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4 Creative Ideas to Get the Most Out of Your Custom Company Apparel

Your custom company apparel is the gift that keeps giving. Every time one of your team members or customers wears your company’s branded clothing, they’re a walking advertisement for your business.

Unfortunately, branded shirts are often relegated to the back of the wardrobe and only see the light of day on team building or messy chore days.

So, how can you get the most out of your custom company apparel?

The creative ideas we’ll talk about today include:

  • How to leverage emotional connections and customer values in your branding choices.
  • How to use limited supply to get the most out of your custom company apparel.
  • Why choosing the right custom branding partner will boost your custom apparel game.

1 - Create an Emotional Connection

embroidered custom apparel with creative message

Branding is about creating distinctive design features that help your clients associate certain values, products, and services with your brand.

Custom company apparel is about showing rather than telling. Showing, in this case, means creating a visceral emotional connection with a message on your custom workwear.

Let’s break down a few effective emotional branding strategies that can help build loyalty.

Cause and Empowerment Branding

Millennials and Gen Z have exemplified the trait of putting their emotions and hard-earned money into brands that believe in them and support the causes that they believe in.

In light of this, find ways to marry your merchandizing and marketing strategies with social causes your customers care about. For example, we screen printed this fun t-shirt below for a local festival that benefits the causes of Waterville Rotary Club.

custom festival t-shirt for a local social cause

By engaging with the causes that matter most to your customers, you show them that your brand cares, which can lead to them wanting to buy more and to share your brand with their friends.

Sensory Branding

Sensory branding leverages the moods and emotions that affect cognitive decision making. It’s branding that targets the five senses—think of Netflix’s iconic logo animation sound or the Starbucks green that subconsciously makes you think of freshness.

Research shows that 92% of purchasing decisions are based on the visual.

For apparel, focus your branding on visual and tactile elements:

  • Bold color contrasts communicate clear brand values. For example, black and yellow says ‘fun yet sophisticated’ while red and blue bring to mind the star-spangled banner. The soft colors of Jupmode’s vintage shirts carry a boatload of nostalgia.
  • Texture, shape, weight, and temperature create a tactile experience. For instance, pure cotton tees have a heavier weight and can communicate brand values like sustainability, luxury and durability.

Storytelling

People remember feelings more than information, and there is no greater vehicle of emotion than a story.

Steve Jobs puts it excellently in this 1997 video introducing Apple’s long-running ‘Think Different’ campaign.

For custom company apparel, aim to tell a story that links your brand’s origin and values to the ideas that your customers hold dear. For example, Jupmode’s collection of ‘You Will Do Better in Toledo’ merch was inspired by a beautiful story dating back to 1913.

The combination of your company’s brand values and customer values creates the sweet spot where you can build an emotional connection.

Your brand’s and your customers’ values will also determine the:

  • Typography, the font and text arrangement of your slogans and logo.
  • Color palette of the custom workwear.
  • Shapes and graphics that complement the text.
  • Tone of voice of your custom apparel.

In the following table we compare various examples of brand identities and customer values and how they align with design elements.

Brand Identity Customer Values and Expectations Design Elements of Choice
Playful
  • Fun
  • Sense of community
  • Bright, high-contrast colors
  • Large artistic logo or artwork
  • Screen printing
  • Vinyl printing
Serious, staid
  • Industry accolades
  • Understated feel
  • Small, discreet, off-center print
  • Somber blues, greens and blacks
  • Embroidered logo
High end, luxury, white collar
  • Luxe look and feel
  • Sustainably made garments
  • High cotton percentage fabrics
  • Elegant serif fonts
Blue collar, crafty, artisanal
  • Durability
  • Simplicity
  • Craft skills
  • Cotton blend fabrics
  • Functional apparel with pockets and enhanced visibility
  • Rustic finishes
  • Screen printing
  • Site-compliant or outdoorsy colors
Small family-owned company
  • Personal touch
  • Hand-crafted
  • Limited edition custom apparel
  • Skilled, handmade details
  • Embroidered artwork
  • Detailed screen printing
Modern
  • Cutting edge designs
  • Modern, clean lines
  • Minimalism
  • Minimalist colors focusing on neutrals
  • Clean, simple graphics and fonts
  • Small, understated prints
Old-school
  • Vintage vibes
  • Sense of community
  • Prints that celebrate vintage styles
  • Limited releases
  • Artisanal elements such as patches and tags
Eco-friendly, sustainable
  • Transparent sourcing
  • Sustainable production methods
  • Fair trade
  • Natural materials
  • Organic fabrics
  • Garments made sustainably under fair trade laws
  • Simple and understated designs
  • Giving back of profits

2 - Make It Inspirational or Funny

funny tattoo shop slogan t-shirt

What do you do when you hear a good joke? You want to share it immediately.

The inner salesperson we all have is who you want to channel with the slogans and designs of your custom company apparel.

