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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama's favorite suits, snacks might become yours, too

 •  Obama's Hawaii boyhood homes drawing gawkers

USA Today

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Every president has his favorite stuff. And it doesn't take long for the nation to become enamored with a president's pet things and habits, particularly a celebrity president such as Barack Obama.

With Ronald Reagan, it was jelly beans. Jimmy Carter munched peanuts. And George W. Bush is a pretzel lover. The election of Obama will bring a new cadre of often-upscale brand names to the White House.

For marketers, it's the chance of a lifetime. Among the brands Obama has used, worn, eaten, sipped or driven in public: Hart Schaffner Marx suits, Black Forest Berry Honest Tea, Fran's Chocolates, Planters Trail Mix and the Ford Escape hybrid sport utility vehicle.

He also drinks lots of bottled water and enjoys basketball. He loves music by Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen and has said his favorite novel is Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Every one of these could see a boost in interest with his election.

"You can participate in this history-changing moment by buying the stuff he buys," says Carl Moog, an advertising and consumer psychologist. "It's almost like unpaid product placement. Barack Obama is a huge celebrity."

While most marketers won't publicly tout the Obama connection, many will try to create online chatter, so it appears consumer interest is spontaneous, predicts Renee White Fraser, a marketing psychologist.

Key Obama family brands:

  • Attire. He's a big fan of Hart Schaffner Marx suits the Gold Trumpeter line, which is 97 percent worsted wool and 3 percent cashmere. The suits, union-made in the United States, sell for about $1,300 custom-made (his are) or less than $1,000 off-the-rack. Obama owns three gray and three navy blue. "He's certainly generated a lot of interest," says Hartmarx CEO Homi Patel. "If you had to pick out a model, he fits the bill."

    Wife Michelle often wears J. Crew clothes. She wore and talked about a $330 outfit she bought online during a "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" appearance. Shoppers snapped the look up. "All the items were gone the next day," says Jenna Lyons, creative chief at J. Crew.

  • Snacks. Obama tries to snack healthy. He likes Planters Trail Mix: Nuts, Seeds and Raisins. Planters has White House links dating to former President (and peanut farmer) Carter, as a sponsor of the Plains, Ga., Peanut Festival, says Laurie Guzzinati, a Kraft Foods spokeswoman.

    For sweets, the Obama's eat Fran's Chocolates, an artisan chocolate brand from Seattle. The president-elect prefers Fran's Smoked Sea Salt Caramel in Milk Chocolate ($24 for a 16-piece box); wife Michelle prefers dark chocolate, says Sean Seedlock, Fran's marketing chief.

  • Drinks. Obama is a fan of Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. "It raises the profile of our brand and all organic products," says Seth Goldman, CEO of Honest Tea. "We'd love for it to be the official drink of the new administration."

  • Habits. To quit smoking, Obama chews Nicorette. When such a public figure uses your product, "it brings attention to the brand," says Jennifer May, Glaxo SmithKline spokeswoman.

  • Wheels. The Obama family owns a $34,000 Ford Escape hybrid. Ford is "delighted" the family chose the SUV, "but we won't be out there actively promoting that," says Ford spokesman Jay Ward.

  • Sports. Then, there's Obama's love of basketball. Adam Silver, deputy commissioner of the NBA, says he expects the baseball field on the White House south lawn will be replaced with a hoops court. "Maybe they will pass a law that makes basketball the nation's official pastime."