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Klein writes: "Little will change until we stop buying what lifestyle brands are selling. And that means we'll have to form our identity based on what we do and what we believe, not on what we buy."

American business magnate Donald Trump (2-R), his sons Eric Trump (L) and Donald Trump Jr. (2-L), and daughter Ivanka Trump (R) pose for photographers during the ground breaking ceremony of the Trump International Hotel project at the Old Post Office. (photo: Getty)
American business magnate Donald Trump (2-R), his sons Eric Trump (L) and Donald Trump Jr. (2-L), and daughter Ivanka Trump (R) pose for photographers during the ground breaking ceremony of the Trump International Hotel project at the Old Post Office. (photo: Getty)


If It's All About the Trump Brand, Let's Jam It Up

By Naomi Klein, The Boston Globe

09 June 17

 

ell, that didn’t take long. On Monday, the Trump Organization announced plans to launch a chain of three-star hotels to target the millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump but could never afford his gilded hotels, condos, or clubs.

Until now, Trump’s middle-class base had to settle for purchasing little chips off the Trump brand: a bottle of water, a steak, a made-in-China tie or, of course, a hat. But there is more gold in them thar voters, and it is positively un-Trumpian to leave it unmined.

Enter American Idea, “a new midscale brand” hotel chain whose first properties will be in Mississippi, a red state where Trump won 18 percentage points more of the popular vote than Hillary Clinton. This is not just an attempt at crashing the Comfort Inn niche by wrapping it in stars and stripes. It’s also the most vivid window yet into the myriad ways the Trump family is transforming the presidency into a for-profit family business, annihilating the line between government and their web of brands.

It turns out that while the Trump kids were on the campaign trail last year, they weren’t just stumping for their father — they were conducting market research on ways to profit from Trump voters. The sons would return to Trump Tower and report on the quaint and old-timey tastes enjoyed in “real America,” as Eric Trump described it on “Good Morning America” earlier this week.

As Donald Jr. put it, he realized “there’s something here, there’s a market here that we’ve been missing our entire lives by focusing only on the high end.” And there were more perks to tagging along on the campaign trail. They also met people who donated to the Trump campaign, and some of those very people are now the first partners for this new venture.

So let’s unpack that a bit. In Trump’s world, voters are future customers, campaign donors are future investors, and election results are a rich vein of consumer data. But of course there is a firewall separating the presidency from the Trump Organization, or so we are told. Never mind the endless presidential trips to Trump-branded properties. Never mind Keyllanne Conway and “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!” Never mind Trump’s plug for Mar-a-Lago’s chocolate cake inserted into a description of a Syrian missile strike. Never mind Ivanka using her White House platform to hawk a book that is itself about hawking her brand. Never mind the millions Melania reportedly collected in a British libel settlement, in part due to damage caused to her would-be line of lifestyle products.

Never mind the hundreds of thousands the Saudis spent at Trump’s Washington hotel as part of a lobbying campaign against antiterror legislation. Never mind the Chinese government approving trademarks for Ivanka’s brand on the same day China’s president sat next to Ivanka at Mar-a-Lago. Never mind, well, absolutely everything.

For the past five months, I’ve been writing a book that tries to put this presidency in the context of some of the economic and social trends that paved the way for Trump’s rise. And there are many such threads to follow, but a major one is the relatively new business model that the Trump family harnesses for vast wealth. That model is based on the idea that successful corporations aren’t actually selling products but brands — desirable “lifestyles.” And consumers aren’t really buying products, they’re buying ideas — markers of aspirational identity and membership in a circle of belonging. This is what the Trumps have always sold: a dream of themselves, projected back to their consumers. And having merged the Trump brand with the White House, they are now marketing “real” America back to itself.

Ethics experts keep urging Trump to separate himself completely from his business holdings by selling them or setting up a blind trust. But it’s clear the Trumps can’t even entertain the concept. They are their brands. Trump and his family have no idea where their commercial identities end and their personal (let alone public sector) identities begin. Even as the president and his adviser-daughter insist they are no longer involved in their businesses (though they still profit from them), their commercial avatars are busy replicating around the world, refracting through a commercial house of mirrors as the brand version of Donald and Ivanka continues to sell condos and golf club memberships — and offers Memorial Day tips on making champagne popsicles.

Why does this matter? Because just as Trump sees his voters as consumers, his supporters see their president less as a representative from whom they have a right to demand accountability and more as a brand. That’s why the self-dealing scandals don’t stick: Trump is just playing by the same lucrative rules that have reshaped the global economy. He’s fully embodying his boss brand, making money wherever he can, getting the best possible deal out of being president.

There are ways to undercut this: by making Trump look less like a boss (think #PresidentBannon), and by hurting his bottom line by boycotting and otherwise bruising his brand. And I’m all for trying. In refusing to divest from his business holdings, Trump has left himself wide open to this kind of consumer pressure.

But what about the next brand-name billionaire candidate out to leverage consumer relationships into votes? Ultimately, little will change until we stop buying what lifestyle brands are selling. And that means we’ll have to form our identity based on what we do and what we believe, not on what we buy. It may sound like an un-American Idea, but perhaps its time has come.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

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+27 # Ahimsa 2017-06-09 13:14
Here are some of the no-frills features that make these only three-start hotels: 1.No soap in the restrooms(not needed with Trump supporters)2.Th e standard ubiquitous classical art prints are replaced with a ubiquitous print of an 3rd graders rendering of the Confederate Flag.3.A scaled down comic strip version of the Gideon's Bible 4. Hotel pillow mints are replaced with a pinch of Redman in tin foil. 5. Plasma screen TV's are replaced with old picture tube televisions that broadcast "The Dukes of Hazzard reruns 24/7.
 
