Wear your politics on your shirt

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T-shirts are a lot cooler and more useful for your union campaigns than you’d think. You’d think unions would know this, by the numbers of free ones they give away.

But only a few unions really use t-shirts as a tool for identifying potential activists, supporters and delegates.

What’s more, union apparel, such as shirts, lanyards, hats, jumpers, hoodies and the like, are invaluable tools for building a pro-union atmosphere in workplaces.

T-shirts are also excellent accompaniments for your digital membership campaigns, especially linked to the humble pay-per-click search campaigns or Facebook ads.

Member & activist contact data

Lots of unions have incomplete contact data for their members or activists. The offer of a free t-shirt delivery could well be enough to get a complete set of phone, mailing address and/or email information from your members or potential activists.

While would be fairly pricey if you did it for 1000s of members, if you’re running a membership drive in a targeted workplace, then spending a few $100 to really tidy up your membership or activist data could well be worth it.

The same goes if you’re wanting to get contact data from digital supporters, where you only have email addresses. A competition or “chance to win” can reduce your costs, while still encouraging supporters to send in their mailing and phone contacts.

Free marketing

A while ago, I had a complete 180 degree turn on my views of union merchandise. I used to think it was a waste of money, but I now believe that if it is done well, it is an invaluable tool in building your union’ brand in the workplace.

T-shirts and lanyards are the most obvious way to build social proof for the support that exists in a workplace for the union. Simply put, the more people who are wearing your union’s t-shirts and other apparel, the more of a pro-union culture you’re building.

This is particularly important in low-density areas, where availability bias means that even a few people wearing union gear can make people believe that a far greater number of people are members.

With a per-unit cost of around $10-15, that’s a pretty inexpensive way to get regular “advertising” directly to your target market (potential members) in their workplace. Just one or two new members pays for the expense.


Don’t dismiss the effectiveness of the humble t-shirt. Even if you’re not sure it works, run a promoted post or pay-per-click AdWords campaign and test the impact of a special, limited-edition union t-shirt offer. How does your conversion rate change?

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