My mom’s inspiration for a new business came from her nonprofit management and fundraising classes. The idea: to have charities use car magnets to energize their supporters and raise money and awareness of their causes. Car magnets, she thought, could transform people’s cars into forums for engaging their communities. So we set out to create affordable magnets whose convenience, production values, and image quality would blow bumper stickers out of the water. When we started the business this year, everyone asked us, “why don’t you do political magnets too?” So we did. We designed a line of Barack Obama magnets – both with the campaign’s slogans and typefaces and with artists’ and designers’ original designs. We’re reaching out to congressional candidates in competitive races now. I think that car magnets can powerfully amplify the message of progressive causes, particularly for candidates running in expensive, uphill races. I would love to have your feedback about how you think we could help progressive candidates and causes.
We are currently negotiating licensing agreements to create and sell magnets for some major nonprofit organizations, including a number of zoos, aquariums, and museums. Nonprofits and charities are still the keystone of our long-term plans. We also do custom magnets for just about anything, no matter how small the order – we’re creating lines of car magnets for local businesses and even a local children’s soccer team. But everywhere we talked about our business, people asked us the same question: “why aren’t you making political stuff?” Good question! The 2008 political scene, particularly Barack Obama’s campaign, is generating historic levels of political engagement. So, in May, we threw ourselves into creating political magnets. We focused on Obama, naturally. We incorporated some of the campaign’s (non-copyrighted) themes, like Gothic font and “Change We Can Believe In.” We also commissioned designers and artists to create original Obama artwork and designs. And our stuff looks good, if I do say so myself.
Now here’s why I think car magnets can really help progressive activists and causes. Reaching out to voters through local volunteers is the best way to Get-Out-The-Vote (see Obama, Barack and http://www.prospect.org/cs/art… The reason why is simple. People trust their friends, their neighbors, and even their fellow commuters far more than any advertisement. And authenticity and trust are the keys to winning someone over and generating enthusiasm – in politics, in nonprofit fundraising, in life. Displaying a car magnet announces that you not only volunteered but paid to raise awareness about your favorite museum or charity or political campaign. That creates a real personal connection between you, the driver, and the viewer, your audience. With the personal touch a car magnet gives your message, you can powerfully demonstrate the grassroots enthusiasm behind your favorite causes.
Moreover, car magnets’ physical qualities and communication style help them powerfully amplify a progressive message. Most Americans spend over 15 hours a week in their cars – over two hours a day! And they pay attention to their surroundings. A good car magnet can hit many thousands of viewers a day. A car magnet never stops working – downtown, highways, arterials, parking lots, shopping centers, even at home. And unlike a TV ad or a door-to-door salesman, a car magnet doesn’t invade people’s time or personal space, which people really appreciate. Plus, people tend to recoil from bumper stickers, fearing their permanence, low production values, and one-time-only use. Car magnets have none of those problems – their easy-on, easy-off quality gives people huge possibilities for creativity. People remember the written word well, but they remember an image-based message – a picture, a logo, an artistic design – even more well. I think there is a huge, untapped demand for what car magnets can offer, and that they can contribute enormously to progressive causes.
Many of our hopes rest on creating viral and word-of-mouth enthusiasm. Our Holy Grail demographic target is high-awareness voters, especially activists and political campaign donors. We want to reach these people through the Netroots. We are also contacting high-intensity Congressional campaigns too, particularly those involving Netroots darlings like Scott Kleeb and Rick Noriega.
So I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on our car magnet business. I haven’t included our business’s name or website address in this diary because I didn’t want to violate online community etiquette. So I have some questions for readers. First, are people here interested in what our car magnet business can do for progressive causes? How would people here react to me creating diaries discussing the car magnets (Obama, congressional candidates, etc.) that we sell on our website? Would that be taboo? If we bought advertising and became a sponsor of this blog, would we have more legitimacy in creating self-promoting diaries? Are there any progressive, nonprofit, or charitable organizations that you support and care about that would benefit from promoting themselves by distributing car magnet to their supporters? We enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive reaction to our Obama magnets at places like our state Democratic Convention and the Obama “Unite for Change” house parties. But we know that face-to-face and online work in different ways. So any advice at all would be hugely appreciated.
Here’s one last thing I would like your feedback on. We sell car magnets of both Democrats and Republicans – McCain along with Obama, Republican candidates along with Democratic candidates. Here’s our reasons why: first, we wish to encourage civic and community engagement for everyone – progressive, liberal, moderate, conservative, independent, or whatever – as long as it’s respectful and positive. We think increasing civic engagement enriches our communities and our lives. Second, we think that becoming a partisan website would endanger our ability to help nonprofits and charities. Nonprofits and charities, above all else, must seem like honest brokers to fundraise effectively, and associating with partisan websites would alienate large segments of the population.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading so much. I’ve always been impressed by the spirit of civic engagement expressed on Netroots websites like this one, and I’d love to hear what you have to say.