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Imaginative Promotional Merchandise: Cultural and Creative Products in Taiwanese Elections

Numerous people were lined up to buy promotional merchandise from the Taiwan People's Party (TPP), which had set up several kiosks amid the electric atmosphere of Tainan. The TPP had also prepared a large truck for the efficient delivery of merchandise.

At a few booths, individuals could donate money to the TPP and receive propaganda materials in return, with no minimum amount required for the donation.

Around the vibrant venues, we noticed people selling homemade promotional items. Some individuals, after covering the cost of souvenirs, expressed a desire to donate to the party to support its ongoing activities.

In preparation for the upcoming elections, three parties—namely the Taiwan People’s Party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and the Kuomintang (KMT)—have launched a series of promotional merchandise, each showcasing their unique characteristics.

This promotional merchandise was available for sale and on display at campaign headquarters and branch offices across various cities and towns. The primary purpose of selling these items was to raise funds for the respective parties' candidates.

During campaign rallies, volunteers and party-affiliated staff also set up stands to sell a wide range of creative products, including both official merchandise and spontaneous, fan-made items.

The three parties have distinct characteristics reflected in their merchandise. These items include representative cartoon images of the presidential candidates and slogans supporting their respective parties. The Taiwan People’s Party has created an energetic atmosphere with aqua colors and designs that appeal to the youth. The Democratic Progressive Party has used themes of baseball and pets to design a series of products. Meanwhile, the Kuomintang’s designs are simple, aiming to minimize the overt campaign implications of their products.

Lai Ching-te was the most popular, Ko Wen-je was the second most discussed, and Hou You-yi had the least amount of discussion.

According to RTCC data, promotional items for DPP's Lai Ching-te are the most popular, generating significant discussion among more than 11,000 people in just two and a half months. From the initial release of jackets featuring Lai Ching-te's beloved baseball motif to practical travel-themed gadgets, and the Q-version cat and dog badges of "Lai Xiao Pei," Lai Ching-te's campaign merchandise keeps introducing new items that attract a steady stream of inquiries.

The DPP's promotional merchandise, available at the Taichung campaign headquarters, includes baseballs, mugs, erasers, badges, and more.

The idea of incorporating Lai Ching-te's dog and Hsiao Bi-khim's cat has inspired the party's younger members, emphasizing their compassionate nature and caring demeanor. The party also chose to incorporate a baseball theme into the overall campaign design.

This decision serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it reflects Lai Ching-te's affinity for baseball, adding a touch of personal authenticity to the campaign. Secondly, it symbolizes the party's ambition and confidence in achieving a resounding victory in the elections, likening their potential electoral success to hitting a home run in baseball. By combining these elements, the party aims to resonate with voters, conveying a message of unity, compassion, and the potential for a decisive triumph.

According to 8 World News, Ko's campaign team raised NT$140 million through the first and second stages of merchandise sales, with the top three selling items being functional T-shirts, hoodies, and coffee.

Promotional merchandise is available for sale at the DPP's pre-election rally, including T-shirts, caps, and stickers featuring DPP characteristics.

Despite the public's differing political views, there is value in the parties learning from one another. The Taiwan People's Party's (TPP) cultural product strategy has even won praise from a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporter, 36-year-old Sky Lee.

"I think the DPP can do a better job and should learn from Ko's team on how to further engage with Taiwanese youth," she said.

Pan Wei-ting and a volunteer at Lai Ching-te's Taichung campaign office.

Pan Wei-ting, 50, the director of the organizing department at the Lai Ching-te Taichung campaign office, said, "The young members within the party have put forward many interesting proposals, and these proposals have been turned into products that are well-received by the public. Many of them have sold out."

Lee only bought the rainbow towel, which signifies gender equality. She was also interested in the unique badge featuring Lai Ching-te’s dog and Hsiao Bi-khim’s "battle cat," but she did not manage to get in line to buy one due to timing issues.

Lee said, "Apart from the rainbow towel and unique badge that I am fond of, I think the rest of the merchandise was pretty standard."

"On the contrary, I prefer the series of creative products that Tsai Ing-wen and Nieh Yung-Chen worked on previously, such as Easycards supporting rainbow affirmative action and beers commemorating National Day. I think they were more meaningful," she added.

The badge features cartoon characters of Chang Liao Wan-chien and Lai Ching-te's dog.

