Monday, October 09, 2006

The Age Of Ferocious Online Marketing


I started reading the Chicago Times every Sunday, not because its my favorite city on the planet, but because of the changing face of business. Not everyone “gets it” and as usual…..The Chicago people are on top of these changes and kicking major butt on the online marketing scene. And that’s good.

No it’s not only good…. It’s AWESOME.

There is no comparison to what is happening in other cities. Over the past few weeks I have had a lot of disheartening conversations about the changing face of the Internet. An overwhelming amount of top people who should be “in the know” are still waving banners for Macromedia Flash and championing web sites which are little more than “online digital love letters” to interactive multimedia. They offer little more than digital fluff.

This innovative t-shirt company had a great idea. First they would hold a contest to see what the people wanted to wear. They had a t shirt design contest for the best artwork and had a vote. The winners were able to sell their shirts online. When the company needed a market they sold the winning shirts back to the ones who voted for them. This is OPT IN customer marketing done to an absolute T.

The result? 18 million dollars of revenue.

How long can this last? Not sure. But one thing is for certain, this sucker punched the t shirt industry and shook the ground of even the most heavy handed cynic.

The three young men who pulled off this miraculous masterminded stunt are barely in their 20’s. The designs for these shirts are what really struck me as odd. Most of them didn’t really have much of an appeal to me. I’m slightly older and from another generation when BIG was in. I go for loud, bombastic, in your face designs.

The designs from Threadless have more of a worn in feel and there are traces of speckled paint and fading colors. IN short, they look like something you may of pulled out of a used bin at your local Goodwill.

Not to come off hard. These designs are BRILLIANT in their simplicity. They surely connect to their core audience. And this is where a lot of businesses fail to succeed. They let the audience gain control over their purchasing choices.

The core audience are the ones who will be buying and wearing them after all. This is where Threadless gets it right – continuously. This business model is all about customization. This is simply outrageous.

But can this type of daring innovaton be copied and perfected? You bet. But it is going to take some finagling to make it right for your market.

What was the word from Detroit? To quote an offbeat advertising hack I met with from the Winchester Group in Farmington Hills, MI………….

“What the hell is an online art director?” he said glumly.


Once again, Detroit, with its narrow minded thinking will most likely be left out of the game.

Ted Cantu is the creator of Mobile Cast and he has handled the marketing for such innovative groups like and contributes to several blogs and podcasts such as….. He served as a top rated art director for Interactive Web Marketing groups in Chicago and New York City.

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