For at least a generation, Americans who’ve taken the time to head to the polls, wait in a (usually long) line and cast their ballots for president have enjoyed a small but significant mark of recognition: the “I Voted” sticker.
The adult equivalent of the star that grade school teachers stuck on your graded tests, the stickers enabled voters to walk a little taller for the rest of Election Day. After all, in a country where the voter turnout rate historically hovers around 55%, it was proof of civic duty done.
At least, it was until this year.
With record numbers of people already swamping the polls days before Election Day—to say nothing of how we’re all supposed to stay six feet away from one another—many counties and cities, already strapped for cash, have opted to skip offering stickers this year. There’s also a sizable portion of the population voting by mail this year (as high as 80 million by The New York Times’ estimate), and it’s not likely that many of them will be getting an “I Voted” sticker mailed back to them.
The paucity of these badges has not gone unnoticed by enterprising entrepreneurs. Online marketplaces like Zazzle, Redbubble, Opentip and Wish are all selling rolls of “I Voted” stickers, with variants including “I Voted Early,” “I Voted by Mail” and “I Wanted People to Know I Voted by Mail so I Printed Out This Sticker.”
Now comes the Krispy Kreme doughnut chain, which just announced that it, too, is here to combat the dearth of stickers by giving away its own. On Election Day, anyone coming from the polls can stop into a participating store to score a free glazed donut—and an “I Voted” sticker.
“With so many people voting early, the increase in mail-in voting and safety restrictions at polling due to the pandemic, we noticed Americans weren’t getting access to this sticker,” CMO Dave Skena told Adweek. “Some polling places were replacing stickers with pens, and others weren’t offering any replacement for the coveted sticker at all. We wanted to do what we do best and bring joy to consumers on Election Day.”
There’s little evidence that stickers actually encourage people to vote, but they do seem to be highly prized by voters as a way of showing others that they’ve taken the trouble to get to the polls. And if polling places don’t have those stickers this year, the desire for that recognition is likely, at least in theory, to send people into Krispy Kreme.
The chain will be giving out its stickers and doughnuts on an honor system. And aside from pulling people into stores where they’re likely to buy a coffee to go with that doughnut, Krispy Kreme is also encouraging people to share a picture of themselves enjoying their snack with their stickers on display and tag it with #KrispyKreme.
“Krispy Kreme knows many voters enjoy sharing photos of their stickers on social media as a form of self-expression,” Skena added. “And we hope to empower them to do the same this year.”
Meanwhile, some local companies are harnessing the appeal of the “I Voted” sticker on the backend, not giving them away but instead offering deals and discounts for consumers who show up wearing them. In San Antonio, for example, citizens who show up at Bakery Lorraine wearing an “I Voted” sticker can get a free macaron or coffee. Home Slice Pizza in Austin will also trade a sticker for a free slice.