How the Trump boycott will affect US brands

Ivanka donald trump
Ivanka Trump looks on as Donald J. Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Aston Township Community Center on September 13, 2016 in Aston, Pennsylvania. Mark Makela/Getty Images

Across the US, Americans disturbed by Trump’s campaign rhetoric are boycotting companies doing business with his family. 

A number of boycott campaigns, most notably #GrabYourWallet and The Donald J. Trump Resistance (DJTR), have popped up in the last month. As of November 28th, the #GrabYourWallet campaign has over 7.6 million impressions on Twitter (including retweets and likes) and The DJTR has over 39,000 likes on Facebook.

The majority of the targeted retailers, including Nordstrom and Sears, are continuing to sell clothing and home furnishings by Ivanka Trump and the president-elect.

This is no surprise to Robert Passikoff, the founder of Brand Keys, a marketing research firm that has studied Trump’s brand power for the past 25 years.

“The boycott is an ideological reaction,” he tells Business Insider. “Brands don’t tend to do well when they involve themselves with ideologies.”

Although Passikoff says there’s no historical model to compare the Trump boycotts to (i.e. people not buying products connected to a brand that now has the US presidency), we can look to Trump’s nationwide brand power over the past few years for some answers.

Brand Keys continually surveys consumers nationwide about Trump, with each sample around 1,800 people. To gather its data for its Trump surveys, the firm asks people how much they think particular products are worth (both with and without Trump’s name). 

Before Trump declared his candidacy, the overall added value for Trump’s brand was 25%. This means if an apartment complex normally sold at $1,000 per square foot, it could sell for $1,025 per square foot with Trump’s name on it. Passikoff says A-list celebrities like Derek Jeter typically have an added brand value of about 15%.

After Trump entered the race, his brand power decreased 20% for products like suits, ties, and jewellery, but increased for branded items geared toward wealthier Americans, like country clubs and luxury condos. When The Washington Post leaked audio of Trump making lewd comments about women in October, that percentage plunged to 8%.

But following the election, Trump’s brand power increased 35% across every category.

“His name has more power now than ever,” says Passikoff, who 
predicts the boycotts will do minimal damage to retailers’ bottom lines and long-term reputations. He says that might not be the case for retailers that appeal to millennial voters — the majority of which didn’t vote for Trump.

Procurement is my game #etsy #menswear #vintageshop #trumpties #menstyle #mensfashion

A photo posted by Mary Rickert (@themaryellencollection) on

Only six retailers have stopped selling Trump products in the recent past. Macy’s dropped Donald Trump menswear in 2015 after he said many Mexicans are rapists or criminals (but the company has kept Ivanka Trump products). On November 12, announced on Twitter that it was removing Ivanka Trump shoes from its inventory.

“We understand and your voices have been heard. We have removed the products from our website,” tweeted to #GrabYourWallet supporters at the time, but the tweet was later deleted (the retailer later made a statement that the shoes weren’t selling well). The other companies —  Bellacor, Wayfair, Zulily, RueLaLa, and Stein Mart —  removed Trump merchandise soon after the election. Some cited dwindling sales; others didn’t provide an official statement. 

Some retailers that felt pressure from the boycotts have confirmed they will continue to carry Trump products. In an email sent to Nordstrom employees on November 21, co-President Pete Nordstrom wrote, “Every single brand we offer is evaluated on their results — if people don’t buy it, we won’t sell it.” And since customers keep buying Ivanka Trump merchandise, it’s not worth it for the company to drop her line, Fortune reported.

Casual weekend look from @cellajaneblog with our Tribeca Satchel.

A photo posted by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on

Shannon Coulter, a brand and digital strategist who started the #GrabYourWallet hashtag in October, believes that supporting Trump products will damage retailers’ reputations in the long run.

After Trump’s win, she and other anti-Trump Twitter users made a Google Doc spreadsheet listing 49 retailers that do business with the Trump family. It includes information about Trump inventory carried by businesses along with contact information.

If these retailers choose to remove Trump products, it will prevent damage for their brands, Coulter says. She points to Christian Dior stores, which chose to fire creative director and designer John Galliano in 2011 after he made racist remarks in public.

The Dior brand, worth an estimated $20.2 billion, was able to ride out the controversy because it immediately dropped Galliano after a wave of public criticism.

“Dior didn’t want its brand associated with racism,” Coulter says. “If a company like Nordstrom chooses to continue selling the products of … the KKK-endorsed candidate who likes to grab women by the genitals, that’s going to have implications for the Nordstrom brand whether company executives like it or not.”

The DJTR campaign is a similar effort to #GrabYour Wallet. Started by New York Daily News senior justice writer Shaun King, it calls for a boycott of various companies, founders, and CEOs that financially supported the Trump campaign and sell his family’s products.

“We must make our money stand for the values and the people that we believe in. Otherwise, we are funding the very oppression, bigotry, and discrimination that we claim to hate,” The DJTR website reads.

Even though Trump threatened to enact racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic policies on the campaign trail, it will be difficult to tarnish his name. It is latched onto one of the most powerful brands in the world.

 Coulter says she and the anti-Trump movement will continue to boycott. 

“As for backing down, no,” she says. “No plans to do that at all.”

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