creativity or even worse, the same design with slight modification could suit any state in the nation.

We love the idea of personalization so we looked for some of the best, original designs for state pride tees on the web. Here’s our list of best of the best.


We have start with this Arizona pride t-shirt because it’s our home state and we certainly think it’s the grandest! What we like about this design is it stays true to a southwestern color scheme and highlights the natural wonder that is our states motto, “The Grand Canyon State.” The artistic simplicity of the design feels retro and modern at the same time and the informal font matches perfectly. Going with natural for the color of the t-shirt keeps the message on point as far as we’re concerned.


The play on words with this California pride t-shirt is a golden opportunity to reiterate creativity is the key to successful t-shirt concepts. The relaxed black scoop neck is the correct choice to reflect California’s famous laid back lifestyle. We can’t tell from this pic if the ink is gold glitter but if it’s not, it should be. .


While this design is specific to Kansas City, not the entire state of Kansas, we decided to include it because it showcases a very cool trend that usually only locals could truly appreciate. Calling out some of the most famous street names is a great homage to the character and flavor of a famous city. The grid pattern reinforces the concept of transit while the overall distress effect offers a gritty edge to the overall design.


This design expresses all the attractions and allure of vacationing in this great state. From the country to the mountains to the coast, graphics illustrate the endless possibilities. The blue t-shirt reflects the color of the flag of Maine and the modest distress on the design alludes to a soft feel.


Making the most of the shape of your state is not something that all states can do. However with Michigan’s unusual shape that somewhat reassembles a hand, this designer has incorporated that feature into the message of the shirt. Hand made in Michigan has our vote as a clever t-shirt design.


The only letters that matter in this alphabet are the initials of the state of Minnesota. Drawing attention to this happy accidental design through use of contrasting ink colors puts this state pride tee on our list.


Montana pride is displayed in this t-shirt design with glimpses of a larger design artfully placed within the silhouette of a bull head. The heathered plum t-shirt product choice offers great contrast.

New York

This New York City t-shirt design is making it onto the list because you can hardly mention New York State without mentioning NYC. We love the hands signs that reiterate the vibrant energy of this city.


The yellow rose of Texas is a folk song that dates back to the 1850’s and has been recorded by famous singers like Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson. The song is embedded in the state’s history and this high contrast silhouette design is unmistakably creative as a Texas state pride tee.


This cheeky design is a pretty clever in its use of an expletive with a benign and charming replacement. It’s both daring and modern and not what you might expect of a Wyoming state pride t-shirt.

If you can’t find your state or city on this list, you can design your own using our state clip art. Search by keyword or by category: Nature/Geography, then select states to reveal silhouettes to begin your custom t-shirt design design.

Working with Ethically and Socially Responsible Suppliers in the Decorated Apparel Industry

Global Supply Chain

The decorated apparel industry is undergoing a transformation. As we understand the scope of our impact on the environment, communities, and economies across the globe, we realize we must be conscientious. Responsible stewardship is not a task that’s easily taken on alone. That’s why we choose to work with manufacturers and suppliers that champion corporate responsibility in these matters.

SanMar Corporation is one of these businesses and we’re proud to say, one of the chief suppliers of our blank apparel products. What makes an apparel manufacturer a responsible global citizen? Corporate responsibility of course starts at home where facilities exist. If a company doesn’t care about their neighbors locally, they can’t be expected to care about their impact on the world at large.

That means giving back to the community in ways like investment in employee career goals and being cognizant of a healthy work to life balance. It would be difficult to retain a quality workforce without offering a chance for individual fulfillment and realization of potential. A business that treats its employee’s right enables those employees to product high quality goods. End users like, as screen printers, can in-turn create products that our customers will love.

Custom T-Shirt Printing

Whether it’s t-shirts for fundraisers, school spirit jerseys, uniforms for employees, or t-shirts for an event, our relationship with SanMar enables us to receive high quality imprintable goods from a company we trust has diligently and ethically sourced their goods. Furthermore, whom we know continuously self-audits for environmental impact in its supply chain.

