5 Primary Applications of Apparel Graphic Products


1. Employee Identification

Whether for businesses, schools, or government, identifying employ­ee’s is big business. From uses for security to customer service, the applications vary from building pride, making it easy for customers or constituent groups to spot staff members or service employees, and celebrating events to being welcome incentives and/or recognition for employees (for achievements in safety, sales, length of service) and as employee gifts. Among the largest drivers for decorated apparel products is for employee use in conjunction with policies requiring employees to be identified at all times when on the job.

transfer, heat press

Employee Identification is professional

2. Advertising & Promotion

Who gives away shirts? Just about any business or non-business entity that wants to promote its goals, activities, services, products, brands, or special programs gives away shirts. Or, in many cases, sells them to tar­ get audience members who want to identify with whatever the cause is. Included in this application is the use of decorated apparel as incen­ tives. Test drive a new Ford 150 and receive a cap emblazoned with the embroidered logo of the area’s favorite team. Anyone who drops 25 pounds in a Weight Watchers® program merits a well-deserved “Big Loser” T-shirt. Take the stage at Murphy’s Irish Pub’s Wednesday night karaoke event and earn a cap; command the biggest applause and win an American Idol-like embroidered jacket; get the loudest boos and earn a “Biggest Fool” T-shirt! Show up at a local supermarket’s grand opening and receive a free oversized canvas bag. You get the idea. And chances are good you ‘ve gotten a few freebies yourself over the years. People get free stuff and then promote the donor company to hun­dreds or thousands of people over the life of the garment or accessory. By the way, I’m often asked if there ‘s any data as to the advertising reach – and cost-effectiveness – of decorated apparel as an advertis­ing medium?

In a study I was commissioned to undertake for a major apparel manufacturer as to the number of advertising impressions generated by custom-decorated T-shirts, the results were astounding. Worn while outside the home during a full day of typical routine activity -excluding attending sports events, concerts, and gatherings at other big venues or crowd centers — a T-shirt with a full-front imprint is seen by some 200 people. Worn once a week, that ‘s more than 10,000 advertising impres­sions in one year. And if worn to class, a mall, or a public event, the 200 impressions a day can escalate to thousands of advertising impres­sions within a few hours!

Employee Identification

Employee Identification

Let ‘s say at a selling price of $7 per custom shirt, $1 invested in a

T-shirt with a full-front design does in fact generate those 200 adver­tising impressions per day. After wearing the garment ten times, the body it’s on has produced 2,000 advertising impressions.  That’s about

$.0035, point-three five, or just over one-third of a penny per adver­ tising impression. In some major markets, that same figure would be competitive with mass communications media such as a news-hour commercial on television or a billboard on a major artery!

On an attractively decorated shirt that the user enjoys wearing regu­larly, the impact on customer loyalty and awareness — every time the user sees the design when she washes the garment, takes it from the dryer, folds it, puts it in a drawer, takes it out later, and sees herself in the mirror wearing it — is empirically inestimable in dollars and cents. But I’ll bet the qualitative impact on the user is downright huge.

3. Membership and Participation

People who are proud of the group or activity they participate in want to brag about it. It’s easy to do that bragging by wearing deco­rated apparel to broadcast their affinities. In some cases, shirts or caps or bags are given  to members  as part of  their membership package, registration fee, or as a reward for participating in an event or program.

4. Revenue Generation

For some buyers of decorated apparel, selling their garments is a way to make additional -sometimes substantial — money. If they’re success­ful at it, that success is derived largely from the fact that their customers love the place, product, or service, want to identify with it or remember it, and find the selling price represents good value for the item.

5. Fundraising

Northwest Junior Rodeo

Northwest Junior Rodeo Raising Money

Organizations of all types need money to serve their members and fulfill their missions. Selling decorated apparel provides them an oppor­tunity to build revenues wile providing products their members and supporters want to buy and wear or give as gifts. Of course, it would help a great deal if the items are made attractive and relevant.

But there ‘s another ”category” of sorts that shouldn’t be overlooked: hybrids of those cited above – such as combining advertising with membership, or revenue generation that provides additional incentives. Such hybrids occur when selling shirts or caps at a profit or distributing them without charge; and when the garment is worn to the advertiser ‘s location, the wearer receives a dividend or benefit. For example, when worn on Friday to a local eatery, the shirt or cap earns the customer receives a free soft drink with lunch, or when worn to a popular bar, earns the wearer free admission by getting the establishment ‘s cover charge waived.

Your acuity in identifying those areas, factors, and applications where you ‘re more likely to succeed and harnessing these factors to your cre­ ativity in combining two or more elements to create new and unique market positions gives you tremendous near- and long-term opportuni­ ties to grow and prosper.

Limited capital shouldn’t be a constraint on your thinking here and may, in fact, be of value in forcing you to narrow your focus.

Hopefully what you’ve gained in Section Four is an understanding that making a proactive effort at properly and more intelligently position­ing your company gives you far better strategic firepower than leaving such weighty matters to happenstance.

“The Business of T-Shirts” by Mark Venit

Erik Mickelson

Northwest Custom Apparel


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!