Custom t-shirt ideas for expos

Custom t-shirt ideas for expos

From grabbing attention to building connection for business owners and brand managers

Expos are expensive. As a business owner or brand manager, it’s your responsibility to convert expo leads to customers. Because whatever the business, it’s branding that separates the cash cows from the question marks. First impressions last. And at expos, t-shirts are just as good as a handshake, when it comes to recognition.

It’s a common mistake to think that you need to hire a graphic artist to create your t-shirt designs. It’s the business owners and brand managers that design the best custom t-shirts, because they understand their customers best. It isn’t about being fancy, it’s about connecting with your customer — your tribe. Do it right and you’ll have free walking, talking billboards.

Can’t wait to get started on designing a t-shirt for your upcoming expo? Start creating your t-shirt design online with PrintLocker.

How to design a t-shirt that connects with prospects

designer sitting at computer

To know how to design your t-shirt, you need to know what it should achieve. At expos, the best custom t-shirt accomplishes three things.

  1. It grabs attention — you can’t win if you’re not in the game.
  2. It builds a connection with your tribe — caring precedes consideration.
  3. Finally, it features your business details — if customers can’t find you, you don’t exist.

1. Grab attention

Create attention by arousing curiosity. Curiosity is an itch you have to scratch. It’s why we read novels until the early morning, finish watching boring movies, and walk up to strangers at expos. As business owners and brand managers, it’s our job to arouse curiosity. So here’s a few quick t-shirt design tricks and tips:

  • • What’s already working? Does your tagline make people smile? Do people remark on your clever logo? Is your mission statement memorable? Instead of reinventing the wheel, leverage existing brand elements that customers already love.
  • • Pose a question: Questions highlight knowledge gaps that make us want to know more.
  • • Do the unexpected: Put your logo back to front or upside down, share a surprising fact, quote, or hilarious one-liner. Brands with personality are rare and valuable.
  • • Embrace your novelty: People come to expos because they’re looking for new products. Many companies automatically receive attention at expos. If that’s you, remember, the most attractive person at the bar is rarely the loudest. Subtlety can speak volumes. Often a simple logo, tagline, and touchpoint are sufficient.

2. Establish connection

Once you choose one of the three attention-grabbing tactics above, ensure it elicits the right emotion for your brand:

  • • Match the message to the medium: T-shirts create a lasting first impression—make sure it’s relevant to your business. A t-shirt isn’t the right place for a toy company to highlight their eco-friendly practices.
  • • Express the core of a company: If you’re a fun brand, be silly. If you’re serious, play within your limits. Hot pink is rarely the right t-shirt colour for a management consultancy.
  • • When we care, we wear: When people think analytically, they’re less likely to think emotionally. T-shirts are a space for idealism and connection, not stats and facts.

3. Embed touchpoints

You can’t capture everyone’s details at an expo. But this isn’t an issue, because the best leads are always inbound. So make sure prospects have the details so they can follow up:

  • • Company name: Make sure your name is clearly visible. People often lose business cards, but they can always search your business name on Google — if they remember it. It pays to keep your company name prominent.
  • • Call to action: Promotional offers and landing pages are critical at expos. But t-shirts are rarely the best place for them. However, hashtags can be very effective on t-shirts when combined with the above attention-getting tactics.
  • • Contact details: Your web address, a QR code, phone number and email address can help people get in touch with you. But in the age of Google, they are an optional extra, not a must-have.

T-shirt design faux pas to avoid

You don’t want to turn off a potential customer before they even get a chance to learn about your company. Avoid these t-shirt faux pas:

  • • Politics: You’re potentially alienating half your customers.
  • • Copycat: Keep your t-shirt design different to your customers.
  • • Obscenities: If you wouldn’t wear the shirt in front of your mother, don’t wear it at an expo.
  • • In-jokes: While in-jokes may give your colleagues or best customers a thrill, these aren’t the people we go to expos to connect with.

Does your t-shirt design pass the two t-shirt tests?

man wearing tshirt in work

Will you wear your t-shirt at work? On the weekend? On a date? The more places you’d wear your shirt, the better your design. That’s the first test. Now, here’s the second test. Show your coworkers, friends, and family your design and ask for their opinion. But don’t listen to what they say — watch their face. Supportive words mislead, facial expressions never lie.

If you follow these guidelines and pass the tests, your t-shirt won’t only be a great branding tool at your next expo, your colleagues, customers and prospects will wear your t-shirts with pride. And you’ll get free walking talking billboards.

Make the right first impression at your next expo and start designing your t-shirt with Print Locker’s easy-to-use design platform.

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