Whenever we think an idea is interesting, useful, or funny, we rush to share it, which triggers the mentalizing part of our brains that thinks about the thoughts and feelings of others—the salesperson.

Humor, though subjective, is one of the easiest ways to tap into the wearer’s inner salesperson. However, an inspirational or motivational idea holds equal weight.

How can you build humor and inspiration into your custom workwear?

  • Positive affirmations as slogans suit most businesses, especially brands in the sport, health and fitness niches. They also form great photo ops to share online and on social media. Just think of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’.
  • Puns and witticisms are the easiest form of humor to deliver on a t-shirt. You can source them internally from your staff to ensure their relevance or even work with a copywriter to draft a few ideas.
  • Lean into popular or trendy catch phrases relevant to your brand, especially if you’re releasing a limited edition of custom company apparel (which we discuss in the next section).

photo-snippet-custom-company-apparel

Below are humorous and inspirational custom company apparel Jupmode created for two of our clients.

funny slogan sweatshirt for a restaurant

motivational slogan on a CrossFit gym t-shirt

You want your slogans to strike a light tone without being offensive or inappropriate. For instance, the CrossFit gym t-shirt references how tough and grueling the workouts are, but is softened through the lens of something you love.

On the flipside, the restaurant tee also talks about fitness but makes a tongue-in-cheek joke about it all being for the glory of food—light and comical, but not offensive.

Always go the extra mile, unless you’re a taxi driver.

3 - Play up the Appeal of Limited Supply

The fashion world is obsessed with limited edition releases. Limited editions up the ante on exclusivity because they create a sense of recognition and belonging to an elite group.

They also reinforce the wearer’s investment in the brand.

We borrow this idea for custom company apparel to:

  • Open up avenues of collaboration with other brands or community-based organizations.
  • Commemorate your brand’s milestones and anniversaries.
  • Experiment with design ideas that are too expensive or risky to produce en masse.

At Jupmode, we’ve used this idea in our t-shirt clubs and community shirt clubs. Our customers can celebrate their hometown spirit or support a local charity through our limited edition shirt releases.

Here’s how the idea would translate for custom company apparel:

  • Create a special design in limited numbers to commemorate a big milestone, such as a 10-year anniversary, opening a new branch, expanding into a new region, or a new selection of products.
  • Collaborate with a local charity or community-based organization that aligns with your business values and release limited edition shirts, caps or even patches to raise awareness and funds for their cause.
  • Celebrate your top tier clients with a limited release of custom clothing to distribute during workshops or client meetings.
  • Tap into the local talent pool of budding entrepreneurs, young artists or students who can breathe life into your business as you enrich them with your expertise. Mark their mentorship and collaboration with limited edition custom apparel.

As we’ve discussed, people love to share anything that adds value or entertainment.

By focusing the lens on other collaborators, you create a niche group of people who care about your brand and will share and wear your custom company apparel.

inspirational slogan tee also celebrating a dead teammate

Expert Tip: With limited releases of custom company apparel, you can take advantage of branding techniques that give a more luxury finish, such as embroidery or textured printing. You can also experiment with specialty printing techniques to create more vivid prints, like gel printing, foil printing, and direct to garment printing.

For these, you need to choose the right printer.

4 - Choose the Right Custom Branding Partner

All these creative ideas would fall flat if you work with a printing company that doesn’t have experience or doesn’t see your vision.

Jupmode designer polishing up custom artwork

The right partners should have:

  • In-house designers to create or tweak your artwork to perfection.
  • Samples of previous printing work they’ve done.
  • Printing packages that include pre-press proofs to show how your branding fits on a physical garment.
  • Clear, itemized charges for each step of the process.

The value of a good partner goes beyond the final product. Their years of expertise equip them to advise you on:

  • Branding decisions that are potentially costly, like printing multiple colors and locations or printing the whole range of sizes.
  • Intellectual property (IP) rules and where your design might be infringing on someone else’s IP.
  • Best practices for printing including the standard size prints for various sizes.

customer-testimonial-custom-company-apparel

Are You Ready To Fit Out Your Crew in Style?

A successful line of custom company apparel lies in the nuances and attention to detail.

Basically, make it fun and inspirational, elicit an emotional response, and leverage limited releases to boost the value and appreciation for your branded apparel.

Finally, when you’re ready to work with the right printing partner, reach out to us for all your custom screen printing and embroidery needs. Since 2006, Jupmode has been creating fun, high-quality custom branded apparel. We’d love to show you how good we are at it.

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Molly Joyce is the Marketing Manager at Jupmode. After studying Marketing, Management, and Professional Sales at the University of Toledo's College of Business and Innovation (Go Rockets!), Molly helped develop marketing and communication projects for a global Fortune 500 company.  Now she leads the coordination and execution of marketing initiatives for the consumer retail brand and B2B custom businesses at Jupmode. Connect with Molly on LinkedIn!

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