The range of promotional merchandise hawked by presidential candidates has expanded enormously in recent years. Yard signs and t-shirts are only the starting point. Voters now expect candidates to reflect their personal brand with cleverly branded knick-knacks and gifts. At their best, these products highlight a candidate’s personality quirks and drive interest in the campaign. At their worst, they become ridiculous symbols of political tone-deafness.
Here is a quick survey of the gold and the garbage campaign swag of the 2016 cycle.
The Jeb! shop is a glorious disaster. The logo is the most obvious problem – it looks like a kids cartoon, or those red Dr. Pepper shirts. Still, who on earth thought that a $75 Jeb! Guacamole urn was a good idea? Also note the rip off Trump hat.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats are obviously the best merchandise available so far. Part of what’s so great about the hats is that Trump wears them literally everywhere, and it has made his slogan highly visible. It’s probably the only GOP slogan most voters would recognize… and the hat is more politically effective than Jeb Bush’s entire digital operation.
The Trump online shop offers an impressive 16 variations of his hat, including the ultra-chic camo orange hat (not pictured).
Hillary’s digital team also hit the ball out of the park with her merchandise. Love or hate the design of the H-> logo, its been successfully incorporated here into several amusing products, like this sold out holiday sweater. The Hillary-signature logo is also a nice human touch, especially when you remember that a large portion of the electorate think she is a robot.
Hillary’s “homewear” category is where it gets really good. Campaigns have a notoriously hard time with the clever-and-authentic Millennial outreach. The Grillary Clinton Spatula and H is for Homemade Cookie Cutter actually pull it off.
Carson’s team leans heavily on his professional background in medicine. The good doctor is offering scrubs and “future neurosurgeon” clothes. The overriding theme here is boring – kind of like a Carson speech. I for one was hoping for a Pyramid-as-grain-silo model or something. (collaborate with the Lego Architecture people??)
The other candidates mostly had uninspired merch offerings (looking at you, Bernie Sanders!) Below are a few other honorable mentions.
Rand Paul branded corn hole game. This is the entirety of his Iowa victory plan. And then there’s this weird Ted Cruz coloring book.
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