During this election period, which features both presidential and legislative races, the DPP is combining promotional merchandise from candidates of regional Legislative Yuan and presidential campaigns.

Chang Liao Hsiu-lee, 58, a volunteer at the Chang Liao Wan-chien campaign office, said, "The badge design intentionally portrays the candidate as a baseball player to align with the party's baseball theme in their campaign merchandise for this election."

The second most-discussed item is the campaign souvenirs of Ko Wen-je of the TPP, which focus on "identity, practicality, and good looks." The diverse product range includes water bottles, backpacks, power banks, shoulder bags, and other fundraising souvenirs, which have garnered 72,000 views. Among these, Ko Wen-je launched the third wave of campaign merchandise, including "Do the Right Thing," "Weird," and "Fight to the End Without Looking Back" tops, as well as baseball caps, bath towels, key rings, watches, and other items. The number of views rose to 800 daily, attracting netizens who leave comments praising the items for their "good texture" and "functionality and practicality."

The Taiwan People's Party sells many types of self-designed products, such as mugs, phone holders, speakers, key rings, and more. In addition to these, they also offer various clothing items.

 

On the eve of the election rally, supporters spontaneously created some campaign materials.
The mascot Psyduck represents Ko Wen-je, with supporters noting a resemblance in their facial features.
Ho created this balloon four years ago as the first generation of creative balloons.

Sofia Ho, 81, has been a staunch supporter of Ko Wen-je for over ten years and traveled to Taipei from Zhongli specifically for the election. She expressed her unwavering support for him, and during the pre-election rally, she carried a giant balloon to show her enthusiasm.

"Taiwan needs the power of citizens' movements without hesitation," Ho added. "We should move past the traditional blue (KMT) and green (DPP) politics and help Taiwan gain international presence."

As a relatively new party that is just over four years old, the TPP has already secured eight seats in the Legislative Yuan. It has become the third-largest party in Taiwan and is particularly popular among young voters.

"I think it's because of Ko Wen-je's political integrity, whether it's his style of speaking or the issues he prioritizes, like housing justice, that really resonate with the younger generation," Hsu explained. "This is the reason why he is so adored by the youth."

Among all the presidential candidates, Hou You-yi of the KMT, who was the last to unveil campaign merchandise, garnered only 5,000 views for his promotional items and had the least amount of discussion among the three major candidates.

Hou Youyi's campaign introduced the first batch of small donation items on October 16. These items included round-neck tops and vintage hats, styles that are popular among young people. The merchandise uses a blue and white color scheme as its central design theme and focuses on a simple and understated style to reflect Hou You-yi's philosophy of practicality and substance. Due to its distinctive appeal, it has won the favor of many supporters, with comments like "Hou's campaign merchandise seems much more youthful" and "The design is simple and clear, and the colors are versatile." It attracted 500 views in a single day.

Round-neck top featuring the primary campaign visual in the national flag's red, blue, and white colors.

On the other hand, the Kuomintang has diverged from its traditional style and adopted a design approach that emphasizes simplicity. The new design seeks to align closely with the daily lives of its supporters by minimizing overt campaign symbolism.

By doing so, supporters can seamlessly integrate the party's design into their regular wardrobe without feeling conspicuous. The understated design also mirrors Mayor Hou You-yi's pragmatic and practical personality, reflecting his focus on delivering tangible results. This shift in design strategy enables the party to connect with supporters on a more personal level, fostering a sense of comfort and authenticity.

Campaign-related merchandise is sold near the venue of the KMT rally in Kaohsiung.
KMT supporters clad in party merchandise at the Kaohsiung rally.

Karry Cheng, a 63-year-old taxi driver whose parents migrated from Hebei and followed Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan, expressed that he doesn’t pay much attention to the design of fundraising merchandise. To him, his support for the political party itself is what matters most.

The Ministry of the Interior, R.O.C. (Taiwan), pointed out that for the same candidate, the total annual donation cannot exceed NT$100,000 (approximately HKD$24,500); for different candidates, the total annual donation cannot exceed NT$300,000 (approximately HKD$73,600). For instance, if people donate political contributions to only one candidate this year, the donation amount can be less than NT$100,000. However, if they donate to three different candidates in the same year, the total amount cannot exceed NT$300,000.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.

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