‘Binders Full of Women’ Invades

Matthew DeLuca asks office suppliers whether they’ll take advantage of the viral attention.

From left: Corbis; Getty Images

Reporters and voters alike can parse the details (or lack thereof) in Mitt Romney’s plans for coal, manufacturing, or housing. But there’s one industry he has already, albeit inadvertently, thrust into the national spotlight: the makers of binders and Trapper Keepers.

In the second presidential debate last week, Romney said that while serving as governor of Massachusetts he reached out to women’s groups in the state to help make up for a paucity of female officials—a version of the story that has since come under dispute. “They brought us whole binders full of women,” the candidate boasted.

And a thousand memes were born.

Moving on from Tumblr posts and innumerable tweets, digital pranksters have now taken to the product review boards of—perhaps in case Romney is in the market for another binder in which to tote women—flooding the threads with political opinion and burying the older, well-intentioned consumer ratings.

Could Romney be goosing sales – or sabotaging a company’s carefully monitored user feedback? Natalie Chavez, national sales manager for office-supply company Filexec, which derives 40 percent of its business from folder and binder sales, said she had not seen many of the comments on her company’s products. But she wasn’t too worried by the tone of the comments she had seen.

“If we sell more binders, why not?” said Chavez. “Spark the economy any way we can, right?”

Indeed, the Filexec three-ring binder, which comes in a pack of four featuring blue, pink, purple, and green binders with a one-inch capacity, got a thumbs-up from reviewer “Sean Mulligan:” “I was able to fit a ton of women into each binder. It was perfect for when I was looking for candidates in my state’s cabinet.”

Industry magazine AdWeek reported that in the 24 hours following Romney’s remark, online public mentions of Trapper Keepers jumped from a subsistence-level average of about five a day to more than 5,500.

But viral advertising based on an infelicitous turn of phrase is not something Filexec is interested in, Chavez said. “We don’t really do advertising like that,” Chavez said. “Our distributors do that.”

Other binder makers got the same treatment from reviewers.

“This is a nice binder, but not quite up to five-star standards. As a petite lady, I did not anticipate any problems fitting inside this binder,” wrote “Sally” in a product review for the Avery Economy Binder in black with a one-inch round ring. “The binder is much too small to contain women, and in fact does not even fit one woman very adequately.”

Some binder-dwellers made décor a priority.

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“I am considering purchasing this binder, because if I am going to be squished into a binder with other women, I’d like to be able to choose the color and have a bit of room so I still have personal space when the binder is snapped closed,” said “Naked Eye” of the purple, one-and-a-half-inch Trapper Keeper that got her attention. “I will be glad to hand this binder down to my niece and vouch for its comfort.”But for the most part, major binder producers seem uninterested in making much of the Internet sensation.

Office supplier Avery Dennison and ACCO Brands, which owns the company that makes Trapper Keepers, did not return requests for comment.

Steven Rosenbaum, the CEO of video-curation company, said that binder makers could have jumped on the meme bandwagon and turned the comments into an opportunity—but they were too slow on the draw.

“It’s been a really long time since anything in the binder-maker business has been sexy,” said Rosenbaum, who added that two people he knows have purchased binder-related URLs in the past few days. “My guess is by the time the binder guys figured out there was an opportunity it was gone, and it will be a while before there is another binder joke.”

“Is it really going to sell any more binders at the end of the day? Probably not, Rosenbaum said. “It’s probably more, are you hip enough to be in on the joke or not.”