Friday, 25 February 2011

Phillip Rooke, CMO at Spreadshirt says "Connect your Content with Apparel"

Spreadshirt is the worldwide creative platform for personalised apparel. Nearly 300 employees work to help bring imagination onto shirts - from the programming of the platform to marketing and service to a finished shirt of the highest quality.

Phillip Rooke, CMO at Spreadshirt  says....The rise of social networking sites and the current success of social media marketing campaigns emphasise what social creatures we all are. In this new and exciting world, traditional marketing tools such as apparel continue to play a role but also in interesting and innovative ways.

In the past, brands often gave little thought to their promotional merchandise, buying in bulk and missing the opportunity to effectively integrate it into their overall marketing campaigns or social media strategies. However, the days of stress balls and naff hats with a simple company logo are finally being left behind, together with the practice of relegating promotional merchandise to the most un-strategic part of marketing campaigns. Apparel marketing is having a 21st century makeover. Customisation is now king. 

Tying social media marketing campaigns in with personalised or customised apparel can completely change its impact. Brand champions need rewarding with something they want to keep, something they’ve had a hand in creating. New technologies make it easy to offer customisation possibilities. For brands, this is a new and great opportunity to have customers express their ideas and for businesses to develop a two-way communication process with their customers.

Brands can bond with their advocates through t-shirts. This process needs to be seen not only as a money making tool, but an investment in customer relationships.

With marketing teams focused on social media as one of the main forms of communicating with customers and brand advocates, the medium has changed the way we view customer engagement; it’s all about online interaction. But brands want to remain top of mind after the customer has logged off.

Combining social media with apparel can offer an interactive online experience with tangibles that can continue to impress your customer even when they’re not logged on.
Encourage customer participation

Businesses and marketing teams of all sizes are taking advantage of their customers’ desire to have a say and are switching from placing ready-made products in front of them to engaging online by offering them the raw materials and the tools to design customisable products.

Businesses can reward brand advocates, get their ideas out there and encourage customer participation with customisable apparel by, for example, asking for design or slogan ideas on their Facebook page, which can then be quickly converted into apparel for sale. The straight-forward process makes it easy to offer innovative merchandising that brand advocates will want to wear.

Businesses can have a seamless shop created on their own website, where customers can connect the content with apparel, personalise or customise items from t-shirts to bags, as well as chose the exact style, colour and size.
Development in technology has undoubtedly had an effect on apparel marketing.

Free t-shirts, the staple of marketing campaigns, used to be of poor quality and cheaply designed, they lasted a day or so and were then relegated to washing the car in. This approach often left marketers with XXL and XXS to get rid of. The ability to print-on-demand has reduced risk for the marketer and the online design technology allows brand advocates to create something they will keep long after the social media marketing campaign is over.

Businesses no longer have to bulk-buy merchandise but can offer their target audience the chance to engage with the product at limited risk to themselves.
Since the delivery times, transactions and returns are handled by the apparel company, smaller businesses don’t have the steep ecommerce learning curve often involved and can be assured their brand advocates will have a customer-friendly experience.

So good quality, engaging apparel is now something that any brand or marketing campaign can afford to effectively include. And as an added bonus the straight forward setting up and running process allows marketing teams to focus where it matters, on the creative side of their social media marketing campaigns.         

Technology can’t replace the time and resources needed to develop a strong campaign. Clever thinking needs to be built into every stage. As always, making it relevant, one of the most preached pieces of advice in the marketing space, continues to be true with social media marketing campaigns. Also key to communicating to target audiences via promotional products is to be ahead of the game – know that in this fast paced digitalised business world, merchandise has moved on and unbelievable things are now possible.

There are increasingly great opportunities to creatively interpret and convey brand values and messages through promotional merchandise.  So before you set off for your next marketing brainstorm meeting, here are five rules for the new school of social media promotional merchandise you should consider.

1.  Share the love

Target audiences enjoy engaging with their tribe and to feel that their brand is thinking of them.  A perfect example of this is with The Guardian newspaper last April Fool’s day.  The spoof campaign poster with Gordon Brown’s “Step Outside Posh Boy” became a viral tsunami with the likes of John Prescott tweeting that it would make a great t-shirt. 

The Guardian was able within 48 hours to have a website set up for competition winners to enter or to buy the t-shirts.  It was the most successful competition The Guardian has ever had, and within seven days, the t-shirt featured in Have I got News for You.  Everyone who wanted, could participate, including David Cameron who was cited at a press conference to wanting “one of those t-shirts!”  Sharing the love makes everyone happy.

2.  Be relevant

But not obviously so.  When creating promotional merchandise, look to imbue the spirit of the business and what makes it unique into the development of the product.  Corporate logos should be placed as a supporting part of the merchandise, so that it appears as more of a sponsor rather than the feature.

And yet, make the background design or customisation fit with your campaign.

A large hotel company looking to promote its breakfasts gave customers the opportunity to customise t-shirts with their choice of breakfast – I’m a bacon and eggs man!

3.  Be timely: new technology, new rules

Social media plays its part with the 24/7 access to global information creating viral tidal waves within hours or even minutes.  This means that what was relevant yesterday may be completely old news the next day, so whatever the promotional merchandise idea - it needs to be flexible and apt in message.

4.  Costs are changing

As a result of technological developments and reducing costs, models such as print on demand offer much greater value without the traditional stock risks associated with guessing response rates; allowing a greater range of products and offers.

This means that even the smallest business can offer top quality promotions, with the customer choosing the right size and fit for them, or a particular bag or laptop sleeve which fits their lifestyle. 

5.  Connecting Content

The effects of social media mean that we are now all content generators.

Consider allowing your brand advocates the opportunity to play with a design, or select their own specific quote or image from within your database.

The internet has changed how marketing teams can interact with potential customers and it is continuing to alter the view as to what is possible within this relationship. The pace of change is accelerating as customers get together, and decide to design what isn’t already available in the market.

Businesses need to be able to quickly adapt and capitalize on demand for interactivity and new design ideas.

Quality, engaging apparel is increasingly something that marketing campaigns of any size can afford to effectively include. Print-on-demand technology makes products cost-effective and the customisable element makes them relevant to your customers and brand advocates. In this new online social media world, incorporating apparel into your marketing strategy has become a winning combination, allowing businesses of all sizes to bond with their brand advocates even when they are no longer logged on.

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