T-Shirt First – It’s a Brand Thing

As the B2B brand marketing community and brand owners increasingly complicate brand architecture, it’s easy to forget there’s an alternative…

“I love your brand architecture and positioning Scot. It’s so, you know… ‘Birddog’.”

“Eh, thanks. We’ve learned to do ‘Birddog’ quite well in the last 25 years.”

“Oh, but you have layers here. Layers and layers. And, you know, ‘layers’.”

“Eh, okay…”

“I particularly love how your brand architecture enablement has clearly optimised the experiential assets of the buyer journeyfication on mobile.”

“Eh, nope, you’ve lost me.”

“Your mobile website?”

“Yes, what about it?”

“It’s a great example of the ‘Mobile First’ strategic imperative in B2B brand strategy.”

“Lost me again. Sorry.” [Not sorry.]

“Mobile First. You know, ‘Mobile First’? Mobile… First… Yeah?”

“Eh, no.”

“Mobile First…”

“Look, you’re going to have to stop saying, ‘Mobile First’.”

“Ok, but you prioritised mobile when you were rebranding your new website? Surely?”


“But, but, but that contravenes all current digital B2B marketing strategy.”

“Except logic.”

“But… But… But…”

Take away the need for corporate conformity, stakeholder consultation, audience participation and the opportunities start to open up.

“Look, I get the whole mobile thing, it’s just not that important to the Birddog brand right now. Everyone’s been heralding the mobile ‘revolution’ for, literally, decades. Increased mobile usage, mobile purchases, mobile journeys, blah, blah. It’s just not as important to the Birddog brand as other B2B branding stuff.”

“You’ll be sorry in another 5 years when Mobile First has market ubiquitisation.”

“Less than 20% of our site traffic is mobile. The vast majority visit from desktops. It’s literally the 80-20 rule.”

“But that’s going to change.”

“Maybe. That’s why our site’s optimised for mobile. But not at the expense of our current B2B visitors. The ones who haven’t changed their predictable, regressive, often tedious B2B habits for the last decade. Boring bastards, no doubt. But they prefer a simple brand architecture on a simple desktop site, so we produced one.”

“Wow. I’m shocked. So, you followed a Desktop First strategy?”

“Nope. You need to stop trying to force brand positioning into a digital platform. Digital‘s just a conduit – a series of channels to communicate the brand. But that shouldn’t be your focus ‘first’. For your brand to be positioned competitively, think about more natural communications. More obvious. More emotional. More tactile.”

“You mean, you mean… Not mobile?”

“No, not fucking mobile. When I briefed the Birddog brand design requirement to our creative team I used a ‘t-shirt first’ strategy.”

“That’s not a brand architecture thing.”

“It is now. It’s a t-shirt thing. I told them that if the brief was for a ‘B2B agency brand’, we’d end up with a B2B agency brand.”

“That’s not what you want?”

“Hell no. The last thing we need in this world is another B2B agency brand. To differentiate, you need to communicate the difference, not the commonality. The Japanese call it ‘ma’ – the negative space. The space in between two things is as important as the thing itself. Birddog is nothing like the other B2B agencies – nothing like them. We exist in the space in between.”

“Mind. Blown. Did you use Japanese philosophy for the design of the Birddog brand identity?”

“Nah. I just told the creative team the logo had to look good on a t-shirt. That was basically the brief – a ‘T-shirt First’ strategy.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Take away the need for corporate conformity, stakeholder consultation, audience participation and the opportunities start to open up. I told them that I didn’t care about business cards or websites or brochures or email signatures… because no one cares about any of that shit. Not really. But ask someone to wear a t-shirt and you better have a good brand. Not just the design, but everything the brand stands for.”


“Seriously. The selection criterion for design was, ‘Would I wear the t-shirt?’ Every B2B organisation should ask themselves that question about their brand. There’s a personal, emotional investment in a t-shirt. You’re required to use the email signature you’re given, but you choose whether to wear the company shirt, or not. On the one hand, it represents absolutely everything you want to say about your brand, and on the other, it’s just a t-shirt. ‘Ma’. The space in between.”

“Wow. So how would you sum up this ‘T-shirt First’ strategy.”

“It’s all about the merch’ – look at the Rolling Stones, they know all about T-shirt First…”

“Actually, can I have a t-shirt?”

“Sure, if you promise never to say ‘mobile first’ again.”

“I promise.”

“See? The t-shirt always wins.”

Scot McKee
Managing Director

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