The Trump Brand, Win or Lose

Feb 09, 2016 · 71 comments
Marla Burke (Kentfield, Ca.)
I don't like what Donald Trump says, but I do enjoy watching him make a mockery of the pundits and I do like the way he's pushing around the big media companies.
Pat B. (Blue Bell, Pa.)
I doubt there are many parents in America who would expose their children to Donald Trump and tout him as an example of a 'winner.' Matter of fact, it's horrific to think of young children listening to most of the Republican candidates. If they were movies, they'd all get an X rating.
brian begley (stanford, california)
I disagree with the assertion that Trump cares only about winning. At least we need to define winning. His goal is to improve his brand. If he can appear on everyone's television and be talked about everyday then he is winning. I think winning the election is a secondary consideration for him and his success so far is a pleasant surprise to him.
CEO (Houston, TX)
Win or lose, Trump, the franchise is now known all over the world. I can hardly see how Mr. Trump’s run is not going to be great for him personally and a good investment for his organization, considering how little he has spent compared to the earned media exposure he gained. The article is somewhat misguided.
Eddie M. (New York City)
" requires a humility to which Mr. Trump appears acutely allergic".

Actually, I believe Mr. Trump is chronically allergic to humility.
Richard M. Waugaman, M.D. (Chevy Chase, MD)
Trump "allergic" to humility? Come on now, he has boasted about how incredibly humble he is.
Joe (Chicago)
Wow. It looks like people have been commenting on this Trump opinion piece for roughly 8 hours...and there is currently ONLY 59 comments.

I find this telling.

Trump-fatigue indeed.

Paul (Bellerose Terrace)
Referring to the media's obsession with every Trumlestiltskin utterance as "earned media," seems exactly the opposite. When the Times, in particular, falls over itself to publish ever unverified, unlikely claim from a blowhard serial bankrupter and marrier, it is, to me, "unearned media."
Richard (New York, NY)
You're Donald Trump. You decide to run for President, mostly as a lark, mostly because the field of Republican candidates is rather weak. You know that you are not prepared for the job, at least not yet.

But, given the weakness of the Republican field, and the successful brain-washing of the Republican electorate, you don't really have to display much knowledge to get their attention and their votes.

So you do what the Donald has done, you run a "Reality TV" campaign: all bombast, no particulars.

But the Donald isn't a fool. He knows that this personality and approach, while it can win the nomination, cannot win the Presidency.

So, while never espousing any true positions during the primaries, he is doing his homework. He has smart people looking at the issues that are most likely to be relevant in a presidential campaign. They're polling and he's cramming, learning enough to "pass the test" of the campaign and its debates.

The Democrats, expecting to find themselves up against an ego-maniacal blowhard, suddenly find that the Donald has pivoted, and actually presents reasonable, defensible ideas, while maintaining enough of his reality TV personality to entertain.

The change in game plan catches the Democrats completely off guard. They're not running against a buffoon, rather a canny businessman who has faked out his opponents.

But the Donald would never to that. He's nothing more than a blowhard.

Isn't he?
flak catcher (Where? Not high enough!)
Don't be fooled. This man wants to own us ALL, not just the Big Apple or piddling NY state.
Why, I'd be cranky, too, if I looked like him in a suit (sorry; couldn't resist joining in on the mean-spiritedness of the GOP-awful primary campaing.
Say, THAT felt GOOP! ... (uh, meant "Good!" :).
Asher Fried (Croton On Hudson N.y.)
There is a Donald Trump story, a story behind the obvious story, which is getting no coverage what so ever. It is shocking that his business dealings are getting no scrutiny, [beyond stating that his entities have filed for bankruptcy 4 times and he has advocated use of eminent domain for private endeavors]. He has successfully defended against those charges. Having done some internet searching, I found several articles and reports by well regarded journalists detailing Trump's other business failures, practices and associates. Additionally, even though there have been excellent articles about good Old Trump U !, especially a Steve Brill Time magazine article from this past November, Trump has escaped any inquiry about the lawsuits and attorney general actions. Although Trump has had his successes, many if not most most of his endeavors have failed. There are questions about his practices and some of his repeated business associates.. Yet, no pounding of Trump in any debate or tv interview , or any TV expose in depth about Trump's extensive business history. The mass media takes at face value that he is worth $10billion;, that he is a huge winner; that he employs 10's of thousands; that he negotiates good deals; that he will bring in the best people to government service. The story behind the story is not merely the lack of scrutiny, but why.
Jacob (Milam)
Donald Trump has been a famous businessman for over 30 years. If your goal is to convince the majority of the American public that a billionaire is unsuccessful, good luck.
Independent (Scarsdale, NY)
Dear Emma, I hope you are right.
Independent (Scarsdale, NY)
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the media, which has such a vested interest in the Trump Cheap Content Entertainment Machine. got it completely wrong and Trump does poorly?
thx1138 (usa)
there is no better way for an egomaniac to feed his ego than to enter politics

