Political Merchandise: A Logistical Triumph
Merchandise: the capitalistic solution for our innate human need to signal our fandom and find our tribe. Who doesn’t own a jersey from our coveted hometown or college sports team, or maybe you bought a t-shirt from your favorite performer? And now that presidential hopefuls act more like rockstars than politicians, political merchandise has infiltrated the United States’ presidential elections in a major way. From mugs to fly swatters to a bright red hat with the four-letter acronym that defined a presidential campaign, it seems that Merchandise Allows Giant Advantages; MAGA indeed.
So while the presidential candidates continue to duke it out through speeches, rallies, and debates, there is another constant underlying battle happening at the gift shops. Political merchandise has now become a crucial element in the United States’ presidential elections in terms of both fundraising revenue as well as brand awareness and reputation. In an election where everything rides on the candidate’s reputation, the logistics company outsourced by the campaign doesn’t just fulfill the orders, it also fulfills the promise of the candidate. Let’s dive into the role that merchandise plays in politics, and examine how nimble, outsourced logistics could be the defining competitive advantage in the upcoming election. So keep your eyes ON the merchandise!
The Booming Political Merchandise Industry
Throughout recent elections, political marketing has produced a booming multibillion-dollar industry, so campaign managers have closely collaborated with their merchandise team to develop and distribute trinkets, tokens, gag gifts, and apparel as an impactful way to effectively communicate the candidate’s campaign message and brand reputation. Political merchandising and promotional products have seen a giant spike in recent elections due in large part to the marketing minds behind the Donald J Trump presidential campaign, who was able to turn his patented “Make America Great Again” slogan into a $45 million market, reaping massive benefits for his campaign budget and influence.
During the 2020 election cycle, the Joe Biden Victory Fund and the Donald J Trump site each offer approved and sponsored political merchandise and promotional products, and all of the revenue from sales goes directly to fundraise for the political campaign. Conversely, websites like RedBubble and Etsy carry all types of items with the candidate’s name, likeness, and message; whether it is actually sponsored by the candidate remains unknown in many cases and the revenue from these products may or may not end up in the hands of the candidate. Such an example could be the Trump flag that boasts him with the muscular body of Rambo holding a massive rocket launcher.
Candidates have allowed these unauthorized third party sales to continue because it still propagates their message and grants them an extended reach, with the risk being that they could lose control of their message through decentralized distribution. However, in the 2016 election, Trump’s campaign began sending cease-and-desist letters to online retailers, providing a warning that the use of Trump’s name, likeness, and trademarked slogan is illegal infringements of a trademark. This year in 2020, that has not yet been the case.
One recent merchandise success story of the 2020 election stems from the famous fly that perched on Vice President Mike Pence’s silver spider web hair during the 2020 Vice Presidential debate. Before you could even utter “shoo fly” the Biden campaign was already selling “Truth Over Flies” fly swatters and the $10 knickknacks sold out by the next morning. A short three days later, bobbleheads of Pence with the fly sprung up as pre-orders by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame.
The battle of merchandised political messages is all about reach, speed, and fulfillment: where can you deliver your message, how quickly can it be delivered, and how confident are you in fulfilling that message? With that in mind, how the respective campaigns plan to fulfill their merchandising promises requires further speculation.
Elect for the Right Logistics Company
“After the Democratic National Convention, it’s only a matter of months for a candidate to identify a brand, reinforce it, and promote it before the general election,” says Bruce Newman, a marketing professor at DePaul University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Political Marketing. And in the instance of Mike Pence and the fly swatter, it could boil down to a matter of hours. So how do campaigns ensure that they can fulfill their merchandising promises and uphold their ever so important reputation?
Looking into the Joe Biden Victory Fund page, the site advertises that it is administered through bumperactive.com, which is a company that specializes in custom logos and decals on promotional products. The Biden campaign has wholly outsourced the manufacturing and logistics of their political merchandise for the sake of speed and expertise. They advertise on their site that delivery is in 7-10 days and any problems should be addressed through bumberactive.com.
Comparing this to the Donald J Trump shop page, the site does not indicate a third-party distributor. Instead, all inquiries should be routed directly through shop.donaldtrump.com. What is no doubt a strategic move by the Trump campaign to keep this information concealed to avoid meddling, the Trump campaign understands that any hiccup in fulfillment could cost them dollars, but more importantly, votes. The Donald J Trump shop website also advertises similar delivery times of 7-10 days.
Beyond just delivery, the ability to source, price, manufacture, and ship an item quickly is a huge competitive advantage, as seen with the Biden Fly Swatters example. In a statement to CBS News, the merchandise director for the Biden campaign was quoted as saying, “We saw the internet and our supporters sharing a viral moment online, so our digital team came together on the fly to show that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will always choose truth over lies, science over fiction, and unity over division.”
With the goal of shipping quickly, the respective campaigns need to elect logistics companies that can be quick and nimble, and innovate on the fly (pun intended). Smart fulfillment companies like ShipHero allow e-commerce companies to source, pack, and ship quickly and to every corner of the United States. ShipHero boasts an average time to ship orders for new brands within as little as 3 days from signup. And through smart warehouses, state of the art technology, and innovations in transportation, ShipHero offers 2-day ground shipping reach for 98.4% of the contiguous US population. When deciding on a logistics solution, vote for speed, for reach, and for trustworthiness. Having a robust ecommerce order fulfillment solution is critical to the success of your business.
For the 2020 US elections, please do your part and vote! — https://www.headcount.org