We're not being funny, righ', but Cardiff is a lush little city – amazing quality of life (best UK City in Europe, 2015), brilliant parks (most green space per head of population of any UK city), great events, and fab people. (It's also the UK's wettest, which inspired our bottled Cardiff Rain, and the UK's fastest growing major city.)
I Loves The ‘Diff is all about celebrating this. We offer an exciting and wide range of products some of which are inspired by the Welsh capital while others tickle the great Welsh sense of humour. We like to think of I Loves The 'Diff as inclusive – it's for everyone: if you get it, you're in the clwb.
It all started as a bit of fun, way back in 2009 – a doodle on a beer mat was all it was. We won't lie to you – we've never had a business plan let alone a masterplan. The Echo printed a story about our (one) t-shirt and with that we were up an' running, with this 90s technology website and no marketing or retail experience whatever. Since then it's become a little business, aided immesaurably by the support and patience of family members and the power of social media. It's been a fun, unexpected journey, and we get to drive around in a cool van.
We have 45,000 followers on Twitter. We like to share what's good about our hometown, and let people know what's occurrin'.
|I Loves The 'Diff has (among other things) won a Best of Welsh Design award, supported charity events and Made In Roath, printed cool posters which donated money to charity, helped judge the Cardiff Life Magazine Awards, done craft and community fairs, appeared in an art exhibition, ran the official merchandise stand at the Cardiff Half marathon (twice – same number of times we've run it), worked with local designers, and worked with the likes of Cardiff Airport, Penarth Town Council, and SWALEC. That's not all, mind. We've given talks, including one at Cardiff Business School, have a regular column in the Echo/WalesOnline, featured on BBC Radio Wales a few times, gone viral with the Radio One-played Cardiff Bus Song, and produced a TV show (Burger Off! for Made In Cardiff TV). We've even sold a few posters and mugs along the way (online and from one of our many stockists) – all with a view to celebrating Cardiff and Wales, and making people smile.
Above: We sponsor nearby Marlborough Primary School rugby team; Above right: Helena on the official merchandise stand for the Cardiff Half Marathon. We ran the event's official shop in both 2013 and 2014 – it was fun, but harder than running the half marathon!
Reaching the Dai-aspora
The best thing about running I Loves The ‘Diff is meeting good people, albeit many of these encounters are online. We receive messages from Welsh folk the world over – the Dai-aspora, if you like – who just want to let us know that they enjoy what we do, and for that I’m always very proud and grateful. You can see some customer feedback by here, actually.
One email springs to mind – when Taffywood (our Welshified book and film title lark) reached Hollywood... Taffs Well-born, award-winning screenwriter and film director Christopher Monger got in touch from his home in L.A. “My sister sent me a Cwtch-22 card – love it! Your Taffywood titles cracked me up.” Christopher, director of The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain, about Garth Hill and his home village, seemed as excited by this website as we were to receive his email. He also said he was pleased to see Taffs Well made it onto our (Echo-published!) Cardiff Underground. “Phew, now I can get home easy.”
They loves it: ITV's Matt Johnsons; happy customers; BBC Radio Wales' Oliver Hides; and balladeer Jack Savoretti, at the Llandaff North Festival.
Bay city dolers: the beginning
An expression of a genuine reinvogorated love for a city seemingly reborn in the new millennium (and so much better than it was when we were growing up in the 80s and 90s), I Loves The 'Diff was simply a bit of fun. I liked the look of my draft logo, and the sound of it, but it was only when I had the idea of the 's' after the heart that friends and family offered to 'invest', in order to have a few t-shirts printed. There was one modest aim: to see someone we didn't know wearing one. We told the Echo, it ran the story on 27 August 2009, I forced my girlfriend at the time to model the men's protoype t-shirt. Overnight I cobbled together a website that is no better today, and the next day we sold a batch of t-shirts. We were in business.
Well, it was a start of what has become a little business anyway. And in time I saw someone wearing an I Loves The 'Diff t-shirt. It still makes my day whenever I see someone with one of our stickers, hoodies or t-shirts. To think people 'loves' what we do makes me so happy and proud.
People seemed to like what I Loves The 'Diff stood for – why wouldn't they? Cardiff's lush – and they also seemed to like the other stuff I put out in the months and years that followed: such as Taffywood gifts, Cardiff and Welsh Hearts, and the Cardiff Underground (geographically accurate Cardiff map laid out on the iconic London Underground system), which went viral and was published in the Echo as a double-page spread when first released. It remains a firm favourite.
