When UGC Goes to Washington

What is it with hats- user-generated hats, to be exact- and this election cycle? Here at Source3, we noticed two significant trends in headgear: the famed “Pussyhat” and the now iconic “Make America Great Again” cap from the Trump campaign. Let’s discuss, then, what happens when user-generated content (UGC) goes to Washington.

On January 21st, 2017, at the Women’s March on Washington, the “Pussyhat,” made its formal debut into the world of (UGC). This fashion statement quickly became one of the most sensational political statements resulting from the 2016 Presidential election. What is a “Pussyhat?” A “Pussyhat” is a sewn, knitted or crocheted hat with two cat-like ears on top, and typically made in various shades of pink. The “Pussyhat” is a unisex design created by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, founders of the Pussyhat Project. Ms. Zweiman has already submitted a trademark application for “Pussyhat” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which would imply that the founders intend to claim ownership of the brand name itself. But brand exclusivity is not a part of the brand strategy. The Pussyhat Project’s primary objective has been the wide dissemination of their design. They actually encourage creators to use their original design. As we see in our analysis of over 100 different versions, creators are doing so, plus widely distributing and monetizing their creations. The question is: Will the Pussyhat Project founders enforce their trademark if their application is granted?

The playbook is remarkably similar on the other side of the political divide where Source3 sees a broad range of the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” caps. The original design was a simple fire-engine red cap with a standard font. During the election, the Trump campaign manufactured and sold these slogan hats for as much as $35 each. The campaign officially registered the slogan with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Despite this legal IP ownership, the Source3 database of user-generated products contains dozens of versions of the caps, including in Russian, and different colors. In February of 2017, a US Ambassador even gifted the Somali President a similar hat that read “Make Somalia Great Again.”

So, here we have two kinds of hats from two very different political outlooks. Both have been embraced by the maker community as a vital means of disseminating brand and message. At Source3, we can’t help but wonder what’s next? Campaign mittens or, perhaps, reversible protest ponchos that work for either side?!?

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