Marketing Challenge: What To Do With the Trump Brand?

What should Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump do with Trump Brand? The brand has traditionally been positioned as upscale: hotel rooms that start at $400; golf club memberships for up to $200,000; $50 cologne; $40 wines; $175 ties. But with the president’s low approval ratings, things have not gone well in some of the Trump businesses — paving the way for some geo-demographic segmentation opportunities.

What should Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump do with Trump Brand?

The brand has traditionally been positioned as upscale: hotel rooms that start at $400; golf club memberships for up to $200,000; $50 cologne; $40 wines; $175 ties. But with the president’s low approval ratings, things have not gone well in some of the Trump businesses — paving the way for some geo-demographic segmentation opportunities.

Before the election, the Trump men’s clothing line lost its distribution channel when Macy’s discontinued it in 2015 as a result of Candidate Trump making disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants.

“We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico,” Macy’s said, according to CNN. “In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy’s values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump menswear collection, which has been sold at Macy’s since 2004.”

You can still buy remaindered Trump menswear on Amazon and EBay. Selected sport coats are going for $100 to $120, and suits, originally priced at $475, are being sold for $200 to $279 on Amazon, if you can find your size. (I know this because, as a result of my research for this column, I’m now being retargeted for these items everywhere I go.) It’s interesting to note that in 2005 a consumer survey found that Donald J. Trump beat out Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan as one of the most trusted fashion names in America, according to the New York Times.

With Macy’s out of the picture, there are a limited number of potential midscale retailer partners to revive this business line — given the President’s current approval ratings.

The Trump real estate and golf properties are experiencing ups and downs, depending on their location. “… an analysis by the New York Times of financial records, and interviews with club members and employees, show that most of his golf venues fared better in areas that supported President Trump in last year’s election than in those that did not.”

“Business is booming at the Trump National Golf Club (in Mooresville, N.C.). The real estate office is selling million-dollar homes, the membership roster is nearly maxed out, and the private club is booking a record number of events … It is a very different story in Los Angeles. The Trump National Golf Club there, a public course, has seen a double-digit drop in revenue from golf in the first six months of 2017, compared with a year earlier …”

Business at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., was climbing until a wave of cancellations resulted from the president’s remarks about violence. But the Trump SoHo condominium-hotel in New York and the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago — both cities that are liberal strongholds — are seeing signs of hardship.

The president’s unpopularity presents significant challenges for the Trump brand. But while his overall approval rating remains low, he shows resilience within his traditional base. Recent polls show Trump’s numbers improving after the post-Charlottesville low point, particularly among his traditional supporters.

According to Investors.com:

“President Trump’s approval rating hit 38 [percent] in the (September) IBD/TIPP poll after what pundits routinely described as a terrible month for the president. While still low, that represents a six-point gain over the previous month.

Regionally, Trump’s gains were strongest in the South, where his approval jumped 13 points to 48 [percent]. He firmed up support among Republicans as well, with an 8-point increase to 79 [percent]. He gained 14 points among those with a high school education, 10 points among conservatives, 7 points with white men and 4 points among those living in rural parts of the country.

(The September IBD/TIPP Poll was conducted Aug. 23-Aug. 31. It includes responses from 905 people nationwide, who were asked questions by live interviewers on cell or landline phones. The poll’s margin of error is +/-3.4 percentage points).”

Based on these findings, it would seem that the brand’s biggest opportunities would be among high school-educated white conservatives living in the rural South.

Enter American Idea and Scion — three star and four star mid-range hotel brands planned by Trump Hotels, as reported by Forbes.com.

The Scion idea is to move beyond a focus on luxury hotels in big cities and create boutique properties in smaller cities. The plan is tied to the Trumps’ new chain, which is being designed as more affordable than the high-end hotels associated with the Trump name. The developers would own the hotels, while the Trumps would be paid licensing and management fees, the brothers told the Washington Post.

