White House Marketing: How Campaign Gear Can Decide Our Next President
If corporations = people, then people = corporations (I may be a writer, but I can handle that math). And if people are corporations, then they need fantastic promotional products to expand their brand. With neither presidential candidate holding a statistically significant lead, anything that motivates voting-eligible citizens to go to the polls (more than 80 million of them stayed home in 2008) can tip the scales.
Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have imprinted campaign gear available on their websites to raise money and brand awareness for the 2012 election. But which one has the edge?
Let’s look at the issues!
If only budget cuts were this easy!
Import/Exports: Free shipping in both stores.
Tax Write-Offs: Obama had a $10 promo code (off $50 purchase) for purchases before the end of July. One is recently visible on the Romney store front page, but it’s only for 15% off the Vintage collection.
Budget: Shirts and water bottles are similarly priced. Obama’s buttons are $5 for two and Romney’s are $3 each. Romney’s bumper stickers are $4 to $6 each, while Obama’s are $5 for two. Romney pins are $8 while Obama’s range from $15 to $25. Both candidates offer bulk pricing on bumper stickers, but Obama offers more tiers and better prices at all levels. Also, Obama offers bulk pricing on buttons, which Romney does not.
Foreign policy: All products are made in America for both candidates, which is a plus considering the unemployment rate (but probably won’t deflect from the fact our Olympic athletes wore Chinese-manufactured clothes at the opening ceremonies – yikes!). Romney has this advertised on every page in the store (and within every product description), which is great for driving the point home.
This runway may help Obama keep Air Force One.
For the 1%: Designers for Obama offers $45 t-shirts and $85 tote bags in addition to more reasonably priced items. Variety is good, but it may not be the best move in this economy to have a $95 zip up hoodie. Romney’s price point tops out at $60 for a quarter zip sweatshirt.
Winner: Obama. His store offers a wider range of price points than Romney’s, and a promo code for $10 off $50 purchases is visible on the front page of the store. Romney’s prices are slightly higher per product for popular items like bumper stickers and buttons, but Obama only sells them in pairs. His store also offers bulk pricing for buttons, and Romney’s does not. With a wider variety of price points, visible promo codes, and better bulk pricing, Obama is the clear champion.
The right-sided alignment is eye-catching without being obtrusive.
Community organizing: Both candidates have Facebook, Twitter, and email on every product page. However, Romney also includes Pinterest and Google+ on his. Both candidates also have the Share This app which allows users to select from a huge variety of social media sites beyond the “big ones.”
Grassroots campaign: Romney’s store also includes the option of uploading a picture of yourself with the item to show off your political swag, a level of interaction not present on Obama’s site.
Winner: Romney. The race was close with similar layouts, but the visibility of social buttons like Pinterest and Google+ on every single product page and the ability for supporters to upload pictures of themselves wearing branded merch nudge Romney into first place. The social buttons on Romney’s site are also a bit more intuitively-placed which leads to more shares, and every page in the store (individual and category) has an email sign up at the bottom next to customer service links.
Romney ties himself to his constituency with the idea that a purchase in his store helps America.
First Ladies & Moms: Romney has Moms for Mitt window decals, Moms Drive the Economy bumper stickers, and Ann buttons. He does not have women’s fitted shirts or a section to choose men’s or women’s styles. Obama has a “Women for Obama” section with shirts, totes, travel bags, buttons, bumper stickers, and magnets, as well as women’s fitted apparel (as opposed to unisex shirts and hoodies). There are also Michelle Obama buttons, pins, and a cat collar (?) as well as a button with the whole family.
Winner: Obama. The wider variety of product is a consistently strong point for Obama throughout this race. Also, having women’s sizing and styles for the women’s apparel is a great advantage. However, the firestorm surrounding the Hilary Rosen-Ann Romney “scandal” (where Rosen stated on CNN that Ann Romney shouldn’t be telling her husband what economic issues women care about because the candidate’s wife has “never worked a day in her life”) may have provoke more female GOP supporters into action, which makes the Moms for Mitt and Moms Drive the Economy products possible hot sellers.
Apparel, buttons, mugs, signs, travel bags, and more are available in the Obama store.
Infrastructure: Obama’s store offers more than 50 different types of products while Romney barely cracks a dozen. While variety is certainly appealing, research actually shows that choosing from fewer options will leaves buyers more satisfied with their purchases than choosing from a gigantic selection. With no clear frontrunner in this election, neither candidate can risk the slightest wavering of support. Obama’s apparent edge with selection may not necessarily translate to better sales.
Transportation: Both Romney and Obama have menu bars across the top of the store page that allows users to move swiftly between categories or select subcategories from the drop down menu. However, once a shopper has clicked into a main category, only Romney’s site has a left side menu bar that lists the subcategories and encourages browsing. Also, clicking on Romney’s name on the top of any page takes the user back to the main page (which is opening in a new tab), while users on Obama’s page need to do a little hunting to get back to the main site.
Winner: Romney. Obama’s variety may help die-hard supporters round out their collections, but taking time to sort through them all creates a gap between being excited for a purchase and actually whipping out the plastic, which may reduce overall transactions. Also, users will likely find it much easier to maneuver through Romney’s site. Either way, the Republican candidate is the clear winner.
Presidential promotional products for the left…
Pros: huge selection of products aimed at different, critical voter demographics; women’s sizing for apparel; better bulk pricing; designer clothes for bigger donations from wealthier supporters
Cons: social buttons not intuitively placed; no opportunity to share pictures wearing/using promotional gear
…and the right!
Pros: easy movement between categories; social sharing is easy and comprehensive; free shipping and made in USA clearly promoted throughout store; different packs and bulk pricing on bumper stickers available
Cons: slightly higher prices; promotional code only used on specific line of goods; no women’s sizing for apparel; not as much variety in product offerings for those looking to build a collection
It’s a tie!
While I certainly believe in the power of promotional products, I doubt anyone’s going to change their politics over a personalized golf ball or embroidered knit hat.
However, cool imprinted presidential swag may motivate an apathetic citizen into listening to a brief pitch from a supporter, which in turn could make a difference at the polls this November. Custom products with presidential personalization may also help people become more interested in volunteering for campaigns when they’ve got a fantastic icebreaker in hand.
If you knew nothing about the candidates, what would you think about them based on their customized campaign gear? How have political promotional products ever your political beliefs or behavior? Sound off in the comments below!
Until next time, keep expanding your brand!