Thanks to Contracts, Trump Brand May Get Last Laugh on Boycotts

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Trump Golf Course Dubai

The technical term for what Donald Trump is destroying is “brand equity,” defined as: “The sum of all distinguishing qualities of a brand, drawn from all relevant stakeholders, that results in personal commitment to and demand for the brand.”

It is this agreement from all stakeholders, and not the sum total of a bank account, that make a brand valuable. It’s why even though Trump insists his brand is as strong as ever, the recent actions of other stakeholders are proving him wrong.

Trump’s brand name has become a brand liability. Even as Trump trademarks his name for political terms in the US, businesses like NBC and Macy’s have already abandoned association with the Trump brand. And now the rest of the world is abandoning ship, too. It seems few want to live in a tower or putt on a green named after what some call “a borderline fascist.”

In Dubai, the Trump name has been hastily and, from the looks of it violently, removed from the Trump International Golf Club Dubai. Also, a picture of Trump golfing that advertised the $6 billion luxury course and club has also been removed. To be clear, scrubbing Trump off his own eponymous golf resort was not done by vandals but by the local developer itself.

Meanwhile, Landmark, parent of Middle East Lifestyle department store chain, halted sales of “Trump Home” merchandise. The retailer is one of the region’s largest, with stores in UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Africa. Qatar has gone beyond no longer carrying Trump products and has outright banned him.

The impact is widespread. In Scotland, a member of parliament is calling for visitors to his nation to boycott Trump’s properties and golf courses there.

In Chicago, residents of Trump Tower report humiliation with their address, with one Trump condo-living attorney reporting that he now says he lives “on the river.” But it’s not only embarrassment—some Trump Tower residents are worried their building might now be a prime terrorism target. And protests that are now sprouting outside Trump-branded residential towers will not help property values.

And in Stamford, Connecticut, a coalition of interfaith religious leaders says it wants Trump’s name off of a 35-story tower in town.

In Vancouver, the 63-story, $360 million Trump International Hotel & Tower is set to open in summer of 2016 and its local development partner says it’s stuck with the name no matter what.

Joo Kim, head of the Holborn Group development company behind the tower, told a Vancouver news outlet that contractual obligations force them to keep the Trump branding on the building. In a statement in response to calls to boycott the new building, Holborn’s desperation is obvious:

“Holborn is a Vancouver-based private real estate development company that owns Trump Vancouver. When Trump Vancouver opens in 2016, we will create as many as 300 jobs. Holborn, a company that has contributed immensely to the growth of Vancouver, is not in any way involved in US politics. As such, we would not comment further on Mr Trump’s personal or political agenda, nor any political issues, local or foreign. Our efforts remain focused on the construction of what will soon be the finest luxury property in Vancouver and beyond.”

The Tower, which just held a Trump Luxe brand launch event in November, is now facing a local backlash. Bad reviews on the Tower’s official Facebook page have managed to bring its rating down to 4 of 5 stars, hardly Trump luxury levels. A Change.org petition for Holborn to drop the Trump name has nearly 48,000 signatures. (It’s not the only online petition calling on commercial partners to dump the Trump brand.)

Still in Canada, a Toronto city council member is calling for the removal of the Trump name from the city’s Trump Tower. It’s likely that Councilman Matlow will find a contractural structure similar to the one in Vancouver, with a local developer owning the tower but contractually obligated to Trump’s hotel management company. Thanks to rule of law, Trump may get the last laugh from on high in the cities that want to erase him from their skylines.

Trump has built a powerful, international brand with a distinct personality. No small feat and one that eludes many other billionaires.

But the free market for which Trump is so fond appears to be giving him some critical feedback.

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