“Donald Trump is selling a subscription box no one asked for.” That’s the headline of Mashable’s May 30 article announcing that President Trump is getting in on the subscription economy with a subscription box of his own. According to Trump’s re-election campaign website, donors who make recurring monthly contributions of $49 or more a month will receive “a handpicked bundle of exclusive and vintage OFFICIAL Donald J. Trump merchandise.” But hurry. There are only a limited number of subscriptions available.
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Dave Levinthal, a senior political reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, received an email invitation which he shared on Twitter. Here is a screenshot at right of the invitation, which indicates that recurring contributions start at $69 a month.
The subscription boxes are being made available by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee (TMAGAC), a joint fundraising committee comprised of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (DJTP) and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Contributions to TMAGAC and any member committee are not tax deductible on the donor’s federal taxes, and donors who give more than $200 to the campaign in a calendar year or election cycle must report their name, mailing address, occupation and employer.
According to the sign-up page on the re-election website, each contribution is allocated as follows:
- 75 percent to DJTP toward either the 2020 primary (the default) or 2020 general election account, up to $2,700 ($5,000) per account
- 25 percent to RNC’s operating account, up to a maximum of $33,900 ($15,000)
Donors who provide their phone number consent to receive calls and texts, including those which are automated, from the TMAGAC and participating committees.
Is this new? Birchbox CEO and co-founder Katia Beauchamp says Trump is not the first to launch a subscription box of this kind. In an interview on Cheddar last Friday, Beauchamp said, “Actually, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did it early…they did it early on in her election. I think it started in 2016, so it is interesting to see that people are taking our model and interpreting it, but I do not think it has anything to do with the Birchbox model whatsoever.”
Reaction to the Big League subscription box on social media was largely unfavorable, and many of the tweets we read were NSFW, so we are omitting them from this article, but go to Twitter and search for “Trump+subscription+box,” and you can read the various reactions.
Politics aside, this is an interesting and innovative move by the president. He is taking a popular retail model and applying it to his 2020 re-election campaign. Whether you love Trump or hate him, this is a low-risk, but creative way to (a) sell Trump merchandise to support him and (b) actively solicit donations for the president’s re-election. We find a few factors particularly interesting:
(1) The pricing in the promotional email is higher than what appears on the campaign website. This should be corrected or clarified immediately.
(2) The release of the product coincided with the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. We wonder if this was intentional to detract attention from his political position toward something less impactful.
(3) We could not find a description or photos of sample products that donors could expect to receive. For example, do donors who make larger contributions receive the same box or is the offering tiered based on the size of the donation?
(4) There was not a lot of information available about how the subscription works like the value of the monthly box, if shipping and handling is included, if donors can cancel or pause their subscription at any time, etc. Ideally, a subscription box startup would offer FAQs and a way to contact the subscription company with questions.
If done right, a box of this type could be beneficial to a political candidate, raising money while garnering support in exchange for a few trinkets. Regardless of how we feel about Trump, we think this offering needs to be tweaked, but it has potential to be a solid donation stream for the president.