Donald Trump was, for many years, an example of how to build a personal brand. He used his bravado and flair for showmanship to make the name Trump representative of luxury. Having his name attached to a real estate project generally gave that project greater visibility and added marketing clout.
Trump, who inherited an already-successful real estate empire built by his father, used the Trump brand to move into other arenas -- Atlantic City casinos, books, a men's clothing line and a fairly successful run as a TV reality show host/producer. Along the way, he's had a hand in changing streetscapes and skylines in New York and beyond, most notably in Chicago.
So with all this successful building and exploitation of the Trump brand, somehow the brand has been turning sour over the past few years. It's becoming a case study in how to kill a good brand.
I would probably be safe in presuming Mr. Trump has a very healthy ego. And it's that ego that I think is tearing down the credibility and lustre of his brand.
Like many super-rich people, he's done a lot of charitable work, although some of that good may have sometimes been blunted by his constant promotion of his good deeds and his plastering his name on every place where he makes a donation. Several years ago, for instance, he made a sizable donation to a state park in Putnam County, a bit north of the city, but a condition of the donation was that the state park be named for him. It made his charitable intent look tacky, and it didn't win him many fans.
What seems to be hurting his brand these days, however, is his positioning himself as an expert on things where he's not really an expert. He certainly can speak from an expert position on real estate, branding and marketing, business dealings, etc. But he clearly is not astute in politics, and his blathering in the political arena has been making him look more like an overblown windbag than a serious business person. His harping on the "birther" issue has gotten tired for many people. His huffing and puffing about big events and big suprises at the Republican convention and yesterday's "major announcement" of his offering $5 million for President Obama to release various personal records have fallen flat and further undermined his credibility.
Yesterday's "big suprise" received more laughs and mocking comment than serious coverage. He's clearly become a laughingstock. And it did more damage to the Trump brand.
There may be a few marketing lessons here.
** Publicity for publicity's sake isn't necessarily a good thing.
** Less can be more.
** Be careful what you say and who you associate your brand with. This includes blogs, tweets, FB, which are extensions of a brand.
Trump will probably not change his ways and tone it down; it's just not his style. His brand will continue to lose cache, although he'll always be able to stay in the headlines because of his wealth, his celebrity and his willingness to look like a fool. But for serious marketers, the Trump example may no longer be one to follow as a way to build a brand. Not anymore.