Brands in the News

2017’s Brand to Watch: Donald Trump

12 Jan 2017  

Recently I posted my list of brands to watch in 2017. The list included Emirates, Tesla, GoPro, Wells Fargo, Amazon and P&G. I noted, however, that the most interesting and important brand to watch was clear: Donald Trump.

Defining the Trump Brand

I think everyone is confused about the Trump brand. What does it stand for, anyway?

Is it the brand we used to know, the brand that stood for luxury, wealth, quality, success and somewhat gaudy displays of excess?

Is it the dark brand that emerged over the campaign, a brand that stands for isolation, discrimination and fear?

Or is it the hopeful brand that also emerged over the campaign, with associations of pride, determination, commitment and strength?

The recent months haven’t provided much guidance. Trump’s acceptance speech was respectful and gracious.  Some of his nominees are concerning, though. His recent Tweets are a mix of sentiments, with the only real consistency being the lack of consistency.

Branding Advice

Here is my branding advice for Trump.

First, Trump should remain Trump. He should continue to tweet, talk in a direct fashion and call out individuals and companies. Consistency is important in branding; dramatic changes simply cause confusion. Trump shouldn’t act like Barack Obama. He should act like Donald Trump.

Second, Trump should be careful about the associations he creates. He should align his brand with positive messages. He should embrace success stories.

At the same time, he should be careful to distance himself from negative associations. The alt-right is a concern. Trump should continue to reject its polarizing ideology and ensure that his team follows the same course.

Third, Trump should keep focused. The key to his election was a simple message that highlighted benefits people could relate to. All throughout the campaign he said he would build a wall, defeat ISIS and protect American jobs.

As his new administration settles in, it should retain a focus on a few big priorities. It will be difficult to do this, as there are many issues to address. Still, if Trump can get three or four things done that have a lasting impact, he will be on his way.

Don’t expect to see soaring approval scores. Many people don’t like him and they won’t change. It is difficult to reposition a brand. If you really don’t care for Spam, or Walmart, or Miracle Whip, there isn’t much I can do to change your mind. Still, Trump might exceed expectations.

One investment note. If you think he will be successful, you should buy a condo in one of his properties. Prices are down. If he succeeds they will snap back over the next four years on the strength of the brand. It could be a way to turn a nice profit if things go well.

2 Responses

  1. Jill Carr says:

    Hi Professor Calkins,

    What about the “brand” of the President of the United States? I feel as if there is also a brand image associated with the president and acting “presidential” – do you think that this brand equity or image will be destroyed by Trump? Based on his behaviors I have a hard time believing he’ll adopt a “presidential” demeanor.

    See you Thursday!
    Jill Carr

    • timcalkins says:

      This will indeed be interesting to watch. The presidency brings with all sorts of branding cues, which makes it very powerful. Brand Trump + Brand US President = A Real Mashup!

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