If you dabble in social media, and are active in the West Michigan social media scene you are probably familiar with iwearyourshirt.com (IWYS) , and its founder Jason Sadler.
So what exactly does IWYS do? Well companies hire them for a day, and they will wear whatever T-Shirt the company provides for them on that specific day, and then IWYS team of 5, tweets, take photos, records videos, and do live streaming of the IWYS team wearing the T-Shirt and promoting the company. Here is how it officially works and for the curious here is the pricing. Amazing how one guy can bring in $333,000 a year, plus $60,000 for monthly sponsorships just for wearing a different shirt 365 days a year (though I suppose he has to pay his other 4 employees).
So why do companies have such a fascination with IWYS? Initially looking at the business model it seems like an awfully stupid idea, that companies would pay people to wear their shirt just because they will tweet, shoot videos, and take pictures of themselves with the shirt. It doesn’t seem to be a very sound strategy for engaging customers. They do have a large following but are those followers actually potential customers?
If you are a loyal reader of The Ledger you will immediately recognize the connection between these some of these companies… Stow Company, JW Marriott, Amway Grand. That’s right they are all associated with the DeVos family (It’s crazy what businesses are in their portfolio).
In any case, these companies paid Jason Sadler of IWYS to promote their companies and arranged for him to travel to West Michigan during the week of June 6 through June 12, 2011 and put him up in the Amway Grand and JW Marriott hotels, where he wore the following shirts:
- June 6th, 2011 – Stow Company
- Cost – $785
- June 7th, 2011 – Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
- Cost – $790
- June 8th, 2011 – Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
- Cost – $795
- June 9th, 2011 – JW Marriott
- Cost – $800
- June 10th, 2011 – JW Marriott
- Cost – $805
- June 11th, 2011 – Experience Grand Rapids
- Cost – $810
- June 12th, 2011 – Good Life Granola
- Cost – $815
2011 hasn’t been the only year that IWYS have been leveraged by these companies, some have a history as well.
- Amway Grand and JW Marriott hosted Jason for a whole week in 2010 – Though he only wore the JW Marriott t-shirts on June 14, and Amway Grand on June 21, he was still in Grand Rapids attending area events and promoting things for the hotels. Looks like those other T-Shirt sponsors during that time got the short end of the stick.
Does IWYS actually do anything? Looking at the comments on the company’s calendar day web page, they are either non-existent or lacking depth, I am surprised I don’t see any “First” comments. Additionally who really wants to sit through 10 videos (5 YouTube & 5 UStream) on the same company (don’t even bother looking at the comments on YouTube), not to mention new videos are out there everyday of the year (it might be difficult to get caught up if you miss a day). I’ll admit that I am not a big on watching online videos, and sitting through at least 2 minutes of promotion & pitching 10 different times doesn’t sound appealing even if I was.
What is the fascination with this marketing medium? Have they had a good return on investment with this? The only company, which a campaign like this would make, sense is Good Life Granola, since their products are relatively inexpensive consumer products that can be ordered online, quickly and easily with little thought. It would be easy for anyone following IWYS to quickly and easily purchase some granola…but not so easy to do for a city, or hotels. But for these other companies that don’t sell cheap tangible items, it doesn’t seem like a good fit. For the hotels alone they spent over $3,000 for their days, not including the travel, lodging, and dining expenses that I am assuming the hotels paid for (at least on their days). But I do give all the companies involved credit for coordinating the visit with IWYS, I wonder how many secret backroom meetings it took to get it all hammered out.
This relationship still leaves so many questions… but through the Twitter (follow me here) I was able to ask a couple of questions to Ryan Slusarzyk, Marketing Manager for the Amway Grand and JW Marriott hotels, so he was able to provide some insight. For the hotels at least the goal was not to sell rooms, but to increase their social media presence and to sell Grand Rapids as a destination to visit. As a result of the IWYS campaign in 2011, the Facebook pages for the two hotels gained over 2,000 followers (many from Michigan and the Midwest) and there was “significant impact on twitter. “ The hotels also used this visit to promote “The Hotel Kitchen” product line, which features tangible products that can be ordered and shipped.
Ok so I am starting to turn the corner a little bit on this because when Jason from IWYS was in Grand Rapids, he did many videos showcasing Grand Rapids, its restaurants, and things to do. So I can definitely see that as being a benefit. Selling a product line of dressings, salsas, and chutneys, is much easier to purchase and cheaper. Though if he didn’t come to visit Grand Rapids, I would have to think that the campaign would not be as effective. Something tells me IWYS other employees did not have very interesting/effective videos since they were promoting from their home base.
So who knows exactly how much value the IWYS campaigns bring in, especially for these intangible objects. But according to Ryan, he is pretty confident that the hotels will partner with IWYS again next year.
What do you think? Is this an effective marketing channel, and a good use of marketing budget? Will anyone dare leave a “first” comment on my blog?