Taffywood: the legend
The whole Taffywood thing was even more of a happy accident than I Loves The 'Diff. In short, my brother Alex and I were in Soda Bar when it used to be on St Mary Street. It may have been a Thursday, and it may have been raining. One thing is for sure: we were a little worse for wear, we were a little bored, and there was a little fella who looked vaguely like Tom Cruise on the other side of the bar. "Imagine if while on his holidays Tom starred in Welsh versions of all his films," said Alex, or me. "Like Risca Business!" The Welshification game was born.
I did say we were bored...and inebriated, clearly. Strangely, it turns out that Tom Cruise is actually Welsh. (Should have known really, given his height.) In the months that followed, our game took on a life of its own. Firslty, among mates; we'd email one another suggestions (There's Something About Abertillery, Apocalypse Now In A Minute etc), and eventually I created a website – Taffywood.com – that strangers (some very strange) would contribute to. Then whilst making a Valentine's card one year I struck upon the design that soon became our world-famous (maybe) Taffywood range. Pure luck, it was, really.
If the humourously modified film titles make any sense to you, or even make you chuckle, then you're probably Welsh or at least know Wales. If you've never been to the beautiful country of Wales (or Cymru, as it's known in the native tongue) then why not? It's great. If you enjoy wordplay and puns, then seeing how many film titles you can Welshify to comic effect becomes kind of addictive. Please let us know if you have any good ones.
'Avin fun, making friends
I Loves The 'Diff has always been about fun, and it's brought us into contact with a whole side of my hometown that I'd probably not otherwise have encountered – creatives, charities, amazing individuals and companies. And for this alone, I'm incredibly grateful to it. With no design or marketing or retail background, and armed only with an enthusiasm for the city and my logo, the adventure that is I Loves The 'Diff has been a long learning curve. I loves to work with local, talented people, so some of products like the Cardiff Heart and Cardiff's Lush prints were designed for us based on our concept and idea by Renato Pequito and Jessica Draws. Tom Kitchen, Jon Stick and Matt Needle have also created posters for us.
I Loves The ‘Diff has a strong social media presence, with 31,000 followers on Twitter and some 6,000 Likes (and a group with 800 members) on Facebook. An example of our reach on Facebook are two (unpaid for) posts from October 2015, one of which received 1,529 shares with 139,585 people reached, and another which 267,880 people saw.
Due to our collaborative approach with regards our products, and the fact we try to support and promote good things happening in Cardiff (mainly on Twitter), we enjoy a great relationship with many creatives, organisations and venues throughout Cardiff, such as Chapter, Ffotogallery, Made In Cardiff TV etc.
It's fun to work with people and organisations to make a bit of a splash, for which we can do the design work and help with promotion. In 2014 we worked with Cardiff Airport to promote a new route to Dusseldorf, whilst in the summer of 2015, we got together with SWALEC to help them celebrate Glamorgan cricket with the campaign, I Don't Like Cricket, I Loves It! This got a lot of exposure, not least because people wearing the t-shirts ended up on Sky's coverage of the Ashes in Cardiff. We've worked with Diffusion international photography festival too – in its first year we did their tote bags for them, and second time around we co-ran a project call Ffotomatic, involving vending machines across Cardiff selling goodies and limited edition prints.
We've worked with The Cardiff Story on stuff, have written for local free CPS Homes magazine, Cwtch, about different areas of Cardiff, and for much of 2015 we've had a monthly column in the South Wales Echo, which you can read by here.
In 2013 and 2014 we managed the official merchandise stand for the Cardiff Half marathon on behalf of event organiser Run 4 Wales. This involved stand-setup, commissioning of display boards, stocktaking, managing volunteers, and all sales. See, we're multi-talented, us. Gareth Ludkin, Run 4 Wales’ Events and Communications Coordinator had this to say: “I Loves the 'Diff is an iconic brand in Cardiff, and their fun, unique and 'Different take on all things Cardiff has over recent years been a brilliant addition to the Cardiff Half Marathon. They've brilliantly run our merchandise stall with a smiling, friendly face for all, and we’re happy to have had them as part of our event. We loves them we do!"
Cheers / diolch for reading this far. Reward yourself with a biscuit – Christian, Chairman of the Bored
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