April 13th, 2017

Corporations are apolitical. They have a single purpose: maximize shareholder value. Every other goal is, by necessity and law, second to increasing wealth for those who own the business. Threaten that raison d’être and a corporation will take the fastest, most certain path to neutralizing that threat.

Want a corporation to pivot? Jam the brand.

Naomi Klein, in How To Jam The Trump Brand, for The Intercept, explains:

United’s stock plunges after video emerges of a passenger being violently dragged off an oversold flight. Pepsi yanks an ad that portrays police and Black Lives Matter-ish protestors making peace over a can of soda. Fox News faces an advertiser exodus after new revelations of massive payouts to settle sexual harassment and verbal abuse allegations against host Bill O’Reilly.

If there is one lesson that emerges from all these controversies it is this: Institutions organized around a powerful brand image—often understood as “a promise” from a corporation to its customers—are in big trouble when that image gets battered and the promise appears to have been broken. These facts make corporate brands intensely vulnerable to public pressure, particularly when that pressure is loud and organized.

President Donald John Trump, and all his family, view his presidency not as an opportunity to serve their nation, not a chance to give back to the country that has allowed them to accumulate so much privilege, but rather a golden-arched opening to grow more insanely wealthy from all the free publicity and influence being President of The United States of America entails.

Need proof? Consider First Lady Melania Trump’s successful suit against The Daily Mail in which she claimed she:

had the unique, one-in-a-lifetime opportunity as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model, brand spokesperson and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. …The product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.

By reaching a settlement, First Lady Trump confirmed that power and influence, not a desire to service, drove her husband to seek and win his position as the most powerful person in the world. Klein continues:

Journalists have pointed out these conflicts many times, and Trump and his spawn have responded with a defiant shrug. This is happening for very simple reason: Trump isn’t playing by the normal rules of politics, in which elected representatives are accountable to voters and to an agreed upon set of standards. He’s playing by the rules of branding, in which companies are only accountable to their brand image.

Klein’s solution, relying on a strategy that she first outlines in her 1999 book—No Logo—concludes:

ever since I started writing about brand-based pressure campaigns and boycotts in the mid-1990s, research that turned into my first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. What I learned is that any brand—no matter how seemingly amoral—can be significantly weakened with the right tactics.

So, with that in mind, here’s a quick-and-easy guide for doing battle with the president in the only language he understands—his own brand.

Unhappy with our Marketer-In-Chief? Jam the Trump brand.

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