The idea of ‘branding’ permeates modern life. There’s no getting away from it. You may not take conscious notice anymore, but it’s there. We’re all bombarded on a daily basis with the concept of ‘brand’. The fields of custom clothing and garment decoration are no exception. Quite the opposite, if anything, we here at Fifth Column are even more involved with branding than most people.
Screen printing t-shirts and brand architecture are inextricably linked. Having a really strong grasp of the core elements that define your brand will not only make printing your merchandise easier, it will make the whole process more enjoyable and potentially more profitable. If your grip isn’t that firm, don’t despair, read on. Getting a handle on brand architecture can be quite simple.
What is Brand Architecture?
Brand is important. However cynical you might feel about the state of modern life, a trusted name can still inspire confidence. Creating a good brand can be a happy accident, something you love that grows wings and becomes a fully-fledged business. Or it can be the result of hours of careful construction and backroom brainstorming. Whatever the origin, successful brands present a complete picture to the world. Creating that picture may require some thought, even when it’s a product of your passion, born from love and intuition.
This is where brand architecture comes into play. It’s the plan, the blueprint, a way of harmonising everything that you do in connection with your label. There are lots of aspects to it. The building blocks. They form a set of guidelines to follow when making decisions. It influences everything you do – products and production methods, design and styling, marketing initiatives and target audience. The underlying purpose is to ensure a consistent approach to your business. It’s there to help win customers and increase the chances of keeping them.
Although proven to be incredibly effective, it’s surprising how few companies, big or small, compile this type of document. T-shirt printing is only one area where it can be useful. A well-conceived and coherent brand DNA can make a huge difference to the success of your new range of printed clothing or custom merchandise, but it’s helpful in all sorts of situations. No sweat if you don’t have one and hadn’t envisioned needing such a thing to get a few tees printed. You can print t-shirts without one, but it doesn’t hurt to ponder what the real professionals do.
T-Shirt Printing and Brand DNA
Before going any further, it’s worth pointing out that not everyone needs be overly bothered about brand DNA. If you’re having your company logo embroidered on a hoody, most of the design legwork is already there. Plus, we don’t need to go through every possible question for creating a great brand, let’s just look at some that might be relevant for printing perfect t-shirts and killer custom merch.
Product and Differentiation. Ask yourself what differentiates your product or service from all the rest. Does it come across on the t-shirt? Has your design captured the essence of what makes you different? Think about that long sleeved Reaper tee we printed for Grindesign. The artwork of Rob Borbas is so distinctive that it’s an identity in itself. Simply printing it on a shirt is like signing the artist’s name.
Position and Promise. Where do you sit in today’s market, the myriad of choice that confronts consumers? How do you want to be perceived? If your brand makes a promise – “we’re the last true punk band on the circuit” – the t-shirt ought to fit into that narrative. If it doesn’t, you run the risk of breaking the promise that defines who or what you are. Nearly as bad, t-shirts sales at the gig will suffer.
Name and ID. This may be established if you’re an existing business. It may still be subject to interpretation when you’re a start-up or young company. Think about what you’re called and the colours that tie in with that. How any symbols or logos fit into the mix. Do they come together to conjure the image you need to convey? All of it needs to be comfortable with your branded merchandise.
Character and Personality. These may sound like the same thing, but there are definite differences. Character can be seen in terms of values. Are you environmentally aware and active? If so it may not have a bearing on what’s printed, but it will affect your choice of base garment. Sustainably sourced, ethically sound, organic or recycled t-shirts are where you should be. Personality can be viewed as tone. Maybe how you come across on social media. Formal or informal, studiously serious or always ready to smile. Sometimes both.
Emotion and Experience. Nowadays, appealing on an emotional level has become standard practice. You may have qualms about emotion trumping intelligence and logic. Deal with it. Your t-shirt needs to ring bells, send a shiver down the emotional pipes. The great customer experience and five star reviews will follow, providing you’ve met the expectations that you have set.
Quality and Pricing. If you’re aiming at up-market, sophisticated customers, you don’t want to be choosing cheap and cheerful blank t-shirts. It’s a recipe for disappointment. You need first class, top quality blanks for your refined design to work. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with being inexpensive. Everyone wants to beat their competition on price point. Just be sure it makes sense within the overall structure of your trading environment
Association, Credentials and Message. What’s that old adage? You can tell a lot about people by their friends. In tee shirt printing terms, this is about how you phrase what you want to say and the surface on which it’s emblazoned. The message is your own. Choosing eco friendly blank garments for printing or embroidery is a statement that associates you with a way of thinking. In the current climate, that may be credential enough in itself. Take care in promoting other endorsements, some credentials can come back to haunt you
Let’s hold it there. It’s one of those topics that can be overwhelming. We’re lucky, here at Fifth Column. Being around for a long time has its benefits. Branding becomes more straightforward. We know who we are and are true to our roots.