Promotional products have been used in election campaigns throughout history, but many of those items remain relevant today. Even in a time when television and Internet ads may be the focus of campaign advertising spending, promotional products still have a place—and some new uses—in elections. We spoke to a political science professor and an industry supplier to see how distributors should run their campaigns for winning over candidates' advertising budgets.
Buttons, banners and T-shirts remain top picks, said Justin Whitely Holmes, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. "They do a couple things," he explained. "One is they let people express themselves politically and show, 'Hey, I'm on this candidate's team.' The second thing is just … to have that logo out there."
At supplier Stouse Inc., New Century, Kan., Michael Stoeck, its director of sales and marketing, ranks Stouse's biggest election sellers as signs, window decals and roll labels (which he deems a less expensive version of a button). Not only are these products cost effective, but they work, he said. "There's a lot of local voters that are uneducated on a county race, a city office, a sheriff or something like that, and so quite honestly the person's name that is out there and is recognized more often than not will get the vote because the other candidates—just no one ever heard of them," he said. "And so when those people do go vote, they go, 'Oh, I recognize Smith. I saw his signs. I was at the parade. I saw his volunteers.' And Smith gets the votes because he bought the promotional decals to promote himself."
As for imprints, digital color provides the option of adding an image of the candidate to these products instead of just a name and office for which the candidate is running. "A four-color process sign is going to cost more than a two-color sign, but it also puts a face with a name, so instead of just seeing the name, it's 'Oh, that's a real person. I've seen him before. I've seen her before,'" Stoeck said.