Donald Trump's Brand After the Election: Less Fancy, Still Alive

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Donald Trump's brand will survive Election 2016, but it will be transformed.

There is evidence that consumers who have traditionally been attracted to Trump's offerings have been turned off by his fiery campaign rhetoric and divisive tactics. Foot traffic to Trump-branded hotels, casinos and golf courses has declined, and bookings for his accommodations have dropped. The premium on Trump-branded properties has dissipated, according to an analysis by real estate brokerage Redfin. High-income consumers associate Trump less with traits like "upper class" and "prestigious" now than they did before he launched his candidacy.

Even Trump himself appears to be aware of the shift. A new line of his hotels will be branded Scion, not Trump.

But when a door closes, a window sometimes opens. And Trump's window may be the millions of new fans he's gained in Election 2016.

"At the same time that he was arguably diminishing the power of the brand with its traditional fan base, he was building the brand -- inadvertently perhaps -- with a completely different fan base," said branding and retail expert Carol Spieckerman.

Trump received 13.3 million votes during the Republican primaries, and tonight, he is on track to get tens of millions of votes more. Win or lose, those supporters won't go away post-Election Day, and Trump, ever the businessman, will have an opportunity to leverage their passion for all things Trump.

"The Trump brand is bigger, better, stronger than ever before and will continue to be so, regardless," said brand strategist Rob Frankel. "They've added a profoundly huge asset to their brand that previously was not there."

Trump has traded in the aura of wealth and opulence surrounding his name previously for populism, patriotism and accessibility. His new brand may turn off his traditional consumers, who demographically do not tend to be the majority of the base that's voting for him. But he has opened up for himself a new market for products and services.

There are already rumblings fresh business ventures are underway. Speculation that a Trump TV may be on the horizon has been in the air for weeks. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has reportedly approached media dealmakers regarding the project, and nightly Facebook Live events from the campaign trail have provided a peek at what such an endeavor might look like.

"He's going to have to pivot his business brand to a different market space and a different offering -- a Trump TV or a Trump line of products and services that are more for a middle market rather than a luxury high end," said Karen Leland, founder of branding strategy group Sterling Marketing Group and author of The Brand Mapping Strategy.

Trump has tried out middle-market concepts in the past -- Trump Steaks, Trump University, GoTrump.com. None of those turned out particularly well.

Trump could, of course, try to revive his traditional brand but would face an uphill battle in doing so.

"I think it would be difficult, because he's so entrenched this current brand," said Leland. "He would have to really sincerely authentically apologize, he'd have to show the error of his ways, and he'd really have to take some action that showed people that commitment."

One of the main businesses Trump and his family are involved in is licensing. The Trump campaign estimates his brand to be worth $3.32 billion through real estate licensing deals, brand and brand developments. Forbes pegs that number at $125 million.

Whatever the actual amount, it is those who have paid for the Trump brand license who perhaps will be most affected by Election 2016. Real estate developers, apparel makers and others under contract as Trump brand licensees still owe guarantees and royalties but may not be able to reap the premiums they expected.

"That name, up until a certain point, was being touted as being able to command a premium," said Spieckerman. "There may be no such thing as bad publicity, but there is such a thing as having a brand that is at odds with the brand's fan base. [Licensees] are the ones who are left holding the bag."

She said foreign entities still appear to have a positive association with the Trump brand and its traditional high-end appeal. "In the irony of all ironies, the Trump brand's saving grace may actually be from non-U.S. brand partners, tenants and consumers," she said.

Juan Di Salvo, sales director at Fortune International Realty in Buenos Aires and former sales director at Trump Tower Punta del Este in Uruguay, said any positive or negative effect on the Trump brand to the development's business won't be seen until the summer, as the beach town's sales are cyclical.

A Trump Organization spokeswoman said of Trump Hotels "our singular focus remains on managing one of the finest luxury hotel companies in the world."

"If I don't win, I will consider it a tremendous waste of time, energy and money," Trump said in an interview with "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday morning

Frankel said that may not be the case. "You always do better when you're not in public office because you're not scrutinized as much," he said.

Trump has also used his bid to promote some of his business endeavors -- a golf course in Scotland, his new hotel in Washington, D.C. And whatever happens tonight, he would be wise not to slow down.

"While he's got that fan base, he really owes it to himself to do something with it and monetize it in some way," said Spieckerman.

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