The Obama Economy
Barack Obama's election is not just a milestone for civil rights; it's a bonanza for marketing. More than any other U.S. president, Obama sells. Manufacturers, merchandisers, tour operators, and restaurateurs are looking to see his message of change reflected on their balance sheets by peddling all manner of Obama-related products, from sneakers and Obamatinis to a proposed Sweet Home Obama bar in Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood. (Since elected officials are in the public domain, there's no intellectual-property issue involving his name.) "No other presidential candidate in history has had this kind of branding," says Michael Bierut, a graphic designer and senior critic at the Yale University School of Art. We talked to retail experts, restaurant-industry analysts, and people in the tourism business on three continents to try to estimate just how big a boost Obama commerce could give the sagging economy.
When food and beverage companies came out with products like Obama O's cereal and Yes We Can Cola, few believed the market would hold up past the election. But with many of these items still in high demand-Coffee People's Obama Blend brought in $200,000 in less than two months-customers are asking for more. Cocktails like Obamapolitans and Barackatinis can be found on menus around the country. (In Manhattan, Lola Is Soul offers an Obamatini for $15.) The Food Network has a recipe for an Obama Pizza Burger. Restaurant consultant Clark Wolf predicts revenue from Obama eats will run into the hundreds of millions.
Estimated 2009 sales: $100 million to $200 million
Trying to capitalize on Obama's Kenyan roots, a New York-based tour operator, 2Afrika, has introduced a Kenyan Presidential Heritage Safari for $2,999 a person. Kenya's tourism minister expects a 10 to 15 percent increase in visitors. In Indonesia, a developer has offered $3 million to buy Obama's childhood home and make it into a tourist destination; one idea is for a Sweet Home Obama bar. In Hawaii, three companies are starting bus and walking tours of sites from Obama's childhood. A "presidential" bus tour in Chicago features Obama's favorite restaurant and barbershop.
Estimated 2009 sales: $300 million
The glut of Obama jewelry, including a $5.45 navel ring, as well as belts, shoes (at least five different sneaker styles are now available), and accessories has already brought in hundreds of millions to companies large and small. The election also launched a publishing bonanza. Just a month afterward, Amazon listed 1,725 Obama-related products-everything from children's picture books to a Kindle edition of 11 of his speeches. Even the beleaguered newspaper industry reports millions of dollars in sales of collector's-edition front pages and other items bearing the imprint of the historic news. Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, says as much Obama merchandise has been sold in the past few months as many major brands sell in a year.
Estimated 2009 Sales: $2 billion
The current merchandising bonanza may be a passing fad, but if the new president can perform as well as his brand, there may yet be hope for the economy.
Total estimated Obama stimulus: As much as $2.5 billion.VisitÃÂ Portfolio.comÃÂ for the latest business news and opinion, executive profiles and careers.ÃÂ Portfolio.com© 2007 Condé Nast Inc. All rights reserved.
For reprints and licensing questions, click here.