I love owning, wearing and buying t-shirts. They are comfortable, usually inexpensive, and serve as a palette for art and messaging. I can think of five good reasons to use them at interpretive sites and in social marketing campaigns as a way to promote your mission and message.
- Brand Recognition – At its simplest, a good t-shirt with your logo or an theme-related slogan will advertise your brand to everyone who sees it. People who love you will wear it everywhere and that lets others know that you exist.
- Event Memorabilia – If you offer special events, great t-shirts each year become collectors’ souvenirs of the event. Each one should have something that ties it to events from previous years thematically but also show something distinctive for each year. Don’t forget to include your logo or brand identity in addition to any specially designed logos for the annual event.
- Great Messages – Really well thought out messages or quotes that link with the brand or organization can get people to notice the wearer and start a conversation. For example, printing the bold phrase “Only elephants should own ivory” is a great message on a shirt for an elephant conservation organization.
- Art with a Message – A beautiful t-shirt with exceptional artwork always attracts attention. Like a great written message, artwork makes a statement that can start a conversation between the wearer and the observer that can provide the opportunity to invite people to your organization’s website for additional information.
- Iconic T-shirts – When a t-shirt represents something special in your life, it becomes a treasure. Creating a unique shirt for political campaigns, fundraising efforts, or links to once in a lifetime events may create a collector’s item (which may then become a fundraising opportunity as well). The problem with these iconic shirts is that they are likely to stay in the closet. I have a treasured political campaign T-shirt I rarely wear because I want it to last. I rarely show it off, so its message doesn’t get seen as often as it should.
Ilan Shamir of Your True Nature is an interpretive entrepreneur who writes, produces, and distributes the “Advice From . . . “ series of T-shirts, bookmarks, and other unique memorabilia mostly at parks, zoos, museums, nature centers and recreation sites. This popular series started with Advice from a Tree and has expanded in all directions. Lisa and I have several, ranging from Advice from a Shark to Advice from a Volcano. When we wear them, people smile and ask questions about the shirt. The messages have their attention because they are short, clever, and visually appealing.
I always prefer an interpretive gift shop with shirts that closely match the theme and feeling of the organization. When you can sell your own site-specific product the branding is always stronger. But shirts like the “Advice . . .” series may be a way to deliver a message compatible with your theme without having to create your own line of tees.
– Tim Merriman