The Fun and Funny Branded Merchandise of Fast Food Chains

The Whataburgerrunning shoes immediately caught our attention because of its striking orange, gray and white colorway with the chain’s logo the side of each shoe. We think that these are unique shoes, design-wise, and we may just get a pair for ourselves! Besides, these shoes are great for running and burning the calories from eating one too many burgers.

In a society where fast-food chains are releasing merchandise – sometimes on its own, sometimes as collaborations with others – the Whataburger running shoes aren’t unique. Here, we will take a look at the fun and funny, oftentimes creative, merchandise that the major fast-food chains have released.


With McDonald’s being the behemoth in the business, it’s undoubtedly the most successful fast-food chain, merchandise-wise. The chain, after all, created the Happy Meal, a combination of fast-food fare and toys that appeal to kids and collectors alike.

Just how successful is it? In 2017 alone, McDonald’s generated $10 million per day – yes, per day – in additional revenue from its Happy Meal sales! That’s impressive considering that McDonald’s stores operate the whole year-round.

In 1979, Happy Meals included fries and nuggets with branded toys like McWrist wallets and McDoodler stencils. Fast forward, these consist of a burger with soda, among other choices, as well as toys connected to a blockbuster movie or a popular show. With an average price tag of only $4.14, it’s no wonder Happy Meals are so successful.

The chain has teamed up with Marvel Studios, for example, for the action figures of the Avengers as well as with Disney for various characters.  These included the likes of Beauty and the Beast, 101 Dalmatians and Hercules.

In the late 70s until the early 80s, the chain’s mascot Ronald McDonald and his crew were used in selling a wide range of toys, videogames, glass cups and even movies.

There are even fitness DVDs that the chain launched to shed the negative image of its fast-food fare. In 2004, it also launched Adult Happy Meals that included a salad, Dasani water and fitness DVD as well as a pedometer.  We’re not really sure if these meals were actually a hit with the adults.


While McDonald’s may have dubious success with its Adult Happy Meals, Starbucks definitely has been and continues to be successful with its merchandise. The ubiquitous mugs, flasks and yearly planners are proof that where fun and practical merchandise are concerned, the coffeehouse chain is the king of the hill.

Starbucks released compilation discs containing the music played in its stores. This was at a time when CDs were still a thing with the in crowd; today, smartphones contain nearly everything necessary for a digital lifestyle. The chain even had its own record label, Hear Music!

In a creative move, the chain also used branded magnetic cups on the roof of taxicabs in Boston, Massachusetts. These cups were left there to make it look like as others accidentally left them. When passengers told the drivers about these cups, they were given Starbucks gift cards – and it was a cool promotion, too, for brand awareness.

Tumblers and coffee make sense! No wonder then that Starbucks mugs, glasses and tumblers are nearly always a hit with customers. In 2019, the color-changing tumblers were sold-out in less than a week with scalpers selling them online for two to three times their original price.  Every season, Starbucks releases a brand-new tumbler and these are sold-out, too.

Part of its popularity is that the Starbucks Siren is easily recognizable, not to mention that it’s a striking image for a coffeehouse chain. Starbucks also places its merchandise in strategic places where customers can easily see them, look at them closely and then buy them. These products are placed on shelves near the cash registers.

Note: Starbucks has suspended its personal mug policy in light of the Covid-19 threat. You can’t use your personal Starbucks mug to get your daily coffee. Your coffee will be served in a paper cup whether you like it or not.

Taco Bell

Before Forever 21 closed shop, it sold Taco Bell-inspired shirts and bodysuits. Taco Bell also have its own online shop selling a wide range of clothes including Halloween costumes, bathing suits and shirts.

But it also has several fun products! We love the stuffed animals and bobble heads, the baseball items including hats and trading caps, and the souvenirs. In 2019, Taco Bell created a pop-up hotel where branded items like coolers, beach towels, patio umbrellas and Hawaiian shirts were sold – and the reservations to the hotel sold out in less than two minutes, too.

Dunkin Donuts also opened its pop-up exclusive store in Massachusetts where branded hair ties, wrapping paper, phone cases and pajamas were sold. It also launched limited edition running shoes with Saucony, which were released before the 2019 Boston Marathon, as well as munckin-flavored lip balms.

These examples of fast-food branded merchandise is proof that we not only love to eat but we also love wearing what we eat, figuratively speaking.