The company will open the first of its Scion line of hotels — marketed as a four-star boutique brand — early next year through a deal the company inked for a property under construction in Cleveland, Miss., population 15,800.

Don Jr. told the Washington Post, “We started talking, Eric and I, as brothers, and saying, ‘You know what, there’s something here, there’s a market here that we’ve been missing our entire lives by focusing only on the high-end.’ ”

What’s Next for the Trump Brand? How About NASCAR?

Sponsors of Reed Sorenson’s No. 55 covered the car in Trump-Pence logos for a race during the campaign, a sponsorship that would normally go for $350,000. Might we see a Trump brand car in the future? Bloomberg reports: “American motorsports fans generally overlap with Trump’s base — both skew heavily male, white and Southern.”

The neighborhood adjacent to the thriving Trump golf club in Mooresville N.C., named the Point, is perhaps best known as home to more than a dozen NASCAR drivers and crew chiefs.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Trump brand? Comments below are welcome.

Political Polarization? The Medium Is the Message

I was upset to learn that a good friend of mine is no longer speaking with his sister because of an argument over President Trump. He could no longer abide that she, like many members of the president’s “base,” continued to defend the President. How did we get to the place where families are being torn apart over politics? Look no further than where people get their news.

Facebook unfriending
Source: Clay Jones, ClayToonz.com
Facebook unfriending – the struggle is real

[Editor’s note: While this opinion piece is not explicitly about marketing this time, it’s important for marketers to note what’s happening with consumers and the context in which they’re seeing ads. Content marketers have had to keep an eye on this; most recently in April, concerning hate speech sites housing YouTube ads. Chuck McLeester doesn’t mention hate speech sites below.]

I was upset to learn that a good friend of mine is no longer speaking with his sister because of an argument over President Trump. He could no longer abide that she, like many members of the president’s “base,” continued to defend the President. How did we get to the place where families are being torn apart over politics? Look no further than where people get their news.

In the Washington Post column, The Fix, Aaron Blake writes on Aug. 22, “We increasingly live in two Americas. And those two Americas have very separate sources of news.”

Blake cites an extensive study by Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society that examined 4.5 million tweets and looked at those who retweeted either Trump or Clinton. It then looked at the URLs that the users shared.

Not surprisingly, Trump and Clinton supporters relied on very different sources for their news. The tables below show the top 50 media sources shared by Trump and Clinton supporters. It’s interesting to note that Trump supporters sometimes cited “left of center” media, while Clinton supporters never cited “right of center” media. Eleven of the sources cited by Trump supporters were from “Left” or “Center Left” sources, perhaps refuting left-leaning mainstream media outlets like the The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN.

This polarization of people by the media they consume makes me think of the work of Marshall McLuhan from the mid-1960s. McLuhan contended that the content in a medium was less important than the change that was brought about by that medium.

As noted in the Wikipedia page on McLuhan, “… the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are, in effect, being brought into the home to watch over dinner. Hence in “Understanding Media,” McLuhan describes the “content” of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time.”

Anyone who has Facebook friends on opposite sides of the political spectrum is bound to witness this phenomenon. In fact, Facebook itself is the complicit medium, creating structural changes in the civility of political discourse among friends and family members.

So while it may be easy to blame Donald Trump or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton for pitting brother against sister, shouldn’t we be taking a closer look at the media they’re consuming and the media they’re using for political discourse as the culprit?

Here are the tables that the Harvard study derived from the Twitter and URL data, Trump’s first, Clinton’s second.

In the charts below:

“Partisan Scores” are based upon how often a source was shared by Trump and Clinton supporters. Scores range from -1 for sources shared mostly by Clinton supporters to 1 for sources shared mostly by Trump supporters.

