Marketing Challenge: What To Do With the 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.