Logo Wear: MI Companies and Retailers Exploit Fashion for Brand Recognition
For MI companies and retailers, logo wear has become a key element in the growth of business. As MMR found out, it’s not so much about the products themselves turning a profit; it’s about logo wear ultimately leading to profits through heightened brand recognition. As brand competition grows, so do the logo wear product lines.
“Ernie Ball has been selling logo wear since the early 1970s. But custom design and promotional materials have been part of Ernie Ball’s philosophy for the 45 plus years that we have been in business. It all started out with Ernie the Eagle, which was co-created by Ernie Ball and Roland Crump, Ernie’s long-time friend and long-time Walt Disney imagineer.
“Our logo wear really took on a life of its own in the mid 1990s when company CEO Sterling Ball started working closely with our in house art department on our full line of clothing, which culminated into winning numerous art and design awards.
“While our logo wear has been a huge success and definitely has taken on a life of its own over the years, we really don’t measure that success with a dollar amount, per se. We’ve taken our modern designs and used them as a grass roots marketing effort. Whether the t-shirts are being used as prizes on the Vans Warped Tour, giveaways at our signature artists clinics, or being displayed and sold on the shelves of our trusted music retailers, the bottom line is that the Ernie Ball brand is getting out to the masses. The cool thing is that I have personally had multiple customers approach me that have gotten introduced to the Ernie Ball brand by seeing a friend or family member wearing one of our t-shirts. That’s when you know logo-wear is truly working.
“We haven’t done any major marketing of logo wear as far as the traditional sense goes. However, logo wear does play a major role in our grass roots marketing efforts, which have always played a key part in our overall marketing philosophies.
“We have always tried to convey the ‘young at heart’ image that this company has been built on, whether it’s through traditional advertising, teaming up with nationwide concert tours, or putting on our annual Battle of The Bands competition. Our logo wear is no different. We definitely don’t follow the mold here at Ernie Ball, and I think that musicians as well as dealers gravitate towards original and creative designs that appeal to the masses.”
“We began selling logo wear in 1975 by mail order. Now we direct market with catalogs to both consumers and dealers. We also market through the Martin Owner’s Club and we sell all of our logo wear at our factory gift shop, ‘The 1833 Shop.’ Dealers are invited to stock logo wear for resale in their stores. We consider logo wear to be free walking advertising—better than free actually, since customers are willing to pay for our logo wear. Our primary product, of course, is the Martin guitar.”
Director of Artist and Limited Editions
“Zildjian has been selling logo wear well over 20 years. Logo wear has represented a relatively small percentage of our sales – under two percent so far. Initially, our target demographic was young drummers. However, we are expanding our target to include anyone interested in music, which obviously expands the demographic quite a bit. We have primarily marketed our logo wear through catalogues and on our Web site. But, we are starting to develop a more aggressive approach using different mediums, to reach a larger market. Our logo wear has been an extension of the brand equity that we have within the music industry and not just with drummers.”
Vice President Business Development
Avedis Zildjian Co.
“After a couple of forays into the wearables business during the early ’90s, Fender began selling clothing and collectibles to authorized Fender dealers in 1998 and ventured online in 2001. Due to overwhelming demand both from dealers and online customers, Fender expanded by licensing clothing and collectibles to be sold in broader retail markets. Fender has licensed wearables to dress musicians and music enthusiasts from head to toe. Men’s and women’s shirts, hats, shoes, jeans, belts, wallets, jewelry, timepieces, and more can be found in department stores such as Dillard’s and Nordstrom, fine clothing boutiques, and of course authorized Fender dealers. Fender has made it a clear goal to broaden its brand affinity by expanding into new and innovative markets, including the fashion industry. Our target market is everyone, from the cradle to the grave, from the young, to the young at heart, no matter what gender, race, religion, or instrument they play, or dream of playing; there’s something for everyone who loves and lives the rock-n-roll lifestyle.”
Public Relations Manager
Fender Musical Instruments Corp.
“In 1983, around the launch of the Sabian brand, we began selling logo wear. As a new company entering an arena dominated by two heavily brand competitors, it was imperative we promote our name as quickly and widely as possible. A substantial portion of Sabian clothing is utilized in special promotions and artist relations, as well as retail sales. Profit as such isn’t our primary criterion. Instead we look to profit from the name recognition achieved through the widespread wearing of our clothing. The profit percentage is in the single-digits, which is fine because we’re a cymbal company, not a clothing company, and the effectiveness of the clothing helps build our core profit base. In the past, logo wear has primarily been about achieving greater name recognition. In the future our expectation will be more specific, more aligned with key messaging and supporting the Sabian image as the ‘modern, innovative cymbal brand, with traditional roots.’
“Though the goods have been consistently present in our annual catalog publications and on our Web site, beyond that our marketing of logo wear has not been aggressive, simply because interest in the product is generally driven by a player’s passion to wear the brand he or she plays. Though our target market is generally the younger rockers, targeting is something we have not actively pursued in any real form aside from the focus of our range of goods. That said, our range has a bit of something for everyone, from the rock-oriented Chad Smith and Mike Portnoy Signature t-shirts to the classic Polo and golf shirts.”
Senior Marketing Manager
“Hoshino has been selling logo wear and accessories since the early to mid ’80s. While much of our logo wear is designed for younger players and fans, we have designs that encompass the wide base of players and enthusiasts that purchase our Ibanez and Tama product lines.
