It’s a pretty simple formula. What if a teddy bear, but also Donald Trump?
This commercial, for Trumpy Bear — a product of Dallas-based Exceptional Products Inc. — understandably attracted some media attention when it debuted. Well, really, at multiple points in time as various cable-news networks and print publications were forwarded the YouTube video or saw it promoted on Fox News, often spurring the same reaction: Wait. This is real?
And, again, it is. Bear plus Trump. Not complicated. Oh, and plus an American flag, secured safely in Trumpy Bear’s back.
“We have been very pleasantly surprised with the product,” said Elliott Brackett, a vice president at Exceptional Products, when we spoke by phone on Thursday. Part of its success, he said, was that “people who love Trump buy it and people who hate Trump buy it.”
How could he be so sure of that latter group (which he estimated might make up as much as a fifth of Trumpy Bear sales)? Well, he offered an example. A guy called up and wanted to send a Trumpy Bear to his mother-in-law, just to annoy her. He went so far as to insist that his file include a note saying that his information was not to be shared with anyone who asked and so, when an annoyed mother-in-law called, his privacy remained intact. (If she is a reader of The Post, however, this year’s family get-togethers might be a little awkward.)
A disclaimer at the bottom of the Trumpy Bear Official website offers a hint at an intriguing aspect of Trumpy Bear, that Trumpiest of bears. “Domestic Manufacturers and Distributors,” it reads, “contact us!” The implication? Trumpy Bear and his flag are not made in the USA.
And, in fact, they aren’t. Brackett confirmed that each Trumpy Bear is, in fact, a native of China.
At the moment, of course, President Trump is engaged in a knockdown, drag-out trade war with China, levying steep tariffs on products imported from China. The mind reels at the possible implications here. Are Trumpy Bear sales hurting because the cost of the bears went up because Trumpy Bear’s inspiration slapped tariffs on them to spur more domestic manufacturing?
As it turns out, the answer is no, for two reasons.
The first is that stuffed bears are included among several categories of products for which no increased tariff has been applied by the Trump administration. As Trump has ratcheted up the fight, though, he’s pledged at times to expand his tariffs to cover every import from China. Were he to do so, the cost of Trumpy Bears to migrate to the U.S. could increase substantially.
But Brackett doesn’t think that’s likely.
“From a historical — all my experience since the late ’80s, it’s very, very difficult to raise prices,” he said. In the past, as costs have gone up, his company has eaten the increased costs. Even though Trumpy Bear is a novelty item. (“This product is unlike any other product we’ve ever sold,” he said.)
“I would not bet against the downward pressure of pricing,” Brackett explained. “The American consumer is just far too used to it.” When other products have become more expensive to produce due to increases in component costs, etc., the company has generally kept sales prices the same. Their products hadn’t yet been affected by the trade war, Brackett said.
Exceptional Products is a small business with only five full-time staff. While the company used to employ scores of people who did order fulfillment at warehouses, that work is now contracted out to other companies. For some of their products, they use eBay or Amazon fulfillment systems. Trumpy Bears come from China to a warehouse in Dallas, where a contract firm then ships them off to buyers across the United States and, occasionally, overseas.
It’s hard not to acknowledge the various levels of irony here: a bear created as a tribute to Trump that’s made in China and which is distributed by a company that focuses mostly on marketing to the exclusion of hiring lots of employees. Which, when you phrase it like that, sounds like one of the most honest tributes to Donald Trump the businessman that you can imagine.
Brackett noted that his company can’t claim credit for the most successful component of Trumpy Bear’s marketing — that weird ad.
“This particular product was developed by an individual inventor who is also a television producer,” he explained. She invented the bear and produced the television spot to promote it.
Truly an American success story.