Screen Printing - August/September 2019 - 20
The first [left] Nocona Boot
campaign ran from 1979-1986.
This was the very first example
of using graphics to illustrate
a story. The scorpion image
[right] continued the theme of
confidence in compromising,
dangerous situations when
wearing Nocona Boots.
One of my all-time favorite TED Talks is from Simon Sinek in
2009. It's called "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." In it, he says:
"People don't buy what you do or how you do it.
They buy why you do it."
If you haven't seen it, Google it. It's been watched more than
45 million times and is now the third most watched TED Talk
of all time. This talk has spurred a virtual industry for Sinek;
He's now published multiple books including Start With Why.
You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with
me? There's no better way of expressing what a person believes
in than with a printed shirt. We've known this for decades
beginning with Ban the Bomb in the '50s and anti-Vietnam War
shirts in the '60s. Lifestyle, rock 'n' roll, and political and social
causes rank right up there in perennial interest as well.
At the same time, automation was coming to our industry.
Plastisol had been invented in the late '50s and was entering
the market, making shirt printing much easier and in higher
volume than ever before. This launched the T-shirt craze that
became the industry we know today.
In the beginning, there were a few companies that really
got it. Certainly, Disney and the iconic Mickey Mouse shirt
have been there from the beginning of mass manufacturing.
For many years, Mickey Mouse was the most printed of all
T-shirts and has now logged billions in sales with more than
a billion printed. Regardless, the general public was only
marginally aware of the branding and marketing potential.
By the late '70s, Starkist Tuna produced more than one
million Morris the Cat shirts featuring its iconic 9Lives
cat-food feline and RJR Reynolds created more than five
million Joe Camel shirts. (My company was involved in the
tail end of the Morris the Cat promotion.)
Then came a pivotal event that has become legendary
among early screen printers. This was the Nocona Boot
design produced by the Ackerman McQueen Agency in
Oklahoma City for the Nocona Boot Company.
Pioneer four-color process printer Bill Wainner made the
first four of the images that
became the 12-design series.
What made these images so
significant was the design
complexity and the story each
image told for the company. They
were masterfully art directed and
illustrated by the incomparable
Alex Ebel. At the time, each
image was purported to have
cost $25,000 to create.
Every image in the series
portrayed someone in Nocona
Boots in a seriously threatening situation. Because they had
Noconas on, they were never in any danger. They portrayed
threat, confidence, determination, and reliability - all things the
company wanted to be associated with. Even 40 years later, the
campaign is vividly remembered.
Over the years there have been millions and millions of
shirts produced. Sadly, the majority have completely missed
the potential they hold for their sponsors. The marketing
people will decide to do a campaign, the art department will
throw together a quick design, and the RFP will go out from
the purchasing department. The buy will be made based on
the lowest bid and another potentially promising campaign
gets delivered with mediocrity.
All this is changing in a very good way. In the last several years
there's been a noticeable shift in marketing and advertising.
For the last 100 years or so, the focus has been on the product
features and benefits. That no longer works. There's a shift
happening, and decorated apparel is positioned perfectly to
take advantage of it.
My first glimpse of this came with a pivotal event in 2008.
I was attending a marketing conference in Los Angeles where
400 professionals paid $3000 to attend. The theme was Reinvent
Yourself. I was selected to present the "T-shirt Makeover."
The presentation began by asking how many in the
audience made radio media purchases. About a third of
the audience raised their hands. The next question was "In
a metropolitan market of one million, how much would a
30-second drive time radio spot cost?" There were many
answers ranging from $600 to $3000 per spot.
With this new information, a clarification was made. For
this price you received a single broadcast to the targeted
audience of one million. There was no way to know how
many people were actually listening or if they were even your
target audience. There was no way to engage or track the
Screen Printing - August/September 2019
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