You’ve seen them. The red trucker hats with “Make America Great Again” stitched on in white. As dumb as they look, the hats became such a cult sensation that they’ve come to represent every Trump supporter in pop-culture representations, and countless avatars on Twitter and Facebook sport them.
Because of this, the hats are so important to Trump’s campaign that it spent more on them than he did other things important to a campaign. According to WaPo, Trump spent more on his MAGA hats than polling and direct mail, from June 2015 to September.
According to the Federal Election Commission filings, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has spent $1.8 million on polling from June 2015 through September of this year (the most recent month for which data are available). The report also lists $3.2 million spent on hats.
Trump has probably spent more on hats than he has spent on direct mail. The campaign filings occasionally aggregate a few things from the same vendor under one line-item, so some of the hat spending was on collateral generally that includes some hats. (His campaign spent more than $2 million on a line-item that was exclusively hats, though.) Overall, Trump’s spent about $15.3 million on collateral — shirts, hats, signs, etc. — more than he has spent on field consulting and voter lists and data.
The visual breakdown looks like this.
While it’s unusual, this shouldn’t be too surprising. Trump has a long history of focusing on branding, and his Make America Great Again hats are a pretty solid way of making his brand known. This also coincides with not really caring about other’s opinions, and so polling isn’t as much use to him.
Advertising, however, has shot up in the past month. Now that we’re nearing the end of election season, Trump is relying less on his hats, and more on direct messaging, which may be a little too late. The red hats were a solid way of getting the crowd’s attentions during the primary, but on the general stage, it takes a bit more than stolen slogans, and paraphernalia.