Hotel Branding and Elections
I’m in the business of building brands. When we work on a company’s brand, we strive to look within and find unique distinctions that we can build the brand upon. This election cycle presents us with an interesting brand marketing conundrum.
Will the rhetoric of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign have any impact on his hotel brand?
Let’s start with a personal admission about my history with the Trump brand. We attend a large convention called RECon put on by the International Council of Shopping Centers each year in Las Vegas. For years, we put our team at the Trump International Hotel off the Vegas Strip. We loved it. The rooms were superb, the service extraordinary. We were fans.
But in May 2016, we veered away and went elsewhere. Could we have stayed there again this year? Sure. Did we? No. There was no way I could let my business support someone that made those derogatory statements in the primaries.
I am only one business person, and maybe I’m more politically aware than some. (I did major in political science, after all.) But as a brand strategist, I want to take a minute to reflect on Trump’s hotel brand and how his campaign will ultimately sink those hotels that bear his name.
Customers vs. Demographics
When one looks at the demographics of the Trump voter and the luxury prices his hotels charge, they are divergent. The “typical” Trump voter appears to be blue-collar, non-college-educated, and unlikely professional travelers. Not all, I know. But many in his base do fit this category.
Let’s compare this to some assumptions about the Trump International Hotel customers in NYC, Chicago, Vegas, D.C. and points beyond. His hotels tend to be located in very upscale areas of these cities such as Columbus Circle and, well, next door to The White House and IRS Headquarters.
The customer for in-house stays and group functions is going to be a professional, upscale, higher income traveler or meeting planner.
Political junkies will probably be studying the Trump phenomenon for years and how something like Trump occurs, but from my point-of-view, “professional” and “higher income” reads more like Hillary Clinton voter. And that base, especially the professional female college educated demographic that overwhelming supports Clinton, is not going to choose a Trump property.
Recent business impact
Politico (and others) have looked at the negative business consequences for the Trump hotels, citing reports from Redfin, Hipmunk, and Foursquare that show that Trump properties reeling from the campaign.
CBS News this week reported that a recent survey by Travel Weekly showed 61% of travel agents not recommending Trump hotels since the campaign began. There’s also the recent report that the new Trump hotel brand will be called Scion, not Trump.
Every few days, a new report suggests the brand could be in trouble.
Total collapse looming?
Taking all of this into account, when it comes to the future of the Trump hotel brand, I would suggest that at best it will be challenged and worst it could collapse.
Maybe not in the immediate days, but these customers (like me) will not forget his electoral rhetoric and hateful statements. The damage is too great, and they will equate the hotel and its big TRUMP signage as a direct reflection of him.
No matter how nice the furniture, how great the spaces, how good the food, or how much Ivanka is involved, the name and the brand are intertwined. The brand will be seriously impacted by this election.
We can be sure there will be an enormous economic impact on the Trump Hotels brand. I predict that at some future time, the name (and possibly ownership) of Trump Hotels will change.
The Trump name is simply too inhospitable.