When Donald Trump first announced his intention to seek the presidency in the summer of 2015, he was primarily recognized — and celebrated by some — for the ubiquitous presence and perceived success of the Trump brand, especially in the real estate market.
But since he declared his candidacy and set forth on his controversial campaign, the value associated with the Trump brand has been called into question. In the Westchester and Fairfield markets, the Trump name can be found on residential properties in White Plains, New Rochelle, Yorktown and Stamford and at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor.
The brand backlash began to percolate last December when a board member of the Al Madany Islamic Center in Norwalk reacted to the Trump proposal to temporarily prohibit immigration by Muslims by advocating the removal of Trump’s name from the 34-story Trump Parc complex in Stamford.
The project’s developer, F.D. Rich, declined to get involved, stating the naming decision for the property should be made by its residents. But the Homeowners Association of Trump Parc Stamford also refused to get involved in the matter.
Under the terms of the property development, renaming the property would involve financial penalties. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy demanded a waiver of the penalties, adding Trump should be “ashamed of himself” for his political comments.
At the moment, the Trump Parc name remains, while the property’s website lists only two vacancies, both at the penthouse level.
Other Trump-branded properties began to show signs of problems as the campaign progressed. In July, the real estate brokerage Redfin analyzed sales at nine luxury condo developments bearing the Trump brand name, including the 40-story Trump Plaza New Rochelle. Comparing sales from the first half of 2015 prior to Trump’s candidacy announcement with the first half of this year, Redfin found that Trump-branded units had a sale price premium of 6.8 percent compared with similar homes in the first half of 2015, but did not show a sale price premium one year later.
Redfin also found that Trump units sold at a premium of 9 percent — or $97 compared with similar units — in the first half of last year, but the brand effect “became insignificant” in the first half of this year. And while Trump-branded condos averaged 10 days on market in 2015, they averaged 19 on market this year.
“Trump condos have lost the price advantage they enjoyed before the campaign and are starting to sell similarly to comparable condos,” said Redfin Chief Economist Nela Richardson. “While it’s tempting to blame politics, it’s likely that market conditions have changed, making it harder for uber-luxurious condos to fetch top dollar. The luxury market has been fighting a chill since late last year and even the gold-plated faucets in Trump’s bathrooms can’t overcome a slowdown in demand from wealthy buyers caused by the rocky global markets in 2016.”
Still, the Trump brand has created more headaches than smiles at other North American properties. Residents of the Trump Place buildings on New York’s West Side have started an online petition seeking a name change on the property, while the mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia, asked that the Trump International Hotel be given a new name before its 2017 opening. Last month, Trump Hotels ditched its founder’s surname on a new line of hotels aimed at millennials, which will carry the Scion brand instead.
What will happen to the Trump brand after Election Day? Public relations and marketing experts are split as to whether Trump’s presidential campaign has done irreparable damage to the brand.
“If he loses, the Trump brand will likely lose a substantial amount of its value,” said Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York. “Hotel room bookings will drop, golf course memberships will decline and so will related fees. And all of the other ancillary branded products will either drop in price and value or be discontinued. Very importantly, in terms of branding, the value of licensing the brand will probably decline substantially and will not likely return to pre-campaign levels.”
Michael J. London, founder and president of Michael J. London & Associates, a public relations firm in Trumbull, predicted that while fewer people may be interested in moving into residential developments bearing the Trump brand, even fewer contractors will be eager to do business with the Trump Organization following charges raised in the campaign that the developer withheld or reduced payments to contractors for their work.
“Any contractor that is working on or considering working there will think twice out of fear of not getting paid,” London said. “That will be an issue with a Trump project or even with a tenant in a Trump building.”
London added that going forward, it may be “harder for the Trump Organization to develop properties or rent and sell them,” as lenders reconsider the company’s creditworthiness based on issues raised in the campaign.
Still, not everyone is convinced that the Trump brand is heading for a fall.
“Win or lose, I don’t think it hurts him at all,” said Gregory S. Walsh, owner of Walsh Public Relations in Bridgeport. “His whole platform has been about his brand. If he wins, somebody else will have to run it, and if he loses he can go back to being a businessman. And while bad publicity is never a good thing, the awareness of his brand has been phenomenal.”
Ron Magas, president of Magas Media Consultants LLC in Monroe, is not convinced that any of Trump’s campaign rhetoric will make him a post-election pariah if he loses on Nov. 8.
“If you didn’t know him before, you certainly know him now,” he said. “Whether you like him or not, people want to be with him.”