Election season is in full swing, which means political groups and candidates are investing major coin along the campaign trail. Spending for the presidency, Congress and state governments could exceed $6 billion this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Promotional products no doubt play a big role in all the election fanfare. “Who doesn’t remember the word ‘hope’ being synonymous with then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign [in 2008]?” queries Linda Christopherson, founder and president of Rochester, Minnesota-based Affordable Buttons. “The image of his face in red, white and blue not only became a symbol of his campaign, but also a piece of American pop culture.”
Christopherson typically ships more than 40,000 custom buttons per day and expects to see an increase in production by 20-25 percent as the election cycle heats up.
“Buttons make a statement with little cost to the campaign. For the price of one t-shirt, you could get 40 buttons. With 40 buttons, you have 40 people sharing your message and campaign. A candidate with more buttons,” she says, “could be seen as the candidate who gets more bang for their buck.”
Geoff Boltach, owner of Brighton, Michigan-based A-1 Engraving & Signs, agrees it’s smart to get low-cost items on the promotional ballot. “Budgets are important, especially on the local level,” he says. “The most effective products are easily distributed, and easy and inexpensive to produce.”
Boltach has an insider’s perspective to campaigning; he recently ran for public office in his town. Though he didn’t win, he came away with a better understanding of what it takes to get a message out.
“I’ve found that yard signs are especially effective. You can hand them out at rallies or distribute them door to door, and they’re relatively inexpensive to produce,” he says. “Really, any promotional product can help a campaign.”
Check out PPB’s roundup of election-worthy products here, and add your favorites in the comments below.
|Political campaigns can always benefit from low-cost, high-visibility items such as these Stock Political Pins. Get these soft-enamel, die-struck pins in the Republican elephant or Democratic donkey design.
Avaline UPIC: AVALINE 800-932-8256 www.avaline.com
|Anyone from campaign managers to interns can benefit from the Triple Action Ballpoint Pen, a silver-barrel pen complete with an LED flashlight and red laser pointer.
Graphco Line UPIC: GRAPHCO 866-636-7367 www.graphcoline.com
|Patriotic Hand Fans are a must for political conventions and rallies. It’s even better when they’re made in the USA, such as these styles.
Aakron Rule Corp. UPIC: AAKRON 800-828-1570 www.aakronline.com
|Connect with constituents on their home turf or on the road with Door Hangers. They’re available on plain or laminated paper, or choose UV-coated rigid vinyl.
Magna-Tel, Inc. UPIC: MAGNATEL 800-467-2537 www.magna-tel.com
|Candidates can promote a green message and keep caucus-goers hydrated with the Sip N Go. This USA-made, BPA-free water bottle folds up and fits in a pocket.
Elevate Brands UPIC: E474059 310-954-1428
|Add some flash to campaign messaging with the ClingOnz Magnetic Buttons. A magnetic attachment clings to any garment, and they double as refrigerator magnets.
Buztronics, Inc. UPIC: 2899 800-878-3413 www.buzline.com
|Turn talking heads into Bobbleheads, which are complete with a gift box and custom-fit packaging. Each 3-D piece is collectible-quality and completely customizable for any political candidate.
Prime Resources Corp. UPIC: PRIME 800-873-7746 www.primeline.com
|Encourage voters to take a step in the right direction with these Pedometers. They feature a flip-lid style with a reset button and belt clip.
Logomark, Inc. UPIC: logomark 800-789-4438 www.logomark.com
|Constituents can curl up in the Fleece Blanket, which makes a cozy platform for political messages. It’s 100-percent polyester complete with back-whip stitching.
Pro Towels, Etc. UPIC: PROTOWEL 800-547-8783 www.protowelsetc.com
|The whole family—right down to the family dog—can show their patriotism with the Stars & Stripes tees, which feature a star print on the right sleeve and stripes on the left sleeve.
L.A.T. Sportswear UPIC: latsport 800-414-5650 www.latsportswear.com
|If voters don’t want to commit to the real thing, Temporary Waterless Tattoos are an edgy way to show political preferences. They’re printed on clear, skin-safe medical tape, so no water is needed.
Gill Studios, Inc. UPIC: gill 888-455-4422 www.gill-line.com
|Ideal for direct-mail campaigns, the Original Zippy Letter Opener is made in the USA with stainless steel blades.
Quick Point, Inc. UPIC: QUICKPT 636-343-9400 www.quickpoint.com
Matthew Samp knows how to win votes. He’s the lead campaign consultant at CandidateSigns.com, a one-stop shop for political products, and he writes the popular political blog, KillerCampaigning.com. Here, he shares his insight …
On how to get started: First, create a campaign plan, develop a budget around that plan, and then fund the campaign budget. Races are won and lost in these three steps, but frankly, most candidates don’t have a plan, budget or proper fundraising.
On unusual products: Once, a school-board candidate ordered a large quantity of travel-sized toilet seat cover packets imprinted with her campaign logo. She figured other women would appreciate the convenience of handy seat covers to carry in a purse. It gained her lots of attention, and it was certainly memorable. They were a big hit with her voters.
On name recognition: It’s most important when running for local office, so traditional products are necessary. But if candidates can gain name recognition through something unusual, they should pursue that. A more non-traditional product should be part of a hook or a story. To be effective, the medium must be used in context with the candidate and the campaign, and match the identity of both.
On this year’s election trends: We’ll see lots of the usual campaign signs, political bumper stickers and lapel stickers. But I think we’ll see QR codes all over. Nighttime events are gaining in popularity, so we should expect some glow-in-the-dark items at rallies. Larger campaigns may take a look at uses for lanyards, popular with young voters, as campaigns are better understanding social inclusion. Overall, there may not be one dominating new trend in 2012, but a few campaigns will use products in memorable ways, and they’ll certainly receive credit for the cleverness and effectiveness of the items.
On why political products matter: They’re vital to a campaign because they grab the attention of voters. They’re a tried-and-true means of getting a person’s name in front of voters. Typically, campaign managers and political consultants dislike this part of the campaign and often say things such as, “Yard signs don’t vote.” While true, they forget the people inside do, and they’re often strong supporters if they’re willing to host a campaign sign. Name recognition is gained by repetition, and political products are the best way to earn a top spot in the minds of voters.