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Custom T-Shirt Packaging: Everything You Need to Know
min read

Custom T-Shirt Packaging: Everything You Need to Know

Pro-tips for packaging your t-shirts in a beautiful and memorable way.

Packaging is just packaging, right? Ultimately, it's the end product and just the end product that matters to the customer, and packaging is just a means of getting it to them safely, is it not?

Well, actually, we disagree there.

Listen. At Real Thread, we don't just print t-shirts, we love t-shirts, and we believe they're a powerful medium for conveying a brand message. That being said, we also know that there are other factors that go into telling that message, and an important one is packaging design.

Let's take a look at why packaging is important to branding, and look at some tips for nailing your t-shirt packaging –– while looking at some beautiful and inspiring examples along the way.

Why is Packaging Important?

Before we get too far in, let's clarify what packaging is. For the sake of this article, we'll describe packaging as everything that accompanies your product when it reaches your customer.

Yes, the main point of packaging is making sure that everything makes it to your customer in one piece, but the days of packaging being purely functional are long gone. Companies have picked up on the fact that the unpacking of a product is a massive opportunity to deliver a delightful experience that resonates with the recipient.

It's not a coincidence that kids love unwrapping presents. In a small way, that feeling never totally goes away.

This is no small-scale add-on either. Companies are dedicating full-time positions and colleges are designing programs specifically dedicated to packaging design. Yes, part of the importance of packaging design is purely logistical –– like food packaging and the need to keep it from spoiling –– but for many business-to-consumer (B2C) brands, the goal of packaging is to take the recipient on a brand journey, and the product is the pot of gold at the end of it.

So yeah, packaging as a means of expressing your brand is pretty important. But if you have your own t-shirt brand, or your giving away company t-shirts at a conference or trade show, you may not have the means or the resources to have a dedicated packaging designer on your team.

Pro-Tips for Packaging Your T-Shirts

Luckily for you, we have some pro-tips for packaging that won't take too much time and can provide exponential value to your product and your brand.

Know Your Customer

This principle applies to pretty much every aspect of branding and marketing, but it's worth repeating at every step of the brand experience. Consider what experience your audience is going to appreciate and move forward from there. The answer to this question will dictate much of what your unpacking experience looks like, the medium by which it's shaped, etc.

mockup of cupcake packaging

T-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes does this perhaps better than anyone with their packaging. Dubbing themselves "the World's First T-Shirt Bakery," Johnny Cupcakes' packaging falls right in line, as their packaging is equal parts bakery and punk-inspired. It's quirky, but it's also who they are as a brand, and it works.

Add Value

Like we mentioned earlier, packaging is an opportunity to continue to tell your brand story. Including branded collateral like flyers, catalogs, stickers, or coasters give your customer not only a delightful surprise but a way to continue to promote your brand. On top of that, it keeps your brand in their mind whenever they use this item moving forward.

hand holding three real thread coaster

At Real Thread, we send coasters out with each order of t-shirts, as well as a personal note from Account Managers for first-time customers. We know the great t-shirts are what you're here for, but we like to add in a little something extra for you to hold onto.

Encourage Word of Mouth

A great unpacking experience can do wonders for encouraging word of mouth. If the unboxing of your t-shirts is unique, engaging, or downright beautiful, it will encourage people to share their experience, either on social media or personally.

If you looked at the posts mattress brand Tuft and Needle is tagged in on Instagram, you'll see loads of photos and videos of customers unboxing their mattresses. Why? Because it's a unique experience. Mattresses don't traditionally come in boxes or inflate when you unroll them, but this one does, and I can say from firsthand experience that it's pretty cool.

Now, an experience like that is harder to create with a t-shirt, but there are still ways to make it memorable and encourage sharing.

ugmonk packaging

Ugmonk, a minimalist clothing brand, used these wood-rolled containers for their 4-year anniversary pack a few years back. The packaging is unique, aesthetically appealing, and is just asking to be laid out beautifully for a photo.

Do a Lot with a Little

It's easy to get carried away and think that you have to blow the whole budget to make investing in packaging worth it, but that's definitely not the case.

people matter sack with shirts

This package from Sevenly no doubt did not take a lot to create, yet the packaging is still effective. The simple message of People Matter is one that resonates with their audience, and sharing it boldly only furthers their brand story. Bonus points for choosing packaging that's reusable, too.

Investing in low-budget items like custom stamps for each of your boxes, or custom tissue paper from noissue can help you create a memorable packaging experience in a simple, affordable way.

Go Eco-Friendly

Speaking of noissue, an added pro to their products –– custom tissue, stickers, and compostable mailers –– is that they're eco-friendly.

two shirts folded

We don't have enough space in this post to expand on all of the reasons why going eco-friendly is beneficial to your brand and to the world, but know that 52 percent of people around the world make purchase decisions partially due to packaging that shows a brand making a positive social and environmental impact.

Do your brand and mother earth a solid and use eco-friendly packaging.

Create a Personal Emotional Connection (PEC)

Perhaps the biggest benefit of thoughtful packaging is the opportunity for you to create a Personal Emotional Connection (PEC) with your customer.

This term, coined by Zappos, doesn't have an exact definition, but can be summed up well by this quote from Organizational Dynamics:

" center reps are given complete freedom to do whatever they think is necessary to create a ‘‘personal emotional connection’’ (PEC) with customers. To attain PECs, Zappos call center reps are not given scripts or call time limits. Rather, they are encouraged to ask socially engaging questions to connect with customers in a meaningful way. For example, after discovering that a customer’s dog was going into surgery, one rep created and mailed a hand-crafted card of encouragement."

PECs are hard to create at scale, so it's not realistic to be able to create that for every single potential customer. But the unboxing of a t-shirt is a perfect time to try to create this.

Items like notes with your signature at the bottom, postcards, and other more personal pieces are good ideas.

I once received a pack of dark chocolate-covered açai berries in a package from outdoor company Moosejaw with a jacket I ordered, with a note stating that they liked these, and thought I would, too.

Yes, I know they weren't thinking of me personally, but it felt organic. I share things I like with friends, and they did as well. It's small, but also quite memorable (it helped that the berries were delicious, too!).

Let's Wrap This Up

To sum all of this up, packaging really matters, and if you're selling t-shirts for your own brand, giving t-shirts away at a trade show, or handing them out to employees, it's worth considering ways to make your packaging not only functional but further the story of your brand.

As for the t-shirt part of all of this, if you need some custom t-shirts printed, we'd love to help! Talk to our team, or head to our product page to get an order started.