How a Hashtag Sold 50,000 T-Shirts Online #BostonStrong

We love to talk about the successes our clients have. This is a great story on the power of social media marketing but it’s also a story that we wish was under better circumstances.

One of our marketing clients, Ink to the People (custom t-shirts), is a local company here in the city of Milwaukee that is building a national presence as a leading online retailer of custom designed t-shirts. Through their website, anyone can upload a design or use their beautiful design tool and literally create a custom t-shirt design in a matter of minutes. Once the design is created, one can then start selling the t-shirt to anyone online. It’s great for fundraisers, bands, sporting teams, just about anyone. It’s really that easy.

As we all saw with horror the terrible events that took place during the Boston Marathon on April 15th, these events brought close to home the vicious acts some people are capable of and the extraordinary efforts Americans take to help each other when such an event happens. After the tragic destruction that was caused on April 15th, there were two college students from Emerson College in Boston that wanted to do what they could to help. Within a few hours of the bombing, they had an idea: create a t-shirt, sell it online and donate the proceeds to those affected by these terrible acts of violence. For these two college students, they had a very humble goal  – help those in need. They thought it would be a great success if they could sell around 100 t-shirts.

These Emerson students, Chris Dobens and Nick Reynolds, started thinking about what they wanted to put on a t-shirt in order to raise some money so they could donate all of these funds to the bombing victims. Within a couple of hours after the bombing, they came up with the idea for a tagline, ‘Boston Strong’. They thought it was simple, it flowed well, and that it could be a powerful message. Before they even created a t-shirt, they took to Twitter and started using the hashtag #BostonStrong in their tweets.

Once they came up with the name, Boston Strong, they did a quick search on Google, found of Milwaukee and quickly designed a t-shirt with the words Boston Strong on it. They decided that they wanted the shirt to have the same signature colors as the Boston Marathon, Blue and Gold, and now the rest is history.

Since April 15th, the t-shirt created on has sold over 50,000 shirts and raised over $750,000 for The One Fund Boston.

What is most impressive is how 50,000 shirts were sold in a matter of days. These two young men at Emerson College understood the power of social media far better than most seasoned business people do. It all started with the hashtag #BostonStrong. As Boston and the country were reeling from the events at the Boston Marathon, these two Emerson students came up with a phrase that has been used everywhere since – we have all heard it or seen it by now. As people were looking for a way to help in their own small way, these two students found the perfect platform in so that they could create these t-shirts and allow people to buy them to display their pride in their city while also having all of the proceeds help those affected by the bombings.

Dobens and Reynolds understood that one of the very best ways to let people know about what they are doing is to let others that believe in their message spread the word for them. This is the power of social media. It’s one thing for an individual, group, charity, company, etc. to try and market a message by themselves – but when you can get thousands of people to market on your behalf, you’ve now achieved a viral level to make any campaign successful.  These two students created a Facebook community page (, announced what they were doing, provided links so everyone knew where you could buy the t-shirt, and provided ongoing updates every day to tell everyone the latest about the campaign. They have done everything perfectly in their execution on Facebook. Because of this, tens of thousands of people all over the world have been sharing their information on Facebook to their friends and this has driven their t-shirt sales fundraising efforts to an astronomical level that no one could have ever anticipated.

Dobens, Reynolds, and Ink to the People have been talked about all over the country in the past two weeks in their efforts to help those in need. We’ve seen them on Fox News, NBC News, CNN, and even Seventeen Magazine. Besides their national exposure, they have been all over the local Milwaukee media, Boston media and many other local media markets.

We would like to take our hats off to Chris Dobens and Nick Reynolds for everything they have done to help those in need. We can only think about the kind of world we would have if more people had their hearts and brainpower to do good in this world.