Retail Politics Comes to 2012 Web Fundraising

  |  February 10, 2012   |  Comments

Candidate emails look more like e-commerce pitches from retailers.

Talk about retail politics. Mitt Romney's campaign is putting a new spin on campaign email, offering 15 percent off "Believe in America" themed winter caps, hoodies, and coffee tumblers. And over at, supporters can get 10 percent off doggie sweaters, ball caps, and cufflinks by using the code "LoveObama" at checkout, until Valentine's Day that is.

Like nonprofit organizations, campaigns and political groups have for years used cuddly red and blue teddy bears, or signed copies of a candidate's latest book as incentives to donate. But this election cycle the campaign commercialism is on the verge of shameless hucksterism.

Today's Romney email promo reads more like a J.Crew catalog pitch than a political message: "Whether you've been eyeing the Romney quarter-zip sweatshirt or you want a Believe in America tumbler to keep your drink warm, now you can get your favorite Romney winter gear for 15% off." The offer requires the code Winter15 and is good till Monday.

The campaign offered a similar discount on Mitt gear around Christmas, and plans to send today's promo to supporters who have signed up to receive text messages, too. The Romney camp also offers gear that's customized for specific groups or locations. When the campaign tested out mobile payment system Square in Florida, it offered a "Florida Believes" shirt exclusively to event goers.

The Romney email sent today - labeled merely "Limited time - get 15% off," features what could be considered a "lifestyle shot," a photo of a man wearing a Romney knit cap and looking up towards the gleaming sun.

Opting for a lifestyle shot rather than a simple photo of the product may have been strategic, said Loren McDonald, VP of industry relations for email marketing firm Silverpop, who's been tracking 2012 campaign emails. "Typically, lifestyle shots actually convert better in retail emails," compared to product shots, he said.

The Rick Santorum for President campaign has been in on the act, recently sending out an email promoting a sweater vest, the signature sleeveless sweater worn so often by the former Pennsylvania senator that it's become a campaign trail uniform.

The Santorum camp takes a more traditional donate-for-gift approach, though. "Perfect for demonstrating solidarity with true conservatives, this vest is a great way to show your support for Rick," reads the Santorum website. "It's 100% cotton, made in the USA, comes in grey, and is yours for your contribution of $100 or more. Don't let sleeves slow you down - donate today!"

All four Republican presidential hopefuls, Romney, Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, have a shop, store, or gear section on their sites.

It's all about fundraising, of course. The purchases are considered campaign contributions subject to the same restrictions as other donations from individuals. Check Out pages resemble donation pages, complete with fields for employment information and confirmation of U.S. citizenship.

In true e-commerce spirit, the Obama site even has an Amazon-esque feature that lists items liked by people who bought the ones in a shopping cart. For instance, people who have liked the Obama duffel bag also liked a messenger bag with the Obama for America rising sun logo.

The long-defunct Tim Pawlenty campaign used items like mugs and a hockey jersey as prizes for taking actions such as posting support for him on Facebook.

A true test of e-commerce email prowess? According to McDonald, sending out remarketing emails to people who have abandoned full shopping carts is big in the consumer email marketing world. "That would be showing real sophistication," he said.



ClickZ Live New York What's New for 2015?
You spoke, we listened! ClickZ Live New York (Mar 30-Apr 1) is back with a brand new streamlined agenda. Don't miss the latest digital marketing tips, tricks and tools that will make you re-think your strategy and revolutionize your marketing campaigns. Super Saver Rates are available now. Register today!


Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter. Get a daily dose of digital marketing.




Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.


    Information currently unavailable



    • Lead Generation Specialist
      Lead Generation Specialist (The Oxford Club) - BaltimoreThe Oxford Club is seeking a talented writer/marketer to join our growing email lead-generation...
    • Health Marketing Editor
      Health Marketing Editor (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreCome flex your intellectual muscle as part of Agora, Inc’s ( legal team...
    • Marketing Systems Analyst
      Marketing Systems Analyst (OmniVista Health) - BaltimoreOmniVista Health is looking to add a Marketing Systems Analyst to our expanding team. We...