Way to Go, Mrs. O!
Move over, Mr. President. The First Lady has a new marketing plan that may eliminate the need for additional taxpayer-funded bailouts and pull America out of the recession: First Family branding.
While Michelle Obama initially objected to use of her daughters' names by Beanie Babies maker Ty, Inc., and White House lawyers have been exploring ways of quietly calling a halt to appropriation of the President's campaign slogans to sell everything from ice cream to furniture, Mrs. O has now decided to stop fighting the public fascination with the First Family and instead channel that consumer behavior for the public good. The result will be hundreds of official Obama products, including many that take advantage of Michelle's status as a global fashion icon. Fans of her style will be able to buy everything from a book of paper dolls tentatively entitled, Michelle Obama: The First Hundred Outfits, to reproductions of her most popular ensembles under her own "Right to Bare Arms" label, manufactured in cooperation with J.Crew. (No unauthorized knockoffs, though -- Counterfeit Chic is pleased to learn that the First Lady is currently negotiating with Narciso Rodriguez, Maria Cornejo, Isabel Toledo, and Jason Wu, among others, to pay licensing fees for their original designs.)
Of course, the President's own endorsement is also a huge selling point for branded merchandise, including clothing. He's said to be particularly excited about collaborating with Nike on a basketball shoe, and will personally oversee the design of a line of ties to be sold exclusively in the White House gift shop.
Even the images of the First Daughters will become part of the effort, as their likenesses have been licensed to MGA Entertainment Inc. to create Sasha and Malia Bratz dolls. The move is expected to save MGA from potentially having to declare bankruptcy after losing a court battle to Mattel, maker of Barbie, late last year. When asked about the deal, Michelle noted that "Sasha and Malia made the final decision, and they are thrilled with the prototypes." And their mom-in-chief? "Well, they certainly are brats sometimes," she admitted with a big smile.
The best part of Michelle's plan is that as long as Barak remains in office, all proceeds from the sale of these official First Family products will be donated directly to the federal government. So not only will the made-in-USA merchandise stimulate shopping among otherwise wary consumers here and abroad, but the proceeds will directly alleviate the rapidly mounting national debt.
Reaction to Michelle's idea from previous American first ladies and from her foreign counterparts has ranged from enthusiastic to envious. Nancy Reagan has already offered to help Michelle design a set of tarot cards, and Barbara Bush has offered to introduce Michelle to costume jeweler extraordinaire Kenneth Jay Lane. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is reportedly furious that his wife, former model Carla Bruni, didn't come up with the idea first. Sarko told reporters, "My wife is smart and tall, too! And many men would buy shoes with heels like mine."
Although only sales of official First Family merchandise with hologram hangtags and watermarks incorporating the Presidential seal will result in funds channeled directly to the U.S. Treasury, the Obamas have no plans to challenge ongoing private sales of T-shirts and other memorabilia bearing the President's image. "We're glad that many Americans are proud of their country for the first time and are wearing that sentiment on their T-shirts," said Michelle. "And Shep Fairey isn't going to pay up anyway." A senior official added that White House lawyers are having some difficulty reconciling the First Amendment right to free speech with the Obamas' rights of publicity as private citizens. In addition, suing small, independent vendors would be a politically unpopular move.
First-year projected revenues are approximately $700 billion.
To pre-order First Family merchandise and make suggestions for additional products you'd like to see developed, text Michelle or visit her website below.