Donald Trump and the Art of BrandingJune 1, 2016

Bold (& Brash) Lessons for the Meetings and Hotel Industries From the Boss of Bravado By
June 1, 2016

Donald Trump and the Art of Branding

Bold (& Brash) Lessons for the Meetings and Hotel Industries From the Boss of Bravado
The Trump Organization (from left) EVP Donald Trump Jr.; Chairman and President Donald J. Trump; EVP Ivanka Trump; and EVP Eric Trump. Credit: Douglas Gorenstein

The Trump Organization (from left): EVP Donald Trump Jr.; Chairman and President Donald J. Trump; EVP Ivanka Trump; and EVP Eric Trump. Credit: Douglas Gorenstein

Premier hotelier, popular reality star, new-to-the-stage political contender and now the presumptive Republican nominee who could possibly become the next president of the United States. Is there any doubt to whom I refer? No guesswork required. The answer is Donald J. Trump.

Though certainly not perceived as a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, it is not by happenstance that Trump’s visibility is now and for years has been high. It’s called branding and in the art of this discipline, The Donald (as he has been affectionately dubbed) is a maestro.

 “This attention to detail is what makes a meeting planner or hotel brand great, rather than just good.”
— Eric Danziger

“You can have the most wonderful product in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it’s not going to be worth much. You need to generate interest, and you need to create excitement,” says the business magnate in his 1987 book, Trump: The Art of the Deal. The best-selling book, co-written with journalist Tony Schwartz, is described as a business advice book and memoir.

Whether promoting his personal persona or one of his many Trump-named products with his moniker always appearing in gold — from hotels and real estate to restaurants and beauty pageants — marketing the Donald Trump brand is a strategic science.

Branding Lessons

An article appearing in Fortune Marketing Company’s blog entitled “3 Surprising Branding Lessons We Can Learn from Donald Trump” simplifies the titan’s trifecta approach:

  • Connect emotionally with your audience.
  • Be genuine.
  • Toot your own horn.

Further embellishment of these “Branding Lessons” underscores the importance of identifying and targeting a precise populace. “Do you know exactly who and what you are, and do you stick to that with every customer, sale, project, tweet, post and ad? Or do you waver to try to please everyone and get every penny of business that’s offered? Knowing who you are as a business — and owning it — creates an invincible brand.”

As opposed to tooting one’s own horn, the Fortune Marketing Company article addresses business owners who are uncomfortable promoting their successes. “While extremes on either side may not be effective, learning how to promote your benefits and success stories is a must for building a brand.”

Not shy about self-promotion, Trump is the boss of bravado. “I play to peoples’ fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts,” he shares in Art of the Deal. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

However, within the marketing maverick’s book are words of caution: “You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”

Marketer of the Year?

Former P&G brand manager and contestant on “The Apprentice” (2006), Surya Yalamanchili, begins his Advertising Age article, “An Actual Marketing Lesson from Donald Trump’s Success,” with this declaration: “I hereby nominate Donald Trump for 2016 Ad Age Marketer of the Year.” The author’s reasons are many, not the least of which is the link he observes between the famed businessman and globally recognized Procter & Gamble. “I was surprised that a number of his keys to success were straight out of the playbook I learned as a brand manager at P&G.”

Elaborating, Yalamanchili cites the principle that short-term promotions shouldn’t come at the expense of long-term success. Of Trump’s branding basics, “The Apprentice” participant says, “Instead of torturing himself to comply with marketing paradigms, as almost all marketers do, Trump intuitively knows when to break from script.”

A part of Trump’s success is discernment. “If I were to put Trump on everything that came my way — from potato chips to paper clips — the power of my name would be diluted. I’m very demanding and selective about where that name goes,” says the businessman in his book.

