Is A Trumpian Perspective of Brand Mistaken For Reputation?

Reasonable people agree that a company’s brand and its’ reputation…are legitimate and valuable intangible assets that warrant consistent safeguards, monitoring, and risk mitigation.

Clearly, companies can rise or fall precipitously within a sector when…their brand – reputation is adversely affected.  The potential longevity – permanence, of materialized risk impact carry numerous personality and victim specific components. Will ‘teflon’ be one?  Will the adverse behaviors merely converge as irrelevant masses of a mindless new normal?  Will large blocks of citizens ever feel enthusiastic about seeing a Harvey Weinstein produced film, a Kevin Spacey acted film, or Louie CK comedy?   Of course, the actions of these men, leads me to think about the so-called ‘Trump brand’ which has become a much investigated, discussed, debated, and routine presence in U.S. news cycles pre – post this President’s inauguration.

Intangible assets are generally apolitical…in today’s harsh ‘red vs. blue’ political environment, there are those, of course, with instinctive predisposition to cast any-all intangibles in political contexts. Readers of this blog know that, of the 790+ posts published, none have directly referenced politics, i.e., democrat, republican, conservative, or liberal. Of course there are countless business – sector operational issues which have political – legislative components, for example, the treatment of intangibles, i.e., legal, accounting, reporting, taxation, and valuation.

There are instances – reasons, some self-evident…others less so, when it’s fair to say the ‘Trump brand’, particularly its application to property – buildings (real estate) have experienced, what I assume to be fluctuations in value which may or may not be substantial or permanent.

Politically speaking, it’s quite understandable why the Trump International Hotel…at the now wholly renovated Old Post Office building in Washington, DC, walking distance to the West Wing, is retaining its brand value. Certainly, those who wish to curry favor with this president, presumably an excellent entrée is to announce you or the organization you represent is booked at a Trump branded property. To some, I suppose, this is not terribly dissimilar to showing up for a meeting with Ralph Lauren assuring one is wearing apparel affixed with the logoed polo player. Or, the opposite, meeting with Google’s CEO displaying an Apple I-phone.

But, in accordance with brand – reputation risk convention…it’s not quite correct to suggest that in a growing number of instances in which adverse brand – reputation risk materialize, it does so through actions, in-actions, or reactions of-by an organizations’ leadership. I find this frustrating on numerous levels, insofar as organization leadership who, once brought (perhaps by subpoena) before the public eye, not infrequently assert little, if any, personal-direct knowledge of specifics that ultimately led to the materialization of the brand-reputation risk event. Instead, we routinely witness organization leadership endeavoring to characterize the precipitating actions – event as originating as a ‘rogue or one-off’ element of the larger organization until the evidentiary quicksand (truth) eventually overtakes

That being the case, there is some logic to assume that…at least some aspects of the Trump brand – reputation insofar as it’s ‘attractivity value’ would have, and/or will be in decline. But, as we have come to understand, business person, real estate developer, candidate, and now President Trump has repeatedly challenged convention and variously dodged consequences in which (his) brand value is irreversibly and adversely affected.

Another perplexing aspect is that organization leadership…frequently (initially) treats adverse actions, behaviors, or events affecting their reputation and/or brand, as mere public relations (media) challenges which can be repaired, remediated, and recouped with focused-grouped, carefully worded and apologetic appearing ad buys. My frustrations heighten as audacious, grandiose, and lawyerly responses emerge to accommodate global news and social media cycles. Too, my initial reaction to the ‘gotcha questions’ posed to c-suite executives is…

  • they seem to carry a subtext of condescension, i.e., the alleged acts were part of a single business unit preying upon – exploiting consumer – customer gullibility.
  • the alleged acts occurred years previous and we (the company) have addressed them, as if embedded c-suite – company culture can be turned off and changed at keystroke speed.

And, of course, the perception such ad buy’s and (social) media initiatives endeavor to convey is…the alleged misdeeds preceding the materialization of brand-reputation risks, do not, and never have, represented the (operating) mission-principles of the organization. And oh, by the way, before judging us too harshly, consider all the nice things (contributions, donations, etc.) this organization has done – is doing in your community now.
Should this not prompt us to reflect on the circumstances in which the risks materialized and the subsequent contributions – donations originated?

  • For example, it wasn’t that many years ago when the realities of South Africa’s apartheid could no longer be subjugated – forsaken to profits by numerous U.S. companies and institutions…economic divestiture and change!

Preferably, organizations that find themselves adversely mired in materialized risk (misdeeds)…will realize that the presumptive course of action is not to merely characterize them as manageable PR challenges that have specific starting and ending points to public rehabilitation and brand-reputation recovery.

  • Instead, there is indeterminate materialization of risk (qualitative and quantitative) to reputation and brand that will manifest as citizens, customers, clients, and consumers find it in their interest to wholly withdraw or minimize their relationships with culturally tainted companies.

The potential lessons here are many…perhaps the most significant is, there are fewer organization practices, leadership behaviors, and/or events, which, when-if they go awry, can be dealt with as mere remediable public relations challenges.  Through these lens, distinguishing right from wrong are not malleable social constructs, rather, easily defined absolutes!

…the person who elects not to read has little or no advantage over the person who cannot read! (Variously attributed to Samuel Clemens, adapted by Michael D. Moberly.)

Michael D. Moberly October 20, 2017 St. Louis [email protected] ‘The Business Intangible Asset Blog’ where one’s attention span, intangible assets and solutions converge’.

Readers are invited to search other (500+) blog posts, papers, and books I have published at


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