I have a love/hate relationship with campaign collateral. Pens, pencils, notepads, mousepads, brochures, palm cards, stickers, nail files, magnets, buttons…the list goes on and on. I really hate it when there are boxes full of this crap still sitting in a campaign office after Election Day. On the other hand, I realize that these little leave-behinds are great ways to leave your name and campaign logo hanging around a voter’s house indefinitely. The big question remains – what campaign materials should you buy?
I personally try to skimp as much as possible here, but there are a few things you should make sure you have enough money for.
Campaign T-Shirts – Campaign T-Shirts are a must for a campaign of any significance at all. Even the smallest city council campaign should have at least 50. Volunteers are motivated and feel like a part of the ‘team’ when they have them, and they also serve as walking billboards for you when they’re out and about.
Best Campaign Materials Ever
Notepads – Notepads with the date of Election Day and your name and campaign logo are a good leave-behind while going door to door early in the campaign. They rarely get thrown away because everyone needs a little scrap paper now and then, so ‘Vote for Kevin Jackson on November 4th’ sits next to the house telephone all day every day leading up to Election Day. It’s fantastic for embedding your name into the voter’s mind.
Parade bags – I love, love, love parade bags. Parade bags are just plastic bags with your campaign logo printed on each side. I call them parade bags because every summer I use about 4 volunteers per parade to go up and down the parade route distributing these bags to the children in the crowds so that they can collect candy in them. Parades are grateful for the useful gift, and you can (and should) pre-stuff them with campaign literature for adults to read once the candy has been eaten. When the parade starts, your candidate will be elated to see his name literally everywhere. I recall one parade in particular where (I heard) our opponent was positively livid that she was throwing candy and all these children were putting it in our candidate’s parade bags! Chances are you’ll be the only candidate to do this, since it’s a bigger expense than most want to spend, but it is well worth it to have a well-stocked supply of parade bags if you anticipate being in several over the summer.
Yard Signs – Yard signs are simply a must have in about 90% of American electoral districts. A strong yard sign presence gives voters driving by the impression that you’re the favored candidate. The only situation in which yard signs aren’t really useful is if you’re whole district is inner city and doesn’t touch any suburban/rural regions.
Round Lapel Stickers – Lapel stickers are easier and way cheaper than buttons and can be used at pretty much every campaigning opportunity. Besides sticking them on every person that walks by at a county GOP fundraiser or 4-H fair, they can be used on plain stuff to make them campaign stuff. For example, instead of having special folders printed up with your campaign logo on them for your press kits, buy a set of one-color folders at the office supply store and slap a well-placed lapel sticker on them. I specifically mention the round lapel stickers because square or rectangular ones will peel up at the corners when worn on clothing.
Bumper Stickers – Do I need to explain why bumper stickers are useful? When you have a lot of bumper sticker support your name is seen all around town. Additionally, Republicans tend to only sport one or two bumper stickers, maximum, so your name is not on one of those cars that looks like it’s only being held together by the bumper stickers (back in my college days, however, the rear of my beloved ’85 Buick Century literally was being held together by bumper stickers).
Door Hangers – I particularly like door hanger bags. These are bags that are long and skinny to fit your palm car and other campaign materials. I prefer the opaque printed kind, that way you don’t have to worry about what order you put your materials into the bag, and if you decide at the last minute to add something, you can hurriedly make a zillion copies and throw them all in.
Magnets – Specifically the kind that go on the fridge, these magnets tend to stick around ’til Election Day and beyond.
Balloons – Balloons are useful for fairs, parades, and other summery community events, they can spice up the decor of a campaign event and be used to mark polling locations (within a certain number of feet). The downside is that they require a helium tank and a lot of work tying strings on the ends, but balloons are an easy sell in areas where children are all over.
Palm Cards – I prefer palm cards to full three-fold brochures. They’re more likely to be completely read and they are sturdier and therefore travel better and last longer. Plus they’re cheaper.
Worst Campaign Materials Ever
Pens – You can’t afford the nice ones and the cheap ones always suck and get thrown out. I hate them. If you must give writing utensils, a pencil goes well with your notepads.
Frisbees – I don’t know who came up with this idea. Frisbees are just a dumb campaign material to buy. Don’t waste your dough.
Buttons – In my opinion, campaign buttons are too expensive and not terribly useful. There will be a handful of older women that want one and will wear it everywhere. If this is the case, buy 50 and leave it at that. Regular voters have no use for them.
Fans – I guess these are okay for summer events, but I think they’re really stupid and don’t last long.
Nail files (emory boards) – Okay, so maybe my mom still has one of these from some local campaign in the 80s, but this kind of longitude is probably rare. Nail files are kinda hokey and really only useful to women.
Hats – I have known a total of 1 volunteer who wore a campaign logo emblazoned baseball cap 24/7, which he had made for himself. As a campaign item, it’s way too expensive to buy several. People don’t really wear hats that much any more, either.