trump found his avocation at last
stu (freeman)
The Donald's candidacy represents the perfect storm: an obnoxious piece of humanity proposing disgraceful non-solutions to problems that are very real for people who weren't born to his privileged station in life. Are white Americans really so anxious to use the "N" word in public again that they'd use their franchise to elect a man to the Presidency who already considers himself a king? Are we really that stupid?
John Xavier III (Manhattan)
No. Only some of you.

As far as obnoxiousness, your line about the "N" word and whites wanting to use it again in public deserves first prize.

And hate to break this to you, but we've already elected a man to the presidency who considers himself a king.
Debra (Formerly From Nyc)
You mention "a level-headed statesman" in the campaign.

Who's that? Kasich is the only one I thought of.

Certainly not Jeb.
Steve Singer (Chicago)
I'm sorry, but "placing second in Iowa" is an absurdity. That's because the Iowa Caucuses is to national electoral politics what Howdy Doody is to the Miss Universe Pageant.

The simple fact is "Trump" was already among the more rarified brand names in the world before he began his campaign for the presidency. Now, his is easily the most recognized and talked-about names in America and undoubtedly will remain so for the forseeable future even if he fails to win either the nomination or the presidency. He can't lose that, and everything it brings him good and bad. Love him or hate him, as many as two billion people know something about him. That fact alone constitutes an enormous victory.

And if his bid doesn't succeed 2020 is not so far away. He will be more than just a seasoned veteran candidate the second time around. He will understand his mistakes and know what it takes to pull it off, have a much better tactical and strategic sense of the problems involved in winning the Great Prize.

I would not write him off under any circumstances, unless his health fails him.
Mike S (Portland)
The reason for Trump's success has been working class rage coupled with too many years of the vacuous politicians of the right saying anything to get elected and then doing only two things after taking office. First on their agenda has been to destroy anything that they think might help the disenfranchised or common working class, second is to bend over backward for billionaires.
Even though Trump was born with a silver spoon in his cavernous mouth he talks and acts like a frustrated dock worker on his seventh beer. He thinks he has all the answers to everything, ignores facts and attacks anyone who would be so stupid as to disagree with him. That type of swagger and confidence is a balm to millions of disenfranchised and frustrated people.
Bob Laughlin (Denver)
"acts like a frustrated dock worker on his seventh beer" a well turned phrase, Sir.
Anticatonis (St. Joseph, Michigan)
Mike S:
"He thinks he has all the answers to everything, ignores facts and attacks anyone who would be so stupid as to disagree with him."

How shocking! He IS from New York City, you know...
sdw (Cleveland)
Good article by Emma Roller. No answers, but very perceptive. It could be that the honest answer to the Trump phenomenon is that nobody can predict how blowhard narcissism will sell in a given primary election.
Sarah (Arlington, VA)
It is indeed correct that every presidential candidate plays a character, yet Mr. Trump plays not one that is more honest than that of any of his rivals by portraying himself as "the ambitious businessman who cares only about winning".

From the very beginning Mr. Trump ran for Vulgarian-in-Chief.

Because of that his crowds fawned over him because 'he says what he thinks' and is not 'politically correct'. That very fact was once more made crystal clear by him using a word which is absolutely taboo in polite society against one of his rivals, albeit the despised by his colleagues, Sen. Cruz.

