The US election has become a cynical and excruciatingly tiresome exercise in narcissism, rants and conspiracy theories. And that’s just on the Republican side. The Democrats have the least popular candidate in many years, but that won’t stop Clinton from winning given the even lower popularity of her opponent.
The interesting aspect of this election – from a marketer’s point of view – is that Donald Trump is not a politician, he’s a ‘brand’. For the past 40 years he has built a personal reputation as a super-salesman, fusing his name onto innumerable products, buildings and events. Now that he’s a politician – and staking his candidacy on the fact he’s the anti-politician – his ‘brand’ is coming under fire from those who oppose his policies (Democrats and Republicans!) and his behaviour (the general public).
The release of the ‘Access Hollywood’ video that revealed Trump’s “locker room talk” was the tipping point. The end of his serious run for the White House.
However, it did start a movement to boycott his ‘brand’ wherever it was for sale. There are many reports like this one that indicate how toxic his ‘brand’ has become.
Online activists, using the hashtag #GrabYourWallet (a clever trope to Trump’s sexist, misogynist claim “grab them by the pussy”) have started a campaign to encourage anti-Trumpsters (is that even a term??) to tell retailers stocking Donald and Ivanka’s products that they are boycotting unless the store drops the Trump lines.The hashtag has earned an estimated 1m impressions on Twitter.
Here’s a sample of some recent tweets (checkout this Twitter search for more).
There are some very big retailers on the list: Amazon, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Zappos. How will they react? It’s too early to tell but you can be sure they are closely monitoring daily sales to see if they indicate any decline as a result of the campaign (assuming they can link a decline to the activist campaign).
What is the lesson for marketers? Of course there’s no direct parallel to running for President of the USA with a deeply flawed ‘brand’. This campaign may end up being regarded as one marketing’s biggest fails; in the sense that the brand owner decided it was good idea to move into a new category where reputation is critical to success and consumers won’t buy unless the brand is ‘fit for purpose’. Clearly Trump fell short on both criteria.
UPDATE 22 Oct: Guardian article on the Trump branded goods boycott.
UPDATE 3 Nov: Open letter to Nordstrom. This campaign is picking up steam.
UPDATE 15 Nov: NY Mag article on the campaign, including first store to dump Trump-branded products.
UPDATE 18 NOV: Daily Mail article about retailers that are removing Trump-branded products from their shelves.