First, if you missed all the good stuff in my THREADX 19 day one recap, be sure to check it out. Now, onto a look at day two, and what I really got out of the entire conference experience.
THREADX day two started with a presentation by Phoebe Cornog and Roxy Prima of Pandr Design Company. These two artists/entrepreneurs have elevated their craft of mural painting through a mix of active social media connection and subject matter, language, and design that inspires the viewer to identify with, take pictures of, and share the work on their own personal networks. For me, the key lesson in this presentation was how Pandr discovered a unique way to raise the brands of their clients, while also building their own identity-based concern that includes a popular podcast and a very enthusiastic Instagram following. A big takeaway is how they are not an invisible participant in the branding efforts they support — they instead add value and gravitas.
A Different Kind of “Production”
A panel discussion featuring representatives from Barrel Maker Printing, Family Industries and YR Store addressed the opportunities, challenges and unique benefits of live activation, where shirts, bags and other products are printed during an event, visible to attendees. Described as a mix of printing and theater, live activation features its own value and pricing structure, and is an activity where careful attention to logistics is absolutely essential. “Seat-of-the-pants,” “exciting” and “amazing” all appeared among my notes. Printing in a shop versus live activation is like the difference between singing in the shower and singing on stage. Hearing real-life experiences (both good and bad) made this session “real” for many.
Hitting a Home Run in Sports Merchandising
THREADX’s other panel discussion featured retail and promotion professionals from Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros, along with a representative of sporting goods manufacturer Wilson. The discussion and examples demonstrated how innovative campaigns, developments during a season and the communities/identities of the customers — whether inside the stadium or out — allow numerous opportunities for building variety while protecting the brand’s hallowed, trademarked core. In response to an audience question about how a garment decoration company can get the attention of these brands and others, the answer was unanimous: “Show us how you’re different.”
Recounting the Good and the Bad
The conference’s final presentation was a thoughtful discussion between Benny Gold and Bobby Hundreds, who have each built sought-after “street-style” brands. To me, they both had interesting stories to share, especially when they recounted their experiences with the print providers who helped them realize their designs (or not). Not all of these experiences were positive — some spoke directly to how companies should better engage potential customers. However, all were deep lessons to consider, with the biggest — in my opinion — being: If you help a customer when their company is small (or just starting out), you just might still have their business when they “blow up.”
The Bigger Picture
I came away from THREADX understanding how it serves as a powerful idea incubator, where those with the drive and imagination to think differently have a chance to realistically imagine what’s next. Further, the event provided deeply powerful networking and a marketplace for ideas to be shared and considered between sessions and amid dinners, beers, a boat cruise and friendships. It’s a place where meaningful connections were made. Justin Lawrence of Oklahoma Shirt Company echoed that sentiment when he said, "This event gives us access to leaders and people we can't normally reach out to, and there was space and time to meet up and talk shop."
Many of us attend conferences hoping to leave changed and inspired — and that’s a tall order. But I do think many who attended THREADX have returned to their shops with a new view on their world, and that’s a great thing. I’m looking forward to 2020 in Scottsdale. How about you?