Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, shows the exterior of
the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has suggested
that his presidential campaign will boost his hotel business
and personal brand. But after a tumultuous run up to the
election, including lewd statements about women and
derogatory remarks about immigrants, there’s some evidence
that Trump’s brand is being tarnished.
NEW YORK —
Event planner Beth Bernstein decided she had had enough with
Donald Trump after his 2005 hot-mic boasts about groping women
came to light earlier this month. She removed photos of weddings
she had thrown at a Trump hotel in Chicago from her website, wrote
to hotel staff to remove her from the list of "preferred
vendors" and posted a sort of call to arms on her blog.
cannot bring myself to walk in the door there any longer,"
wrote the owner of SQN Events.
Bernstein is not
alone. Rates for rooms at Trump's new D.C. hotel are being slashed
as travelers weigh their options, and smartphone data suggest
fewer people are visiting his properties compared to rival venues
nominee for president is in danger of losing not just the
election, but something dear to a man who claims the marketing
value of his name alone is worth $3 billion: the many customers,
mostly wealthy, who have stayed at his hotels, played a round at
his golf courses or held galas at his oceanside resorts.
Experts say the
Trump brand is tarnished and at a tricky crossroads as his appeal
shifts from the well-heeled, high-income people he has long
courted to a more middle-class base, including the fervent fans he
cultivated during the campaign.
speculation that he could start a Trump media network as a
right-wing alternative to major news outlets, drawing money from
advertisers to make up for any weakness in his empire elsewhere.
But he may have to pivot fast.
trajectory is very harmful to his businesses," said Scott
Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University.
"Right now his brands cater to the affluent, who are
disproportionately turned off by his activities."
the business mogul has denied his campaign has dimmed the gilded
allure of his five-lettered name and has said, if anything, it has
burnished the brand and boosted his business. In a statement,
Amanda Miller, vice president of marketing at the Trump
Organization, said: "The Trump brand remains incredibly
strong and we are seeing tremendous success across business
That's not clear,
though, at Trump's new hotel in Washington, which Trump has
declared the "best" in the city. It appears to have
gotten off to a slow start.
A room at the
Trump International Hotel with a king size bed and a city view
could have been yours any night of the week starting Nov. 14 for
about $505 or $555, according to a check of the hotel's website
last week. By contrast, five major luxury competitors in the city
generally charged more — sometimes hundreds of dollars more —
or were sold out. For instance, the St. Regis only had rooms
starting at $975 on Monday and Tuesday. The Four Seasons in
Georgetown had no rooms available at any price for those days, and
the Jefferson Hotel for those two days plus Wednesday.
Rates at the
Trump hotel have continued to sink, too: By the end of last week,
the price of many Trump rooms had been cut by 10 percent or more.
director of Trump's new hotel, which the candidate will formally
open with a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, disputes that it is
years of experience with Trump Hotels, I can easily say the
opening of Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C., has been
the most successful in terms of opening bookings, interest from
groups and large events," said Mickael Damelincourt in a
statement. "The building itself is an American icon, and
we've created a world-class hotel with the largest luxury ballroom
in Washington, D.C."
are clearly turned off by Trump's derogatory remarks about women
and immigrants, though, and the fallout is spreading beyond the
A woman angry
about Trump's groping comments, and that his daughter still
supports him, has created the hashtag "GrabYourWallet"
on Twitter to boycott the Ivanka Trump Collection, which includes
handbags, shoes, jewelry and clothes. On Monday alone it was
viewed more than half a million times.
including the Susan G. Komen Foundation are considering moving
events from Trump's properties, including the Mar-A-Lago Club in
Palm Beach, Florida. The U.S. Golf Association faces pressure from
protests to move the 2017 U.S. Women's Open from a course owned by
Trump, although no decisions have been made.
It's difficult to
know how any future loss of hotel bookings and weddings, charity
galas and tournaments could hurt Trump, because his businesses are
privately held. But he is vulnerable because so much rides on his
name. Unlike his golf courses, in which he has heavily invested,
many Trump hotels and residential towers are owned by others who
pay him to place his name over the entrance and for marketing and
management services — and could possibly cut him out someday.
being threatened at Trump Place in Manhattan. A petition to remove
his name from the building, which he does not own, has gotten 328
names in a few days. One of the signers, Marjorie Jacobs, said the
pressure has already led to new uniforms for doormen and other
staff, ones that will no longer bear the Trump name.
disgusting, and people are embarrassed to say where they
live," she said.
Brand Keys, a
research firm that polled 1,536 registered voters nationwide, said
Trump's comments about groping women has sent the premium you can
charge for something bearing the Trump name down sharply.
consumers feel about the brand and whether or not they're more or
less likely to engage with it has been affected," said Robert
Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. "People see a brand that
had an image based on a glamorous lifestyle and a lot of money,
and that is being been reevaluated by people."
tracks people's locations via their smartphones, said share of
foot traffic at Trump branded businesses is down since Trump
started his run in June 2015. Prior to Trump's presidential bid,
foot traffic to his golf properties, hotels, resorts and other
properties, both those owned by him and those just bearing his
name, was steady year-over-year. According to its most recent
data, share of foot traffic was down 19 percent in September,
compared with 2014, before Trump announced his candidacy.
In a statement,
Eric Danziger, CEO of Trump Hotels, a collection of more than
dozen hotels, called the Foursquare data "manipulated"
and "inconsequential," and said it does not
"provide an accurate representation of our performance."
Not all the data
point to a slowdown. After several big-name brands including NBC,
Macy's and others severed ties in July 2015 following Trump's
derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, but there has been no
similar high-profile exodus since.
And the home
listing site Streeteasy compared prices for Trump-branded condos
in 16 buildings in Manhattan to similar ones nearby and has found
no evidence the brand has been damaged. In fact, Trump condos sold
for 5.6 percent more in August than they did a year earlier,
versus a drop for rivals.
evidence of a shift of Trump's demographic base, from the affluent
to the more aspirational middle class.
Will Johnson, an
analyst at research firm BAV Consulting, which monitors brand
perception for 3,500 brands, said that the Trump brand was
"collapsing" among people with a household income of
over $100,000 a year.
has alienated the upper socioeconomic group and the data has
consistently shown that he is down on pretty much all the metrics
we measure," Johnson said. "He's low on trust and high
On the other
hand, his brand is resonating more among those who make less than
$100,000 a year. During the first nine months of the year, among
that group, there was a 21 percent rise in people who think Donald
Trump "cares about customers" and a 14 percent increase
in those who think he is a "visionary," according to BAV.
Some say Trump
could capitalize on that shift.
short run, business gets damaged, but in the long run there's a
lot of opportunity with less aspirational brands that target the
middle- and lower-class," NYU's Galloway said. "I think
the Trump brand effectively dies in a Manhattan, but it thrives in
some of the lower income, very red regions."
One way to do
that: start a conservative media network, as some analysts have
start the ultimate 'bro' news network that caters to his core
constituency," Galloway said. "He could out-offend
One hurdle: He
would have to get a major cable or satellite company to give him
bandwidth, and there isn't much to go around. He could launch on a
smaller scale on social media using Facebook or YouTube.
The biggest test
of the brand, of course, will come Nov. 8. National polls show
Hillary Clinton with a clear advantage over Trump, and possibly
winning even traditional Republican states such as Arizona.
"I think at
some point, probably after he loses the election, that we'll do a
reevaluation of what the brand means and what the brand stands
for," Brand Key's Passikoff said. "You can't continue
the kind of activities and have these revelations without
significantly affecting how the people see the brand. The man and
the brand are inseparable."