“I can’t say as to the hard numbers of position and profitability of apparel versus our main product lines. I will say this: unlike musical instruments, musical instrument t-shirts require less warehouse space, less personnel, less complicated packing, no repair department whatsoever, and far less time studying and endlessly explaining a litany of specs, and you can respond a lot faster to trend shifts. In other words, apparel offers us the same advantages that our dealers have in stocking and selling it.
“In retail, when it comes to the poor, long suffering, non-playing gift buyer they may not know what particular instrument the person they are buying the gift for plays but they can probably guess the size of their clothing. You may not make the big sale, but you will make a sale. So, when it comes to logo apparel and accessories, what’s not to love?”
Hoshino USA, Inc.
“Gretschgear has introduced a variety of apparel and collectible merchandise in honor of The Gretsch Company’s 125th Anniversary. This year has been filled with many special and exciting events that celebrate the company. Along with commemorative 125th anniversary merchandise, additional items include Gretsch logo t-shirts, polo shirts, dress shirts, hats, posters, pins, patches, books, catalogs, and other collectibles. Gretschgear distributes official Gretsch brand apparel, accessories, and collectibles as well as the popular brands: Bigsby Vibratos, and Leedy Drums.”
“Technically, D’Addario only started selling logo wear in the last two years through our Shopatron partner site. Prior to that, our logo wear was available through our Player’s Points consumer rewards program. This program was started in the ’90s with the purpose of encouraging players to recycle their packaging. Players would collect the packages, earn the points as indicated on the package, send in the packages to our Players Points program and receive a shirt, hat, or whatever logo wear product they chose from our catalog. D’Addario would then recycle the packages.
“We expanded the Player’s Points programs to all our brands over the last 10 years. So now drummers, woodwind players, bowed instrument players, guitarists, bassists, and others can collect points for Player’s Points items on any product they purchase. We have marketed our logo wear through the Player’s Points program, on every package, on every brand through points, and also on our Web sites. Similarly, we have also done additional marketing for the program inside the string inserts. These displays have shown the different items available and educated players on the recycling goal of the program. The logo wear has helped build our brand loyalty while allowing players to ‘show their colors’ with our items. By allowing players to accumulate points it has driven them back to our product again and again. Also, we have gained players who have a brand loyalty due to the ‘green’ nature of the program. Our logo wear is targeted at all players. With its role within the Player’s Points program we reach all demographics and all players for all the instruments we represent through our seven brands. There are variations in the designs on our logo wear that might speak more to one crowd versus another but all in all, all players are welcome.”
D’Addario & Company
“Sam Ash Music has been selling both Sam Ash and manufacturer logo wear for a long time now. We have since expanded to artists and generics, like the ‘Got Music’ shirts. The best selling shirts tend to be the drum shirts like Zildjian and Sabian, but they all move at a decent rate. Hats are not big sellers, but we stock them, too. Since no two Sam Ash Music Stores are exactly alike, no two displays are, either. We try to give a decent amount of space, but some of the stores can only afford a few square feet so we pack it in as best we can. We are looking at companies like Hot Topic for ideas on the best way to merch the product. This year we have added a lot more SKUs than ever before, so we will see how things are at the end of the season in terms of what will and what will not stay on for next year. The buyers for these products are as diverse as the shirts themselves. We try to include several sizes in all shirts so as not to exclude any potential customer or sale. Turn is low, but profit is high, so it kind of evens out.”
Sam Ash Music
“In terms of logo wear, our stores do carry a variety of Music Go Round t-shirts. We display them for sale, place an “Only $10!” sign to add value, and then typically throw them in for free on a big sale or when we want to please a customer. We also use our logo shirts during events like grand openings, anniversary sales, and “Rocktoberfest” core events. We have also done specials during the holidays with hooded sweatshirts, when a customer either spent $100 or sold us $50 in gear. That promotion turned over 1,000 sweatshirts in our system. We may to do it again in the future, depending on the cost of the product.
“The bottom line for us is if it is something to wear, we only want our brand on it in our stores. We stopped carrying other logo wear a few years back. There was little to no interest in the products. We had great displays, great signage, and our customers even told us so. But we just couldn’t move them.”
Music Go Round
“We sell our own privately branded logo wear. We have gig bags, guitar straps, drumstick bags, pick holder key rings, and t-shirts. The gig bags are our bestsellers and then the guitar straps. The smaller items and t-shirts are hit and miss. A lot of the kids around here bring their guitars to school so it’s great advertising for us. Students buy most of our logo wear. I think the other stores in town are getting sick of seeing my gig bags in their stores for lessons. We do lessons, but only about 80-100 students as we are limited on space. I always display the shirts and guitar straps on the wall next to our lesson rooms, and the rest of the items are prominently displayed near the front counter.”
Paso Robles, Calif.
“We sell logo wear from our manufacturers, such as Fender, GHS, Dean, Markley, G&L, Sabine, and Zildjian. We plan on bringing in our own logo wear, but have not yet put it on our racks. Logo wear makes up a small part of our overall sales, but some things are good sellers, Zildjian t-shirts, mouse pads, and water bottles. We display t-shirts and caps on a clothing rack. We hang the other items on our walls. We sell most of our logo wear to students and some to working musicians who like to wear it on stage.”
Northstar Music Center