From Counting Sheep to the Golden Fleece
Pajamas. Not exactly apparel top-of-mind when you think of the old "walking billboard" adage of the promotional clothing world. People wear them when they sleep after all, which seems about as good a place for a promotion as a billboard buried 600 miles underground, surrounded by illiterate giant bats who have a frothing, all-consuming hatred of billboards, commonly expressed with them immediately shredding and rending to pieces any freestanding advertisements they find.
In other words, common sense dictates that promotional apparel placed where it will get exactly the least amount of eyeballs possible probably isn't a good idea. But, is decorated sleepwear really that invisible of an item? Sure it gets worn in the bedroom, but what about more public places?
What about colleges, where sleepwear is commonly worn to study lounges and shared dormitories (not to mention used as a booster item for sororities, fraternities and college bookstores)? What about as spirit apparel for girls' sports camps, such as a summer sleep-away softball or cheerleading camp? Children's hospitals? Incentive items? The list of public settings for sleepwear goes on and on, and that's without even considering pajama's grown-up cousin, the bathrobe, which opens up even more avenues and angles for promotion.
To make sure you're successful in your bedroom branding attempts, read up on what's in style, what's been successful and why robes and pajamas are not only far from the buried billboards some think them to be, but also sometimes just the item needed to get the promotional job done.
Since most "sleepwear" isn't really for sleeping so much as it's for those "just-woke-up-and-have-to-get-breakfast-in-public" moments, the "tops" portion of such outfits haven't evolved much past whatever comfy-tee or hoodie is handy at the moment. The bottoms of these outfits however, being distinct to the whole "comfortwear" idea and used almost solely in that arena, have cultivated their own special kind of style.
"Patterns are really popular, including plaids (traditional and fashion), animal prints and polka dots," said Margaret Crow, director of marketing for S&S Activewear, Bolingbrook, Ill. "As far as the cut, they are generously sized and made of really soft flannel that just gets better with washing," she added.
Jessica Levine, marketing associate for Atlanta-based Boxercraft, seconded the popularity of plaids and novelty prints, stating that they've been so successful the company plans to expand its line of novelty prints this spring. She added as well that along with plaids and prints, bright, neon colors have been very popular this fall.
Sadly, an easy sales pitch like "They're pajamas! Kids wear 'em around when they're doin' stuff, like, uh, walkin' and collegin' and, well, you know, havin' legs and whatnot ..." is not always going to be enough to land you the sale. Sometimes you need creativity and a little spin on an item for a client to see how valuable it is, pajama or otherwise.
Crow had one example of a clever sleepwear promotion she learned from a previous client. "One of our customers bundled some cute flannel lounge pants in a graduation gift basket," she said. "The 'basket' was actually a shower caddy, and the package included a coordinated T-shirt, a robe and a water bottle. They created several versions in different team colors," she explained. "It was really successful, and they ended up creating a large order of the baskets for another booster club in the area. The loungewear is perfect for dorms and sorority/fraternity house living."
For a sleepwear promotion involving robes, Shawn Kanak, CAS, vice president of Towel Specialties Inc., Baltimore, had an interesting suggestion. He noted a time when the company's robes were used as gifts for new mothers at a hospital's birthing center.
"In the spring we fulfilled a project for a birthing center," he said. "The director's goal was to put more focus on the mother. The baby traditionally receives all of the hugs, kisses and hospital gifts, while mom generally only receives feelings of self fulfillment and pain meds," said Kanak. "The goal was to have moms leave with a tangible positive experience as well. We packaged a beautiful Turkish robe with our slippers and a nicely fragranced lotion set into one of our lined wicker basket as a 'perfect gift for mom,'" he explained. Kanak stated that each mother who gave birth in the center received the robe gift bundle, and noted overall that the promotion was extremely successful. "They are so confident that the program will be a continued success that they have already ordered again for this fall season," he said.
CUTE PANTS: NOT JUST FOR LADIES ANYMORE
There may be a temptation with comfort and sleepwear to assume that they're "women only" items. This notion isn't entirely without merit, Crow explaining that the pinks, novelty prints and other bright colors are (obviously) favored more by the fairer sex, but these popular styles by no means define the genre of apparel as a whole.
Crow and Levine agreed that gender-neutral patterns like plaid are popular across both sexes, and are often sold to men in places like fraternities or college bookstores. "Wanting to be comfortable is not exclusive to men or women," said Levine, cutting to the central appeal of the apparel. "Everyone likes to be comfortable!"
Kanak explained that this gender equality extends to robes, for the most part. "I do believe that there is a classic stereotyping that goes on today, even in the promotional products world," he said. "Women are going to be the primary target in the robe category, however men are just as happy to receive a robe as a woman because, in most cases, they can immediately think of a woman they could give it to," he explained. He suggested that this kind of gift-shifting can still have a strong marketing impact, the re-gifter getting to please someone close to them while the end-recipient gets the enjoyment of the actual item. ￼