You know the political season is in full bloom when yard signs emerge with the daffodils, politicians ply summer parade-watchers with lapel stickers, and pol-party road signs become as ubiquitous as leaves blowing in the fall.
Despite this year’s buzz about social network sites, You Tube videos, political blogs and other new media, tried-and-true political items are still essential components at the grassroots level for public campaigns large and small.
While political swag has been around for decades—and even become collectible—new materials, better designs, expanded use of products, and package deals offer an array of choice in the political promotional products market, say experts. From eye-catching hang-tags for constituents’ door knobs and trendy lanyards around campaigners’ necks to hip iPod holders imprinted with campaign colors, whistle-stop materials are still de rigueur.
Everywhere A Sign
“In this high-tech world of the Internet, television and radio, the age-old political sign remains one of the most popular—and least expensive—ways to remind voters that the race is on,” says Drue Townsend, senior vice president of marketing for FASTSIGNS International, based in Dallas with local franchises around the United States. “Whether someone is a political organizer or just an interested voter, political signs raise visibility, attract voters’ attention and help communicate a message.”
Indeed, the sign is one of the most common and visible components to any campaign. “Corrugated signs are often requested when the candidate is planning on extended outdoor usage,” says Tim Bayne, a marketing analyst with Stouse, Inc., a Kansas City, Missouri, screen-printing and flexography company with decals and signs that offer durability, long-lasting color, and protection from exposure to weather. “The standard fold-over yard sign is also durable for outdoor use and is less expensive than corrugated signs. Banners are also popular, but they should be sewn and have grommets added to extend the durability.”
Sign buyers should be aware of the usage, location and conditions of where the sign will be used and ask their vendors to provide such information. “Sandwich boards, weighted bases and special all-weather posters are solutions that provide exceptional outdoor readability and protection from outdoor elements that potentially destroy signs,” says Townsend.
While yard and road signs are a mainstay in candidate campaigns, they are also used in issues marketing and voter referendum campaigns. No matter the end use, it’s important to be aware of appropriate and effective design so signs are highly readable, distinct and eye-catching. Tricia Christiansen, principal of Christiansen: Creative, a design firm in Hudson, Wisconsin, has worked on several public policy campaigns, including pro bono work for a referendum to move her hometown library.
“Your number-one concern is always readability of the name or issue,” says Christiansen, who is heading up communications efforts for a challenger in her district’s state senatorial race this summer. “You want to pick colors that have strong contrast. For example, you’d never want bright yellow and bright orange, as neither one would dominate, and they’d cancel each other out. You want something strong to use for the most prominent information, and if you can afford a second or full color, use something that supports, not overpowers.”
Color is critical, agrees Townsend. “Technological advances in digital imaging and printing have helped make political signs more effective and affordable. Eye-catching, full-color graphics on signs, banners and billboards bring the candidate or a particular message to life—giving maximum impact in the congested competition for visual attention.”
Christiansen says attention to color, beyond the obvious red, white and blue, is vital. “Color conveys quite a bit, such as attitudes, values and energy—and yet it means different things to different people. It’s a good test to run the same design in a couple of color combinations and get feedback from nonbiased observers to see what really rings true for your candidate or issue.”
New Products Enhance Time-Honored Offerings
One relatively new product gaining ground is the triangular political sign, says Brad Gasaway, vice president of marketing for Namifiers, a producer of identification and promotional products to industries worldwide from its Springville, Utah, facility.
“It’s made from 1/4” corrugated plastic and is screen-printed and assembled in a triangular fashion to catch attention from all angles,” said Gasaway. “It’s popular to stack them when using at indoor political events.”
Another item quickly becoming a classic, both for its practicality and reusability, is the lanyard. “Printed neck lanyards are one of the best-kept secrets of all the political giveaways,” says Gasaway. “Delegates and attendees usually have some type of identification or credential holder, and lanyards are the convenient solution to holding their name badge, along with their keys, lip balm or whatever.”
A smart candidate will choose a lanyard for the shelf life, Gasaway says. “Not only are they very inexpensive, but everyone including many of their competitors and volunteers end up wearing them out of convenience. They also get taken home and used time and time again for things like boat keys.”
In addition to signage, lapel stickers, postcards, door hang-tags, and buttons, providers are seeing other advertising specialties products used in innovative ways. “Newer promotional pieces in the marketplace that have been included with mailing pieces for candidates or political parties include foam puzzles and hand clappers,” says Townsend. “Promotional products provide a unique opportunity to show support for candidates and their positions.”
Appealing To Younger Voters
Many promotional items now used for political campaigns are geared toward the younger voter, such as printed iPod or MP3 player cases, temporary tattoos and cell-phone holders. Rally fans are very eye-catching at political events with a large audience, and are in high demand during the summer months.
“Recently there has been a rise in the demand for car magnets in the sizes of our traditional bumper stickers,” says Bayne, whose company, Stouse Inc., offers package deals with everything a candidate would need, including signage, doorknob hangers, rally fans, bumper stickers, lapel stickers, buttons and more.
The long-established campaign button, once the original political campaign giveaway, is a tradition that will probably never fade, says Gasaway. His company offers the standard pin-back campaign button plus one made with the Namifier’s innovative “Green Super Magnet Backing,” which does not use pins and won’t damage clothing.
“Made in diverse sizes and shapes, this classic campaign component is a budget friendly item that offers great ongoing advertising.” Namifiers has also produced custom stickers, T-shirts, engraved license plate frames, and pad-printed giveaways for campaigns.
Like a company or its products, it’s essential for a campaign to have a consistent brand, and selecting promotional products for a campaign is only limited by a candidate’s or organizer’s imagination and budget.
“You want a consistent representation of the candidate or issue, so when it comes time to vote, the message is ingrained from multiple imprints,” says Christiansen. “Diversifying signs, buttons and stickers with other promotional products allows for voters to see your message from a personal standpoint—from their neighbors, co-workers and others. Keeping these traditional avenues of advertising allows for personal promotion, whereas web sites, blogs and viral marketing are sometimes less personal but also may leave out an entire generation of voters.”