Customers purchase by their political preference
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
For $25 and the time required to cut and paste a few images together, graduate student William Depoo created a custom shirt to represent his personal connection to President Barack Obama.
Depoo, who was an organizing fellow and neighborhood team leader with the Obama campaign, said he has noticed a larger emphasis on merchandise when compared to previous elections and attributes this partly to the accessibility and popularity of customization.
“I think our generation is more about being unique, always customizing things,” Depoo said. “I mean look at our phones, we all have an iPhone or an Android and we customize it.”
Depoo’s shirt features the image of Obama and the colors of the Guyanese flag. Depoo spent time in Guyana, a country in South America, as a child and had to adapt to a new culture. Because of this, he said feels a connection to the president because Obama also spent time in a foreign nation in his youth.
Sarah Segal, a public relations specialist for CafePress, a website that sells custom-designed products, stated in an email message that the way in which consumers choose to spend their money can be an indicator of their political attitudes.
“While some people might feel comfortable walking around with an openly political T-shirt, others may feel more comfortable wearing a model lapel button or sticking a bumper sticker on their car,” Segal said. “In fact, there is something really interesting about looking at intent through a person’s action, in particular how they spend their money, as compared to what they will say in an anonymous poll.”
Both Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney and Obama have websites that, in addition to outlining the candidates’ platforms, sell merchandise.
Purchases made through both of these sites donate to the respective campaigns, but students like Depoo said people are first looking for a way to express their support for a candidate before looking for a conduit for donating.
Depoo purchased a T-shirt from the Obama website in 2008 and said he received a card in the mail asking for more donations.
“I didn’t realize it comes up as a donation, so when you buy something, they say, ‘Oh, we saw that you donated, do you want to donate again?’” he said. “Then I realized, ‘Oh, the shirt was the donation.’ So I guess that’s a good way for them to keep up, to get more money from you.”
CafePress.com has a “Get your vote in gear” page where users can purchase politically oriented items. Segal said CafePress is using the page to appeal to consumer trends and to allow page visitors to monitor how the candidates are faring in sales.
“The ‘Get your vote in gear’ page is a result of two things, user demand and our desire to share the trends we were seeing in terms of political product sales,” Segal said.
The sidebar of the “Get your vote in gear” page features a weekly cultural barometer that displays percentages of candidate T-shirt sales, trends in sales throughout election season and the percentages of pro and anti-candidate sales for the current week.
Segal said the goal of the page is to show customers how they can express themselves politically.