Social Media: The Modern-Day T-Shirt Test


Why your creative development should start with social. 

In the days of yore, you know, prior to any type of digital analytics, big data gathering or social media metrics, marketers could evaluate the effectiveness of a tagline with a simple test: the T-shirt test.

The exercise focused on limiting your text to 7 words or less, which is the same word count limit for outdoor boards. The idea of the exercise is easy: copy should be simple and engaging enough to make anyone want to wear it on a T-shirt. This is a basic, simple test our agency has conducted for years.

But, decades later, that’s changed.

Gone are the days of asking, “Does this work on a T-shirt?” Now, we ask, “Does this work on a social post?” And not just a clever tweet, Facebook post of Pinterest pin; we want to know if it works on all of them.

So…why start with social media?

We are finding there is no other advertising/marketing medium that requires a well-defined brand and marketing strategy more that social media.

So, before spending hours fully developing a new creative campaign or detailing a brand style guide, asking, “Does this work on a social post” allows to put a centralized focus on a marketing strategy.

Social media can be the most expensive “free” exposure you have in your marketing war chest, yet the mandates and specific limitations social media has on character and imagery can hinder certain types of marketing. For instance, traditional advertising allowed marketers to develop deep narratives and stories, social media usage never guarantees your audience will see sequential posts, let alone anything to make deep connections to.

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 need to focus on maintaining brand integrity and consistency, while having limited programs in social?

Simple answer: 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.

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.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


Want more great marketing info delivered direct to your inbox? Enter your email to subscribe to our weekly and quarterly emails.