Solar Flair

A decorator shines during a colorful launch.

When a glassware company launched a new color-changing line of items, it wanted its promotions to be just as eye-catching. To help promote the launch in-house, the company called on a distributor – a firm that knew this job required a top decorator. That’s when Buffalo, NY-based Apple Imprints Apparel was brought in to design and produce T-shirts that were anything but ordinary.

“We worked with the distributor and decorated 100% cotton basic T-shirts with sun-sensitive photochromic color-changing ink,” says Mary Poissant, marketing and sales manager at Apple Imprints Apparel. “We distributed them during the initial product launch for in-house manufacturing and office personnel.”

The initial T-shirt order was for 576 pieces, but the decoration was so well-received that Apple Imprints estimates it produced 10,000 more shirts with this particular design in 2013. “While color-changing inks aren’t unique to the silkscreen print industry,” Poissant says, “they have become more popular in the last year in promoting new product launches and events.”

Joseph LaMountain, vice president at communications firm Reingold, Inc., believes the special T-shirts were a perfect promotional tie-in. “One of the best adages in marketing is ‘don’t say it, show it,’” says LaMountain. “That’s because visuals convey so much more meaning than words alone. That’s a primary reason for the success of the Apple Imprints Apparel campaign. The sun-reactive inks in the T-shirt plainly showed how the color-changing glassware worked.”

Poissant, meanwhile, thinks the shirts were a hit because they had a unique attribute, something that’s typically attractive to a wearer. “The success of this item is in the longevity of the T-shirt in the end-user’s possession,” Poissant says. “Printed T-shirts with a distinctive characteristic, such as color-changing ink, glow-in-the-dark ink, glitter highlights and gel accents, are perceived as higher value and certainly kept.”

Reactive inks are available for a variety of applications besides apparel, like packaging labels, ceramic mugs, stickers and toys. Pairing an item decorated with photochromic ink with other sun-reactive promotional products can be a great branding tool as well. There’s also a benefit, Poissant says, to blending in sun-sensitive prints. “The more hidden the ink is,” she says, “the greater the impact of the design when it finally appears.”

Even though the T-shirts were designed for internal reps, LaMountain is sure the campaign generated more widespread interest. “Color-changing T-shirts are unusual and many viewers undoubtedly made a comment to the wearer, which ultimately led to a discussion about color-changing glassware, where to buy them and the like,” he says.