From “personal branding” to “presidential branding”: another way to look at Donald Trump’s campaign and future presidency and its impact on the value of the Trump brand.
Donald Trump has always been a champion of personal branding: placing his name on buildings to add value and prestige, creating his brand of ties, shirts and so on. But when it has come to campaigning for President of the United States… things have gone to a whole new level.
THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THE TRUMP BRAND
The Trump brand has been a quintessential part of his campaign and it will be part of his presidency. The elements of the “TRUMP BRAND” are quite consistent and a “classic american”. Let’s see them.
From Uncle Scrooge to the iPhone 5 which introduced the “gold” colour in US it’s a symbol of aspiration for money and flaunting.
All perfectly fitting Donald Trump’s style of bragging and debating (especially in the primaries where he qualified himself claiming how rich he was most of the times) and furniture and design choices for homes and… planes.
Although missing a dog (traditionally a key element in Presidential campaigns and image) Donald Trump didn’t come short of wives, children and nephews. And from kings to nobles, from entrepreneurs to TV stories families are always a key element for making power and wealth more human, more close to the people, more accessible and acceptable. Lets say it: no on of the candidates had a family like Donald Trump: 3 wives, 5 children, who-knows-how-many nephews and they all love him and work with him. A real dynasty, now consecrated by the Presidency. Donald Trump knew this was his… trump card and he involved his family in all possible manners throughout the 18 months of the campaign.
Trump has worked hard also on building a back-track on his family history and acquiring rights to use a Scottish family crest, whose newly credited motto is “Never quit” (Numquam concedere).
In two versions, one created on purpose for the circuit of Trump’s golf clubs. A legitimation of his european immigrant origins fishing in the pool of nobility land of inspiration: Scotland.
Most part of the Trump’s campaign was about strength. His adversaries were publicly branded as “Low energy” (Jeb Bush), “Little” (Marco Rubio) or “weak and without stamina” (Hilary Clinton). She often said that Hillary Clinton was sick or “sleeping” and that “she doesn’t have the strength or the stamina to be President”. He repeated this a million times, implying, although being 70 and overweight, he is powerful and strong.
One of his key promises has always been to make the US army “stronger than ever before” with which he will “knock the hell out of Isis” and he will do it “quick!”. Everything in Donald Trumps newly Great America is going to be big, better, huge!
A promise of strength, power, victories made of repeated slogans and keywords often based of size, power, greatness.
Donald Trump is the quintessence of the american dream, his father and grandfather were in the first place he is the fulfilment of 1900’s american dream: an immigrant comes to America, makes a fortune and his son/nephew goes to the best college and one day… becomes President!
Sometimes for immigrants the american dream was more of a disillusion as witnessed but this notorious anonymous quotation, but nevertheless was a promise of greatness to which Trump is looking back, promising to “Make America Great Again”.
And who embodies the american dream better than a builder, who started form a single brick to create an empire whose symbol is a golden tower?
A self made man, who built his success brick after brick, generation after generation. Buildings and (the work of) building is the core of the Trump brand and philosophy. Trump has become a legend after building in 1983 a gold looking tower in 5th in Manhattan, calling it Trump Tower. A landmark for the 1980’s success in America and for Trump’s path to… well, the White House. Building is, according to Donald Trump, the essence of business. His whole fortune is in real estate and from real estate he learned what will be distilled in his bestseller “The Art of The Deal“: his negotiating skills. These skills are what will make Donald Trump a great President according to Donald Trump.
Buildings are Trump’s brand first and main product. The hotels, golf clubs, towers, casinos he builds all carry his own (family) name: Trump Tower, Trump Hotel, Trump Golf… the man’s name gives value to the building which gives value to the brand (that is the man’s name) in a pretty unique loop.
Building has also been a frequent and relevant topic in his campaign. Donald Trump has promised to: “build a wall” (to protect America from criminal and illegal immigration), “rebuild our infrastuctures” (airports, bridges, roads) and has invited to jump ion the “Trump train” to “Make” America “Great Again”.
Gold, buildings, scottish heritage, BIG, families and kids… remember anything?
You got it: Donald Trump’s favourite food and an iconic american brand, symbol of wealth, globalisation, success.
A mix of Uncle Scrooge, a TV celebrity, Uncle Sam and Ronald McDonald, Trump is a brand: an american icon himself. It has been very easy for the american man and woman to perceive maybe a bit funny and crazy, but surely familiar, successful and patriotic.
FROM “PERSONAL” TO “PRESIDENTIAL BRANDING”.
During the presidential campaign Trump played all his cards to seduce the american average man and to present himself as already presidential and to a degree others could never reach.
AIR FORCE ONE Vs. TRUMP FORCE ONE
Who needs Air Force One or Marine One when you have “Trump Force One” and a personal helicopter, which are even gold plated?
WHITE HOUSE Vs. TRUMP TOWER
Who needs a White House when you have a golden tower to receive other nation’s leaders?
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been quick and smart in having the first Presidential meeting with Donald Trump in the President elect private Residence, Trump Tower in New York. He brings back home a sense of friendship and intimacy with the new USA Leader and preferability towards other nations. Trump, on his side, shows he is accepted and intimate by international leaders and that he doesn’t need the White House to be accepted in the club… Where will future meetings be hosted?
[Update 4/2017] After a few months of Trump presidency the “Mar a Lago” private Trump estate in Florida has been often used to receive foreign prime ministers. To the extent that the US Embassy in London has dedicated a web page to Mar a Lago Trump’s private club and called it “the winter White House“. Of such a prestigious attribution, although the page has quickly been removed, the buzz still goes on and I am sure the private club (200.000 USD a year subscription) will benefit a lot.
This mix of icons (presidential buildings and symbols with family or private brand and assets) works both ways: it gives to the new President a natural sense of power and success on the other it enriches the Trump brand of a whole new level of prestige and fame.
THE TRUMP BRAND AS A PRESIDENT
Now the loop is complete. The man who created a big (“huge”) business putting his name on buildings is now entering the most prestigious building in the world: the White House. And that’s what the guests of his hotels (the latest just inaugurated in Washington with a view on… the White House!) will feel as the extreme addendum to the Trump brand: the “presidential feeling”. Time will tell if the Trump’s brand will be a pop one like the famous french butter or an elite one like Montblanc’s limited edition John Fitzgerald Kennedy “presidential” pens.
A Trump Hotel is a hotel for a Chief of State, a Trump Golf Club is where you might play with cabinet secretaries and make important deals, a Trump tie will get you going for any meeting: its “a President’s tie”, now. The question is: how much are you willing to pay for it now? And will they continue to be made in China? Will they change quality and positioning now?
It’s a quite unprecedented event in the history if brands, apparently. A commercial brand (who already sells: clothes, buildings, food (steaks, wine and mineral water), jewellery (Ivanka) and many more products) is not only owned but is the name itself of the most powerful President on earth.
Everybody will cherish a glass of Trump wine, now that is a wine that will carry an immediately recognisable name and is associated to a gala dinner with the most powerful men in the world. The Trump brand with Donald Trump being President of the United States of America will benefit to a large extent of two factors: popularity and prestige.
How much value can being President bring to a brand? Hard to say, but easy to imagine: a lot. Will political hate impact on sales and value? Probably.But an “anti Trump” person probably didn’t buy his products even before. It will depend on Donald Trump’s childrens (a dynasty now) to preserve it, to be able to make Trump Hotels and water popular, but not to waste this unique allure and prestige that comes from the presidency. To continue to be accessible, but remain aspirational.
Even if you labeled it as a conflict of interest, it’s hard to handle since you can withdraw from your companies but how can you withdraw from your brand AND name?