Launching a Graphic Tee Campaign from a Sketchbook

The other night I saw an ad for a sweatshirt with a sick graphic on it for $45. I bought it. Easy sell for them.

I realized the website where this sweatshirt was hosted was a print-on-demand service. If you're not familiar, a print-on-demand service is a shop that manufactures and fulfills your product on a per-purchase basis.

For example, let's say I wanted to sell a $30 baseball cap with my design on it. In my shop when a customer orders a baseball cap that order is sent to the print-on-demand service (POD). I pay them $20 for their services and keep the rest profit.

Print-on-demand services aren't new. My first interaction with a POD was in 2011 with TeeSpring (which re-branded to Spring), however, POD services have been popular since the 60s in various forms.

Anyway, after buying this sweatshirt I figured why not put my own design for a bit of fun and spontaneity? I decided to just use the POD service I had stumbled upon instead of getting overwhelmed with the burden of choice. After all, I wanted this to be fun.

Setting a Goal

Admittedly, the print-on-demand service I was using wasn't such a practical choice. The service is located in the UK  while I'm based in the US and the garments they wholesale aren't especially affordable. With this in mind, I figured selling 5 orders would be a win. Fulfilling 5 orders would be a humble $65.07 gross profit.

Creating a Design

Luckily I have a ton of journals with drawings in them. I got into the habit in 2014 after listening to the podcast episode The "Wizard" of Hollywood, Robert Rodriguez (#98) hosted by Tim Ferris.

I recently did a sketch of a bouquet of flowers. I decided to use this one.

I threw the image into Adobe Illustrator and image traced it, although there are many ways one could convert their drawing into a digital asset. This is just what works for me. The end result ended up being this:

Selling Your Tee

I shared my tee on all my socials. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn. It touched my heart to see my 3rd-grade teacher re-share my post. Your immediate network is where you have to start, your biggest supporters will initially be your friends and family.

On my first day of the campaign, I received a total of 3 orders from sharing to my social networks. Halfway to my goal!

With a $29.36 payout so far, I'm going to spend $15 on an advertisement on Instagram. Depending on the data I will be able to make assumptions on how to improve. Let's walk through some scenarios.

If your ad insights have...

Many impressions but no clicks – You may be advertising to the wrong audience or you need to re-visit your product.

Many impressions, many clicks, but low sales – Find the leak in the funnel, the customer has made it this far but has the cost of the product/shipping, or friction in the checkout process caused them to abandon?

Many impressions, many clicks, many sales. – You're nailing it. Continue to improve by elevating the checkout experience, reminding people about abandoned carts, and other success tactics.

Lessons So Far

While there are still 19 days left in the tee campaign there are some immediate learnings from the experiment.

Firstly, people are willing to pay for a tee or sweatshirt with my design on it. I'm grateful for that.

Some more practical observations include the following.

  1. Pick a more affordable print-on-demand service. This could be another online shop or perhaps a local screen-printer. $37 for a tee alienates a lot of people, it's simply a lot to ask for a shirt, especially in this economy.
  2. The bigger your community the more opportunities you have for sales and support.
  3. This experiment allowed me to do this thing I don't do at work, such as managing an Ad Campaign, using Adobe Illustrator, and just putting myself out there in general.
  4. Next time I'd like to write a haiku or poem on the garment to add a more personal touch.

If you'd like to see the campaign, you can view it here:

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