Mr. Trump has achieved one thing by running, And that is using the reality show dumbed down electorate and putting himself and them into the gutter, and by extension the whole country.
Vaughn M (Alpharetta, GA)
Trump has a brand that dictates he show no decorum, or traditional sense of what it takes to be our Head of State. How can he actually be considered as a safe and considerate occupant of that office? Headline grabbing displays of ignorance, bigotry and empty bravado do not qualify one to be President, regardless of the fact that we might still live in a democracy.
Working4u (Anywhere USA)
Only post against Trump here or you will not be published.
ArtUSA (New Yawk)
Fortunately, the majority of NY Times readers see Trump for what he is. Therefore, an abundance of negative comments appears.
John Xavier III (Manhattan)

No, that's not quite it. It's that only people who love the sound of an echo flock to these pages.

These are the same people who profess to love diversity (except when it comes to opinion).

These are the people who are afraid that their finely-wrought worldview might be unmoored by some inconvenient fact off its delicate, nuanced balance.

Gotta love them.

If you prick them, do they not bleed?
CEO (Houston, TX)
Win or lose, Trump, the franchise is now known all over the world. I can hardly see how Mr. Trump’s run is not going to be great for him personally and a good investment for his organization, considering how little he has spent compared to the earned media exposure he gained. The article is somewhat misguided.
DD (Cincinnati, OH)
Trump is supported by what I can only hope is a small minority of the American electorate who enjoy the validation of their own hate and bigotry. Although the government (mostly) acknowledges that waterboarding is torture, and torture is bad, Trump promises to use waterboarding and "worse" if elected. While this talk might continue to get him the media attention he so desperately craves, surely the majority of Americans see this for the dangerous, pandering rhetoric it really is. "New York values?" I think not.
Jaboki (Tucson, AZ)
When is Trump going to answer the question "Are you going to put all of your assets in a blind trust when you are elected?"
Goose (Canada)
America is a great country! Unfortunately, the media, political machinations, undue scrutiny, and many other factors influence many capable individuals from seeking leadership. It appears that only the vain, the power hungry, and the over zealous seek the mantle. Too bad, we are at a time in need of where we need good leaders who seek to lead for the right reasons, namely the benefit of all. What do our present set of contenders say about America?
Milliband (Medford Ma)
When Donald Trump says he's going to make America "great again". I have always been confused when "again" was. Certainly not during the time of his bête noires the Clintons and the Bushes. St. Ronald? Or do we have to go back to the Eisenhower pre- Civil Rights era? What period are we time traveling back to Mr. Trump?
njglea (Seattle)
Back to the days of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. DT would have hated it and has no intention of taking us back there. His nirvana is medieval times.
njglea (Seattle)
The press seems to love men who lie, cheat and steal. There seems to be something that draws people to someone who breaks all the rules and shows no social conscience about it. That is why kids allow bullies in their schools - they are in awe of anyone who cares so little about "right". The Soviet Union had a stupid bully running their country named Khrushchev. He would sit in meetings and pound the table with his shoe if he didn't get his way. That is the same behavior DT would use to "win" because he has no real ideas. Yet the press keeps talking about him. What a country. Free to be stupid press.
John Xavier III (Manhattan)

1. Khrushchev was far from stupid, and he was not a bully. This is a fact that's known to everyone who is knowledgeable about Khrushchev.

2. Hi didn't "sit in meetings and pound the table with his shoe when he didn't get his way". That's a lie. He is reported to have pounded his shoe on his delegate-desk at a UN meeting in 1960, an incident he seems to have been proud of but most of his colleagues deplored. Photographs showing him with a shoe in hand are fakes.

