Five Best Practices for Campaign Merchandise

The Essentials to Successful Merchandising

The Obama merchandise catalog emphasize traditional core-branded products, even though it offered the most eclectic catalog in political history.

Merchandise isn’t rocket science, but there are a few essential merchandising best practices that are often overlooked. When thinking about merchandise for campaign be sure to follow these five best practices for campaign merchandise.

Define goal(s) for your merchandise

When creating merchandise for your campaign, first identify your merch objectives. Modern campaigns use merchandise as a tool for a combination of fundraising and marketing.  Smart merchandising begins with identifying a balance of the two that is appropriate for your campaign – how much to give away vs. how much to sell.

Over the past decade we’ve seen merchandise sales receive increasing emphasis. But that should not distract campaigns of the marketing benefits created by branded “chum”. Making merchandise exclusively available at retail limits marketing exposure. Conversely, the failure to leverage merchandise donations is a lost opportunity for fundraising.

Do some basic research

Demographic data is as useful to merchandising as it is to every other aspect of campaigning. Before developing and investing in your merchandise try to get a basic understanding of the electorate you plan to target. What languages are spoken in the community? Does the average voter even have a yard to put a sign on? Once your merchandise is out there attempt to understand what is most resonant to inform any adjustments made to your catalog.

The H-logo lapel pin was the best selling accessory of 2016.

Emphasize traditional campaign merchandise

The most common mistake we see from campaigns is the promotion of some piece of merch that is unconventional, witty, and sure to be a hit. Such products can be successful if done properly,  but they categorically under perform against items like buttons, pins, stickers, t-shirts and yard signs.

Why? Because these items remain the preferred mediums by which voters want to display their support. This is due to their high visibility and cultural associations. “But we need something for the millennials!”, someone will inevitably say. Well, merchandise wiz, consider that since 2008 the best selling products with millennials all consisted of the traditional items listed above.

If you do decide to make some novelty merch (we don’t discourage it) first read our post on the matter, before you do something dumb like Jeb’s “guacabowle”.

Focus on your core brand

Any merchandise catalog must include items that emphasize core branding elements – logos, names, slogans – of your organization. This principle appears so obvious that you’re wondering why we even bring it up. Unfortunately too many campaigns stray off brand in an attempt to be cool – or something – and end up diluting the efficacy of their merchandise.

Now we aren’t saying it’s inherently a bad idea to go off brand. Rather, use off-brand product strategically in order to become a genuine asset instead of a source of distraction and confusion.

Make it in America 100%

This is another seemingly obviously point to make. Still, not a campaign season goes by where we don’t read at least one story where a campaign gets busted for hawking foreign-made merch [cough] TRUMP.

In fairness, these occurrences usually happen without a campaign’s knowledge. Dishonest vendors often lure campaigns’ business with low prices for supposedly “Made in U.S.A.” products . When in reality they are taking foreign-made product, and making a token modification in the United States. Not only is this practice illegal, but is also guaranteed to be discovered and used against you by your opposition.

Do your homework on your merchandise vendor and don’t be shy about grilling them on their Made in U.S.A. claims. If you have questions about the country of origin of your product, or need help sourcing American made products shoot us a note.