Advertising Donald Trump The Failure Awards

The Failure Awards for defunct branding | #10 Trump – The Game


By Andrew Eborn | president

October 17, 2017 | 10 min read

In this weekly series, Andrew Eborn shines a light on the products and services, brand extensions and campaigns that failed to take off and have as a result earned entry into the Octopus TV Failure Awards and a place in The Museum of Failure.

trump game

Trump - The Game

Last week we looked at the peculiarly punctuated :CueCat barcode reader. This time we look at a product featuring everyone’s favourite POTUS: Trump – The Game.

Where would we be without Donald Trump?

Like him or loathe him, one thing is for sure: Trump is a powerful brand.

The market is flooded with Trump merchandise both licensed and unlicensed.

From the 12-inch Donald doll from Stevenson which utters 17 Trump recorded phrases including such classics as "I should fire myself just for having you around" to the usual caps, mugs, t-Shirts, badges and other merchandise on the campaign trail to Making America Great Again. There's even Trump scented candles.

trump candle

Given how much money can be generated from the lucrative board games market a Trump board game was inevitable..

Board? This’ll wake you up…

Trade analysis magazine ICv2 estimated that in 2015 the card and board games market was worth $1.2 billion in the US and Canada alone.

The global board games market is predicted to be worth almost $5bn by 2021.

global board games

Shelf Life

Board games have a long life cycle – an average of eight years. Some last for generations. Monopoly, for example, was launched in 1935 and is still one of the most popular board games enjoying its highest number of sales more than 80 years after it was introduced.

The revenue that can be generated from the strategic licensing of intellectual property is significant. Get it right and the world is your lobster.

Trump: The Game

With this in mind, Jeffrey Breslow, a leading games inventor and former president and chief executive of Big Monster Toys, had the idea for a board game based on everyone’s favourite Big Monster, Donald Trump and his 1987 book “The Art of The Deal”.

Breslow pitched the idea to Trump and suggested splitting the profits equally. Trump replied, "I don't do 50-50". It was agreed that Trump would receive 60 to Breslow's 40%. Breslow said, "The game wasn't sellable without Donald Trump. He could have squeezed me for even 80-20. He knew he was in the driver's seat."

It will upset The Donald to read that he could have got more….

The Game was launched by Milton Bradley Company at Trump Tower on 7 February 1989. At the launch The Donald announced that he was not looking to make money from the game himself; rather his percentage of the game’s profits would be donated to charity. “The game was just ego to him, one more promotion,” Breslow said.

trump text

In the predictable fear and smear during the cut and thrust of the US presidential election campaign The Huffington Post had the audacity to question Trump’s claimed charitable donations….

Trump has a new game

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win!"

Trump was happy to help promote the game and even appeared in the TV commercial.

Trump – The Game is a roll and move game about buying and selling real estate. It was described as a boring and complicated variation of Monopoly, although Trump – never backwards in coming forwards - pointed out: "I really like the game. It's much more sophisticated than Monopoly.”

Trump: The Game flopped, shifting just 40% of its expected 2m sales.

Milton Bradley president George Ditomassi said: "The game was just nailed to the shelf." Trump himself admitted the game was "too complicated."

In 2004, following the success of The Apprentice, however, Parker Brothers re-released the game with simplified rules and a new tagline: “It takes brains to make millions. It takes Trump to make billions.”

Players make their way round the board with plastic T shaped markers buying and selling real estate trying to make more money than the other players. Each player begins with $500m. The smallest denomination is $10m.

The object: bluff opponents into spending foolishly while you buy low and sweep up big profits. As a signed letter from Trump states: “The object of the game is to make ..hundreds of millions of dollars. If you are clever, aggressive and lucky, you could end up with a billion or more!”

trump letter

Trump is everywhere in the game. His face is featured on the money and the game’s most important cards are the “THE DONALD” and “YOU'RE FIRED”.

Trumpian truisms appear on each “Trump card” such as “I would fire the person most likely to fire me”.

Ready to start! Boy, this looks like fun.

trump cards

Game over

Breslow recognised that Trump: The Game – while tipping its hat to Monopoly – was never going to enjoy the same success. He told the Washington Post: “A huge percentage of those games were never taken out of the box. It was bought as a gift item, a novelty, a curiosity. Trump got that. He had zero interest in how the game played.”

…and that’s about the level of interest most of those who did play it managed to muster…

Whilst the Chicago Tribune felt that it was "a sophisticated acquire-and-deal game" others were not so kind. Los Angeles Times said it was "not the kind of thing you want to pull out on the spur of the moment when grandma comes over.”

Another reviewer said: “I loathed every miserable second of it.”

Phil Orbanes, senior vice president of research and development for Parker Brothers, pointed out that Trump's game "..can leave you exhausted and feeling like you don't want to play again. As accurate as it may be at capturing the feeling of insecurity in the real world, the game doesn't give you a feel-good experience, which is the purpose most people rely on for playing games."

Time magazine listed the game among the "Top 10 Donald Trump Business Failures. And Fortune included the game in its list of five Trump "business fumbles".

“A great game if you don't have very many friends”

Mother Jones magazine summed up the feeling of several critics: "This is a great game if you don't have very many friends..the game's flaws—its erratic nature, its contradictions, its singular obsession with the rapid accumulation of wealth for the purpose of acquiring luxury real estate and firing people—are also Trump's flaws ... [Trump] basically took Monopoly money, stuck his face on it, and added a bunch of zeroes."

“Trump: the President’s Game” cunningly devised by Andrew Eborn

It has been 13 years since the last relaunch, and a lot has happened since. It would be interesting, therefore, to update the product to “Trump – The President’s Game” Third time lucky perhaps ……

In your quest to Make America Great again, the cards saying whether you move backwards or forwards in the game could include:

  • Benefit from Russian hacking
  • Caught engaging in locker room banter
  • Hurl new insults at “crocked Hillary”. What happened? Indeed!
  • Claim the largest crowd ever in the history of crowds
  • Roll, move and auction your way to Mexico paying for a wall
  • Sack your staff – when your spin doctors are the story you know you’re in trouble..Scaramouch, Scaramouch etc etc
  • Claim to invent “fake news
  • Blame the fake news media for any story you don’t like
  • Sack your staff, again
  • Tweet throughout
  • Invent a new language – cup of covfefe, anyone?
  • Call multi-Oscar Winner, Meryl Streep “overrated”
  • Hold Theresa May’s hand to stop her running through corn fields creating more crop circles
  • Tell Macron’s wife she is in “great shape”
  • Threaten to tear up the deals on nuclear weapons/climate change etc.

The Game would be won when you get re-elected or the world ends... whichever is the sooner.

The Octopus TV Failure Awards / TOFA

Trump will continue to provide gainful employment for journalists, comedians and licensing companies for the foreseeable future and I predict will be successful in securing a second term – assuming the world survives his first. That said, “Trump – The Game” was a failure and is therefore this week’s nomination for The Octopus TV Failure Awards.

See you next Tuesday for more fantastically fabulous failures….

Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewEborn and @OctopusTV

From failed products and services to campaigns and ads we would rather forget, we want to encourage organisations and brands to be better at learning from failures not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.

Send your nominations with full description and images to

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