Therefore the rest of your post has no value or credibility, not to say the rest of your posts.
Bernardo Izaguirre MD (San Juan,Puerto Rico)
Trump has already done great damage to the GOP and to his brand and I hope he does not have the opportunity to do damage to the Country as President . Actually I am pretty sure the latter is not going to happen , because in America we are too smart for that . But that is what happens all the time in mental illness. The mentally ill does damage to himself and to others and they can`t help it , because they are not in complete control of their acts . He has a severe personality disorder, a Narcissistic Personality Disorder . It is not strategy but mental illness .
Richard (Wynnewood PA)
Being Trump means you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Campaigning is a new experience for The Donald -- sort of like building the first Trump Tower of many to come. As long as it's new and different and sort of fun, Trump will keep doing it. When it becomes old and repetitive and not so fun, he'll stop. The main thing he likes is attracting all the "little people," those who couldn't afford to stay in a Trump-branded hotel let alone buy a Trump-branded condo. Regardless of how the campaign turns out, Trump will find a new way to win. Maybe a line of "value-priced" TrumpWear casual clothing, TrumpEstates middle-income housing, TrumpWorld theme parks, TrumpTours visiting every Trump-branded building in the world. Fun. Money. Who could want more?
Jason Shapiro (Santa Fe , NM)
In Trumpworld The Donald never loses. Irrespective of whether Trump wins the nomination or even some primaries he will not "lose." Trump will attempt to move his goal posts ("I never expected to win Iowa..."), find an excuse ("Cruz cheated...."), or simply change the conversation ("I love the people of NH and they love me!"). Whatever happens at the end of his personal infomercial, Trump will direct himself walking towards a beautiful sunset as the music soars ...
Paul Wittreich (Franklin, Pa.)
"Brand strategists and crisis consultants say, in comforting corporate-speak, that an unexpected setback, risky as it may be, can be an opportunity for a brand to press the reset button."
Well, I think this applies more to Rubio than Trump since the latter seems impervious to anything happening.
I doubt Rubio will change since he seems to have all these memorized statements firmly etched in his small brain.
Nan Socolow (West Palm Beach, FL)
DT - delerium tremens. Hallucinations. The Donald came in 2nd in Dixville Notch, NH. Not many Americans care a fig about "The Donald Trump Brand", any more than they care about Humpty Dumpty Trumpty sitting on his Mexican- financed wall and having a great fall. Ms. Roller, The Donald is not an orange trial balloon leaking air! He is just an aging man who wears man tan bronzer on his face and dyes his cotton candy hair from Orange Creamsicle to flyaway whitish. Someone in his camp buys and applies mancosmetics to him! Trump Cosmetics?
nzierler (New Hartford)
Winning or losing the Republican nomination is a moot point for Trump. Though he issued a pledge to not run as an independent you can bet the ranch he will go independent by playing the Trump card that he was not treated fairly by the establishment. That will lead to inaugurating Hillary or Bernie. Trump, a legend in his own mind, would rather sabotage the election for the Republicans than be removed from the spotlight.
Bob Laughlin (Denver)
So, he would be doing the Nation a favor by running a third party.
It's high time to get on with deciding what kind of people we want to be.
Democratic or fascist, this year we get to finally choose.
wigglwagon (Appalachia)
Only the really delusional believe that America can survive while spending 1- 2 BILLION more every day on imports than other countries spend on our exports. No country is rich enough to survive irrational business like that.

Unfortunately, Trump is the only candidate in either party with enough sense(cents) to even talk about bringing the factories home and kicking out the illegal workers.  Also, Trump is the only candidate in either party who is not on the payroll of the K Street lobbyists and big campaign donors.
Chris (DC)
This is a profoundly poor take on how national economies work.
Martin (NY)
Trump was able to survive by repeatedly declaring bankruptcy his businesses, thus avoiding the crushing debt each time.
Is this how he should operate the country? Except that wouldn't be how that works. I don't see how his history in any way suggests he would do the things you suggest he would do.

And yeah, as Chris said, national economics are different anyway.
ArtUSA (New Yawk)
While Donald's brand may be based on him being a winner, in the eyes of myself and most people I know, he is a loser in many senses of the word.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
Iowa voters gave Trump a resounding answer?
You do realize that Ted Cruz "won" the Iowa caucus by the exact amount of votes that would have and were going to Ben Carson right?

Trump lost by around 2700 votes.
Over 4800 caucus goers who were Carson supporters switched to Cruz after Cruz circulated the lie DURING the caucus that Carson was leaving the race.

No seriously NYT, what's wrong with you guys?
J. (San Ramon)
Mr. Trump has already won. He walked off the street, a complete noob, and smoked the "best and brightest" career politicians in the USA.

In any other field, THAT would be the story of the year.

His critics are in major denial about this. His supporters are not.
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)
If all that’s being offered is a brand image, with no policy substance and no real bottom to a candidate’s real convictions, then this is the sort of campaign that should have been killed BEFORE the first caucus and primary.

