Branding Ideas℠

What Is Up with This New Campaign Swag?

If you’ve been following the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections lately, no doubt by now you’ve heard all about Donald DTC-ODTRH-RD-2Trump and his famous “Make America Great Again” trucker hat. The Donald’s hat has even become a meme on social media! But he’s not alone—the other candidates, both fellow GOP members and Democrats alike, have come out with some pretty unique and funny campaign swag in recent months. Hillary Clinton is selling pantsuit t-shirts, Rand Paul is selling Hillary hard drives, Marco Rubio is proffering onesies for babies, and popular humor site Funny or Die has even posted a parody imagining some of the most oddball campaign swag imaginable.

 

So what’s going on here? Why are politicians suddenly rolling out complete online stores full of branded promotional items that seem so specifically tailored to certain demographic groups? Although campaign swag itself is certainly nothing new—branded goodies intended for political supporters have been around since the days of John Adams—it certainly appears to have taken on a bigger role in the presidential campaign than it ever has before. You would think that the campaigns themselves would not necessarily want to be jumping full-on into the retail business, with all of the management concerns and logistics that involves. It turns out, however, that they have a very clear strategy behind the rollout of these expansive online campaign stores featuring all this quirky swag.

 

jeb-bush-guacamole-bowl-w724-1When you buy an item from a campaign store, it’s not actually counted as a sale of a product. Rather, your purchase of campaign swag is considered the “premium” you receive in return for your donation. This means that, by launching robust online shops, candidates can boost their volume of small donations. The Obama 2008 campaign was particularly successful in doing this. Beyond the money, however, what the campaigns are really interested in is the data that these purchases reveal about personal preferences along a variety of demographic groups.

 

Feel the Bern hot sauceAs a recent New York Times article on campaign swag explained, “the choice of a product can reveal whether you are a beer drinker, a sports fan or what cellphone you use. It can suggest that there are a lot of joggers headquartered in a specific region of the country, indicating that a campaign may want to direct its health communications to that state; or that you really, really hate the other guy.” By identifying trends and building demographic profiles, the campaigns can better target their communications with particular groups or tap into a greater reservoir of funding they had not previously known about. Interestingly, according to the Times piece, this careful and very sophisticated segmenting of consumer data “would track very closely to what exists in a large or midsize fashion chain.”

 

trucker-hats-and-pom-poms-the-2016-candidates-are-selling-lots-of-swag-body-image-1443644051So clearly, campaign swag is about more than the coffee cup or the t-shirt or even the money associated with those purchases. For the campaigns themselves, it’s about really knowing their customers and their preferences, designing branded products that speak to their unique identities, then using the knowledge they gain from the data that comes in to better segment and target their communications even more perfectly to the groups that they want to reach. It’s a fascinating exercise in both branding and sales, and a trend that will be worth keeping an eye on as Election Day approaches.

 

Are you looking for creative ideas or strategy to get your message across with an upcoming company campaign, special project, or an event that you may have on the horizon? If so, reach out to us on social media—we’re on Twitter and Facebook—or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be happy to provide expert advice on how you can achieve your branding goals.


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