The 2016 US Presidential election was the most contentious ones in living memory.
It was bombastic, outrageous, full of meme-worthy moments.
It was also a great time for digital cash registers around the world, as people rushed to buy pins and signs and other paraphernalia .
Here’s a list of the stores that cashed in on the election fever.
1. The biggest store, the best store, believe me – the official Donald J. Trump Store (shop.donaldjtrump.com)
The MAGA hat is arguably the most iconic object of 2016.
A search for “maga hat” or “make america great again hat” gets millions of results.
It comes in white and even camo.
A Canadian judge got suspended for wearing it in a courtroom.
Wearing it and walking around in New York can apparently get you harrassed.
Fun fact: Trump’s store uses Shopify! The username is a tedious ‘donald-j-trump-for-president-inc.myshopify.com’.
2. Knockoffs MAGA hats on eBay (and literally everywhere else)
We know that over 51,000 counterfeit hats were sold, grossing an estimated $360,000.
These are the ones that are presumably made in China:
3. Countless parodies of Trump hats for every subculture and niche imaginable
What’s the best one you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments.
4. ‘Liberal tears’ mugs peddled on TeeChip by dodgy-looking Twitter bots
There’s an interesting story behind this one.
Until recently, whenever Donald Trump tweeted, some of the quickest responses would be by a bunch of dodgy-looking Twitter accounts talking about how they had just bought this Liberal Tears mug:
5. The Epic Trump tank top, on AAF nation
I have a suspicion that he doesn’t get compensated for his designs being used… but exposure is good for artists, right? Right?
6. Nasty Gal was particularly quick to respond to Trump’s “nasty woman” comment in the debates:
Made perfect sense, given how close the statement was to their actual branding! Founder Sophia Amoruso posted the product idea to Instagram almost immediately.
7. Google Ghost Press’s Nasty Woman t-shirts raised over $100,000 for Planned Parenthood
Their Instagram page is a great example of social proof in marketing. Hundreds of women were eager to spend their money to signal their solidarity.
8. ‘Pins Won’t Save The World’ made a Nasty Woman tee of their own
Clearly, lots of different stores got similar ideas!
9. Tired of t-shirts? There’s embroidery, too! Get the Nasty Woman Cross-stitch:
This particular design totally sold out.
You can still buy the pattern, though.
10. CafePress double-deals to both sides of the aisle
This one is quite funny to me – CafePress openly sells products marketed at opposite groups on the exact same page, side-by-side.
It might be interesting to try a ‘tip jar experiment’ and actually reveal (or imply) sales volumes, so as to introduce a gamification element:
11. The official store of the Democratic party (store.democrats.org)
This is where the ‘shop’ link on HillaryClinton.com now redirects to.
$40 for a bow tie seems a little steep. The store itself is very nicely designed, but there aren’t very many items on sale – and some of the items seem a little cringey or on-the-nose.
That said, I’m probably not a part of their target customer base. I’ve learned with my own t-shirt business [case study here] that people will buy the things you least expect them to.
Fun fact: store.democrats.com uses Shopify too!
Conclusion: Social identity is a powerful thing to cash in on
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the weird, wonderful world of political merchandise.
Button-makers have talked about how they’ve sold out all their merchandise.
And Bernie Sanders, while he didn’t make it to the final 2, still managed to make it onto prayer candles:
As Seth Godin once observed, people are very identity-focused, and we will make purchasing decisions that convey (to both others and ourselves) an idea of who we think we are.