You'll recognize SwagDog as the folks behind those sweet guild tabard-style T-shirts you've seen on recent posts here at WoW.com, including our recent WoW 5th anniversary T-shirt giveaway. The SwagDog crew are pretty good people. They sponsor our WoW.com Guild of the Month contest, giving out a $100 SwagDog gift certificate to the winning guild every month.
When we heard SwagDog was forming an in-game guild, we smelled a marketing rat -- but as it turns out, there's no pressure to buy. Instead, The Swag Dogs have created the guild as a conduit between players and the SwagDog design team, to encourage players to bring their ideas for new products and designs directly to the source. Those who participate actively will gain a shot at special giveaways ... And of course, the pleasure of getting into a friendly, casual guild from the get-go.
We turned to SwagDog Lead Designer Michael Wewerka, the founder and guild leader of The Swag Dogs, for the scoop on the new guild.
WoW.com: The Swag Dogs won't be a marketing effort with no WoW savvy behind it. We hear you're no WoW n00b yourself, Mike. How long have you been playing?
SwagDog's Michael Wewerka: Well, I've been playing for nearly the whole five years; I started two months after the game released. So I've done my time in the old world, or vanilla WoW. The character I've had since the beginning is Valaar. I've had him for so long the name has become sort of a brand to me. I use it for my blog and Twitter and even other games. He's an 80 Paladin tank who's over 4600+ Gearscore. I've created another guild with two friends with him, and he's been a raid leader, to boot.
Ok, so let's get to the point: Why a Swagdog guild?
As the new lead designer for Swagdog, I've had fun coming up with new ideas for products. We even have some in the pipeline and in front of Blizzard as we speak. But we feel that in order to really make a product for WoW fans, we need to really know what they want to wear. I can design things, but my ideas are just that: my ideas. If we poll the fan base and get a bunch of replies, and a lot of them start to overlap, then we have a good idea about what the players want.
But I thought about taking that a step further. If we created a guild in game, we could speak with the players directly. We could create a community around the brand and interact with players on a daily basis. We would never expect them to buy anything or pressure them to, but we encourage the feedback, either way.
What sort of events and activities can guild members expect on a day-to-day basis?
For those who are active and help us by submitting ideas, feedback and helping the guild, we are going to have monthly contests and reward those players with free SwagDog merchandise. To make things even sweeter, we are going even offer up free BlizzCon tickets! Yes, as Mike Horn, the CEO of SwagDog said in an interview with Hearthcast along with myself, we have some extra BlizzCon tickets that we will give to members of the guild. Granted, members will have to earn them by being active and helpful, not just in ideas but overall contributions.
Are The Swag Dogs officers SwagDog employees, or are other players stepping up to help organize?
Right now, the only two officers in the guild are myself and Captnamerica, another paladin who is a freelance designer at SwagDog. Mike Horn, the CEO of SwagDog, is going to be jumping back into the action with his 40+ toon, and we have a few others we are going to be jumping in to help out as well.
But we are encouraging players who want to join to step up and help us as we organize contests and in-game activities. While being a family-friendly casual guild, we also want players who want to raid.
How many people are in the guild right now? Any ideas how big you want to grow this thing?
Right now the guild is small. We only have about 10 members, but that's mainly because I haven't actively recruited because I wanted to have a web site up (SwagDogGuild.com) to explain what we are all about. Now that that's done, we are moving forward and actively recruiting.
I understand there are a lot of guilds out there, but we feel that we are bringing something special to the game. We offer a home to those players who are lost or just looking for something new and exciting. Right now, we are an Alliance guild on the Kargath server. But we'd like to grow to have a guild on both sides.
We are looking for players to tell us what they want to wear. Are they excited about the idea of shirts based on titles and achievements? Because we have the luxury of customizing all our shirts around that idea. For example, Valaar has The Explorer title. We'd like suggestions like creating a shirt that looks like the Explorer tabard, that has the player's name on the front -- <Player Name> The Explorer -- with a list of achievements on the back.
While I can't go into exact details, I can say we have something in the pipeline for Arena players. But there are an unlimited amount of ideas players can dream up, and we want to hear them. We want ideas that go beyond just guild tabard shirts.
Now, SwagDog has an official relationship with Blizzard, isn't that right?
Yes, we are officially licensed. The difference between us and say Jinx, for instance, is that our hook is customization. All of our products are based around designs that can be printed and customized with the player's name, guild, race, class, server and Battlegroup. We have access to the Blizzard Armory to pull this info.
We have a great relationship with Blizzard. Our team actually just got back from their headquarters about two weeks ago and had a great brainstorming session. Overall, they've given us some great feedback and I think we are going to have some amazing new designs that should be for sale very, very soon.
What's it been like working through the approvals process with Blizzard?
They've been really great recently. In the beginning, I think it was more difficult, but it's because this is such an important license. They want to make sure the fans of the product get something authentic, and this was sort of the reason I was brought into SwagDog. Being a designer and a player gave me the ability to sort of "talk the talk" with them and give SwagDog the ability to create things from within the mind of a gamer. This has made things easier and the communication much more clear.
Tell us about the contests you have planned for guild members.
We are thinking of something like most ideas submitted in one month or the most creative idea. Basically, the approval process through Blizzard can take a while, and we don't want players to have to wait (and if their idea gets shot down, then they will feel bad). So we feel like if we reward them for the effort, then they are more likely to send in more ideas. If a players idea does end up becoming a shirt, then maybe we'll have to have something really special for that player.
But over all this is the reality: players could see their designs on a real shirt being sold. We want players to know that you don't have to be an artist; if you can't draw, don't sweat it. Just describe the idea, and I or another designer will bring it to life.
What are your favorite designs that have come from player ideas?
We've had suggestions come in that we should make something that plays off the popular styles right now. The main idea pointed out was these new graphic tees that are everywhere, something similar to these "Affliction"-style shirts or these UFC-style designs, with patterns running over the collar and shoulder. We've come up with some really interesting designs because of that.
I think once we get an idea approved by Blizzard, we'll also give members a sneak peek at the design before anyone else.
Will players have to belong to the guild to be eligible for contests and prizes, or can anyone send in ideas?
Anyone can send in ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, but in order to be eligible for prizes and those possible BlizzCon tickets, you'll have to be a member of the guild. It's not that we don't want to reward to reward any specific person -- it's just that we can't award prizes to everyone who submits ideas. So by being in the guild and submitting ideas, you'll also be helping the SwagDog community, being vocal and taking part -- so that has to count for something more.
Any restrictions on what players can suggest?
If you do submit and idea for a design to us, it has to be original. You must understand that once those ideas are submitted to us, you're giving up ownership so that we can redesign and use them. If you're an artist and you submit work to us, please be aware we are not paying for the work as of right now (but that could change).
Ok, we're charged up and ready to play. What's the best way to get in touch with a The Swag Dogs guild officer for a guild invite?
I'm usually on around 7:30-8:00 p.m. EST 'til 1:00 a.m. sometimes. Weekends, I am on at random times, but usually evenings are the best for me. Captnamerica (our first officer) is on throughout the day and evenings, as well.
If players do not see us on and really want an invite, they can email me at email@example.com, including the name of the player character(s) they want invited. When we enter the game, we'll add them to our friends list so that when they pop online, we can send them an invite right away. The in-game mail function can work, as well.
Thanks, Mike, and best of luck with The Swag Dogs. We hope to hear news of The Swag Dog's progress and see new designs inspired by The Swag Dogs members soon!
The Swag Dogs
US Kargath -- Alliance
Twitter: @valaar or @warcraftswagdog