Unique: Trump’s Identify, As soon as a Model, Is Now a Banner of Extremism
Two days after rioters powered their way past police and rampaged through the corridors of the Capitol, everyone from lawmakers to custodial staff are still tallying the damages—a word that suddenly has many meanings.
There’s the literal damage in the form of broken glass, bullet holes and ransacked offices. There is the damage to the country’s civic ideals, expressed by an emotional Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J., who proclaimed Wednesday that “our democracy is damaged.” There is also the toll to the United States’ image and reputation abroad. A statement from the House Foreign Affairs Committee lamented that Wednesday’s violence “scarred our reputation and damaged our standing in the world.”
Finally, there are the damages likely to present themselves in the years ahead, notably a citizenry still riven by deep ideological differences. And somewhere off in that unknowable future is another potential aftereffect of the violence that many lay at the feet of President Trump.
It doesn’t mean he won’t be a favorite [of some people] for years to come—but his brand I don’t think is going to survive.
—Hayes Roth, principal, HA Roth Consulting
And that is, paradoxically, the fallout for the Trump brand itself. Four years ago, Trump famously observed that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and still not lose his core supporters. To a degree, even after Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol, that is still true. A YouGov poll conducted the day after the melee found that 45% of Republican voters still support him.
But that is Trump the man. Trump the brand is a different calculus.
For years, Donald Trump used his property, personality and celebrity to forge a living brand that, at one time, included everything from menswear to cologne to mail-order steaks. After he became president, he used the office to burnish that brand further—most visibly with the Trump International Hotel just three blocks east of the White House, which brimmed with diplomats eager to curry favor with the 45th president.
But now that Trump has lost the support of even staunch allies—“It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people and repudiate mob violence,” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said Wednesday—the business world is beginning to consider the question of how brand Trump, which today exists in the form of 10 hotels, 19 golf clubs and 33 residential buildings around the world, will fare in the months ahead, or even if it will survive at all.
“The events [of Wednesday] have cemented a terminal threat to the survival of what was left of the Trump brand,” Eric Schiffer, serial entrepreneur and regular business contributor to CNN, told Adweek. “It is currently melting down in a dumpster fire.”
A name brand’s long decline
That fire has actually been burning for several years now. Between 2019 and 2020, Trump lost some $600 million from his estimated worth, a drop of 20%, according to the Forbes 400 list. While some of his losses—such as the $1 billion in vanished revenues his properties suffered in April 2020—stem from the coronavirus’ crippling of the travel business, the red ink began flowing long before Covid-19 appeared. Between 2015 and 2017, for example, the operating income for the Doral resort in Miami plummeted by 69%. “Trump Organization properties,” USA Today reported in 2019, are “no longer desirable to tenants.”