Responsible sourcing starts with people, the welfare, health, and prosperity of employees. In the apparel manufacturing industry, much of the production is done offshore. But this doesn’t mean the same high standards of human welfare that would be employed on American soil aren’t enforced offshore with manufacturers we choose to do business with. Providing safe and rewarding economic opportunities that strictly adhere to labor laws is a must.

Textile Worker

SanMar Corporation is an Accredited Participating Company of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a Quality Certification Alliance Accredited Company, and a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. As a consumer, you should be concerned that your products are ethically sourced no matter what it might be, whether food, electronics, or apparel. The FLA is a voluntary and collaborative association with its goals aligned to addressing abusive labor practices by giving companies the tools and resources needed to combat it. The association also encourages a culture of transparency and accountability for companies around the world that participate in the supply chain. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition similarly focuses on how manufacturers in the textile industry can identify and rehabilitate environmental impact as well as social impact on communities where they do business.

Environmental Impact

Longevity in the business also ensures that relationships are meaningful. When you work with a supplier that is in the game for the long term, corners are not cut and operations are designed to flourish for the benefit of everyone involved. To build any long term relationship of value, the right partners must be selected from the onset and rigorously held to high standards.

We feel very positive about working closely with SanMar Corporation for our imprintable apparel needs because of the family values they operate under. These include actively recruiting and hiring military Veterans as one of their initiatives. They’ve also been a pioneering force allowing telecommuting for applicable positions keeping hundreds of cars off the road in an effort to maximize work to life balance and reduce environmental impact that results from commuting.

Social Responsibility

Charitable works are expected from companies that label themselves as socially responsible. In Honduras, SanMar works with an orphanage and a medical facility that organizes twice annually medical brigades to provide surgery and therapy to citizens with hand issues. Furthermore, the corporation works with a supplier in the community whose goal is to improve the lives of garment industry workers with the development of a sustainable community consisting of 50,000 homes to improve the living standards of employees and their family members.

To encourage staff to give back to the community through participation in charitable events, SanMar matches any employee’s charitable contribution up to $250 per year. In times of disaster, the company increases this contribution so that the employee’s donation is stretched even further.

Working with suppliers, SanMar has been able to effectively increase sustainability by increasing the quality and life cycle of their garments. Consumers are becoming more aware of the impact that non-sustainable products have on the environment and are demanding more transparency concerning the products they buy. To that end, they have been accredited by the Quality Certification Alliance or QCA.

Textile Manufacture

The QCA improves a business’s credibility by establishing them as a leader that proactively seeks improvements in the industry to reduce environmental impact, increase social responsibility, and certifies the supply chain is compliant with safety rules and standards.

Product safety for the end consumer is of utmost importance and the company has adopted the Restricted Substance List originally developed by American Apparel. None of the substances on the list are allowed to be used in the manufacture of goods. Additionally children’s products strictly adhere to the guidelines put forth by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

It’s our pleasure to have a connection with such an exemplary business that has become a leader in ethics, corporate transparency, and social responsibility on a truly global scale.

Understanding Customers in the Custom Decorated Apparel Business

Understanding consumer behavior

If you want to sell branded apparel or print custom apparel, it’s important to understand where your customer is coming from as far as their mindset as a consumer. When people go through a buying journey people start out as an individual and transform into a consumer. Shifting to a consumer has a direct impact on their ego after consuming a product or service because it reflects upon how they perceive their own competence. This is why it’s so important to control every aspect of their journey when they engage with your t-shirt brand or custom t-shirt printing business. Here are some of the basic factors that make up the psychological process.

