Things I Wish I Knew: Creating Products That Sell

Will your products sell?

Literally, the million dollar question--the only thing keeping you from living that clothing line lifestyle. You've already picked a good brand name, you've designed a cool logo, you've built a fancy website--you've even done a photoshoot with your buddies in front of a cliche LA backdrop. But will your products sell? The truth is, I have no idea! But what I can tell you is that there are two things I've consistently seen successful clothing lines consider when they design their products.

"People will use your apparel to shape their identity."

Whether or not people choose to admit it, we all buy apparel to help us shape our identity for the world to see. We've all made purchases as an aspiration of those we admire or to be cool--your customers are no different. People want to create an identity for themselves and if your brand helps them do that it will be seen as essential.

What inherent market value do your products have?

If your apparel or brand relates to a community, genre, or niche you will already have customers within that target audience who desire to tie their identity to that group. Now all you have to do is build value and you will be making money, my friend!

How can you increase the market value of your products?

Just because you've worked all night drawing that cartoon version of your friend and putting it on a shirt does not mean that it has any market value. Without market value, it will be extremely difficult to convince customers to hand over their hard-earned money. Let's talk about two ways to create market value with your apparel: inheriting it and building it.

Inheriting Value

The fastest way you can acquire market value is to inherit it. This means taking value that already exists in the market and tying it to your apparel or brand. This could look like collaborations with other brands who already successful in the markets you want to enter--which also grows your credibility. It can also look like using methods and motifs of successful brands--mimicking, but making it your own. Let's talk about some other ways to inherit value. 

Licensing

A very lucrative way of acquiring value for your brand is licensing materials from other companies. Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse are two highly visible examples of this. You can request licensing rights from companies for many things, such as: characters, images, logos, movies, shows, and even people's faces. Note that this method typically costs money and more likely than not will have guidelines created in order to reproduce the licenser's intellectual property. The point is that they have built value into their brand through years and for a fee they will allow you to add that valuable asset to your branding to sell for money. 

Collaborations 

Like most, you probably don't have piles of money lying around for a licensing deal. The next best thing are collaborations. By partnering with an artist or illustrator that is already known for their artwork and has a great following, you can create visibility for your brand. You might need to work out a deal to put their artwork on your apparel--sometimes requiring you to split profits, but the growth and exposure of successful collaborations can propel you in the market and lead to higher profile partnerships in the future. If you're skilled in networking or want to expand your ability to network, this could be an option for you. Have your collaborator support you in sharing your brand with their followers and your apparel now has value by association. 

Mac Makeup x Lady Gaga

Max Azria x Miley Cyrus

Trends Forecasting

This tends to be a short lived avenue, but it can work to help you expand your market value quickly. This will require some research to find out what markets, products, or people are currently trending. If you enter the market with a product that everyone is dying to get their hands on, your brand and products will instantly sell. Remember fidget spinners? Trends don't always have the longest shelf-lives, though. You'll need to continuously look for ways to evolve, expand, and excite with your offerings or you run the risk of losing your market value very quickly. Trends can help you acquire the traction and attention needed to help grow your brand in the market and build credibility. As long as you can convert that attention into sales, you'll be set.

Sponsorships

If you are eager to have as many eyes on your brand as possible, you may look into sponsoring influencers with the audiences you want to market to. This option will likely take research as you want to ensure the people you send product to will represent your brand in a way that adds value--and unless your brand calls for it, you may want to avoid sponsoring people who will lead to controversy. Sponsoring an influencer may cost you money--loss from giving away free product or offering product at discounted rates, or having to pay the influencer you want to market your products for you. However, successful sponsorships can lead to lucrative sales and increased market value and credibility very rapidly.

Kylie Jenner for Sugar Bear Vitamins
167M Followers on Instagram

Raven Elyse for Dyson's Corrale Straightener
311K Followers on Instagram

Building Value

A common misconception is that if you were to display your apparel similarly to a larger, currently successful brand that you would then be inherently as valuable. What is typically missed or unseen is the value that brand has built through millions of dollars in marketing and years of execution.

Building value is about creating a connection with people who adopt and believe in your brand--so much so that it can influence their views of culture and even the world. Some key examples include Nike and their influence on the sports world and what it means to be an athlete, and Vans with their influence on what it looks like to be a lifestyle brand inside the world of skateboarding--these brands powerfully defined and redefined the already existing notions of the world in regards to athletics and skateboarding. 

Find ways that you can provide value to the communities you wish to target and start executing daily--you will inspire people to follow your brand and its values. 

Now Go Make Money!

The next time you're sitting around telling yourself  that you can totally make a shirt with a smiley face and sell it for $50, think again!

Instead, ask yourself these two simple questions:

1. What value does my product have/offer inherently?

2. What value can I add to my brand/product?

Watch the first video in our new series:

Things I Wish I Knew

Leo Martinez

Leo Martinez 

Print shop owner and founder of Key Print Co.