The Trump Effect.

6 responses.

The Trump Effect.

The Trump EffectWhen 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.

Citing “poor performance,” Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s shoe line. With this, Nordstrom joined Macy’s, Univision, and NBC Universal which have all cut their ties with the President’s businesses.

What’s clear is the danger of the Trump Effect. A brand-chilling wind that affects those who attach themselves to the Trump brand.

The tourism industry is next in line to feel the Trump Effect.

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.

The Trump Effect indeed.

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.

Here’s a clue:

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.

  6 Responses

  1. on February 8, 2017

    I love the new #starbucks commercial – saw it on SNL this weekend

  2. on February 8, 2017

    Pay very close attention to what? No matter what you do or say, someone will attack you. Longer term, we, as a society, will have to figure out how to behave and who to trust.

  3. on February 9, 2017

    Bruce: Things are changing. However, that does’t mean that we need to participate in the wave of short-term change that fear inspires. Like the wave in stands at a football game, it’s very temporary.

    Best to cling to our values. Steve Jobs was right: “Marketing is about values.” So is… brand behavior.

    Time for a… Coke!

  4. on February 9, 2017

    Thanks for the insight Bruce. I just deleted my Lyft account and installed Uber. Looks to me like the Uber app is superior. I keep my politics to myself as I serve all good advertisers regardless of their political beliefs. I also resent companies that bow to pressure from the vocal fringe on social media. The wind blows both ways.

  5. on February 13, 2017

    I guess it breaks down to where you stand on a subject. I know I’ll never buy anything Trump, or even walk into a Trump property, but I’m sure there are others who feel the opposite. This just proves that you can’t please everyone, so pick your market and go with what they want.

    Very interesting article Bruce, thanks for posting it.


  6. Seth B
    on February 13, 2017

    This morning I read about The Rock, Steph Curry and Missy Copeland (all Under-Armour endorsers) going public with their disagreements with the CEO’s words in support of the President. Question: did they each do that based on their strongly held personal beliefs or out of a desire not to have their personal brands devalued by association? The answer might be different for each of the three, but it illustrates the changing rules of the game.

    For as long as I can remember, the rule was “stay out of politics.” Chick-Fil-A and others learned this the hard way. I was shocked to learn upon the death of Steve Jobs that he was revered by conservatives as well as liberals. He appeared to each of us as the embodiment of what we believed and his business was rewarded for that.

    I suspect that companies that wish to stay out of the fray can still do so, but it will be come harder for most and impossible for some. Uber certainly didn’t intend to take the stand they were seen as taking, but that won’t replace all the apps that were deleted out of anger at their unintentional stance. It used to be easy. It isn’t any more.

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