"Let's Make America Great Again" was first used in President Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, when the United States was suffering from a worsening economy at home marked by stagflation. Using the country's economic distress as a springboard for his campaign, Reagan used the slogan to stir a sense of patriotism among the electorate.
During the 2016 electoral campaign, Clinton suggested that Trump's version, used as a campaign rallying cry, was a message to white Southerners that Trump was promising to "give you an economy you had 50 years ago, and... move you back up on the social totem pole and other people down."
Donald Trump wearing a Make America Great Again cap during his 2016 campaign.
On September 16, 2011, Roger Stone, Trump's longtime political advisor and a veteran of Reagan's 1980 campaign, tweeted the slogan: "Make America Great Again --TRUMP HUCKABEE 2012 #nomormons". Two months later, in December 2011, Trump made a statement in which he said he was unwilling to rule out running as a presidential candidate in the future, explaining "I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again". Also in December 2011, he published a book using as a subtitle the similar phrase "Making America #1 Again" — which in a 2015 reissue would be changed to "Make America Great Again!"
Candidate Trump popularized the slogan "Make America Great Again" by stitching it on to a widely distributed cap.
Trump himself began using the slogan formally on November 7, 2012, the day after Barack Obama won his reelection against Mitt Romney. By his own account, Trump first considered "We Will Make America Great", but did not feel like it had the right "ring" to it. "Make America Great" was his next name, but upon further reflection, he felt that it was a slight to America because it implied that America was never great. After selecting "Make America Great Again", Trump immediately had an attorney register it. (Trump later said that he was unaware of Reagan's use in 1980 until 2015, but noted that "he didn't trademark it".) On November 12 he signed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office requesting exclusive rights to use the slogan for political purposes. It was registered as a service mark on July 14, 2015, after Trump formally began his 2016 presidential campaign and demonstrated that he was using the slogan for the purpose stated on the application.
Banner displaying "Vote To Make America Great Again" on a roadside in California shortly after the November 2016 election.
During the campaign, Trump often used the slogan, especially by wearing hats emblazoned with the phrase in white letters, which soon became popular among his supporters. The slogan was so important to the campaign that it spent more on making the hats – sold for $25 each on its website – than on polling, consultants, or television commercials; the candidate claimed that "millions" were sold. Following Trump's election, the website of his presidential transition was established at greatagain.gov. President Trump stated in January 2017 that the slogan of his 2020 reelection campaign would be "Keep America Great" and immediately ordered a lawyer to trademark it. Trump tweeted “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” on September 1, 2018, apparently in response to Meghan McCain telling about 3,000 mourners at John McCain’s memorial service “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.” 
Donald Trump took the campaign slogan to social media (primarily Twitter), using the hashtags #makeamericagreatagain and its abbreviation #maga. In response to criticism regarding his frequent and untraditional usage of social media, Trump defended himself by tweeting "My use of social media is not Presidential - it's MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!" on July 1, 2017. This comment justified his usage of social media as main method of communicating to his base.
In the first half of 2017 alone, Trump has repeated his slogan on Twitter 33 times. In an article for Bloomberg, Whitehouse noted "A regression analysis suggests the phrase adds (very roughly) 51,000 to a post's retweet-and-favorite count, which is a big deal given that the average Trump tweet attracts a total of 107,000."
Trump attributed his victory to social media when he said "I won the 2016 election with interviews, speeches, and social media." According to RiteTag, the estimated hourly statistics for #maga on Twitter alone include: 1304 unique tweets, 5,820,000 hashtag exposure, and 3424 retweets with 14% of #maga tweets including images, 55% including links, and 51% including mentions.
Donald Trump created his Twitter account in March 2009. His follower count increased significantly following his announcement to run for president in the 2016 presidential election, with particularly notable spikes occurring after both securing the Republican party nomination and winning the presidency.
After Donald Trump popularized the use of the phrase, the phrase and modifications of it became widely used to refer to his election campaign and his politics. Trump's primary opponents, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, began using "Make America Great Again" in speeches, inciting Trump to send cease-and-desist letters to them. Trump claimed after the election that the hats "were copied, unfortunately. It was knocked off by 10 to one [...] but it was a slogan, and every time somebody buys one, that's an advertisement". Cruz later sold hats featuring, "Make Trump Debate Again", in response to Trump's boycotting the Iowa January 28, 2016 debate.
John Oliver spoofed the slogan in a segment of his show, urging viewers to "Make Donald Drumpf Again" in reference to the original name of Trump's ancestors. The segment broke HBO viewership records, garnering 85 million views.
The tagline for the film, The Purge: Election Year, was "Keep America Great" (later announced as the slogan for Trump's 2020 reelection campaign). The next film in the franchise, The First Purge, was subsequently advertised with a poster featuring its title stylized on a MAGA hat.
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