Whaddya Know... Popular Mechanics Connects With Young Fans With T-Shirts And A Contest

from the plenty-of-tshirts dept

Hearst Magazines, which is the division of the Hearst Corporation behind Popular Mechanics, has teamed up with Old Navy to print t-shirts with old Popular Mechanics illustrations aimed at kids. The classic artwork is supposed to revive interest in the new editions of Popular Mechanics as well as generate some enthusiasm for mechanical gadgets related to transportation (think 1950s rocket cars and electric motorcycle concepts). Along with the shirts, the magazine is also sponsoring a 'Kids Can Do Great Things Design Contest' for children (up to 12) to submit their own artwork. The winner of the contest will get a $500 shopping spree at Old Navy and have the design printed in the magazine -- and if it looks good on a shirt, they'll sell shirts, too.

Not too long ago, we mentioned Rolling Stone magazine trying out a similar merchandise program (though with a few more legal complications), so this isn't exactly a novel concept (and we never said it was). But it's interesting that more publications are experimenting with efforts to connect with fans -- and especially younger fans to keep the fan pipeline filled. And one of the key components for this Popular Mechanics example is that it fits with the magazine's audience and also highlights a common theme from the magazine. This is the beginning of creating a brand for the magazine that features why readers should be interested in paying attention to it. Namely, if you're looking for articles and concept artwork related to futuristic transportation solutions, Popular Mechanics is where to go.

If this t-shirt trend continues, though, we'll have to be on the lookout for newspapers printing t-shirts, too. I'm pretty sure there would be a market for WSJ-style hedcut artwork on t-shirts -- and some copyright issues for it as well.
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Filed Under: business models, magazines, popular mechanics, t-shirts
Companies: hearst, popular mechanics


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  • identicon
    Edward Barrow, 20 Jan 2010 @ 12:54am

    t-shirts are a rubbish proxy

    Take one cheap t-shirt, made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh from cotton irrigated by water from dying inland seas...

    print it up with a bit of apparel-unrelated branding...

    sell it at a fat markup... based on some cultivated loyalty..

    use the excess profits to pay professional musicians/journalists as professionals.

    Sorry, but as a business model this sucks: making more crap stuff destined for landfill because we haven't figured out how to make money to pay professionals as professionals is unsustainable in so many ways. When the professionals are producing stuff you can't touch, like music, sooner or later we are going to have to work out how we can get punters to pay for stuff you can't touch. That may or may not involve copyright; it almsot certainly involves trust; but tangible proxy value-carriers like t-shirts are a terrible idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 20 Jan 2010 @ 1:51am

      Re: t-shirts are a rubbish proxy

      Sorry, but as a business model this sucks: making more crap stuff destined for landfill because we haven't figured out how to make money to pay professionals as professionals is unsustainable in so many ways.

      Why? And if it's just "crap stuff destined for landfill" then you're not doing it right.

      When the professionals are producing stuff you can't touch, like music, sooner or later we are going to have to work out how we can get punters to pay for stuff you can't touch.

      Sure. And we've discussed an awful lot of business models based on stuff you can't touch. Selling things like access, reputation, exclusivity, convenience, trust. Those are all things you can't touch.

      But they're also scarce.

      The thing you can't sell are things that are abundant. That's just economics.

      That may or may not involve copyright; it almsot certainly involves trust; but tangible proxy value-carriers like t-shirts are a terrible idea.

      No one has ever said that t-shirts are the answer, so I'm not sure why you imply that.

      But I'll also note that you repeatedly say it's a terrible idea, but never explain why.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      It's third down and long, 20 Jan 2010 @ 5:09am

      Re: t-shirts are a rubbish proxy

      "sooner or later we are going to have to work out how we can get punters to pay for stuff"

      And there is the problem with your thinking. If I do not want your stuff, do not try to make me pay for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2010 @ 2:30am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2010 @ 2:30am

    Like Haynes Manuals

    This is an established routine that tends to benefit the clothes retailer more than the original publication or brand.

    In the UK, a company called Haynes produces manuals that allow people to maintain their cars. The manuals have been produced in the same style for years and have very distinctive branding that echoes a better age. The branding has been licensed for use on bags, t-shirts etc. because it is eye-catching and looks good. It is unlikely that this move has done anything to add to the number of manuals that Haynes sold but it has provided a new revenue stream through licensing the images and branding.

    This is more about drawing on an untapped inventory of branding and imagery rather than connecting with fans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sysadmn, 20 Jan 2010 @ 4:06am

    PM gets it

    Popular Mechanics posts a series of how-tos on popular website Instructables. (http://www.instructables.com/member/Popular+Mechanics/) I don't know about the rest of Hearst media, but PM at least is trying new ways of connecting to their (potential) audience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 20 Jan 2010 @ 4:43am

    Nice contest

    'Kids Can Do Great Things Design Contest'

    I think this needs to be renamed to 'Kids can do great things except create motion sensors for their science project design contest'

    Just to be careful they don't violate some kind of school policy. We have to be careful about sending the wrong message.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jon Renaut (profile), 20 Jan 2010 @ 5:30am

    Snoop Dogg

    I still have the WSJ picture of Snoop Dogg that I cut out of the paper in about 1997. I would definitely buy a t-shirt with that image on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Al the printer, 20 Jan 2010 @ 6:59am

      Re: Snoop Dogg

      Send me the pic and a blank t-shirt and I'll print it up for ya! I got a wide format flat bed printer...i can print on just about anything.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 20 Jan 2010 @ 7:33am

    This is a great idea for Popular Mechanics. I used to look through the cover galleries online all the time - antique PM's have incredible artwork.

    I hope Old Navy makes some in kids XL

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jesse, 20 Jan 2010 @ 11:09am

    T-Shirts

    I think from now on when companies want to deliver cease and desist letters, they should deliver them printed on t-shirts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael Ward, 20 Jan 2010 @ 11:47am

    POPULAR MECHANICS cover art

    PM is one of the few magazines that has put all their old covers up on their website for us to see. And by all I mean ALL -- going back a hundred years. It's a great way to track tech and science development ... as well as a lot of tech fantasy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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