How to create a viral-inspired tee

From the Negroni Sbagliato to Heidi Klum’s worm Halloween costume, West Elm Caleb and of course, many a Julia Fox quote, it’s hard to predict when and where a viral moment might crop up. And in an annoying Catch 22, trying to make one happen on purpose almost always ensures the opposite. But, keeping an eye out for interesting stories, whether in the virtual realm or IRL, and using them to inspire your campaign concept or design, can be a useful tool – plus, capitalising on a trending moment can be helpful for promotion, leading to more sales. So we put together a couple of useful tips on how to create a successful viral-inspired tee, based on some of our most popular campaigns. 

Learn to spot a good story

Good stories are everywhere. Whether an online conversation that blows up into viral proportions or an IRL story that inspires memes, press and pop-culture lore, paying attention to what’s happening in virtual and real-life communities around you can be a great way to gain inspiration. 

Inspired by #Sprinklegate, a much reported-on story that ensued when a customer reported Leeds-based small business Get Baked to the West Yorkshire Trading Standards for using coloured sprinkles that did not comply with UK regulations, we brought together designer Fizzy Wizzy and Get Baked to collaborate on a tee in support of the bakery.

While our Egg Gang Store was set up in response to the viral Egg: a (successful) collaborative attempt at making a stock photo of an egg the world’s most liked post (surpassing the title holder at the time, Kylie Jenner). 

Time is of the essence

The news cycle works fast and the internet works even faster. If you’re creating merch for or inspired by a viral moment, it pays to do it fast, so that you can capitalise on the conversation before it moves on. The Illegal Sprinkles tee came together in three days, while the Egg Store was launched in just one day. 

We are big believers in conscious production, slow fashion and working with our pre-order model to reduce waste. But, for those moments when inspiration strikes and you need to act on it stat, our creator dashboard and pre-order model, complete with step-by-step guides, means you can launch a t-shirt campaign with virtually zero turnaround time. 

Work with your community 

When working to a tight timeline, it helps to have a good knowledge of your creative community, and contacts you can call upon to help bring the campaign to life. For the Illegal Sprinkles T-shirt we connected creator Fizzy Wizzy (also the mastermind behind Gordos Pizzeria’s Legalise Marinara tee) with Get Baked, and from there the collab came together seamlessly. 

A sense of humour helps…

Let’s face it: what makes most viral moments stand out is their laugh-out-loud factor – the more memeable the better. So, if you want to create merch that joins the #discourse, it helps to keep your campaign light-hearted and tongue in-cheek. (Take your cues from Get Baked, who called upon another iconic pop-culture moment in their press statement: Come Dine With Me’s ‘Dear Lord, what a sad little life Jane’ speech). It doesn’t mean your campaign itself can’t be serious in its intentions: 100% of proceeds from the Illegal Sprinkles tee went directly in support of Get Baked. 


…and so does a strong design 

Whether a bold design and a witty tagline (Sprinkle Snitches Get Sprinkle Stitches á la Fizzy Wizzy’s Illegal Sprinkles) or a simple, to the point graphic like the Egg Gang’a ‘I liked the egg’ and Yolk Life’ tees, a strong design will help you stand out amid the noise of a viral conversation. 

Explore our Creator Toolkit for tips on launching your campaign, selling on socials and more.