Then-candidate Donald Trump first unveiled his “Make America Great Again” hat during a campaign visit to Laredo, Texas, in July 2015. He stepped out of his Trump-branded plane at the Laredo International Airport wearing a white MAGA hat, and it became an immediate online meme.
Trump was in Texas that day to visit the border, but his trip doubled as a product launch. Just a few weeks later, “Make America Great Again” hats were available on Trump’s campaign store in red, black, and white, the colors of his jet.
The hats set the slogan in Times New Roman, a type choice inconsistent with the campaign’s branding, and the Gs didn’t even match (check the G in “great” vs. “again”), something that still hasn’t been changed. The hat went on to become the undisputed blockbuster item in Trump’s 2016 merchandise line.
When the Trump campaign released the hat’s sequel last week, it didn’t receive the same rollout from Trump. Although he did hold it up on stage at his rally in Manchester, N.H., Trump did not wear a “Keep America Great” hat as he did with the MAGA hat in Texas. Trump also said that despite the new slogan, there was a possibility the campaign would keep using “Make America Great Again” as well.
Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
“Keep America Great” has been planned since before Trump took office, with the trademark registered two days before the inauguration. Still, Trump has been hesitant to fully embrace it and it took two months from the day he formally kicked off his reelection campaign to put out the hat.
Despite Trump’s relative lack of public enthusiasm for the new reelection branding, the hat has been promoted by more than 800 ad variants on Facebook in its first week, according to a review of the campaign’s Facebook ad page by Yello.
On August 15, the day of the New Hampshire rally, the Trump campaign’s joint fundraising effort with the Republican National Committee (which is named the “Trump Make America Great Again Committee” after the old slogan) ran more than 300 different ads alone.
Most of the ads were small buys of less than $100, testing out various combinations of images, captions, and calls to action. The initial ads linked to the campaign store.
By A/B testing so many versions of an ad before spending much money, the campaign can hone its digital message for relatively cheap. Are people more likely to click on an ad with a green “Shop Now” button, or does putting “Shop Now!” in red by itself work better? What if you add a few white stars to it?
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told CBS News in 2017 that the campaign micro-targeted users and could test as many as 100,000 ad iterations in a single day during the 2016 campaign.
Over the weekend the campaign began running ads for a contest to win the first “Keep America Great” hat signed by Trump. The ads emphasized the hat was only for “top supporters, like you,” personally signed “for YOU to win.”
According to contest rules, the campaign will pick 50 potential winners at random and screen the finalists to ensure whoever is deemed the winner won’t be a safety or security risk or cause other disruptions. The winner will receive a certificate of authentication plus round-trip coach class airfare and one night’s hotel accommodations to attend a Trump rally.
Some of the ads have been viewed by people across the country, while others appear to be very targeted, like this ad that was only seen by men ages 18-24 and women ages 25-34 in Ohio and Kentucky.
While most of the ad buys were small, there are some that cost more, including the below ad that reached between 200,000 and 500,000 users for between $1,000 to $5,000. More than half the people who saw it were men under the age of 45, according to Facebook’s ad library data.
Some ads have pointing arrows while others show Parscale holding up a signed hat.
While hundreds of different ads have been promoted on Facebook, the campaign isn’t doing much to push it on Twitter.
According to Twitter’s ad library, there have not been promoted tweets from accounts like @realDonaldTrump, @TrumpWarRoom, @TeamTrump, or @GOP in the past week. @TeamTrump did tweet a link to buy the hat on August 15 and 16. Those tweets received 737 retweets total.
Whether the hat takes off like its predecessor remains to be seen, but the campaign is certainly marketing it for success. At the very least, all the letters match this time.