Tide-soaked beach beauties drying off with branded towels in front of an ogling crowd—it’s an advertiser’s dream. The ploy is a classic because it works, and companies such as Baltimore, Maryland-based supplier Towel Specialties (UPIC: TOWELSPEC) are the ones making the dream a reality.
“A big benefit of beach towels is high visibility,” says Murray Siegel, marketing director for Towel Specialties. At 26-by-48 inches, the imprint area of a beach towel is one of the largest in the industry. Add to this its inherent product placement opportunities (that is, next to sunbathing girls) and the beach towel is a can’t-miss promotion.
Seven years ago, Towel Specialties developed yet another way to make beach towels stand out. It’s called tone-on-tone printing, and while it’s widely used in the industry today, Siegel says Towel Specialties fathered the original technique.
Tone-on-tone starts with water-based ink applied via screen printing to premium Turkish cotton towels. Water-based ink gives the imprint a translucency and, consequently, another layer of interest that standard imprints lack. “Some people call it a ghost image or an etched image,” Siegel says. “Some people think it’s a laser image. It’s imperceptible to the touch—you can’t really feel it.”
The look is heightened by the quality of the Turkish towels. “When long-staple Turkish cotton is sheared, the top of the terry loop is cut off, yielding consistent pile heights that provide a velvet-like finish. The fineness of the shearing is what gives the towel an etched look,” Siegel explains. “When the ink settles on the towel it gives it more of a 3-D effect; sometimes the imprint changes based on how the light hits it.” Siegel says all of this is largely due to the high quality of Turkish cotton—considered to be the world’s finest cotton for use in towels.
The process for tone-on-tone towel printing starts with artwork, which is turned into film and then transformed to silk screens for printing. From here it goes through a specialized press called a belt printer press, which accommodates a wider imprint area. Since large imprints require a large press, the belt press is 70 feet long and allows for imprints as wide as 54 inches.
Once printed, the towels are hung up to dry in a 50-foot-long gas-powered pole dryer. “It’s huge,” says Siegel. “You could crawl through it, but you wouldn’t want to.” Draping the towels across poles inside the dryer cures them, making them warm and fluffy in about 10 minutes.
After they’re dry, the towels are inspected for quality, folded and tagged with washing instructions.
As straightforward as tone-on-tone imprinting may be, selecting an imprint style is a bit more of a challenge. Towel Specialties offers many options for tone-on-tone printed towels. Translucent, the most popular among distributors, yields a subtle imprint that is a shade lighter than the actual towel. Color on Color is a shade darker than the towel, and SilverTouch and GoldTouch add sparkle to imprinted towels. Towels themselves come in 12 different color options.
“We’ve had orders for one of every color,” says Siegel, adding that company picnics, recognition programs, corporate travel events, beach or pool parties and thank-you gifts are all prime opportunities for towel promotions. “Since towels are one-size-fits-all and gender neutral, you can really get creative with it.”
The Skinny On Turkish Cotton
Turkish cotton is considered premium because of its extra-long fibers, which result in stronger, smoother cotton threads. It strikes a balance between absorbency and efficient drying, which makes it excellent for use in towels.
Source: The Turkish Towel Company, Inc.