Dumping Trump: Backlash begins

In Dubai, a $6 billion golf community is ditching the Trump brand name. Real estate firm DAMAC Properties removed Trump’s names from its “Akoya by DAMAC” venue this week in the wake of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to temporarily bar Muslims from the United States.

In Toronto, City Councillor Josh Matlow wrote to the owners of that city’s Trump Tower, asking that the building be renamed.

And in Stamford, Connecticut, a coalition of religious leaders says it wants Trump’s name off of a 35-story tower in town.

Taken together, those incidents could represent the beginning of a global backlash against Trump, the luxury brand — which includes everything from condos to golf courses to his daughter’s fashion and accessories products. Already, branding experts say Trump’s presidential campaign could be doing irreparable damage to Trump’s brand.

Even the current residents of Trump’s high rises in New York are divided over their home’s controversial namesake.
“I cringed when we moved in here three years ago, so I definitely cringe now,” said Julie Flannagan, standing outside the Trump Place apartments on Riverside Boulevard.

But her neighbor, Suzanne Mullen, disagreed. “I’m proud to live at Trump place, I think Donald Trump has done a brilliant job with building what he’s built here, and I’ve been proud to know him, and his family, and I think he’s a great American,” she said.

Mike Jackson, a brand expert and chief marketing officer of Event Solutions International, said investors and developers in the process of doing new licensing deals to put Trump’s name on hotels or golf courses may want to stall those until they see how the controversy plays out.

And that could significantly impact the value of the Trump brand: “I kind of look at the damage being 100 percent and maybe irreparable as we move forward,” Jackson said. “Short term, I can’t imagine that there are any developers out there that are negotiating now to hang the Trump name onTrump vs. Bush tax plan their respective properties.”

Jackson said his bigger concern is for the damage to other iconic American brands if Donald Trump were to win the Republican nomination or the presidency and the significantly larger platforms those positions provide. “The last thing that great American brands need is to be associated with the ‘ugly American,'” he said. “The scary part about it is the global nature of American brands that ultimately do not want to get sucked into the conversation around Trump.”

The blowback could scale back Trump’s mass market appeal, some experts say. “Assuming he is not the next president, his future in licensing is likely to be that of a niche player appealing to the small base of consumers who support his outspoken and outrageous views,” said Laura Ries, a brand consultant in Atlanta. “He will have difficulty selling a mainstream brand via traditional channels,” she said. “Think Sarah Palin.”

For all that, Trump has proven over the years to have a resilient appeal — he’s been involved in one controversy or another for so many years and each time he has found a way to turn notoriety into profit. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization declined to comment.

Jackson said the Trump Organization may have one asset to deploy whenever the Trump presidential campaign comes to an end: Trump’s daughter Ivanka. She’s younger, attractive and less connected to her father’s political rhetoric.

“I believe she’s a great ambassador and she’s done a really nice job not just having an eye for product and positioning, but she’s marketed her brand and herself really well,” Jackson said. Still, her last name is Trump, and depending on how long her father’s campaign goes on, that could be a distraction. “Ultimately, the alienation could have a significant impact” even on Ivanka’s separately marketed line of shoes and clothing.

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