StickerYou Blog

The History of Stickers in Politics

July 16, 2019  |  

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Stickers have a long standing history surrounding political campaigns and activism dating all the way back to the 19th century. It’s amazing to see how this sticky product has evolved and adapted into today’s political climate. Today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to discover how stickers were used in politics, and how they've grown throughout the years.

Bumper Stickers

The birth and origin of bumper stickers can be traced all the way back to around 1910. These originally became popular as a means of advertising and spreading the word about activities and destinations. Most famously, individuals were using bumper stickers to attract attention to activities like national parks, tourist destinations, as well as motels. This was done to target Americans who were afraid of the war, and saved up some additional funds for leisurely trips. When tourists went on these trips, bumper stickers were slapped on their cars to spread the word to more people - causing something like a snowball effect of brand awareness.

Around the year 1968, bumper stickers transitioned away from advertising commercial activities and were developed as a way to channel self expression and promote political values. Today, the application of bumper stickers in the midst of political turmoil remains a popular and powerful asset. This can still be commonly seen in the self expression of the famous bumper sticker. It’s hard to drive around and not notice the flashy bumper stickers promoting political figures such as Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

There’s something special and personal about bumper stickers - it creates a connection through a tangible object. Bumper stickers allow individuals to promote causes that they’re passionate about, it also opens the doors to building relationships with people who have like-minded views. Using and passing out bumper stickers will remain a cost effective and excellent way to build awareness and channel self expression for many years to come.

Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on car

"I Voted" Sticker

When Americans go to the polls, more often than not they leave with a lovely symbol of their patriotic act. If you take a look at social media around election time, you’ll than more likely be flooded with images of your peers posting their iconic “I Voted” stickers. This historical sticker dates all the way back to the 1980s. Businesses have begun getting involved in the political realm, and often offer freebies and discounts to people that wear their patriotic stickers when visiting their shops. This is an excellent marketing strategy, as it promotes not only your business, but urges individuals to get outside and go to the polls.

This sticker may be more impactful than you may think at face value. The sense of community it brings to The United States is staggering - before these stickers were being used, many people weren’t even aware of Election Day! Not only this, but the ripple effect posting about politics on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat is something to not be underestimated. We wholeheartedly support this awesome movement to get the younger generation interested in voting - just don’t put your stickers anywhere obstructive or illegal!

"I Voted" sticker

Wheatpasting and Sticky Posters

Before the age of the internet, political campaigns and propaganda often had to rely on traditional messages in order to gain viral news. Traditional lithographic posters can be traced all the way back to the 1880’s. After this time, posters technology continued to evolve and grow. During World War I, the biggest advertising campaign to date was birthed. Marketing tactics were needed in order to raise funds, recruit additional soldiers, and get people involved in volunteering in War-related labour. Posters made in this era were still slow and expensive to create, and required a huge amount of craftsmanship and artistry.

In terms of application and durability, the late 90’s and early 2000’s ushered in the evolution and popularity of wheatpaste (however, this form of flyposting can be dated all the way back to the 19th century). Wheatpaste is a gel/liquid based adhesive made by combining both flour or starch, and water. This adhesive is often used to flypost various forms of propaganda, especially guerilla posters surrounding politics and activism. Wheatpaste is applied to the backside of paper, and then placed onto walls, bricks, buildings, and pretty much any flat surface (interesting how similar this is to a sticker, isn’t it?).

This guerilla marketing tactic remains incredibly popular today, even though it's considered illegal in many locations. Often called “culture jamming”, guerilla communications remains a tactic used by a large amount of anti-consumerism movements. The main goal remains to be disrupting mass media and mainstream culture, particularly the advertising initiatives of large corporations. The whole idea is to challenge norms and get people to think outside of the box. You can read more about guerilla marketing in one of our recent blog posts titled “Guerilla Activism Using Stickers”.

Trump wheatpaste posters on garbage can

Looking Forward

With political history and campaigns relying so heavily on sticky products and traditional marketing, what does the future have in store? Let’s briefly discuss how we can offer you products that will help amplify and build on your political campaigns and messaging:

Custom Stickers
Ordering stickers of your mission statement, business logo, or political campaign is a great strategy to raise awareness and spread the message about your campaign. Giving away die-cut or kiss-cut singles will help keep you top-of-mind. Alongside this, you never know where a sticker will end up - they often end up stuck to laptops, phone cases, and water bottles for years to come! It’s a great idea to give away stickers as a thank-you or sign of appreciation. For example, you can give away stickers when people agree to vote for you, support your cause, or get involved! This will create a great sense of community and belonging.

Temporary Tattoos
Giving away temporary tattoos is another great option. In particular, they’re great for events like rallies, marches, and community volunteering. Our tats can easily be applied with a bit of water, and will stay stuck until washed off. 

Custom Badges
Badges are a unique way to create the look of uniformity among members of your campaign. They have magnetic backs, and can easily be applied to any type of clothing. You can even create personalized name badges for each member of your crew!

"Vote for Anderson" roll labels and stickers

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StickerYou blog posts are written and published by members of the  at our headquarters, located in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada.