If Donald Trump is headed back to his Manhattan offices in two months, and not the White House, he’ll be returning to a brand that’s been dramatically reshaped by his two-year political adventure. Maybe not in a good way.
“The Trump brand used to be one-dimensionally focused on success. It was simple and relevant to a large audience,” said Allen Adamson, founder of consulting company BrandSimple. “Now it’s more complex and polarizing and relevant to a smaller market segment.” That’s because there’s a mismatch between Trump’s voter base and his target consumers, branding experts like Adamson say. And the data trickling in from the tourism and real-estate industries backs them up.
A walk around the lobby of the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York suggests one reason why. On a recent afternoon, a Tennessee family in matching khaki shorts browsed through merchandise in the building’s store; a young, tattooed couple with backpacks ate ice cream in the food court. The crowd was there to get photos taken in front of the gold-lettered Trump name above the entrance; they didn’t appear to be in the market for $500-a-night hotel rooms.
And that’s the wider problem for Trump: A large chunk of his business depends on filling those rooms, charging golfers thousands of dollars a year in membership fees and selling multimillion dollar apartments. That means appealing to consumers who are relatively wealthy, well educated and clustered in the major cities -- precisely the groups that Trump’s presidential campaign has tended to alienate.
Meanwhile, the Americans who flock to the tycoon’s rallies are more likely to be over 55, without a college education and from rural areas. They might buy “Make America Great Again” hats from Trump, but not too much else. Their loyalty would be much better news for Trump’s business if he were selling life insurance or lawn mowers, or running a conservative media company (which some have speculated he might if he doesn’t win the presidency).
Among people making more than $150,000 -- the ones who can best afford his products -- Trump’s consumer appeal is fraying. Back in 2010, only 5 percent of brands were perceived by those Americans as being more “glamorous” than his, according to BAV Consulting. When the survey was repeated at the end of last year, Trump had fallen about a third of the way down the league table.
Among likely voters with household incomes of more than $100,000, 36 percent view Trump favorably compared with 42 percent for his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and 51 percent for President Barack Obama, according to the latest Purple Slice online poll for Bloomberg Politics.
The news gets worse: Trump the politician has unfavorable ratings that are consistently high among women, who make the bulk of spending decisions in households, and also among millennials, the largest demographic of shoppers, who’ll soon be entering their peak consuming years.