 

Trump backers share these media sources on Twitter, Harvard finds
Trump backers cite these sources, according to “Partisanship, Propaganda, & Disinformation: Online Media & the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” DASH terms of use. | Credit: Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University by Robert Faris, et al
Cinton backers cited these sources on Twitter, Harvard finds
Clinton backers cite these sources on Twitter, according to “Partisanship, Propaganda, & Disinformation: Online Media & the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” DASH terms of use. | Credit: Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University by Robert Faris, et al

The Trumping of America 

In September 2015, I predicted Donald Trump would win the White House simply because of his mastery of psychology-based marketing. He did not prove me wrong, for better or worse. While I don’t want to discuss the pros and cons of Trump’s win, I do want to review the lessons his campaign presents to brands when it comes to understanding human psychology and tapping into our emotions, thoughts, behavior, votes and purchases.

Donald TrumpIn September 2015, I predicted Donald Trump would win the White House because of his mastery of psychology-based marketing. He did not prove me wrong, for better or worse.

While I don’t want to discuss the pros and cons of Trump’s win, I do want to review the lessons his campaign presence demonstrated. Successful branding comes with an understanding of human psychology, which enables us to tap into our audience’s emotions, thoughts, behavior, votes and purchases.

I will reiterate Trump’s successful campaign strategies:

“I’m Just Like You”

Trump’s goofy, off-the-cuff persona made him real and approachable. He was not polished, like the politicians he promised to “drain from the swamp.” Instead, he was candid, said things he shouldn’t have, and sniffed and grumbled, like all of us do. He was human.

Follow the Winner

From the beginning of the campaign all of the way to the end, Trump’s stump speeches all followed the same theme: “I’m winning. Here, there and everywhere. And I’m winning bigly.”

Popularity Matters

Life is a popularity contest and any publicity is good publicity. Trump successfully attracted massive amounts of media attention by acting outrageously: People just couldn’t resist talking about it. The media has played along his whole life — even more so during the campaign. His shenanigans stole attention from Hillary Clinton in the weeks leading up to the election, and that was the last nail in her coffin. He had won the media war.

Trump Campaign Conclusion

These tactics all cater to the basic fundamentals of human psychology. The fundamentals are so powerful that they trumped reason and rationality in this election. Hillary’s campaign rationale — Who could vote for a person like him — fell on deaf ears and silent media channels. I’ll explain why, along with some insights on how these principles can apply to your brand positioning.

What Donald Trump’s Win Means for Promotional Products

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

(Image via CNN)
(Image via CNN)

[Target Marketing’s take: This piece notes “branded merchandise sales can predict an election.” So, too, can core product sales be related to the success of associated goods. For instance, Nike sells shoes. And yet, sales of “Just Do It” shirts and co-founder Phil Knight’s book “Shoe Dog” also soar. So this Promo article has plenty of import for TM readers.]

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

It may be a leap, but I believe promotional products played a huge part in this presidential election. With that in mind, here are a few key takeaways you can apply to your next promotional campaign.

1. Promotional Products Matter – Big Time

We told you that Trump spent more on hats than polling, and it sure seems that budget allocation paid off for his campaign. The “Make America Great Again” hats became a symbol for his campaign, and effectively communicated his message throughout the election.

(Image via Trump's online store)
(Image via Trump’s online store)

For future promotional success, political leaders need to place more weight on one solidified campaign slogan that extends across all merchandise. While Hillary bet hard on her “I’m With Her” slogan, there were multiple official Hillary phrases that permeated the campaign. Instead, she might have found more success strengthening one campaign slogan.

2. The End-users Have Merchandising Power, Too

While each political nominee obviously released branded political merchandise, they were far from the only ones. Voters everywhere capitalized on election micro-moments and created their own merchandise based on viral memes. From the “Nasty Women” T-shirts to “Proud to be a Deplorable” apparel, the campaign was rampant with end-user impact.

(Image via PopSugar)
(Image via PopSugar)

For the future, political candidates can encourage their constituents to submit their own political designs, in order to give the people what they want. That way, when potential voters go to purchase this political merchandise, the political campaign will actually be getting the money, instead of places like CafePress and TeeSpring.

3. Branded Merchandise Sales Can Predict an Election

It’s a pretty bold statement, but one that proved the be true, according to Louisville Business First. CafePress has accurately predicted the presidential winner since 1999, and it correctly predicted Trump this year. But, how did the company get it right? Well, via the merchandise sales.

(Image via Bloomberg)
(Image via Bloomberg)

As of September, pro-Trump merchandise was outselling pro-Hillary merchandise by 20 percent. And, Philly.com pointed out that Trump sold more lawn signs.

Now that you know the weight of promotional apparel, you understand how important it is to dedicate time and resources to a great promotional campaign. The more people who see it on the streets, the more likely they are to keep a candidate top-of-mind.

Marketing Takeaway: ‘Trexit,’ Data Truths and Our Quickening Loss of Empathy

The Economist probably wrote the best post-mortem on the U.S. Election of Donald J. Trump – and published it one week in advance of what actually happened. But why the surprise? Turning inward, how could all that polling and data analysis not see this “Trexit” outcome, particularly after Brexit – which should have acted as a data barometer warning of electorate measurement? I see at least three reasons, all of which have ramifications for marketing.

american flag donald trumpThe Economist probably wrote the best post-mortem on the U.S. Election of Donald J. Trump – and published it one week in advance of what actually happened.

National and foreign media outlets are dazed, but I’m not alone in seeing this outcome as a true reflection of what’s going on in the world, not just in the United States. We are not immune to fear of rapid change from the rise of globalization, digitalization, urbanism, multi-culturalism and “white (male) privilege” being left behind. No matter which flawed candidate you may have voted for, perhaps we have been played by a piper.

But why the surprise? Turning inward, how could all that polling and data analysis not see this “Trexit” outcome, particularly after Brexit – which should have acted as a data barometer warning of electorate measurement? I see at least three reasons, all of which have ramifications for marketing.

First, because swathes of individuals who voted for our President-elect may largely be unseen and unaccounted for in polling, may steer clear of social media and certainly fail to be reflected in the echo chambers that are Washington, New York and Los Angeles. They barely leave digital crumbs — and they are the ones who shop offline, don’t answer marketing surveys and let the answering machine pick up the call. One of the most favorable polls for Clinton — that of Huffington Post — excluded polling of landline-only households, for example. Helloo! Artificial intelligence can only process what is fed into the data funnel. But missing data doesn’t explain all the inaccuracy.

Second, those of us who have had to deal with self-reported data know one inconvenient truth: such data, at least in the marketing world, is sometimes inaccurate, predictably so. In politics, this can be true, too. People may not admit publicly who they support. (There are lots of quiet people in the office, even as others around them banter loudly about politics.) People are very capable of saying what they think makes them look a certain way, rather than behave differently, and that’s why observable consumer behavior is valued in the marketing data marketplace at a premium.

Third, in doing a consulting assignment for a new client (Stirista) and I came across a recent blog post on its site that I truly found insightful, no matter who we are, what we believe and where we live. We are losing empathy: We are losing the ability to walk in another man or woman’s shoes — whether he or she is across town, across state lines, across the country or around the world. We are insulated from each other, often wantonly. In the ad business, this is dangerous. In society, it’s destructive. If we can’t reach out and listen to a fellow citizen, without judgment, and participate in a healthful exchange of ideas, how can we construct a democracy that functions? In marketing, we need to explore all the personas that motivate, not just those that we might expect, even if they may at first seem counterintuitive.

Take one more page from The Economist:

“Mr Trump was the nominee of a party which, after losing the presidential election of 2012, commissioned a post-mortem that concluded that until Republicans built a new coalition, including many more non-whites and other fast-growing demographic blocs, it would struggle to win national office again. Mr Trump’s gamble was to take an exactly opposite approach. He bet everything on a strategy of nostalgic nationalism, summed up in the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, precisely because his hunch was that the country is home to an underestimated mass of voters who do not want to be part of any rainbow coalition, thank you—and certainly not if the price is granting amnesty to immigrants in the country without the right papers, or embracing gay marriage.”

