"HE WHO LOVES PRACTICE WITHOUT THEORY IS LIKE THE SAILOR WHO BOARDS SHIP WITHOUT A RUDDER AND COMPASS AND NEVER KNOWS WHERE HE MAY CAST".
Leonardo Da Vinci
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
The Trump Brand Now Stronger Than Apple's
Regardless of whether Trump (the man) wins or loses, Trump (the brand) has already won.
Several news stories recently suggested that Trump's campaign, fueled
by his personal endorsement of his ability and right to commit sexual
assault, was damaging the Trump brand.
As evidence of this, CNN cited a report that bookings at his casinos
and hotels are sharply down, prompting Trump to sidetrack to promote
his recently-opened (and sparsely booked) Washington D.C. hotel.
In addition, a grassroots group has been boycotting sales of Ivanka
Trump's line of clothing.
That Trump's favorability rating was down to 31 percent from a
post-convention high of 38 percent would seem to lend credence to
the notion that the Trump brand is a disaster the making.
However, while a favorability rating 31 percent is exceedingly low for a presidential candidate this close to an election, it's actually much higher
than the Trump brand has historically enjoyed.
In May of 2011, Steven Levitt, president of the brand valuation firm Q Scores, told Adweek that Trump's popularity ratings "are as bad
as they've always been...four-and-a-half times more people are turned
off by him than turned on."
In other words, before Trump entered the political arena in 2011 by spreading racist lies about President Obama, the Trump brand enjoyed a favorability rating of 18 percent. Back then, he was only around half as popular as he is today.
More important, many Trump's political supporters are wildly enthusiastic
about him, so that the Trump brand almost seems to echo the product evangelism usually associated with strong corporate brands like Apple
As I've noted in a previous post, any brand that people really love will
also have a set of people who loathe it. Consider: don't you know at
least one person who hates the entire Apple fanboy shtick?
It's true that many people who probably never gave the Trump brand
a second thought five years ago now actively hate him and the brand
alike. However, their hatred makes Trump's supporters love him all
the more. That's how branding works.
Weak brands create weak emotions which drive weak sales. Strong
brands create strong emotions which drive strong sales. As long as
those sales take place, it doesn't matter whether the strong emotions
are negative or positive. In branding, love and hate are sides of the
In terms of the amount of pure emotion it creates, the Trump brand is
arguably stronger than the Apple brand. While Apple sales dwarf
Trump sales, that's comparing apples to orange-heads.
When it comes to emotion, Trump beats Apple hands down.
That's relevant in a business sense because the demographic profile
of Trump's supporters matches the traditional demographic target of
Trump's branded products.
While the Trump brand is outwardly positioned as luxurious and upscale,
it's always had its greatest appeal for the sort of down-scale wannabes
who are impressed by lavish tackiness like solid gold bathroom fixtures.
Trump's branded products--Trump Wine, Trump Steaks, Trump University, Trump's books, etc.--are targeted not at the rich but at those who hope,
by aping Trump, to bask in a pale reflection of his lifestyle.
In other words, Trump's political supporters are the very people to
whom Trump has been hawking his products. By contrast, the people
who now hate Trump and his brand were never his potential
customers nor likely to become customers.
Trump's reality TV show is a case in point. The primary appeal of
The Apprentice was the working-class schadenfreude of watching
Trump fire the kind of upscale professionals and celebrities who are doing quite well in the real world.
Much like Trump's candidacy, The Apprentice was revenge fantasy for the downwardly mobile.
Seen in that light, Trump's candidacy has raised the visibility of (and strengthened the attachment to) the Trump brand among those people
who were and are most likely to buy Trump-branded products or stay
at Trump properties.
Which leads us to the election.
Regardless of whether Trump wins or loses, he'll remain a hero to his supporters. Any products that he launches--and make no mistake,
win or lose, there will be Trump-branded products--will sell well to his
newly-loyal customer base.
If, for instance, Trump launches his own television network in competition
with Fox, it will begin broadcasting with huge brand equity, guaranteeing
its success whether it's run out of Trump Tower (if he loses) or the
White House (if he wins).
So regardless of what happens on November 8, the Trump brand will
emerge from the election burnished rather than tarnished. Indeed, from a branding perspective, Trump has already won, and won bigly.
Those who believe that Trump's brand has taken a huge hit should
remember the immortal words of H.L. Mencken: "No one ever
went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
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