It is something of a mystery as to how the Trump brand has managed to stay so strong, given that this is not the only licensing operation that has run into trouble. Most companies undertake brand expansions pretty cautiously, after long thought, and with a lot of market testing to make sure that they are not alienating their core consumers. A badly done brand expansion can rapidly erode a profitable business, as consumers reject both the new products and the originals that are now tainted by association.
The litany of failed Trump products — and lawsuits — testifies to the fact that Trump has been the opposite of cautious. “Indiscriminate” seems like a closer word. Yet somehow, until this campaign, the brand remained strong. There’s a lesson for marketers in there somewhere, if I were only smart enough to figure out what it is.
But I have to wonder if his attempt to expand into presidential politics won’t ultimately prove to be the brand extension that undoes him. Part of the reason that most of these brand expansions didn’t hurt the core Trump brand is that, somehow, the failures flew under the radar; people knew about the casinos and the television show but not the lawsuits or the Trump Steaks, may they rest in peace. Now he’s lost his television show, the various problems with his products and services are very public knowledge, and while he’s probably got some added loyalty from his core supporters, he’s also alienated a heck of a lot of people who previously didn’t have a strong opinion about Trump but would now pitch a tent in the local dump before they’d rent a room or office space from The Donald.