Online entrepreneur Richard Bravo and author of Brand Marketing Like Donald Trump: 7 Steps to Kick Ass Branding states, “The Trump brand is aggressive and all about kicking ass in the marketplace. The word Trump has become synonymous with success, luxury and being fearless.” Bravo’s assessment is confirmed by Trump himself: “I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”

Be Bold

Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president and CEO of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International in McLean, Virginia, considers the significance of branding within the meetings and hospitality industries. “Branding is important when hotel customers of any type — leisure, corporate or meetings — are searching for a purpose-appropriate hotel type. Branding helps align product type, price tier and service scope within a reasonable range of expectations.”

Though Gilbert has no firsthand experience with Trump Hotels, he describes the mogul’s branding fundamentals when promoting his portfolio of properties (14 hotels, plus two manors within its Estate Collection) in a trio of terms: luxury, international gateway and leisure destinations.

With specificity to the meetings market, Gilbert encourages the industry to borrow a basic from the powerbroker’s playbook — be bold. In dissection of Trump’s across-the-board brand, HSMAI’s CEO weighs in with his professional impressions of the man and his many hats: hotelier — secures great, unique real estate and delegates the operation to knowledgeable people; television personality — publicity works; and presumptive GOP presidential nominee — publicity works.

More Lessons

In “Six Personal Branding Lessons We Can Learn from Donald Trump” appearing in, author William Arruda’s advice is simple:

  • Be consistent. Strong brands deliver on their promise with everything they do.
  • Be confident. Convictions must be demonstrated and backed with the ability to follow through on one’s promises.
  • Take a stand. The world’s strongest brands often repel as many people as they attract.
  • Create demand through intrigue. A high level of interest must be sparked (being audacious is just one way to accomplish this goal).
  • Be recognizable. Strong brands have a trademark; Trump’s trademark is his consistent use of superlatives, such as the biggest, the best, the most.
  • Build brand ambassadors. Personal branding is not something you do by yourself; a core community must be created.

Above all, however, “Trump is authentic, and that’s the most important tenet of personal branding,” concludes Arruda.

Author Chirag Kulkarni, reiterates much of the Arruda’s advice in his piece, “What Donald Trump Can Teach You About Marketing” but adds further guidance — simplicity sells. “This means keeping your underlying message as simple as possible so everyone can understand it,” says Kulkarni and offers as evidence the theme Trump has religiously followed throughout his presidential campaign — “Make America Great Again.”

Also touting the success of Trump’s campaign slogan is Steve Halsey, whose feature story for G&S Business Communications entitled “Branding Lessons from the Summer of Trump” reads: “A good brand strategy is about inspiring the future, not reliving the past.” Bestowing kudos upon the GOP contender for his positive “Make America Great Again” theme, Halsey explains that it’s successful because it reminds voters of a bright future that restores the good old days of economic growth and prosperity.

Never Be Boring

Create strong emotion, manipulate the media and always be entertaining are the branding principles Geoffrey James shares in his piece, “3 Huge Branding Lessons from Donald Trump.” With emphasis on the “b” word — boring — the author offers modern-day insight. “The internet and the smartphone have reduced the average person’s attention span to about that of a goldfish,” says James. “Under these circumstances the cardinal sin of branding is boring people. Say what you will about Trump, he’s never boring.”

The Team at Work

Going inside the Trump operation, Eric Danziger, CEO, Trump Hotels, says the Trump family is involved in every aspect of its namesake properties. Citing architecture and décor as key elements of the hotel brand, he elaborates, “Each hotel and resort has a distinct design that is culturally relevant, with iconic architecture that is at home in it locations, contextual and relevant to the destination.”

The term “design,” however, is not limited to a Trump Hotel’s physical properties — it extends to the quality of its guests’ on-property experiences, experiences that receive hands-on attention from the family. “Ivanka Trump personally oversees the design and creative vision for all Trump Hotel properties as they are developed, working extensively alongside the most talented designers in the world to ensure the Trump family’s exacting standards are appreciable in every detail,” says Danziger.