Yet make no mistake, if NH disappoints in its support of Donald Trump, he needn’t bother hitting a reset button, because there’s nothing to reset: he may as well just fold his tent and dream up some other reality TV theme to keep his face before the public. Even if a Cruz or a Rubio or a Bush doesn’t articulate it very well, you can sense a vision for America in each, a sense of where each candidate would take us. With Trump there is no such sense that he sees a target America that guides his efforts or a plan to get there, but merely a guy standing at the shore and waiting for the waves, confident that he can manage them whether they’re a few feet high or a tsunami wall. He’s completely reactive.

The end of his campaign may very well be the one state whose primary hands him a resounding and humiliating defeat, expected or not: recognition of his paper-thin depth could wash very quickly over the electorate, snow-balling into general rejection.
Bob Laughlin (Denver)
"Even if a Cruz or a Rubio or a Bush doesn’t articulate it very well, you can sense a vision for America in each, a sense of where each candidate would take us"....they will take us wherever their corporate masters tell them to take us.
R. Law (Texas)
Let's see now, where's that quote from the guy who says he played golf with El Donaldo at one of DT's Fla. courses and questioned the way IL Trumpolini (hat tip commenter Socrates) was scoring - ah, yes, here it is:

" I cheat in business, I cheat on my wife, I cheat in golf, I'm a winner. "

And then there's the part about mocking John McCain's status as war hero, plus the serial bankruptcies in the casino business - a business where the House has a guaranteed rate of return.

Yea, DT has a brand all right - but it doesn't have the same attributes his ego tells him it does.

And he'll never never ever be the richest - he'll never get there - and lots of those richer and more powerful than he are women, with yuuuge, enormous wallets, who could buy/sell him in a heartbeat, with Billion$ to spare :)
Janis (Ridgewood, NJ)
Having gone to a large Midwestern university I will tell you the majority of people are overly conservative and that has not changed. I believe the narrow margin Cruz won by is indicative of that region. Since his campaign disparaged Carson and played other dirty tricks like the report card, I think he is quite limited now. Let's see what happens in New Hampshire a more centered state.
C Martinez (London)
This is the most accurate colums that I read so far about Trump's
campaign strategy. I will add the gambler factor to Trump's behaviour
he might have put all his chips on New Hampshire. The result
will show if Republican voters are game or not. If not he might
have to eat one of his promotional baseball cap. As for changes
to come they should be cosmetic, a new hairdo maybe or a lighter
shade of orange to smooth the fake tan ?
fran soyer (ny)
He won Iowa by 50,000 votes. t least that's what he says, and he never lies. Just ask his 3 wives ...
John boyer (Atlanta)
New Hampshire voters may be iconoclasts, but brand building (or its demise) is a psychological calculation that is often based on how people perceive a product or the company that makes it. In that vein, Trump would appear to have made a large mistake, because his unpreparedness for a job like POTUS will eventually surface, and that will affect the view that people have of his business empire. Winning is different from the pretense of winning by leading in the polls - even Trump's unique point of view about himself can't change that. PR consultants can tell him that as well.

The only thing in Trump's favor when he does fail politically (general election polls show him losing in a landslide) is that he will try to paint the picture of someone who tried to save the country from ruin by offering decisive action that cuts through all the nuance, negotiation and caution which is typically considered necessary to perform the job. We will be "stuck" with someone who "doesn't know how to win." The road to oblivion will be a long one for Trump.
scottso (Hazlet nj)
Yes, and don't count out another run in 2020. He'll be able to boast " 'I told you so' because you didn't elect me last time."
Richard A. Petro (Connecticut)
"In a presidential election, you know what happens if you get 40% of the vote? You have lost the election in a landslide." Mr. Mukunda
2012 presidential results : Mr. Romney, 47.2%.
He lost. So, it seems, the professor is somewhat off on his numbers, don't you think?
Of course that number is just "counting votes". When it comes to the arcane "Electoral College", perhaps he's correct.
Michael Ryan (<br/>)
No, no, you don't get the purport of the comment. Losing is one thing. But getting ONLY 40% is a loss IN A LANDSLIDE. She didn't say that Romney lost in a landslide.
Ernest Werner (Town of Ulysses NY)
Ms Roller's image: pinprick, inflated orange balloon --
bnyc (NYC)
What does it say about the Republicans running that I much prefer Trump over Cruz or Rubio?

