The Best Democratic Candidate Merch from Billionaire Tear Mugs to Marijuana Beanies
In 2017 I entered the world of e-Commerce, through both my own direct-to-consumer venture I started with my husband, Your Cat Backpack, and the work I've done with consulting clients.
The 2020 election is fast approaching, and I have been following closely for the past year and a half. As the Democratic field narrows, I've enjoyed watching the campaigns run from a pure marketing perspective. I'm optimistic that each of the major candidates left are activating a wide range of constituents across the country. My hope is that the current candidates and their supporters will rally for whoever is chosen as the final candidate.
Did you know, that buying merch from a candidate's store counts as a donation? You get to support the candidate and get stuff, too! Winning!
My Take on Candidate Stores & Merchandising
The best stores have a number of options that represent a wide range of people, especially those who might normally feel left out.
Some of the smartest gear is the gear that makes the buyer feel like an insider -- that they know something about the candidate that others might not.
Many of the candidates have done a lot of artist collaborations. It's a great way to benefit from a creator with a large audience and to create unique items that people might be interested in buying regardless of the candidate attached to it.
Which brings up another point -- politics is divisive, we all know that. It's common practice to not talk politics with most people in your life. Some people are more comfortable talking politics than others, so it's smart to have a range of merch that let's people be subtle or obvious about their support for a candidate and what that candidate stands for.
My Picks for the Best Stores
Warren gets my #1 pick for best store, with Yang close behind at #2. The rest of the candidates and their standout items are listed in no particular order.
Note, I pulled candidate bios from their Instagram / Twitter profiles.
#1: Elizabeth Warren
U.S. Senator, former teacher, and candidate for president. Wife, mom (Amelia, Alex, Bailey, @CFPB), grandmother, and Okie. She/her. Official campaign account.
Warren's store has the best variety of items -- from artist collabs to a wide range of constituent t-shirts to the pure number of items, Warren's team wins the merch game.
Magnets last longer than stickers, so that's a great choice right off the bat. I love these designs, because they are phrases you'd likely stick on your fridge regardless of the candidate. Plus, the three artists who made these all have enormous audiences -- putting them in a 3-pack is brilliant.
Pint glasses are an item most people might feel they have enough of, but when you have a glass with a play on words featuring one of your candidate's main catch phrases, you are likely to make an exception.
Female empowerment mixed with baby clothing is a great combination. Throw in a super cute design and you've got a triple threat.
It'd be silly to not have merch with your most famous slogan -- and a note book is perfect for this slogan. Specifically, small notebooks are great because people are more likely to buy more than one.
And the winner for the best product and product description goes to...
In November 2019, billionaire and former Goldman Sachs executive Leon Cooperman (who as recently as 2017 settled with the SEC on insider-trading charges) was brought to tears on live television while discussing the prospect that a President Elizabeth Warren might require him to pay his fair share in taxes. Savor a warm, slightly salty beverage of your choice in this union-made mug as you contemplate all the good a wealth tax could do: universal childcare, student debt cancellation, universal free college, and more.
#2: Andrew Yang
I’m running for President in 2020 (D). Fighting for: 💵 Freedom Dividend ($1k/mo. for all) 🏥 Medicare for All 🏛 Human Capitalism
Yang's store has the most fun items, along with a variety of traditional items. The items really align well with his brand, as the media often notes that he seems to be having the most fun on the trail.
If you haven't heard, Yang has a really strong social media following. They call themselves the #YangGang. Yang is the only candidate that will retweet "regular" supporters -- he does it all the time. This hashtag game is strong. Also, ladies love lady tees.
Yang's campaign is fun, and so is this sticker sheet. It includes classic quote stickers along with some funnier choices that show off that Yang is human (like, he was a nerdy looking kid), which connects to a key campaign phrase, "humanity."
A more subtle way to include policies in your merch and match them with your core phrases - MATH stands for "Make America Think Again."
It's a bold move to really embrace how much of a long shot your campaign is -- and it's a nice pun put on a shot glass.
Yang likes to emphasize that he is a normal person, and that includes going through a goth phase in high school.
Putting a catchphrase that involves left and right on socks? Heck yes.
I get things done and I can win. I hope you'll join me on my homegrown campaign. U.S. Senator from Minnesota and candidate for President. Text AMY to 91990 to join our homegrown campaign.
Amy's store has the least number of items -- but she has a good number of unique items and ones that really appeal to her base. I'd recommend more items that resonate with a wider range of people, that also show off some of her best qualities, like her humor that she's passed the highest average number of bills of all the candidates except for Joe Biden (he has 36 years to her 13).
This is a unique item across all stores -- no one else has a tea towel on their site. It's fun, useful, and a recipe that includes tater tots. It's her latest recipe from the annual Minnesota (the state she reps) Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition. What's not to love?
Amy announced her campaign in a blizzard, literally. This merch is a nod to that, plus it's useful for most people -- especially those who live in the states she represents the most -- flyover country.
There's nothing new about a candidate mug, but this is the nicest mug across all the candidate stores. It's hard to convince people they need another mug -- but when it's this nice, they are more likely to make an exception.
Toughness and getting things done are two words to describe Amy's campaign, and grit is a great representation of what and who she stands for and with. This is a great item that falls into the subtle support category. There's a tiny "Amy for America" logo on the back of the neck.
Afghanistan veteran, South Bend’s Mayor Pete, husband. Running for president to rally Americans together to meet our urgent challenges. Boot-Edge-Edge. (he/him)
Pete's store has a good number of options, some items that play up what makes Pete unique as candidate, and a good number of lighthearted options.
Instead of putting policies on the shirt, Pete's campaign has "rules of the road." These are hard to argue with, right?
Definitely one of the most unique items I've seen across all sites. Do I see the connection? No. Is it still cool? Heck yes.
As the first openly gay person who has run for president, a first "gentleman" would be a historic first.
Every campaign has dog collars or bandannas. Only Pete and Warren have cat collars.
A nice play on words -- BUTE EDGE EDGE is how they explain to people to pronounce his last name.
Biden has one of the best subtle policy items. He also has a line of "State for Biden" shirts. Interestingly though, there are only about 20 of those. You'd think they would just make one for each state.
One of the best designs I've seen related to climate change.
Gotta use those cute phrases to connect with the young people right? This is cutie.
One of Biden's most viral clap backs, in t-shirt form.
U.S. Senator from Vermont and candidate for President of the United States.
Sanders has mostly classic items like shirts, mugs, and magnets. He does have a lot of artist collaboration t-shirt designs, and an exclusive shirt design from his 25,000+ person rally in Queens.
The classic mantra of Bernie supporters. Magnets are easier to remove from cars than bumper stickers -- good choice.
This shirt combines an inside joke and constituent-specific.
An artist's subtle play on the classic Bernie logo. The design and colors appeal to a much different audience than classic red white and blue candidate merch.
For those who aren't afraid to talk politics -- this one's for you. Putting your biggest campaign promises on a shirt is a smart and bold move.
25,000+ people showed up to this specific Bernie rally. There's a built in audience for this special design, plus it's a cool enough photo and quote for those who weren't there to still be interested.
As November 2020 inches closer, it will be interesting to see how these stores and merchandise change and evolve. Remember, buying merch from a candidate is the same as a cash donation - so if you want to support a campaign, consider nabbing some swag!