MONEY politics

Skittles and 13 Other Products That Got an Inadvertent Publicity Boost from Politics

Candy follows in footsteps of Etch a Sketch, Black Dog T-shirts.

Skittles found itself in news headlines and all over social media this week after Donald Trump Jr. mentioned the candy in a Tweet on behalf of the Trump campaign about the dangers of Syrian refugees.

A spokesperson for Skittles then responded to the controversial comment, briefly:

While Skittles maintains that it’s not trying to use the incident for marketing purposes, the brand is getting a ton of attention, with the #Skittles hashtag popping up in social media comments from the right and left wing alike. This is hardly the first time a mainstream consumer brand has suddenly found itself in the media spotlight thanks to a high-profile mention in politics. Here are some other examples.


  • Etch A Sketch

    160919_GAL_Skittles_Etch
    Steven Senne—AP

    An Internet meme was born in 2012 when Mitt Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom offered up a classic toy as the metaphor for how his candidate’s approach would change when shifting from the Republican primaries to the general election. “Everything changes,” he said. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.” The comment was widely viewed as a huge gaffe indicating that Romney’s core principles were subject to change depending on the situation.

  • Wendy’s

    160919_GAL_Skittles_Wendys
    Bettmann—Getty Images

    The iconic “Where’s the Beef” line from 1980s’ Wendy’s commercials was used in 1984 as a zinger in a Democratic primary debate by Walter Mondale to question the substance of his rival, Gary Hart. Mondale went on to win the party’s nomination, but lost the election to Ronald Reagan by an electoral vote count of 525 to 13.

  • Dad Jeans

    160919_GAL_Skittles_DadJeans
    Haraz N. Ghanbari—AP

    Barack Obama’s fashion sense has repeatedly been called into question due to his continued wearing of uncool dad jeans—or even “mom jeans.” He’s not the only politician known for rocking baggy old-fashioned jeans; Rand Paul regularly wore dad jeans on the campaign trail.

  • The Black Dog

    160919_GAL_Skittles_BlackDog
    John Bohn—Boston Globe via Getty Images

    The Black Dog Tavern in Martha’s Vineyard is probably better known for its T-shirts and sweatshirts than its menu. While the restaurant has been open since 1971, sales of shirts and other apparel took off in the 1990s after photos circulated with celebrities and other high-profile individuals wearing them. Most infamously, President Bill Clinton said that he gave Monica Lewinsky a number of Black Dog items as gifts during their extramarital relationship. The company steadfastly refused to comment on the scandal, but the business has flourished, and there are now multiple locations stretching from Maine to Georgia.

  • Broccoli

    160919_GAL_Skittles_Broccoli
    David J. Phillip—AP

    President George H.W. Bush was a famous hater of broccoli, going so far as to ban the vegetable from the White House and Air Force One. (Bush was instead renowned for loving pork rinds, leading to a leap in sales during his presidency.) Broccoli’s ties with politics didn’t end with the elder Bush’s run as president. President Obama said that broccoli was his favorite food when asked in 2013, and Bush was in the news again in 2016 when a child sent him a letter extolling the virtues of broccoli.

  • A Wrinkle in Time

    160919_GAL_Skittles_WrinkleInTime

    Sales of Madeleine L’Engle’s young adult novel first published in 1963 spiked earlier this year, right after Chelsea Clinton mentioned it in her speech at the Democratic National Convention. “I remember one week talking incessantly about a book that had captured my imagination, A Wrinkle in Time,” she said. “Only after my parents had listened to me would they then talk about what they were working on, education, healthcare, what was consuming their days and keeping them up at night.”

  • Big Bird

    160919_GAL_Skittles_BigBird
    Matt Sayles—AP This Aug. 30, 2009 file photo shows Big Bird, of the children's television show Sesame Street, in Los Angeles.

    The American public flocked to the defense of Big Bird, Sesame Street, and PBS in general in the fall of 2012 after presidential candidate Mitt Romney threatened to cancel federal funding for public broadcasting stations. In the aftermath of Romney’s comments, Big Bird costumes sold out around the country for Halloween.

  • Poland Spring

    160919_GAL_Skittles_PolandSprings
    AP—AP

    The most memorable part of Marco Rubio’s rebuttal of President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address was the Florida Senator’s awkward gulping of a Poland Spring water bottle during the middle of his speech. Marketing professionals said that Poland Spring missed a prime opportunity to capitalize on the incident because the brand had almost no presence on social media.

  • Target

    160919_GAL_Skittles_TargetDress
    Carolyn Kaster—AP

    First Lady Michelle Obama has highlighted the Target brand name in more than one way. In 2014 she told People magazine that during a trip to a Target store, a shopper approached and asked her for help, assuming that Obama worked there. Michelle Obama has also been known for wearing affordable fashions, like the $39.99 Jason Wu dress from Target she donned for a press event in 2012.

  • McDonald’s

    160919_GAL_Skittles_McDs
    Joyce Naltchayan—AFP/Getty Images

    One of the most famous cold openers ever on “Saturday Night Live” featured Phil Hartman playing President Bill Clinton in 1992. While the “president” was out on a jog, he stopped in McDonald’s and wolfed down half the menu, solidifying Clinton’s reputation as an aficionado of greasy burgers and fries. Years later, his wife Hillary Clinton has been more likely to be spotted doing business with Chipotle or Dunkin’ Donuts.

  • Kazuo Kawasaki Eyeglasses

    160919_GAL_Skittles_Glasses
    Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

    The “Palin Effect” kicked in during Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice presidential run on the ticket with John McCain, when sales of her signature rimless $375 Kazuo Kawasaki glasses shot through the roof. Sales of the frames reportedly quadrupled in the days after the Republican National Convention in 2008, the same year that Palin was up for consideration as TIME’s Person of the Year.

  • Florsheim Boots

    160919_GAL_Skittles_HighHeelBoots
    Mary Schwalm—AP

    Marco Rubio, mocked as “Little Marco” by Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary run, received plenty of attention during one news cycle not because of his policies but his choice of shoes. Rubio’s footwear—heeled Florsheim boots that sell for $135—quickly disappeared.

  • Dirty Harry Movies

    160919_GAL_Skittles_DirtyHarry
    moviestillsdb.com

    Perhaps the most celebrated instance of a president quoting a movie, Ronald Reagan invoked Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character as a threat to possible federal tax increases in 1985. “I have my veto pen drawn and ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up. And I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers. Go ahead–make my day.” Eastwood was probably listening: He’s been a loyal Republican for decades.

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