I came across this interesting article (extracts below) on why T-shirts matter to high tech start-ups employees. Curiously enough, the same applies to attendees of [tech, internet and innovation oriented] conferences. From my position as both a conference organizer and an attendee I’ve often find T-shirts to be the most memorable kind of swag I want to take home… a sort of show-off that says “I was there”.
While many conferences, barcamps and other events give away T-shirts for free, you don’t necessarily have to do so… just make them available at a reasonable price. For example SXSW sells their T-shirts (unique to each year) both during the online registration process (you’re already buying your ticket so you might as well spend those extra 20 bucks to reserve your T-shirt) and at the venue during the festival.
Follows a short extract from the original article highlighting the key reasons why T-shirts matter:
Empowerment. In some ways, engineers delight in having found a profession where their intellect and passion for technology have enabled them to earn a great living and work at a company where – yes, you guessed it – they can wear t-shirts to work. […] You hire only the best, and the best can wear whatever they want. It says you know that you value merit over appearance […]
Incentives. Over the past decade, behavioral finance has taught us that people don’t value money rationally – it varies depending on form and context. […] free t-shirts evoke some sort of primal response at a high tech company. […] You’d be shocked at what a $200 per person per year budget for t-shirts will do for employee morale comparatively.
Tribal Cohesion. […] common dress signals who is “part of the tribe” and belongs to the corporate family. Uniforms are incompatible with the “empowerment” aspect of how people want to dress, but t-shirts can represent a form of “voluntary uniform” if produced in sufficient variety and quantity. This effect can be had at a team level, when a t-shirt is made just to celebrate a new product, or at the company level.
Tenure Based Seniority. […] T-Shirts, in an innocuous way, implicitly do this by almost always becoming “limited editions”. Want the t-shirt from the 2007 company picnic? You had to be there to get one. […] In a socially acceptable way, t-shirts subtlely communicate a form of tenure that is warm, and yet structured.
Branding. As discussed under “Tribal Cohesion”, people want to wear the brand of their tribe. […] make shirts for your developers, your fans, your early adopters. Long before they become vocal advocates for your brand, they will gladly showcase it if you let them. […] Of course, this assumes that you make shirts that don’t suck.