Unlikely Promo Lessons I've Learned From 'Slobby's World,' the Weirdest Show on Netflix
Today I want to talk to you about a Netflix show I've been watching. It's quite possibly the dumbest show I've seen in a long time, and it's called "Slobby's World." It's a show about a caveman-looking fella named Robert "Slobby" Hall who runs a vintage clothing shop in Arizona called Generation Cool. He takes T-shirts and stuff he finds at thrift stores and sells them at enormously marked up prices, and he might be the strangest man I've ever seen.
I could talk about the oddities of this show and its titular character all day, but I won't. Instead, I'll share with you some insightful and relevant commentary on promotional products and branding. Stick with me here.
While I was watching the show, seeing my man Slobby hawking to naive Arizona millennials an old jacket commemorating a certain airplane's final tour of Pacific islands, at something like a 5,000 percent markup, I realized that he's making his money, by and large, by reselling old promotional products. And he is making a fortune off of them.
Look at him here with a Coca-Cola briefcase-looking thing! Life is tite, Slob!
So, before I stray too far off track, here's what I learned from watching this insane show:
1. It really is all about perceived value
A shirt from EPCOT in 1996 probably cost, what, $15? I don't know. I've never been. But, I'm guessing it's not worth the $200 Slobby is selling it for. An Indiana Jones lunchbox is the kind of thing some people just throw away, but when it's billed as a "vintage" item, nostalgia ups that price. A Michael Jordan growth chart probably only cost pennies to make, but since it was made in 1994 or something, it's worth a fortune for some '90s Bulls-obsessed kid.
If you can make something look like it's valuable, you can make it valuable. For modern promotional products, that means making things as on-trend and contemporary as possible, or selling features that seem exclusive or expensive, even if they really might not have been. I'm not suggesting you deceive clients, just reminding you that there are ways to add value to a sale or item without it costing a ton extra.
2. Materials matter
In one episode, my very good friend Slobby stumbled upon a treasure trove of vintage Starter NBA jerseys. One of them was a Vlade Divac Charlotte Hornets jersey, and Slobby immediately recognized it as a European-only release. How? He noticed that it was dye-sublimated rather than screen printed, that the material was slightly different, and that there was one green stripe, which doesn't show up on the U.S. version. That made it more valuable.
Another time, he described how at a certain point, T-shirt companies started double stitching around the sleeves and collar for extra sturdiness, and because of that he could tell how old certain items were. Stitching on a T-shirt isn't the type of thing you might think people are looking at too closely, but this proves otherwise. Good quality products will always be popular.
3. Logos (and brands) matter
We've done a good amount of reporting on bootleg and counterfeit items, especially apparel. It turns out that bootleg apparel is a weird little micro-economy within itself, and is sometimes even more valuable than legit ones. Slobby is always talking about "bootleg Gucci," which he stresses is somehow different than "fake Gucci." Bootlegs are sort of like "fan fiction" he says. But they're still fake, and yet Slobby sells them for around $500 per shirt sometimes. This is a T-shirt we're talking about!
Anyway, what I'm getting at here is this: People are willing to pay big money for a brand name, even if the product is fake, because brands matter. Logos matter. Again, I don't mean go out and sell a bunch of counterfeit products. (Don't do that!) But keep in mind the way people build an emotional connection with good brands and logos, and how that can influence the perceived value of a product.
Those are the three big lessons I learned from this dumb, incredible Netflix show. (The other big lesson that I learned is that sometimes it's better to just not watch TV at all, and that I need to pick up a book every once in a while.)