Trust in t-shirts

In the past two years, Wistia has spent over $6,000 printing more than 400 shirts with our logo and sending them out to customers and friends.  There’s no way to measure what the return for this has been.

Even though I don’t have any statistically significant data to prove it, I’ve always just trusted that sending out t-shirts is a good branding strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen tweets, blog mentions, and flickr photos of people wearing Wistia shirts, but none of this comes close to justifying the cost. However, I still trust that if someone wants to wear the Wistia logo, we’d be crazy not to let them.

Last week, some anecdotal evidence showed me that my faith in the power of t-shirts is justified. Three people separately told me that they saw someone wearing a Wistia shirt in the wild. They were shocked and impressed by how big Wistia has become. I was blown away that people who already knew about Wistia are seeing our shirts out in the world.

Then Saturday rolled around. I was on the prowl for lunch, wearing my Wistia shirt, when I heard someone call out “Wistia!” I turned around to find an enthusiastic guy who proclaimed that, three days earlier, he had become a customer. I practically fell into the street. We’ve come a long way but having someone stop me on the street was still a pretty mindblowing experience.

Working at a startup, it’s easy to become dependent on metrics. And once you start depending on metrics, it can become much harder to make intuitive decisions that can’t be measured. We send out t-shirts because we trust that it will help spread brand recognition and give people a comfy shirt that actually like to wear. I still have no empirical evidence that sending t-shirts is a good marketing strategy, so I’ll just trust that it is and keep sending them out.