With the increase in burn rate, so comes the increase in donation asks. In 2018, as the number of competitive campaigns has continued to grow, it’s made the competition for donations more intense. Campaign merchandise remains a great way to differentiate a candidate by adding to his or her brand while generating revenue.
Here are the top five reasons you should be selling campaign merchandise.
It’s opens a new avenue to donors.
Not all supporters will just donate. For a significant portion, potential donors want something in return for their hard-earned dollars. Offering the supporter a $30 yard sign or $10 bumper sticker is a great way to convert that supporter to a donor. Plus, there’s the free publicity. While it’s true that supporters in the past have expected some of these things for free, that mold was broken in 2016 with both major party presidentials charged for yard signs in their online shops.
Diversify donations via a new revenue stream.
Stores and merchandise provide another touch point with your supporters. Unlike email, direct mail, or phones, stores and merchandise are not always reactionary. If a supporter is at a rally, it’s quite likely they will go home and buy the shirt. If a supporter sees your bumper sticker on their neighbor’s car, it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility they will purchase one as well.
Giving donors another method of giving you money is always a good thing, right?
It builds the candidate’s brand.
Often one of the most overlooked benefits of swag is brand building. A candidate’s brand is essential when it comes to winning elections and changing policy.
A supporter is much more likely to post a picture of the new shirt they purchased from your store on Instagram as opposed to tweeting “I just donated $5.00 to @candidate! You can donate here! [Unformatted short link] #Candidate2018.”
When a supporter sees your T-shirt in their closet or cuts a peach with a campaign branded knife, the brand value and awareness increases. Merchandise is consistent advertising that people pay you for.
Revitalize existing revenue streams.
Donors need change. If the same fundraising email is sent to the same donors every day, the donations will eventually dry up. In order to keep the money flowing in, a constant stream of new content is critical.
If your SMS, email, phone, or direct mail program ROI isn’t where it should be, merchandise may provide the needed change. If a donor file is tired of hard asks, a bumper sticker or campaign fishing lure may be just what the doctor ordered.
It’s an effective way to modernize a campaign and refresh its social media.
The nature of advertising is changing. Vineyard Vines knows that a mommy blogger writing an article about how great their dresses are can be much more effective, long and short term, than a Google display ad buy.
Merchandise can also revitalize dead or ineffective social media accounts. Sadly, many campaign social accounts consist of press releases, articles about the candidate, petitions, or donation page links. If the above sounds like you, it may be time for an honest assessment of your social media content and strategy.
How may donations have come in from those hard ask links?
Campaign merchandise opens a whole new world of supporter engagement. By re-posting/tweeting/gramming supporter content, thanking donors for their purchase, or posting videos of the candidate wearing swag, a campaign can dramatically improve their social media presence without a massive Facebook ad budget.
I should note that when considering a merchandise campaign, don’t let the up-front costs discourage you. Depending on the product, and volume you can expect profit margins that greatly exceed the commercial sector. Donors will buy a $10-$15 bumper sticker, which doesn’t happen in the retail space.
Bentley Hensel is the president and founder of 1776 Consulting, a political eCommerce & social media agency