The New York Times' $300 T-shirt Is How Not to Promote a Brand

By Hannah Abrams

Sometimes, we feel like we are screaming this message from the highest mountain top, and yet, brands continue to ignore our cries. But for those of you listening: Know your brand, and know your audience. There's clearly a disconnect in The New York Times latest promotional apparel, and we're not quite sure how anyone thought this was a good idea.

We told you last week that The New York Times hoped to offset its digital struggles by launching a merchandise store. To us, that made sense—branded merchandise is a great way to promote brand awareness, and of course, generate some extra profits.

But The New York Times bit off a lot more than it could chew with its new $300 slogan T-shirt, and the internet is very confused. According to Vice, The New York Times collaborated with luxury Japanese brand Sacai to create a very expensive slogan tee for purchase at Saks Fifth Avenue.

"Truth. It's more important now than ever," the T-shirt reads. On the back of the T-shirt, there's lines from an old 2017 ad for the newspaper with gems like, "The truth is hard," "The truth has no agenda" and "The truth pulls no punches."

We get it. Truth is great. But the truth is, $300 is way too much for a T-shirt. Not to mention, the hoodie version with the same text is going for $420. For a newspaper fighting a battle to prove that journalism is a good and vital part of democracy—a public service, even—putting its logo on a luxury T-shirt few people can actually afford is not a good look. It may even be counterproductive.

This is simply the latest brand to completely misread its audience. Last year, we watched as Barneys and Nordstrom totally missed the mark on their new apparel offerings, and we're sure The New York Times won't be the last one either. For those of you working in promotional apparel, make sure your client has a thorough understanding of its end-users, because promotions like this can easily turn a brand's intended audience against it.

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