What can the meetings industry learn from Mr. Trump’s personal branding? Trump Hotels’ CEO answers that it’s the importance of not overlooking details. “This attention to detail is what makes a meeting planner or hotel brand great, rather than just good.”

Trump Attaché Service

In the spirit of adhering to every detail, Danziger mentions the hotels’ signature Trump Attaché service. His description: “More than a concierge or butler, Trump Attaché delivers personalized attention without intrusion so guests experience an unprecedented level of VIP treatment upon request or sometimes before it. Trump Attaché meticulously keeps track of individual preferences.”

Brian Honan, director of sales and marketing, Trump SoHo New York, attributes a major component of Trump SoHo’s success to a simple stat: More than half of the hotel’s line staff has been employed since the property’s 2010 opening. “There is an enormous amount of pride our associates carry with this name. They feel a vested ownership in the product and the customers whom they serve.”

One of the SoHo hotel’s exceptional attractions for the corporate and incentive market is its 45th-floor ballroom, with three walls of glass showcasing an over-the-city view of Manhattan from the East River to the Hudson River and beyond.

Patricia Tang, director of sales and marketing, Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC, says that branding is especially important to Trump Hotels because it is a family-owned business. “The Trump name is synonymous with luxury, quality, outstanding hotel location and service that is consistent with today’s guests’ expectations.” With respect to the meetings and hospitality industries, she adds: “Branding is a means of giving a sense of what can be expected at a property.”

Whether it’s Trump’s open-in-the-fall Washington, DC, hotel (located in the city’s historic Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue) or late summer’s to-be-debuted sleek, modern Vancouver property (the city’s first luxury hotel to open in the past six years), you can bet promotion began at conception. In his “Kick Ass” article, author Bravo explains: “Trump doesn’t wait for something to be finished to start promoting it. Marketing continues while the project is under construction.”

Customization in the Market

Following the “know your market, cater to your market” edit is the addition of a 13,200-sf, column-free Presidential Ballroom incorporated in Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC — it will be the capital city’s largest luxury ballroom. The hotel’s red, white and blue décor will reflect its location, and its exceptionally high ratio of 38,000 sf of event space to its 228 guest rooms is expected to attract the meeting planner. Along the same line of thought are Trump Vancouver’s one-of-a-kind entertainment venue, Drai’s, the city’s first pool bar and nightclub; a Champagne Bar serving up the finest bubbly vintages; and the latest incarnation of the Michelin-starred, modern Hong Kong-style restaurant, Mott 32.

Of these significant attractions, all enhancing each hotels’ geographic and cultural differences, Tang explains: “So often, luxury chains simply move the same processes around from property to property so while there is consistency, there is not the customization to the specific market.”

A Family Affair

General Manager Philipp Posch, Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, details his recent experience with the Vancouver hotel and the family’s direct involvement — from choosing the furniture placed throughout the property to the kind of music played in the lobby. “We used to send mattresses to New York so that Ivanka and her brothers could test the quality. The same goes for carpet samples. We would send them to the head office so that Ivanka could walk on the samples, with her heels, and see how it feels for the female guest attending weddings or corporate events.”

Another Ivanka-inspired addition is the Vancouver hotel’s “Quick Bites” menu, a dining option that guarantees meal service within 15 minutes. Initiated by the hotelier’s daughter, it was developed for the property’s busy, on-the-go guests with little time to wait for breakfast or lunch.

Of the Trump family’s personal involvement — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric (each bearing the title, executive vice president of development and acquisition) — Tang says, “They consistently are checking on the details, ensuring that the project stays on track and that we are on target to deliver on the service and amenities as promised. They are always available to speak with clients and make it a point to say ‘thank you,’ not just to guests, but to all of the hotel associates.”

It’s a family affair. With Donald J. Trump at the helm, a simple philosophy drives his global conglomerate and guides his adult children, whose everlasting commitment is to the Trump brand’s perfection. It is a viewpoint from which all can learn.

It is: “Whatever you do, do it better than anyone else. Never settle.” C&IT

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