Trump Won The Presidency By Destroying His Own Brand

In an election campaign in which Donald Trump has managed to offend large swaths of the country, the question is whether his brand will survive the damage.

In a historic and improbable victory, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in a stunning upset to become the 45th president of the United States.

The real estate tycoon-turned politician has unquestionably run one of the most unorthodox election campaigns in the history of American politics.

Previously, only known as a brash billionaire reality star, Trump launched his political career by doubting the citizenship of the first black president, Barack Obama.

Since the day Trump glided down his gold-plated escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy, he has leveraged his brand as a means to propel himself into the political arena and run a campaign mired in controversy.

During his campaign he’s called Mexicans rapists, proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. refused to release his tax returns, and bragged about sexual assault and deeply damaged his once illustrious brand in the process.

Within days of his announcement, Macy’s, Perfumania, Serta and the PGA severed ties from the Trump brand.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, Mark Cuban, the blunt, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks tweeted that if Trump lost the election he would be bankrupt within seven years due to the damage he has done to his brand.

It was a reasonable notion given how Trump actually makes money.

During his hay days in the 1980s, The Donald, as he came to be known, infused his brand as a brash, boisterous, unapologetic, and always entertaining salesman whose name was synonymous with glamor and luxury.

The launch of his reality show, “The Apprentice,” in 2004 and the spin-off that followed, “Celebrity Apprentice,” drove the Trump brand further towards the household name it is today.

It was around this point that Trump switched to a new business model of self-marketing.

Instead of risking huge amounts of capital in massive real estate projects The Trump Organization began partnering with developers by licensing the Trump name in exchange for a fee.

The Trump International Golf Club in Puerto Rico is one such example, which declared bankruptcy according to Forbes, but Trump made money on the deal despite its failure as he had simply licensed his name without risking any capital in the property itself.

In effect, Trump literally makes money off the fact that his name is Donald Trump.

But Trump’s offensive rhetoric and policy propositions have significantly tarnished the Trump name.

The Trump International Hotel In Las Vegas.

Data from Foursquare, which lets users "check in" at their location, has revealed that footfall to the controversial candidate’s properties in the U.S. has dropped by as much as 17 percent since June 2015, when Trump launched his presidential campaign.

Trump-branded hotels, casinos, and golf courses have all seen reductions in the number of visitors.

“The properties that were hardest hit were the Trump SoHo, Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago and Trump Taj Mahal, down between 17 and 24 percent in raw foot traffic this past year compared to the previous year,” Foursquare stated in a blogpost.

Now that Trump’s name has come to be associated with racism, misogyny, and bullying, it’s likely that fewer people will want to buy products or visit any properties bearing his name.

While Amanda Miller, vice president of marketing at the Trump Organization, told CBS that, “The Trump brand remains incredibly strong and we are seeing tremendous success across business units,” the facts tell a different story.

And Trump is not the only one being hurt by his election rhetoric.

His daughter’s clothing line, The Ivanka Trump Collection, has also taken a hit due to her father’s words and policies.

Ever since the tape that showed Trump talking about groping women without consent surfaced, many women were understandably turned off.

Shannon Coulter, a tech and media marketing specialist, decided to take action by calling for a boycott of Ivanka Trump’s widely sold clothing line by starting the hashtag #GrabYourWallet on Twitter – a call for shoppers to vote with their wallet.

According to The Guardian, not only is Coulter boycotting the clothing line that includes jewelry, shoes, handbags, and perfume, but she is also calling on the retailers that carry them – including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Amazon, Lord & Taylor, Marshalls and Zappos – to stop selling them.

For her, Ivanka’s continued support of her father, despite Trump’s proven pattern of misogyny is what troubled her most.

“If Ivanka Trump had distanced herself from the campaign I would not be boycotting her,” she said. “But something changed for me when that tape was released.”

Trump’s support during his presidential campaign largely came from working-class white Americans most of whom cannot afford to stay in any of Trump’s hotels.

But he has alienated the upper socioeconomic group that his brand has catered to throughout his business career.

Will Johnson, an analyst at research firm BAV Consulting, which monitors brand perception for over 3,000 brands, told the Washington Post, that the Trump brand was “collapsing” among people with a household income of over $100,000 a year.

Now that he will soon be President Trump, what will become of his brand?

The answer will depend on the kind of president he chooses to be. Will he continue to double down on the racism and misogyny of his campaign, or will he tone down his rhetoric and be the uniting force that the country needs?

Only President Trump can answer that question.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters

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