Pens, t-shirts, water bottles, baseball caps, lanyards … so many lanyards.
Welcome to the wonderful world of swag, where — in a tremendous display of humanity’s technological prowess — we prove that we can stamp a logo or catchphrase on just about anything.
In politics, candidates don’t just use swag to raise money. They use it to learn more about their supporters. As Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times reported, “The choice of a product can reveal whether you are a beer drinker, a sports fan or what cellphone you use. It can suggest that there are a lot of joggers headquartered in a specific region of the country, indicating that a campaign may want to direct its health communications to that state.”
Candidates are essentially using swag sales data to help build out their buyer personas. (Or, in this case, voter personas.) Using the insights they glean, candidates can tailor their messages to the different regions they’re campaigning in.
But what kinds of products are candidates actually stocking in their swag shops? And what can candidates hope to learn from selling some of the more ridiculous items you’re about to see on this list? Let’s take a closer look.
12 Pieces of Presidential Campaign Swag You’ve Got to See
1) The Obligatory Beer Koozie
As a presidential candidate in the U.S. of A., you’re expected to do three things on the campaign trail:
- Kiss babies
- Eat hot dogs (no fancy mustard allowed)
- Drink beers with fellow, good ole-fashioned, beer-drinking Americans
To showcase just how beer-friendly they are — and to keep the hands of their suds-sipping supporters from getting cold — many presidential candidates sell signature beer koozies in their online campaign stores.
2) Candidate Coolers
Of course, a koozie is only useful when you’re carrying around a single beer. To carry around several beers, you need a cooler. Fortunately, the Cruz campaign store has got you covered. President Barack Obama’s campaign store sold a cooler back in 2012 as well, and John McCain’s 2008 campaign store sold one too — although McCain opted for an embroidered, soft-sided cooler as opposed to a hard plastic one.
3) Something With Overtly Millennial Messaging
The first two items on this list may have helped candidates identify who among their supporters were beer drinkers. But with the two pieces of swag pictured above, it’s likely that the Marco Rubio campaign (suspended March 2016) and the Hillary Clinton campaign are trying to target millennial supporters. Rubio’s “bae” sticker and Clinton’s “yaaas” t-shirt both highlight some very recent additions to American vocabulary.
And while we can’t help you in the “yaaas” department, we do have a flowchart that will teach you when it’s appropriate to use the term “bae” in your marketing.
Bonus: This 404 error page from the Jeb Bush campaign website.
4) A $75 Guacamole Bowl
FYI: I discovered that 404 error page from Jeb Bush’s campaign site while searching for his headline-grabbing $75 guacamole bowl. (Since dropping out of the 2016 presidential race in February, Bush’s campaign store is no longer operational.)
From a data standpoint, this one’s a no-brainer: Supporters who buy a $75 guacamole bowl from your campaign website must LOVE guacamole. You can use the sales data to make sure you’re serving guacamole at campaign events in the regions where guacamole popularity is at its highest. Note: These findings can also help to inform your campaign’s overall policy on guacamole and other snack-related issues.
5) A Commander-in-Chief Cutting Board
While we’re on the subject of presidential candidate-branded kitchenware, here’s a $20 cutting board from President Obama’s 2012 campaign. Can I prove that this $20 cutting board helped President Obama win the 2012 election? No, I cannot. But I also can’t prove that it didn’t help …
6) Star-Spangled Spatulas
Just kidding, these grill spatulas aren’t really spangled with stars, but they do incorporate the candidates’ campaign logos — in this case, President Obama’s campaign logo from 2012 and Ted Cruz’s campaign logo from 2016 — in a pretty nifty fashion. Have a hankering to know if your supporters are BBQ fans? Selling spatulas could be the secret recipe.
7) The Same. Darn. Water Bottle.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign store sells one ($15). Ted Cruz’s campaign store sells one, too ($15). And back in 2012, President Obama’s campaign store sold the same one for — you guessed it — $15. Sales of such bottles, no doubt, have helped candidates figure out which of their supporters are fans of water.
To be serious for a second, when you see items like water bottles being sold in conjunction with, say, yoga pants, and other athletic items, you can start to identify supporters for whom health and fitness are a priority.
Speaking of yoga pants …
8) Yoga Pants
Here’s another example of swag that’s aimed at fitness- and health-focused supporters: yoga pants. On the left are the Ted Cruz campaign store’s pants, which sell for $40. On the right are the pants from President Obama’s 2012 campaign, which sold for $35.
9) Specialty Shirts & Jerseys
There’s a lot of presidential candidate apparel out there, and most of it is pretty boring: just a logo and/or slogan printed on a t-shirt or cap. But in some cases, campaign stores take the design up a notch …. or down a notch, depending on your particular fashion sensibilities.
The first example above is from the Bernie Sanders campaign store, and it’s a t-shirt that was designed by street artist Shepard Fairey ($30). Next is an “ugly sweater” from the Ted Cruz campaign store, which features the candidate’s likeness ($65). Finally, we have a basketball jersey from President Obama’s 2012 campaign store.
10) Baby Swag
Yes, the legal voting age in the U.S. is 18, but that hasn’t stopped candidates from targeting the next generation with baby-sized swag. Also, sales of such swag can help candidates identify who of their supporters have youngsters in their families.
Pictured above: a “Make America Great Again” onesie from the Donald Trump campaign store ($18); a “Bernie 2016” bib from the Bernie Sanders campaign store ($15); and a onesie from the Marco Rubio campaign store that reads, “My parents love me, so they are voting Marco Rubio 2016” ($25).
11) Phone Cases
Lots of candidates are selling phone cases in their campaign stores nowadays. But back in 2012, Mitt Romney straight up owned the branded phone case game: All six case styles you see above are from his 2012 campaign store. They sold for $40-a-pop.
12) Swag Bundles
How do candidates identify their most ardent supporters, the supporters who are going to show up at rallies and help spread the campaign message like wildfire? It’s possible they look at the folks who are purchasing massive bundles of swag from their campaign shops. These bundles can include bumper stickers, pins, signs, flags, and more.
Know of any other awesome (or awful) examples of candidate swag? Let us know in the comments section below.