How the Trump Campaign Is Using Steady Merch Sales to Get Valuable Voter Data
The Trump Campaign is using its merchandise sales for much more than just raising funds. It's using the data it gleans from the sale of Trump-branded merchandise to measure its outreach to new donors, and therefore get a picture for its growing or shrinking appeal among otherwise uncommitted voters.
An NBC report delved into the Trump Campaign's use of phrases the president uses both in speeches and on Twitter, as well as adversarial merchandise like Trump Straws, to measure its base leading up to the 2020 election:
But the goal wasn’t just to sell thousands of inflammatory T-shirts. More valuable than any dollars brought in, according to aides, is the voter data associated with each item the campaign sells.
For months, the Trump campaign has been capitalizing on controversial events to attract and study donors, many of whom had never given to the 2020 team before. Critics have mocked the gimmicky sales, but the campaign may be getting the last laugh.
"President Trump is a master of branding and marketing, and his campaign is an extension of that," Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump Campaign, told NBC. "We try to reflect the president's ability to cut through political correctness and seize on the news cycle."
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) July 18, 2019
Using the Trump straws as a specific example, the campaign tracked that of more than 60,000 orders, 40 percent were new donors, which could equal new voters. With shipping information, you can see where those donations are coming from.
Capitalizing on the “smartest dumb ideas” is also a way to identify the most loyal supporters and then seek out others who may share their key characteristics or online habits, said one digital marketing expert who asked not to be identified because they are consulting with political campaigns.
This strategy is a huge part of Parscale’s larger approach to collecting and using data. And it's a clear sign that the campaign is more focused on dominating in the digital arena than even four years ago.
Harvesting this kind of information demonstrates there is a “math to the madness” of these quick-turnaround items, according to the marketing expert.
The tchotchkes are easy and cheap to produce (all “Made in the USA”), while delivering nuanced insight into thousands of the president’s most ardent supporters, who would be critical to a potential second term victory.
The campaign can also cross-reference the information they gather from voter scores at the Republican National Committee and try to identify how many times they’ve voted in the past, for whom, and how.
On the other side of the political aisle, it adds a new depth of understanding to the ways Democratic presidential candidates use every opportunity they can to create merchandise at a near constant rate. Putting out a new T-shirt after each debate allows them to have specific markers of changes in support, what works and what doesn't work in the messaging, and more.
So, while on the surface, creating Trump markers that "drive CNN and the rest of the fake news crazy" and other items that take direct shots at political opponents might just seem like opportunities for him to stir the pot and raise some quick funds, there's actually a method to the MAGA.