Motivation: We buy products that we believe will help us mold our own self-image. To sell t-shirts we need to understand what motivates the consumer. Need is the foundation of motivation, making the consumer want it is the next and perhaps most difficult hurdle. For us, the benefits an individual will receive from purchasing custom t-shirts needs to be conveyed by making those benefits resonate with our customer’s sense of self. We must distill the benefits of our services to align with the customer’s goal. For example, we might have a customer interested in ordering custom t-shirts for a family reunion. We know that personalization brings everybody together and delights the recipient, and the person who came up with the idea to unite the family with commemorative t-shirts is the hero. That’s what the consumer wants to get to, the hero status. In this example, our challenge is to make sure the customer is confident that we’ll be able to deliver a quality product on time for the family reunion, in the sizes requested, and printed beautifully. How do we do this?

Our customer service angle: What is your goal by ordering custom t-shirts? Our benefit features – We’ve printed millions of custom tees, we employ expert screen printers, we employ expert quality control, we offer guaranteed shipping dates, we employ professional artists to review every order, we offer product and design recommendations, and we make our customers look great!

Uncertainties: Your job as a t-shirt brand or even as a t-shirt printer is to lower the feeling of danger. What do people see as dangerous? Overpaying for services and goods is a high risk that makes people wary. People also worry about the functionality of the product such as how it looks and feels when wearing it. The psychological risk is introduced when the customer worries if they will feel badly about their purchase or experience buyer’s remorse.

Online ordering of custom t-shirts gets scary because of competitors and possible past experiences with similar purchases that went badly. The consumer is constantly asking themselves, “Am I making the right choice?” To combat this, we provide as much information about the t-shirt or custom apparel as possible and the ordering process. Include the weight of the apparel product, the color choices available, the fabric content, laundering instructions, and reviews from other consumers that have purchased the same product. In our case as concerns products and print, we have thousands of testimonials that detail the look and feel of the received t-shirts printed by us. We capitalize on that information by including these reviews on the specific products so new customers can see what the general consensus is from other consumers.

Personality: Consumers will ask, “Does this t-shirt and print fit my image?” It’s your job to make your customer happy to be who they are.

Our customer service angle: We listen for clues. Do they reference a gala event, or is it for a sorority? If so, we recommend high end products that will align with their self-concept. We reinforce our authority in our recommendations by sharing stories about other customers whose goals align with theirs. In reference to the sorority customer for example, when recommending a product, we let them know the product being recommended is very popular with other Greek organizations we have as customers. Or, for another example, we had a politician order this product for last year’s fundraiser. Or if for a construction company, this product is very durable, comfortable, and washes well.

Consumer learning: As your customer researches what products and services to buy they need product knowledge and also want to understand the motivation behind the brand. Why do your services/products exist and why should they put their trust in you? Obviously they need to understand how to buy as well, if online, you need to make it as easy and transparent as possible with no surprise fees like expensive shipping sprung at the end of their transaction process. For product choices, they need to know the weight and content of the fabric and how to care for the apparel once received.

Our customer service angle: Does the customer mention previous purchases with competitors? Is price a sticking point? We know cheap often means low quality and like to ask how the customer wants their order of custom t-shirts to be perceived by others. This is not a trick, rather it’s asking our customer to evaluate their own self-image and uphold the standards they’ve set for themselves as far as expectations. We are both affordable and offer very high quality product and printing.

Customers want to be perceived as competent and savvy consumers that made a good deal. People that order for organizations risk their job and reputation so this is particularly important to them.

A post purchase relationship is equally important. This is when the customer will be asking themselves questions like “Did I do the right thing, and did I pay too much?” We try to delight our customers by providing an experience where the service and apparel looks better than expected and exceeds other expectations so their attitude remains positive.

Our customer service angle: We may know the customer is ordering for their company’s annual fun run. We may make a lowest price recommendation and extol the benefits by listing the reasons for its popularity. However we often make higher priced recommendations too because the product is more versatile and comfortable, and also very reasonably priced. By letting our customer know we’ve already done all the hard work for them, there is no reason to worry that they’ve made the right decision.