The Modern-Day T-Shirt Test

Why creative development should begin with social.

Back in the day, there was a commonly used proxy for evaluating the effectiveness of any tagline or slogan: the T-shirt test.

Limited to seven words or less (the same word count limit as outdoor boards), the idea was that any really good copy idea should be simple and engaging enough to make anyone want to wear it on a T-shirt. This elemental test is something that we’ve employed in creative development at our agency for years.

But, decades later, that’s changed.

Forget T-shirts. Instead, before we spend hours (and the client’s money) fully developing a new creative campaign or detailing a brand style guide, we now think, “Does this work on a social post?” Not just on a clever tweet, Facebook post or Pinterest pin – but all of them.

Here’s why.

We are finding that there is no other advertising/marketing medium that requires a well defined brand and marketing strategy more than social media. Possibly the most expensive “free” exposure you have in your marketing arsenal, social media mandates specific limits on characters and imagery. Unlike traditional advertising (print, outdoor, radio and digital), it doesn’t allow you time to develop deep narratives or stories.

Yes, you can do sequential posts, however given the usage of social, you also have to assume your audiences may potentially only see one, or at best, one post at a time. Quite simply, if you can’t convey the idea of your campaign in a single post, it may be that the creative idea behind it isn’t strong enough to pull your brand message through all of your channels.

But, what if you’re like most of our clients, who don’t have large advertising budgets and worry more about maintaining brand integrity and consistency, while having limited programs in social?

It doesn’t matter - if you are a brand competing for attention and engagement in any market today, you need to ensure your brand style guide and identity works as well (if not better) in social.

Why? Because social media standards force a simplification of message, which ensures your messaging isn’t too complicated for your audiences to understand.

Quite simply, if your brand identity can’t be distilled down into a single social media post that successfully reflects your positioning and differentiation, you need to examine if it’s too complicated for today’s oversaturated marketing environment.

So, the next time you’re evaluating a creative campaign, or developing new brand standards and guidelines, think social first. Odds are, it might be more of a challenge than you anticipated.


Curious about Magnani?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.