The Guide to Trump Opposition Merchandise

The Guide to Trump Opposition Merchandise

As Donald Trump generates a swell of public outrage and protest, it comes as no surprise to see Trump opposition merchandise springing up like wildflowers. Over the years we’ve studied what makes some oppo merch really good, and what makes some oppo merch super lame, and here’s what we’ve found.

DIY Merchandise Dominates

You can see at both spontaneous and planned protests that DIY merch is everywhere, particularly signage. While DIY is largely the consequence of resource limitations, the homemade aspect is extraordinarily effective in conveying the passion of its maker.

Think about the recent phenomenon of the Pussyhat and how striking it was to see that sea of pink knowing that it consisted of hats painstakingly knitted by thousands of women around the country. Like even the simple cardboard sign, the hat forces viewers to acknowledge the effort put into its construction, strengthening its messaging.

The power of DIY merch should not be underestimated. Some may be tempted to consider homemade political expression an ancillary concern. But the presence of DIY is so powerful that political operatives have been known to use fake DIY merch – mass produced but appears homemade – to try co-opt a grass roots narrative.

Go high when they go low

There are two different posters. One is an inspiring image of a woman wearing an American flag Hijab. The other shows an image of Trump and simply reads “we’re fucked”.  While we can all emotionally relate to both, which do you feel inspires you to take action against Trump?

Oppo merch can easily slip into a downward spiral of negativity – after all opposition implies negativity. But opposition merchandise can be wielded more effectively by taking a high road approach that inspires the public. The best recent example of this is the pocket constitution which, in the aftermath of Kazir Khan’s speech, became a highly popular symbol of opposition to Trump.

It’s important to note that the rationale here is not purely philosophical.  Even in the age of Trump, sales data is clear in that merchandise perceived to be insulting is less popular than merchandise seen as civil.

Selection from Shepard Fairey’s inspirational series protesting Trump.

Use parody with caution

Even when seen up close, it can be hard to realize this is a parody.

Using Trump – or any opponent’s – name and branding against them can be a dangerous strategy with oppo merch. Most of the time we catch only a quick glimpse of a shirt, hat, button etc. In a split second your brain tries to discern whether it’s seeing something new or not.  And if a parody looks too similar to the original, your brain is likely to believe it saw the original.

Imagine seeing some guy in a red ball cap with white embroidery at the grocery store. He’s too far away for you to read the hat,  but you already know exactly what it says. You run into him at checkout. After grilling the guy a bunch of times, you eventually realize it says “hate” instead of “great”. Ohhhhhh it’s meant to be ironic!  Congratulations you beat the odds, everyone else at the market still hates that guy.

Be Visible

Straightforward but still we have to mention this. The reason we see so many buttons, shirt, signs and hats is because they’re big enough to read easily at various distances.  Got another idea? Great, just make sure someone can see it so it can do its job.  Oh and make sure you’re using colors with enough contrast.

Have concise design

It’s imperative that your oppo merch communicate its message as quickly and accurately as possible as most viewers will only have a few moments to look at it.  Slogans that are too long, or designs that are too ambiguous take too long to digest before the viewer moves on – i.e. the bumper sticker that has so many words its impossible to read.  So keep copy and graphics straight and to the point. We also suggest giving your product a test run before any demonstration – view it from varying distances to see how visible and legible your piece is.

The message from this shirt is immediate and unambiguous.