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Obamaphilia sparks a new category of merchandise

Obamaphilia sparks a new category of merchandise

New York: Barack Obama may have figured out a way to stimulate the economy even before taking office: by being elected.

Merchandise commemorating, celebrating Obama is being sold by companies large and small, institutional and entrepreneurial, familiar and not so familiar. Consumers have already spent perhaps as much as $200 million (Rs1,002 crore) on Obamabilia, two months before he will be inaugurated as the 44th president and another tidal wave of tchotchkes will be unleashed.

Obama “has been the best-marketed presidential candidate, with the most sophisticated branding since John F. Kennedy used television to get elected" in 1960, said Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York office of Landor Associates, a corporate and brand identity agency that is part of the WPP Group. “So it’s no surprise that once Obama was elected, people would try to cash in."

First came newspapers and magazines that reported on Obama’s victory on 4 November over John McCain. They were followed by spinoff stuff from publishers such as posters, plaques and press plates of front pages; books; coffee mugs; and reprints of articles.

After that came Obama e-cards, from companies like Hewlett-Packard (HP), which is inviting computer users to “celebrate the Democratic victory with a free greeting card" from the HP Creative Studio; T-shirts from websites like; and coins “layered in pure 24 karat gold" from faux mints like and the New England Mint.

Last week, big companies that specialize in peddling so-called collectables, among them the Danbury Mint and Telebrands, got into the act. They began advertising on television, online and in newspapers items that include “the President Barack Obama Commemorative Photo", which is composed of “seven images of a history-making president and two 24 karat gold-plated patriotic medallions", and “the Historic Victory Commemorative Plate", made of “quality porcelain" with a “22 karat gold rim".

Could the schlocky nature of the Obama products trivialize his election and, by extension, his presidency? Adamson of Landor said he did not believe that Obama was diminished by the marketing blitz surrounding the election. “If he wasn’t trivialized by everything that took place during the campaign," Adamson said, “I don’t think it’s a risk."

Asked if there would have been a similar surge of products if McCain had defeated Obama, Adamson said it would have been unlikely because “everything he did was more traditional".

Another reason for all the Obama merchandise, Adamson said, was the desire of black Americans to collect memorabilia to mark his election as “a major historical moment." In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 55% of the African-American respondents said they were saving a newspaper that reported the election results.

©2008/The New York Times

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