We have liberal media. We have conservative media. And we have lots of data segmentation separating the two. How about something different: Can we have middle media? Can we have “data bridges” — finding commonalities in data sets to unite, rather than unique values to separate? The Plural Generation is upon us. Whoever is in the White House, no one can tell us to stop building those bridges, to stop exchanging ideas, to stop sharing our hopes and fears. We need all the ad community to do the same.

Donald Trump’s Directive for Marketers and Copywriters

No matter what you think of your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, a message he keeps repeating is one that successful direct marketer’s heed: To succeed in selling, you have to make great deals. More importantly: You must close them. If there is a component of marketing that often seems missing these days, in a sea of marketing messages pummeling consumers at every turn, it’s this: Deals aren’t always clearly offered, and when they are, there is often a failure to close.

No matter what you think of your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, a message he keeps repeating is one that successful direct marketer’s heed: To succeed in selling, you have to make great deals. More importantly: You must close them. If there is a component of marketing that often seems missing these days, in a sea of marketing messages pummeling consumers at every turn, it’s this: Deals aren’t always clearly offered, and when they are, there is often a failure to close.

Direct marketers know that to survive in business, you have to close. When someone is looking at your direct mail, email, landing page, or other channels, and you don’t close the deal on the spot, you’ve probably lost the sale forever.

Successful salespeople know that to get their commission check, they have to close on the spot, or the prospect will walk away possibly buying from a competitor.

So, why does so much marketing messaging fail to close?

A few observations:

  • Scarcity of big and bold ideas
  • Emotion missing or misdirected
  • Lack of persuasion
  • Failure to offer proof and credibility
  • No engagement with storytelling
  • Focusing too much on logic when emotion usually prevails
  • Products or services not positioned as usual or unique
  • No urgency
  • Failure to anticipate and leverage a message of how the buyer will feel when accepting your deal

Instead, people are assaulted with triteness. Marketers blast away with the usual “Buy Now!” “Act Now!” or “But Wait…” and too often, they fail to sell before asking for, and closing the deal.

Clearly, in some channels you wouldn’t ask for the order and attempt to close the deal all in the initial contact. In those channels, you may be building trust and credibility, such as in mass media brand advertising or content marketing in social media.

But after expending so much time and money to build trust and credibility in mass media, content marketing or social media, if there isn’t a plan to migrate the prospective customer to another channel where the opportunity to close is greater, it’s a lost opportunity.

That’s where direct mail and opt-in email can be highly effective, using physical space, or square inches in print, and the opt-in nature of email, to effectively persuade with the right copy and close the deal. Here are a few pointers:

  • When using direct mail, include a strong order device — even if a majority of orders come in electronically. These days, an order device is often missing in the interest of cutting production cost. But what too many marketers fail to see is that a printed order device is your closing piece.
  • Push — and possibly incent — the customer to close the deal online if you’re using direct mail. For email, a link to a landing page is expected. Take advantage of the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell other products.
  • State why the customer benefits by picking up a phone to interact with a live salesperson. This is important for older age individuals, or products whose sales process are more involved.
  • Motivate your prospect to go to a retail store to touch and see the product, and interact in person with a salesperson. When you do that, include mechanisms to help measure the impact on the direct mail and email campaign.

Closing a deal is tough — perhaps more so now that ever.

With so many marketing messages around you, you have to get attention. That’s part of the art of the making the deal. Prospective customers will work hard to ignore your deal. So these days, you have to work harder to close your deal.

P.S. Last week I experimented with Periscope and presented a live preview of this blog post. If you’re not familiar with Periscope, I recommend you look into it. Recordings only reside on Periscope for 24 hours, but we grabbed the recording so you could watch it. Here’s the result: