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The Essential Brand Startup Guide

I have been receiving hundreds emails from readers since I started writing articles about independent brands and the t-shirt industry. Answering them all one by one has been a challenge so I decided write about a subject that has been popping up fairly frequently: the things needed to launch a successful brand. This is my brand startup guide which will cover all of the required steps needed to ensure your company launch is successful.

The first thing you need when starting up a brand is an original idea. The independent clothing brand industry is littered with thousands of small online shops trying to sell their product. The problem is that many of them don’t see any initial growth because chances are there is another company out there with a similar theme doing it better. You don’t want your brand to fall by the wayside right after its launch, so spend time thinking of an original theme or idea to base your brand around. You won’t find much success following what every other store owner is doing, ignore the trends and make your brand suit you.

Next you will need a logo and/or typeface that represents what your brand is about. If you are like me and lack illustrative talent, hire an artist who specializes in branding. Spend plenty of time jotting down notes or sketching out ideas as these will provide valuable art direction to your commissioned artist. Having a quality logo is a crucial part towards your brands success because it represents everything your brand is about. You’ll know that your logo is doing its job if it sparks the curiosity of potential customers. If you have the funds, invest in a typeface that matches up with your logo. Follow the same guidelines with the typeface as you did with the logo and things will work out. You’ll know if your typeface is doing its job if customers tell you they would wear it on a t-shirt.

Now it’s time to move on to acquiring a website and creating a social media presence. Your website is most likely going to be the only place where a customer can purchase your clothes, so make sure it’s as user friendly as possible. You don’t need to spend thousands on having a custom website built for your brand. Many independent brands use a combination of blogging tools such as Word Press and Blog Spot with online shopping carts like Big Cartel and Storenvy. Integrating these tools into your website will be no problem for your web designer, as it is one of the most common t-shirt brand website set ups.

You will also need to utilize several social media tools as they are just as important as having a website. Twitter and Facebook are the two most powerful websites to help build your brand. Create a Facebook page for your brand and update it daily. This page is a great way to send quick updates, hold contests and communicate with customers. When you post on your brand’s page, focus more on creating relationships with your fans rather than selling them a t-shirt. The sales will come if you build lasting relationships with your page’s visitors. To add functionality and uniqueness to your page, try out different apps to make your page more visually appealing.

Your brand will also need a twitter page that is updated daily. This is another great place to communicate with followers and host shirt giveaways. Respond to every comment or post that someone leaves on these pages. If someone made the effort to talk to you about your brand or ask a question, the least you could do is reply in a friendly and timely manner. There are also other social media tools that are worth putting to use such as Tumblr and Flickr. You can use your Tumblr as a quick press blog to share photos that relate to your brand image. Flickr is another great tool as you can upload brand related photos such as product shots and outtakes.

The next step is to create designs and get them printed. There are many brands owners out there that are artistically talented and product their own designs. This is somewhat of an advantage because their design styles will be consistent and help establish a more centralized brand image. On the other hand, there are plenty of brand owners out there including myself who commission freelance artists to do their designs. If this is the route you are taking, be careful in choosing your artists and make sure that their styles aren’t too different from each other. Having several products that look like they could all belong to different brands will only blur company theme and image.

Also, you want to launch your brand with at least three or four different designs. You are launching a brand and having one or two different shirts at your release does not characterize your company as a professional brand, more of a casual t-shirt store that will leave consumers uninterested. Getting your shirts professionally printed is another requirement that needs to be done before launching. Make sure to choose a printing style and t-shirt blank that best matches your brand image and target market.

The last step before launching is having high quality product shots taken. Your potential customers are buying online and rely solely on your product shots. They need to properly show all aspects of your products as the consumer can’t touch and see your merchandise in person. You also will want to choose your models wisely when having photos taken. People want to see what kind of person wears your brand and the model is their only answer to that. Choose a wide variety of photos to upload to your website in order to leave the customer feeling confident in purchasing your product. You can also add different photos to a look book on your website or post outtakes and additional shots to your brand’s Flickr account.

All of these steps are required tasks to ensure your brand launches with a boom. The first impression that people get from your brand is the most important thing and will lead to them being repeat customers. Make sure to spend as much time as you need in the creative process. All of your hard work will pay off and have consumers begging for more. If you have any further questions you can email me at chazzy@vicioushistory.com

BONUS TIP: Read our book LAUNCH A KICK-ASS T-SHIRT BRAND for in depth advice and tips like these. Tons of useful information you can’t afford to miss!

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