In today’s issue of VoxFairfax, Frank Blechman eruditely explains the rationale of political campaigns in fundraising tactics and strategies. Somberly, Blechman says, merchandising by candidates works. Somehow, though, it feels far too much like shopping in a Dollar Store.
It’s often much too difficult to absorb and appreciate the multitude of polls seeking our attention to inform about the latest state of the candidates in the 2020 presidential campaign. Daily emails from candidates or their surrogates further blur the picture of candidates’ progress. Some pitches scream that the candidate’s fundraising has plummeted and a contribution is desperately needed. A few days later, the same campaign announces it has met its fundraising goal, thanking the recipient, until the next critical juncture.
A visitor can select from a variety of desirable items such as tee- and sweatshirts, mugs, stickers, etc., as concrete testimony to the attractiveness of the candidate. Quid pro quo, something for something.
Intermingled with the direct appeals for campaign contributions, other emails arrive offering merchandise to purchase as a means to contribute and promote the candidate. Curiosity, of course, got the better of the cat and it was decided to engage in a trip around the websites of the candidates to see what offerings were available. Many have a page called “STORE” or “SHOP” where a visitor can select from a variety of desirable items such as tee- and sweatshirts, mugs, stickers, etc., as concrete testimony to the attractiveness of the candidate. Quid pro quo, something for something.
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden offer “STORES” with rather prosaic items to choose from. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer all have a “SHOP” page from which to select themed trinkets. Bill Weld, too, has a “SHOP” page, which offered two unusual items: a barbecue apron and a Samsung phone case. Pete Buttiegieg’s “STORE” is not easy to find, as one must navigate the website for its location and the rather ordinary selection of tee- and sweatshirts, mugs, and bumper stickers.
All in all, the items for sale are not unique and, in fact, not only similar but repetitive and redundant. Simply change the name on the items and any differences disappear. Hopefully, the debates provide some distinctions.
On December 2, Cyber Monday, an email appeared from the Trump-Pence campaign advising that only 8 hours remained to take advantage of Cyber Monday sales of collectible merchandise at a 35% discount on an entire order.
On December 2, Cyber Monday, an email appeared from the Trump-Pence campaign advising that only 8 hours remained to take advantage of Cyber Monday sales of collectible merchandise at a 35% discount on an entire order. The Trump-Pence “SHOP” displays a professional marketing appearance. Bitten and smitten by the click-bait ad, 12 pages of color photo items emerge. The first several pages feature collectibles with a Christmas theme. Most need to be seen to be believed, but here are some samples:
Ugly Christmas sweater Keep America Great Tree Ornament Trump Gift Wrapping Paper MAGA Baseball Hat Keep America Great Hoodie Trump Coffee Mugs Trump Cuff Links Trump-Pence Wooden Train Set Women for Trump Hat USA Dog Leash and Collar Witch Hunt Fine Arts Poster Trump Plastic Straws (10 pack) Trump-Pence Playing Cards Trump-Pence Semi-Truck USA Dog Bandana
To this mélange, the offerings include tee-shirts with a variety of slogans peculiar to the President’s public announcements and appeals to groups. Resisting the handsome and attractive presentation coupled with a significant discount likely poses difficult choices to Trump cultists.
But … wait! Last week, an email appeared offering the recipient the opportunity to acquire a pair or more of blue and white Obama socks. This appeal was followed by one offering an Obama Christmas ornament. And it is believed the former President is not a candidate for office in 2020.
The 2020 presidential merchandising competition appears, at best, to be uneven and likely trivializes both the candidates’ campaigns and issues. However, if they must exist, as Mr. Blechman observes, perhaps the Republican and Democratic national committees should enter the fray and create cyber shopping malls for their respective candidates. This potential might also be an entrepreneurial opportunity for Bumperstock.com and a boon to national job creation.
One may still find “I Like Ike” buttons in antique stores. Where will the excess 2020 merchandise end up? EBay?