- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Donald Trump’s children say his presidential run isn’t hurting the family business, and Mr. Trump once said he might be the only person who could make money off of a White House run.

But there are indications the Trump brand is taking a hit. Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is facing a boycott, and Trump Hotels pointedly left the family name out of a recently unveiled brand.

From saying Mexicans ship their criminals to the U.S., to engaging in a nasty summertime battle with the Muslim parents of a slain U.S. Army captain to recent accusations of sexual assault, Mr. Trump has become one of the most polarizing figures in the country.

He’s also amassed a cadre of supporters who are willing to overlook all of that and who view him as the political savior they’ve awaited.

“In that regard, his brand is awesome, because he’s picked up a whole new audience of 30 million people,” said Ed Roach, an international branding adviser based in Ontario, Canada. “It doesn’t seem to matter what he does — it doesn’t hurt him. At least the base.

“For the larger population, I definitely think his brand’s taken a hit because of some of the obvious things,” he said.

From Manhattan real estate to reality television programs and signature neckties, Mr. Trump was a ubiquitous presence before his presidential campaign.

He’s put his own personal empire at $10 billion, though other analysts say the figure is much lower.

Bad financial news has followed his campaign from the start. A prominent chef withdrew from the Trump project in Washington, citing the candidate’s harsh comments about Mexicans last summer, and Macy’s slashed its Trump-linked line of men’s clothing.

More recently Trump Hotels unveiled a brand dubbed “Scion,” which the company said is a testament to the Trump family and its success but notably leaves out the trademark name that adorns buildings around the world in gigantic letters.

Mr. Trump’s children have also suffered.

Ms. Trump’s clothing and shoe lines face a nascent online boycott in the wake of her father’s recently unearthed 2005 comments, in which he bragged about his ability to force himself onto women because of his celebrity status.

She rejected a report that the Trump brand had been “decimated,” but also made clear that her own efforts should be seen as separate from her father’s run.

“My Women Who Work initiative and my brand was launched far before the presidential cycle commenced and will continue long afterwards, and I’m incredibly proud of the work that I’m doing there, and I’ve always tried to maintain complete separation between that and the campaign,” she said at a recent Fortune Magazine summit.

Hours before Mr. Trump opened a hotel under his name in Washington on Wednesday, his son, Eric Trump, said their brand “is hotter than ever before” — though he said it wouldn’t have mattered to his father anyway.

“Even if there was a price associated with it, I think he was willing to pay that price because it’s just that important,” the son told Fox News.

And in perhaps the greatest personal indignity, a vandal posing as a construction worker reportedly demolished the candidate’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a sledgehammer early Wednesday.

Recent polling from the firm Young & Rubicam found that, at the end of September, the numbers of consumers who said Mr. Trump was “distinctive,” “fun,” “trendy” and “stylish” declined by at least 10 percent from previous polling, according to CNN.

Practically speaking, Mr. Trump’s recent comments about women could have long-term effects in the way of corporate bookings at Trump hotels, for example, said Ebs Burnough, a branding expert and former senior adviser to first lady Michelle Obama.

“I think you’re going to have a lot of corporations where there are going to be people internally saying we don’t feel comfortable staying there. I find those comments that we all heard really offensive, and this isn’t a person that supports women or takes women seriously,” he said.

There are other signs, however, that the Trump brand is still intact.

Forbes Magazine reported Wednesday that a Brand Keys survey of Ms. Trump’s target market — millennial women with disposable income — found 51 percent of respondents were still “extremely” or “very” willing to keep her clothes and shoes on their shopping lists.

Timothy Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said Mr. Trump’s prospects could depend on the days right after a would-be election-night loss, and how gracious the nominee is.

“If I was giving him advice, I would say this is the time to start broadening out the brand and to really try to walk back some of the comments he’s made over the past few months,” Mr. Calkins said.

“But of course, I have had that perspective for several months now, and he clearly has not taken my advice,” he said with a laugh.

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