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Tulones: A Case Study on How to Create TRUE Brand Identity

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

A Tale of Two Brothers & A Dream



The Social Proof Podcast host David Shands wearing a cream-colored sweatsuit, with the Tulones logo, boldly written in a sprawling red font, sets the scene for this convo on brand identity and awareness.


If you are like me, and were not familiar with the southern inspired men's streetwear brand Tulones, buckle up.


The story of the Tulones founders, brothers Chris "Benji" and Dameon "Dollas," is even more remarkable than their accomplishments.


The brothers from Mobile, Alabama grossed and have grossed one million dollars monthly since 2020.


You read right. Read it again.


This was a masterclass in branding and was one of my favorite Social Proof Podcast interviews to date.


I hope you agree. Either way, this is going to be good.


Would you like to skip ahead and watch the episode? Click below to check it out!

If you're still with me, grab your pen and journal and get ready to take notes!


Class is in session...



Benji - Co-Owner - Tulones
"It's not "merch."I got a clothing brand—I am a designer." - Benji


Table of Knowledge


When it comes to brand awareness and recognition, the name of your company is arguably one of the most important aspects, especially in the fashion industry.


The brothers of Tulones realize this and came up with a formula to cement their brand in the minds of all that come across it.


They first began designing clothes in high school, with a brand called "Fly Hearts Never Broken." They had many versions and concepts but soon realized having a name that people recognize, and won't forget, is clutch.


I mean, why be typical when you can standout?


When David asked the meaning of Tulones, Benji, the youngest of the two, shared that it represents the two lines of a dollar sign. Imagine this.


Two lines + S = Tulones—a dollar sign.


When David asked if consumers received the name well, Benji replied with a smile and said in his charming southern drawl, "It's not for you to receive, it's for you to want. That's the point of the brand. If you received it right then, you might not come back."


Brilliant.


Is that not the principle of commercialized consumerism in a nutshell?


The brothers continue by saying it's all about representation and having something that makes people's curiosity pique. This intrigue will get them invested and begin to follow your brand.


Interesting...


Pro Tip: Have your brand name be an extension of you that defines you. If you are a mysterious person, let the brand name be mysterious. This will help you when building marketing around the brand.


To go even deeper, the foundation of the brand is currency.


A closer look at the Tulones website reveals a continuous theme. Everything is a reference to currency. From using dead presidents on items, using international currency symbols to their nicknames, "Benji" is a reference to Benjamin Franklin and Dameon's nickname "Dollas," well, you get it.


This cohesion builds brand awareness and keeps your audience wanting more.


When it comes to brand recognition and solidifying yourself in your consumer's mind, Tulones used a business sales model I've never seen before.


Instead of having the consumer come to them, they went to them. They loaded up all their apparel in a Mercedes Sprinter van and hit the road selling hand-to-hand.


Now, to be clear, that wasn't the extraordinary part of their business building. With every sale, they gave away a free pair of socks and underwear.


When asked if those items sell on their own, again, Benji dropped another bar. It's not about that, he said, I just need more stuff in people's houses.


From that alley-oop, Dameon dunks the point by saying their aim is to become a household name, like other branding giants. For example, Michael Jordan's "Jordan" empire.


It's nearly impossible to find a household in America that is not aware of the Jordan brand.


It is their intention and vision for Tulones will be the same way.

Dameon from Tulones sitting on a couch in The Social Proof Studio
Dameon - Co-Founder Tulones

Benji encourages brands to think outside of the box for merch associated with their brands. Everybody has branded writing pens. What about having branded toothbrushes?


This was brilliant, because if someone stays over at your house unexpectedly and they need a toothbrush, you can give them your Tulones branded toothbrush.


Most likely your guest will take the brush with them and now a piece of Tulones is in their home.


Again, brilliant.


"Y'all gave me a basketball. I haven't hooped in a minute, but I am NOT throwing that basketball away. It's dope & super high quality."
- David Shands

The intention of the brothers is that even if you don't know them, you've seen or been around their brands.


Whether it's a barber shop or a billboard in Atlantic Station or a squish ball, they are all around—even if we don't know it; we feel their brand presence.


Benji confesses that the movement is not about them, it's about the brand.


Powerful.


When they first started Tulones, they started small.


They began with about nine items and then grew from there.


Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, the brothers knew they wanted to have a brand immersed in southern culture, encompassing all regions from Texas to Florida. They don't even see or include non-Southern demographics.


Pro Tip: Identify your demographic and create products specifically designed for them.


How often do brands fail by trying to go for everything at once? This doesn't work.


When determining how to design their brand with Southern specificity, they considered regional fashion staples, think Timberland boots via New York City or what Vans are to Los Angeles


As Southerners, we incorporate all of those styles in our wardrobe and add our sauce to it.


Tulones' clothing is designed to be paired with regional selections, but in a southern way.


"We make things for OUR people." - Dameon

Realizing that the South didn't have a recognizable brand of their own, they built one.


Pro Tip: Identify a niche and fulfill it.

Tulones, David, Audience members in the Social Proof Podcast Audience
David Shands & Tulones Owners: Benji & Dameon

With the nine items they had, they produced one hundred pieces of each.


Every two weeks, they would make an order to replace the stock they had sold the week prior.


They realized early that if they had the product, they would sell it.


By using a cost analysis break-even equation for each item, Dameon was able to understand the needs of their business.


The brothers use an algebraic equation for everything they do in terms of growth, A + B = C.


Without a formula, you can't get consistence results.


They were ahead of the game at the beginning of the pandemic because they had inventory.


Their formula works.


In one month, the brothers made 1 million dollars.


So, to recap their brand began in 2017 in October. In 2018, they started their website; and made their first million. They sold the Sprinter and began to operate from their basement.


Once they got to the million, it was up from there. They opened their warehouse and kept moving and growing until they began making one million dollars a month.


Their pandemic sales were $50K daily online, and hand-to-hand sales averaged 20K and they were charging nearly a thousand dollars for entry to the studio to get pieces.


Because the world was shut down, they were the only brand with a stocked inventory, so they won—majorly.


Pro Tip: Stay ready so you don't have to get ready.


Another thing that sets Tulones apart from other brands is their dedication in sourcing above average materials to make their collections.


By studying international markets, they learned how to access vendors with quality materials to make their product stand out from the rest.


If you want to make something luxury, you have to know the integrity of the composition of that item.


The brothers invest in attention to detail to make the brand stand out from the rest. Daemon designed the cuff on the Tulones joggers that David had on during the interview with the intention of having an effect.


These men do not simply pick things from a catalog and make them, Nah, they are designers because of their technique.


This comes from dedicated knowledge of their craft. By going the extra mile to do things that others have not done, they are now in spaces that others have not seen.


From material selection, including weight and color, to having two seams on their jeans to represent Tulones, these brothers choose everything with specificity.


Pro Tip: Do not play the price and time game with your brand. Learn the ins and outs of your industry so you can produce high-quality items or services by getting the quality items that matter.


Then they learned to drop clothes in collections based on the seasons and go deeper than other apparel companies.


That is the Tulones way. Find what is being done and making it work for them.


****BONUS*****

When asked about Kanye West's designing the dilemma, the brothers kept it professional and real. Click here to hear Dameon's answer.

 

This is blog post is just a brief excerpt of everything these branding masterminds shared. To go even deeper and get the rest of the info, click below to watch the whole episode.



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