The addition of QR codes has provided a huge boost and can do much more than link to an aspirant's website. "I could scan it and it might open up an events page for that candidate as far as where they're going," Stoeck said. "For smaller campaigns, it might list ways I could donate, ways I could get involved and assist the candidate [or] where I could volunteer. It could link directly to a YouTube video where the candidate is addressing me, the voter, automatically. There are a lot of different avenues it could go to—not just a website."
Political campaigns go beyond candidates. When it comes to direct mail pieces, political action committees are a top client. "They are sort of constrained on what they can spend money on and that's something that comes within the realm of the protected First-Amendment speech and whatnot, and they have quite a bit of latitude there compared to a lot of things they can do with their money," Holmes said.
Stoeck also listed causes, such as ballot initiatives, as key selling points, as well. "Almost as important as a distributor selling to a candidate to get those people, getting to that cause is a really good thing as well, because when the library needs funds, the school board is trying to raise funds and they have a proposal—those are usually well-funded campaigns and a distributor could differentiate himself as a local source. 'Hey, you could go online, but I'm local. I'm here in the community. That school bond issue is important to me as well.'"
Accessing Federal Races
Nowadays, since presidential hopefuls have a broader and more engaged following, some are selling their merchandise as a fundraising opportunity, instead of giving it away. "To some extent the days are over where [promotional products] are just meant to raise awareness," Holmes said. "Although that's certainly a goal, but a lot of it really is a fundraising activity."