 
-18 # LionMousePudding 2017-06-09 13:44
This gratuitous aspersion of Trump voters is unnecessary.
 
 
+6 # Texas Aggie 2017-06-09 19:58
Lots of things are unnecessary, but we still have them and still enjoy them.
 
 
+1 # LionMousePudding 2017-06-12 14:00
That makes us like the Right. They deal in hate. We need to be more principled.

In any case it has been shown in a number of places that Trump supporters were NOT white working class. Their average income was well above Hillary's. They were the white people who WOULD actually benefit from him.

The reason we think they are the white working class is at least twofold.

1. That's who went to his rallies and made themselves visible, often through sheer ugliness.

2. Perhaps largely because of 1; or perhaps for a more useful reason, the media, including the Progressive media for the most part, has ben telling us that.

The number speak otherwise.
 
 
+7 # LionMousePudding 2017-06-09 13:51
Do readers of RSN actually buy Trump products​? If they had, wouldn't they already have stopped? I feel the same boycott is sadly a little empty. It is exactly the fact that what he sells is his brand. Thus it is only his supporters​ who buy his brand and they aren't going to act on a boycott. In fact, they are excellent at using left wing boycotts as impetus for fundraisers.
 
 
0 # ThorunnPS 2017-06-14 04:02
Yes. I fear this article is pretty much preaching to the choir.
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2017-06-09 14:29
Quoting Ahimsa:
Here are some of the no-frills features that make these only three-start hotels: 1.No soap in the restrooms(not needed with Trump supporters)2.The standard ubiquitous classical art prints are replaced with a ubiquitous print of an 3rd graders rendering of the Confederate Flag.3.A scaled down comic strip version of the Gideon's Bible 4. Hotel pillow mints are replaced with a pinch of Redman in tin foil. 5. Plasma screen TV's are replaced with old picture tube televisions that broadcast "The Dukes of Hazzard reruns 24/7.

How 'bout a grubby hairdressing salon "For rugs only" staffed by women in curlers, dirty pinafores and hair nets, an ice cream parlor with one flavor "Flyblown", a restaurant with one item only "Biscuits and gravy" (packaged of course), a heavily-armed redneck "concierge (bag-dragger)" and a receptionist with big boobs and a Dolly Parton hairdo (no disrespect to Ms Parton please).
 
 
0 # librarian1984 2017-06-09 22:03
Wow. Really? Are we going to burn crosses too?
 
 
+2 # vicnada 2017-06-10 07:30
...and "Dueling Banjos" from the movie Deliverance as endless loop in the elevators.
 
 
+3 # BluePill 2017-06-09 13:26
LMAO!
 
 
+13 # BluePill 2017-06-09 13:42
Unfortunately the people who buy Trump's crap do not read and if they do read they certainly don't read materials that require critical thought. I recently read an analysis that shows that many Trump supporters are college-educate d. However these people must truly be self involved and heartless since obviously they really just don't care about other people. Their ideology is that everyone is responsible for themselves and hard work will bring them their reward. They haven't put it together that many people do not start out in life with the privileges that they had. I could go on but basically it boils down to the idea that these people are trump want to bees and are racists.
 
 
0 # LionMousePudding 2017-06-12 14:02
So.. can they read or can't hey?

Yes, they are truly self-involved and heartless. Isn't that the Republican brand?
 
 
+17 # economagic 2017-06-09 15:03
I have NEVER purchased any goods or services marketed as emblematic of any "lifestyle" -- EVER. Neither have I or will I ever purchase anything I know to be related to Trump. I even quit drinking my favorite beer (Yuengling's, the best cheap beer in America and the cheapest good beer) because the company's CEO supported Trump, according to grabyourwallet. com. I sent their marketing people an email when I made that decision some four months ago. It is time for me to prod them again.
 
 
+11 # Elroys 2017-06-09 15:10
Boycott all things Trump
Boycott all Exxon-Mobil gas stations
 
 
+20 # CurtW 2017-06-09 16:02
We need a complete listing of all Trump Organization products (services?) and properties in order to conduct a boycott that hurts. Who has this list?
 
 
+3 # vilstef 2017-06-09 17:59
And consumers aren’t really buying products, they’re buying ideas. . .
---------------------------------------
That is an idea I'm not buying. I'm not out to remake myself in the image of corporate consumerism and I think anyone who is for this flavor of BS is a bit slow.

I don't know anyone who would want a piece of the not quite so sparkling middle-class Trump lifestyle. If they do, that's sheep's wool being pulled over their sheep faces. The alpaca is for the wealthier sheep.
 
 
+6 # lfeuille 2017-06-09 18:56
There is a need for 3 and even 2 star hotels. Too many people can't afford the luxury versions. This creates a market for airbnb and the like which just inflates the housing bubble again and takes properties out of the pool of rental housing for permanent residents, making rents unaffordable to the average city dweller. But I really wish it would be done without adding to the bottom line of Trump or any other corrupt Billionaire.
 
 
-18 # Shaas 2017-06-09 19:11
This personal hatred and tendency to destroy is so infantile!
 
 
-4 # DocPeace 2017-06-10 03:15
Rent the room and pay cash no credit card and urinate all over the beds and carpets and everything like a good RUSSIAN Prostitute.
Then never go back. Drop a few turds also.
Best way stop their building permits to even begin.
 
 
+7 # vicnada 2017-06-10 07:20
"And that means we’ll have to form our identity based on what we do and what we believe, not on what we buy. It may sound like an un-American Idea, but perhaps its time has come."

Un-American Idea? Not at all. Think Forrest Gump meets Donald Trump.
 
 
+6 # bb1choix 2017-06-10 13:00
We can do what we believe is right, we can believe what we believe is right and we can buy what we want to support.

For a listing of the retail outlets that carry tr*mp products, see https://grabyourwallet.org/
 

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