Election merchandising, good and bad

Every presidential campaign brings an avalanche of marketing, and this one’s no exception.

Some of it’s not bad, actually. It’s hard not to get a chuckle out of “72 Things Younger Than John McCain” by Joe Quint and “ObamaMania: The English Language Barackafied” by the editors of Slate, both recently released by Simon & Schuster’s Fireside imprint. The former is a fantasia of stuff that has come into the world since McCain was born 72 years ago today (happy birthday, Senator!) — including penicillin, Spam, the ZIP code, latex paint, the Slinky and 49 out of 50 U.S. governors — and the latter is a lexicon of Obama-inspired terminology — including the Barackolyte (“a devotee of the Dalai Lobama”) and Obamamatopoeia (“an excellent Barack Obama impression”). Neither book requires undue brain power, and neither is meant to: With McCain cracking wise about his own age and with Obama inspiring new heights (depths?) of rhetorical devotion, these books feel lightly amusing without being mean-spirited. (As I’ve blogged earlier, I have no patience for political humor based solely on partisan spite.)

Some of the marketing involves building a brand rather than selling a product. I got an e-mail yesterday from Chicago PR firm BIGfrontier announcing its recipe for the Obama Baracktail, “a red, white and blue cocktail designed specifically to celebrate Barack Obama’s official announcement as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. BIGfrontier is known for having developed the K’Tini, a wildly popular martini based on a marinated sauerkraut stuffed olive that reinvigorated the entire category of sauerkraut.”

(Note to self: “Reinvigorated Sauerkraut” is a good name for a band.)

The Baracktail recipe: two ounces of white Puerto Rican Rum (“signifies unifying every part of our country”); half an ounce of pomegranate juice (“signifies a healthy America”); and half an ounce of cherry juice (“signifies a sweetened economy”), shaken with one teaspoon of foaming sugar (?!?) and two ounces of club soda, poured into a frozen glass (“signifies Chicago”) and garnished with a skewer of blueberries.

Um, I’ll just have a rye Old Fashioned, thanks.

Said BIGfrontier honcho Steve Lundin: “We were thinking of developing a cocktail to commemorate George Bush’s last day in office, but couldn’t find ingredients that left a bitter enough aftertaste.”


And from the low end of the political marketing spectrum comes Obama Rocks.

Yes, rocks. With the Obama logo on them. For $6.99 each.

This is the brainchild of “two fifty-something sisters (one from Palm Desert, California, one from Mt. Vernon, MO)” looking to make a quick buck, and possessed of a backyard full of Ozark jasper and chert.

“A few days later, an epiphany! The Obama Rock was born,” says the news release. “Not the indigenous Jasper rock, but a smooth-surface, patriotically designed ‘species Obamarum rockus.’ It’s meant to be a lasting keepsake to commemorate a special time in American history.”

The California sister, Cheryl Glancy, says in the release, “I kept thinking that there was some kind of Divine intervention going on as to why I am still here in Missouri. Now I think I know.”

Me too, Ms. Glancy. Me too.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Because,I am 54 years old and I get tired,most times and I seem to forget things more than I used too. This Macain should not run for president , because , his policies are not good the the country ,NOT WHAT THE PEOPLE NEED ! seems incoherent some time

  • Jenn Springer

    I think you missed the point of this Obama Rock. Did you go to the website? I bought one and it is a beautiful item.. very heavy and well made. They are doing good things, it seems, and not trying to make a lot of money off of it. In fact, they are encouraging a pay it forward movement where they are going to match people who cannot afford one with someone who will sponser him or her. They said they will donate the profits from any pay it forward to the buyer’s local political party. I think you are being way to cynical if you didn’t dig deeper into this website.

  • Jenn Springer

    And the other thing is that if you are a progressive liberal and in the Obama camp, you should be happy that people in “Missour-a” are in the trenches with Obama. I am sure they are in the minority. I am from Louisiana and like MO we have specific pockets of liberal and conservative entrenchment. Here we are united in our cause. What you are doing is further propagating the Rove-led belief of the west-coast/east coast effetism. Why would you choose to mock someone who obviously shares you ideals. Mock the Republicans. And by the way, shame on you. The Rock will be around long after you are.

  • Josh Richman

    Hey, Jenn, I have great affection for Missouri; I spent four important years of my life there. But I’m not here to be a partisan mocker of any stripe, and I don’t think I’m advancing Rovian tactics or showing coastal “effetism” by simply noting: Dude, they’re selling rocks.