I'd really like to see Bloomberg win, but I trust that he's smart enough not to run if he'll just be a Nader-like spoiler.

Bernie has ideas which resonate because our society has become so out-of-whack...but with no possibility of realizing them. Which leaves Hillary, an imperfect candidate who gains stature next to the Republicans running against her.
scottso (Hazlet nj)
Unfortunately, Hillary appears to be the least dangerous candidate that has a chance of winning (Kasich? Carson? Really?) so by default, she'll probably get the nomination and squeak out a hollow victory in November. Preferring Trump over the rest of the GOP field just proves how dysfunctional the Republican Party is this cycle. The party of NO won't get very far with a thin-skinned egomaniac like the Donald running against the status quo. More gridlock until 2020.
uofcenglish (wilmette)
Bernie can't win and he will face Bloomberg is he is the candidate. Thank god for a miracle.
wigglwagon (Appalachia)

Do you mean things like giving our industrial base to other countries?

American employers came up with the idea of free trade so they could pay ridiculously low wages to workers in other countries and still use the US consumer market to generate their profits. It is too bad they cannot generate their profits by selling to their own customers. That is how it was done when America was prosperous.

What is wrong with using the US consumer market to support American factories and American workers and letting the Asian factories and workers be supported by the Asian consumer market?
Mark Thomason (Clawson, Mich)
"Every presidential candidate plays a character"

Not quite. Some "play" the character, but others really are the character. You can tell the difference rather quickly.

I am sure that Bernie really is what he's shown to the world for four decades.

That is just as true of some people I oppose. Christie really is that fat, self indulgent, Jersey-pol bully; it's genuine even if I oppose him. I think Dr. Carson is showing us who he really is; he's no President in my eyes, but he is an honest man showing us exactly who he is.

In contrast, Hillary is like Michigan weather; if you don't like it just wait a few minutes and it will change. Of course Cruz goes though life calculating the advantage of whatever lie he could tell in the moment; in a way that is honest as Faust had God say of Lucifer, but it isn't my idea of an honest man. Rubio? He is whatever someone will pay him to be next, just to cover his overdue credit card bill this month.

Some play, game us, can only be honest about their overt dishonesty. Others really are what they show the world.

As for Trump's brand, he has spent a lifetime building his brand. He's made billions and collected wives on a course of brand building. He knows more about building the Trump brand than any business school will ever know.

No matter what happens in this election, the Trump brand will be worth a lot more money. If building up a brand is what it takes to win, than a mere primary defeat won't stop the master brand builder.
fbjornstad (Haddonfield)
Who cares? Add Trump fatigue to Clinton fatigue.
njglea (Seattle)
I'm tired of the press' and commenters attacks on one of the most admired women in the world, Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton. I'm tired of the press mindlessly slathering over DT. A world of difference.
craig geary (redlands fl)
Three marriages.
Four bankruptcies.
Robbing aspiring students and the USG in his Trump University swindle.
Talking tough, being belligerent AND a Viet Nam draft dodging coward.

This is winning?
Chris Bowling (Blackburn, Mo.)
To the narcissist, all can be rationalized. The bankruptcies and draft deferments? See how smart he is playing the system. The marriages and Trump University victims? They're all losers. See how easy it is to play the game of self-delusion?
Brian kenney (Cold spring ny)
Ok so let's keep electing the same old and expect a different result. As for Vietnam - in retrospect, he certainly avoided a disaster and another stupid war by these same types of politicians you apparently want to vote for. Wake up.
Chris Bowling (Blackburn, Mo.)
You assume Trump avoided Vietnam because he was opposed to the war. Yet, as late as Dec. 5, 2015, he lamented to the N.Y. Daily News: "I didn't serve, I haven't served. I always felt a little guilty." He was then what he is now: a cowardly bully, with excuses galore. If you think past Presidents avoided accountability, then you can bet Trump will take that art to new heights, since he has an excuse for everything.
See also