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A little more than a year ago, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, Brand Keys asked the question, “Can the Human Brand, Donald Trump, Become Candidate Trump?”

To answer that question we conducted a survey using our predictive loyalty and engagement metrics that have been independently validated to correlate very, very highly with consumer behavior. And what’s more important than how Americans vote? And on the basis of those assessments, the answer to the question turned out to be “yes.” It seemed eminently possible to migrate this particular Human Brand to a Presidential Candidate Brand.

And, as predictive metrics are meant to predict, they did. And the rest, as they say, is at the very least, recent history. Although for many voters it has seemed like forever.

On the “Human Brand” side, more than 75% of the entities Mr. Trump listed in his presidential financial disclosure statement carried either his name or initials on lifestyle and consumer products. But a few months ago it was announced that Mr. Trump wasn’t going to put his name on a new chain of hotels, designed to cater to Millennials, a group where Mr. Trump has not polled particularly well up to now.

The new chain, not as high-end as his usual ultra-luxury properties, has apparently been designed to compete with Airbnb and other hotel chains’ more stylish and tech-savvy brands, which have also targeted younger consumers. Eric Danziger, Trump Hotels CEO, said the company wanted “to reserve the name Trump only for luxury and never want to confuse customers or owners of the difference in a four and five-star property.”

Given trends in the hotel business, that decision made real business sense since Trump (the Human Brand) has been generally associated with wealth, luxury, and glamour, and for some, wretched-excess. But as Oscar Wilde noted, “Nothing succeeds as excess,” and Mr. Trump has. Succeeded, that is. His branded products have provided an answer for consumers who aspired to share in the lifestyle of the powerful and influential and the rich and famous. And over the years, the Trump brand has very successfully done precisely what a brand is designed to do. It brought added-value to products and services that bore his name – one of the critical obligations of 21st century brands and the ultimate acid test for a real brand.

In a study Brand Keys conducted pre-Presidential Candidate Trump, we found that adding the Trump name increased the perceived value of products or services anywhere from 20% to 37%.

That’s enviable by any category standards, but recent events have raised a new question: How was Presidential Candidate Brand Trump affecting Trump the Human Brand? We already knew that his observations regarding minorities resulted in Macy’s dropping his line and other partners withdrawing from deals. So to provide some research insights into how Mr. Trump’s highly publicized, often-contentious, and never-boring transition from brand to candidate has affected the Human Brand, we conducted another survey to measure those effects.

Of the seven categories previously examined, Presidential Brand Trump increased added-value in the two categories with which Mr. Trump is currently most associated: TV/Entertainment and Country Clubs and Golf Courses. Added value regarding Real Estate has remained high but unchanged from two years ago.

But in more consumer-marketplace related products like shirts, ties, suits, and jewelry, Trump the Human Brand’s added-value has been significantly degraded. All changes – up and down – are significant at the 95% confidence level, although, as noted, twice the number of categories are down as they are up!

Category                         Human                  Presidential            Added Value

TV/Entertainment:             37%                            43%                            + 6%

Country/Golf Clubs:           35%                            40%                            + 5%

Real Estate:                           30%                            30%                           Unchanged

Dress Shirts:                         30%                            22%                           – 8%

Ties:                                        29%                            23%                           – 6%

Suits:                                      25%                            19%                            – 6%

Watches:                               20%                            11%                             – 9%

It was P.T. Barnum who first said, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right,” but he was running an exhibition hall and not a presidential campaign.

Mr. Trump’s comments regarding immigration, Mexicans, President Obama’s birther issues (both pro and con), the attractiveness (or lack thereof) of women, his admiration of Vladimir Putin, his Great Wall, his great wealth, his great health, and his love (and possession) of big guns and big hands has been – to say the least – controversial, polarizing, nasty, nastier, and sometimes just downright comedic for a presidential campaign.

It’s been said, “to err is human, to forgive divine.” But given the results of our most recent survey, it turns out that Human Brands apparently don’t always have that option and 21st century customers/voters aren’t as magnanimous as they used to be in simpler times!

But when it comes to the actual election, we’ll be measuring Presidential Brand Trump after the first debate just to see where that version of Trump – and Secretary Clinton – stands in the political arena.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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