The Trump Effect.
When Uber eliminated their surge pricing during the JFK taxi strike, #deleteUber trended across social media. In a lightning-fast response, competitor Lyft announced that they were donating $1 million to the ACLU. Two days later, CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from President Trump’s economic advisory council to try and salvage Uber’s reputation. But it was too late. Over 200,000 Uber customers had already deleted their accounts. Uber had so many deletions that they created a new process to handle all the people fleeing their company. At the same time, Lyft’s app shot to the very top of both Apple and Android’s download stats.
In response to Trump’s executive order to bar entry of refugees from seven Muslim countries, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz pledged they would hire 10,000 refugees in their stores around the world. The next day, #BoycottStarbucks trended highest on Twitter with some posters pledging to stop patronizing the coffee shops. But simultaneously, Schultz’s supporters posted their intention to increase their purchases.
No one noticed Schultz’s pledge was a continuation of the company’s 2013 promise to hire veterans and active duty spouses. As the company said, “…we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel… where our military has asked for such support.” Bottom line? Starbucks’ business continues to increase regardless of the outrage.
What’s clear is the danger of the Trump Effect. A brand-chilling wind that affects those who attach themselves to the Trump brand.
I know most associations (the groups that hotels covet most because they bring large-scale conventions to their properties) would most certainly choose not to book an event at a Trump property. To confirm this, I spoke to a board member of a major national association who answered on the promise of anonymity. He said his board would insist the group not book a Trump hotel so for many reasons. First, they oppose Trump’s policies, actions, and everything he symbolizes. But more important, as someone with a fiduciary responsibility to the organization, he says that such a booking would cause a backlash of social media vitriol from members on both sides of the issue.
“But how about if a Trump property offered a great deal on the accommodations?” I asked. “Would the board of directors consider it then?”
“Not on your life. Because the drama of considering the property overshadows any savings benefit.” And when word leaks out that the association is considering a Trump hotel, the group would be in a no-win situation.
“We would be accused of having painfully terrible judgement: ‘How could you possibly DO this?’ And we would be attacked for having no cojones: ‘You’re just backing away because of the liberals in our association!’”
Regardless of your point of view, no good would come of the controversy. And so what happens? Nothing.
Thanks to a democratized media where everyone with a smartphone and a social media account can speak their mind, marketers and advertisers are going to find it harder and harder to stay neutral. Because no matter how firmly they straddle the fence, someone is still offended.
Coca-Cola’s heartwarming replay of their 2014 Super Bowl ad incited controversy because America the Beautiful was sung in multiple languages. Budweiser’s stunning Super Bowl entry was considered anti-American because it presented the Adolphus Busch’s travails immigrating to the U.S. But regardless of the outrage in the blogosphere, a Tuesday morning count showed the beer ad had been viewed almost 22 million times.
When Coca-Cola and Budweiser are accused of un-American behavior (yet revel in the success of their advertising) you KNOW the Trump Effect is at work. And it’s something to which you’d better pay very close attention.