Welcome back to our newest blog edition of Behind The Brand! Today we feature an up-and-coming brand that we’re huge fans of - in fact, it’s quickly become an office favorite here at ITW.
Threat Llama is turning tactical-gamer connoisseurs into profound apparel-loving gurus with their brand – and you’re going to love the story of how Threat Llama came to life.
Founder + Owner Jordan Robertson, former Navy Veteran, said that the inspiration behind the name Threat Llama (and their main design featuring a llama wearing night vision goggles (NVGs)) actually pays homage to his callsign while in the military.
‘Threat Llama was my call sign in the Navy! I was out on the crew serve range while in the field. My razor broke the day before, so I was growing my facial hair out (I could only grow a neck beard). The line coach at the time saw the neck beard and said I resembled a Llama. At the time, I was shooting the M240B, so he laughed and called me “threat llama.” It became my call sign in the military, so I thought it would be awesome to tie it into my brand!’.
We’ve worked with many brand owners who incorporate something personal into their brand - whether it be a design, the company name, a motto, or logo and their audience goes crazy when they do, and we love it, too. It’s authentic - and authenticity is the hardest commodity to communicate, and it’s literally craved by the market. Robertson has led with this from the start with Threat Llama and we believe that’s propelled in his brand cultivating such a loyal following from the get-go.
With this, we asked Robertson what his customers should feel when wearing Threat Llama apparel, and we love his response:
‘We want them to feel comfortable without sacrificing the shape and fit of the shirt; we want something that feels good and looks even better. We chose shirts that are tight around the arms and loose around the waist to give our customers - be it gamers, lifters, or anyone in between - a little boost of confidence (and maybe a little nostalgia with an iconic video-game-inspired design).’
Speaking of video games, we had a burning question for Robertson about his market!
Gamer-world is very much made up of tight-knit communities, where the headset, screen, controller, and player all work in unison to come alive within the new world that’s beaming in front of them – but those communities come alive while indoors - at home - so just how exactly does an apparel brand pave a path in a world where pajamas and sweatpants reign supreme?
Robertson says – easy – ‘[Here’s my] POV: I picture a guy playing video games, kind of feeling down about himself, and his wife sees his arms in our tee and says, “Hey, have you been working out?” and make that person’s whole day.’
We know the garments Robertson is referring to, and his point of view is spot on, his audience gets to have their cake and eat it, too: Explore new worlds and look good while doing it – AND be as comfortable as if they were in their pajamas or at-home comfies.
Heck, we’re not gamers, but sign us up, too!
Now, Threat Llama is made up of a few relatively large markets that when combined have a unique and much more niche intersect if you haven’t already picked up on it: military x gamers. ITW hasn’t seen this meshwork before for an apparel brand and safe to say – WE. DIG. IT. And we’re thrilled to see where Threat Llama grows to in coming years.
Robertson’s vision for Threat Llama in the next 5 years is one we can get behind - ‘I would just like Threat Llama to be a household name in the T-shirt industry. Anyone that wears T-shirts, I want them to feel proud of and know that they are supporting and are a part of a great community of people.’
And his community is one to reckon with – Threat Llama is already consistently recognized as a 5-star apparel company by their many customer reviews, each of them raving about the quality, fit and inclusiveness of the market.
But it wasn’t easy getting there, Robertson explains: ‘The biggest struggle for my brand was and is finding my identity, I am having trouble deciding if I want to be gamer-specific, pop-culture specific, or mil-inspired specific. Occasionally I have a “brand identity crisis,” but honestly, why can’t I be all those things? Our brand is for anyone who likes the designs, likes gaming, and can handle dark, funny humor.’
Through lots of struggles and of course time, brand owners like Robertson can focus in on their legion of trusted believers and followers and find the audience they can truly have the greatest impact on and with. The ‘identity crisis’ of a brand is more of a voyage of self-discovery of the brand, and the best part is your customers who are there to guide you along the way. Do they like red shirts or black shirts better? Do they actually want tank tops more instead of tees? How about hoodies – pullover or zip-up? Maybe it’s time to install a new graphic designer to give your designs some diversity? You can rely on their trusted feedback in a lot of scenarios to aid in those times of indecisiveness or confusion. That’s one of the best parts of being a brand owner – your people.
At ITW, we’re always interested in where our clients pain points are – that allows us to hone in on what we can do to help them most with. Robertson shares one of his experiences of this with us:
‘Oh man, where to even start? I work with a wide range of artists, and occasionally the final product design doesn’t portray what I had in mind. It’s difficult to have those hard conversations, and in the beginning, I had trouble speaking my mind for fear of being “mean” or even disappointing them. I want to build good relationships while still enabling transparent conversations. So, I’ve been working through my own mental barriers and feel I am getting better about being straightforward with people. And the artists have always been terrific about accommodating any necessary changes, which has eased any anxiety around it. So ultimately, I’ve grown a lot regarding communication.
‘Another mistake I made early on is when I had no idea how to utilize advertisements on Instagram. I was spending a lot of money without niching down the audience (didn’t know how to at the time), so I was throwing away that money on a market that likely that no interest in our product. Since then, I’ve learned the ins and outs of IG ads, which has helped to streamline our marketing without wasting funds.’
Social media ads have been a moving target for the last 18 months with all the changing dynamics, rules, and algorithm shifts, LOTS of apparel brands have had difficulty navigating the shifting landscape. While we don’t offer marketing services directly for our clients (we do have some rad connections if you're interested though), we can offer help with brand identity, and we love to have one-on-one calls with our clients (and prospective clients!) to provide value at any point we can.
That’s our goal at ITW, to be the brand owner’s top resource for anything they or their brand need.
We asked Robertson about the impact ITW has had on him and Threat Llama, and it made us so fulfilled to hear what he had to say:
‘To say Industry Threadworks is amazing would be the understatement of the century. The Brand Managers are awesome, and Threat Llama has grown tremendously with their guidance. Threat Llama has been built from the ground up, and Industry Threadworks provided invaluable education and support through the whole startup process. The brand managers help with advancing new product ideas and encourage us to take designs to the next level. I can’t say enough about Industry Threadworks. You guys have really been fantastic to work with.’
It's easy to see why ITW loves Robertson and Threat Llama – we jive, we have fun with it, and we align with one another. It’s not easy to foster a solid relationship with your vendor, and that’s why we pride ourselves on not calling ourselves a vendor or manufacturer – but rather a partner for you and your brand.
We’re about to wrap up with this week’s blog, but Robertson had some critical advice we’d like to highlight that we couldn’t agree more with, and it was in regard to the biggest piece of advice he’d give someone else trying to start and grow their own business:
‘Research, research, research. From the very beginning, do your due diligence to achieve the quality of the product you want, and then build the brand around that. Don’t rush out with the first cheap shirt and iron-on design you can get your hands on. It could hurt your brand in the long run. I know everyone has to start somewhere but put in the effort for quality products and start your brand’s image off on the right foot.
‘When it comes to growth, social media has been my best friend. TikTok and Instagram are amazing. Build your community, and in doing so, you will get more sales. Don’t obsess about the sales, though. This is a passion project for me, so my page is full of veterans, active-duty service members, gamers, etc. who I’ve gotten to know and develop relationships with. Build a great community, and you will grow! And I can’t stress this part enough— be authentic.’
Thank you for joining us in our newest blog edition of Behind The Brand with Jordan Robertson, founder of the clothing brand, Threat Llama – We cannot wait to continue pumping out awesomeness together!
To learn more about Threat Llama, click the links below: