Making the Case for T-Shirts

by Phil Buckley on February 15, 2011

in Social Media

I’ve been thinking about this concept for a long time and I want to unveil it for some feedback – your feedback specifically.

Seth Godin's Dip imageA couple years ago I was toiling away at my job as a web developer at McClatchy Interactive, and trying to figure out if I was in a dip, or on a cul-de-sac.

During that time I started to build out a network of friends, supporters and just plain smart people that could help me when the newspaper industry faltered again and I would be out of work.

I had an idea of a way to spread my infant brand that would reward my new network for their support, get my name out into the marketplace in an interesting yet inexpensive way and also allow me to spread my story by empowering others to tell it for me.

The cul-de-sac image from Seth GodinMy idea was the oldest give-away know to modern day marketers, a t-shirt.

But this wouldn’t be a normal one-size fits all t-shirt give away. They would be produced with each one having an ultimate destination already in mind.

I talked to my friend Jon who was running the day-to-day operations at NC Logowear about some concepts. He took the time to explain to me that different color shirts cost different amounts. That printing white on black is a pain in the neck. And that anything is possible.

My shirts were going to be very simple. The front would have my brand in small plain letters, 1918. The idea was that people would ask the wearer, “what’s 1918?”

The shirts would not be all men’s XL’s. I had a list of people that I wanted to give them to and I had taken the time to ask them their size. I asked, “if I were to make you a custom t-shirt, what size would you want it in?”

Once I had the t-shirts made, I was going to take each one and roll it up, tie it with some really cool twine that would have a thick handmade note card attached. The card attached would explain why I wanted to give this shirt to that person, what they meant to me and why I value them.

My hope was to create a little bit of buzz about the whole thing so that I could achieve escape velocity and find a something I could be more passionate about.

As it turned out, an interesting opportunity allowed me make my leap, so I never got around to making the t-shirts. I still think it would have been great fun and allowed me to really cement the friendships that had grown over that year.

So I have 3 questions I’d love to hear your feedback on:

  1. Did I miss an opportunity?
  2. Is it too late now?
  3. Can giving someone a t-shirt really have as much impact as I imagine?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian McDonald March 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I knew it was too good to be true! I’ve been waiting over a year for my t-shirt! Typical Boston Fan!


Phil Buckley March 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I know, I know… inexcusable! Maybe if I get some money back from my taxes ;-)


Brian McDonald March 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm

OK you are forgiven. Can you put a NC State logo on the back?


Joanna Wolfe March 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm

It is never too late to let people know you appreciate them and what they do for you.

Just because you are happy where you are today, what is to say you will feel that way tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. Or (and I do not ever wish this upon you) your situation will change through no fault of your own.

Regardless, everyone likes to feel appreciated — and even more so when the reason there is less of a need to reciprocate [immediately].

There are books that point to this – Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. Ideas like “Pay it forward”. And there’s Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book The Thank You Economy.

Just say “Thank You” – you don’t have to put a time context around it. Just tell people you appreciate them.

BTW, Body Billboards in RTP did a great job for a non-profit I work with on a small order of T-Shirts in a variety of colors, sizes and styles – they were totally flexible, and didn’t charge me an arm and a leg.


Phil Buckley March 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm

You’re right Joanna – everyone like to feel appreciated. I think if someone goes the extra mile in showing the appreciation it makes the person feel that much more special, and that was my intention.

As you can see from Brian’s response, some people tend to hold a grudge, but that’s okay, I still appreciate Brian and everything he’s done to help me.

I also appreciate you Joanna – you always seem to drop by and take a peek at my posts, and that means a lot to me.


Jon Kenney March 16, 2011 at 11:07 am

1. I wouldn’t say you misssed an oportunity, just that some of the end goals you may have wanted to achieve have changed.

2. It’s never too late. Everyone likes t-shirts.

3. It sure can. Who doesn’t like to feel loved?


Melissa Adams Melissa Adams March 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Phil – two short comments on your post….
1 – it’s NEVER too late to show you care (sorry Hallmark!)
2 – you need to send a T-shirt to Malcolm Gladwell for talking about “the dip” here


Somer March 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I LOVE THIS IDEA!!!!! I beg of you to do this. In the event I am one of those lucky folks that you think of, it would be the only way to get my yankees lovin’ self to rock such vitriol across my girls. I might would even blog about it. :) Just sayin’…


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