The Conversation: Trumps show how damaged personal brands can harm the business
The following is an excerpt of research from U of M Professor of Marketing Fang Wan, published in The Conversation.
The relationship between a high-profile figure and a business brand is fraught with difficulties, as the ascent of the controversial and contentious Donald Trump to the American presidency demonstrates every day.
Despite his political victory, Trump’s business brand, as well as Ivanka Trump’s, is suffering. The Trump Tower and properties in Toronto are ridding themselves of his name, and earlier this year, some retail giants pulled Ivanka Trump’s fashion label from their shelves. More recently, her fashion line is facing increasing scrutiny.
How is a personal brand related to a business brand? And what should be the optimal distance between the two?
My research findings suggest that we should all first understand the benefits and liabilities of a person who dominates a brand’s presence such as Trump, Omnimedia’s Martha Stewart, Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson or Apple’s Steve Jobs.
The person is dynamic, nuanced, with his or her own set of values, competence levels and vision. At the initial stage of the business brand-building, a person, particularly a charismatic founder with unique qualities, can represent an excellent shortcut to the construction of a business brand. Consequently, the business brand is not just a name or a logo. It is personified or exemplified by an intriguing, charismatic, successful and often idiosyncratic leader.
Nonetheless, the benefits of having a high-profile leader generally cease when the business grows and starts scaling. When a business brand has garnered substantial public attention and dominant market share, it gradually and necessarily evolves into an entity independent of its founder and leader.
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