Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about how he treats women, captured on tape and made public Friday, may hurt more than his chances of becoming president.
A survey by brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy Brand Keys shows that Trump’s “brand strength” — defined by consumer engagement and brand loyalty — declined 1 to 8 percentage points in seven key categories after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape on Oct. 8 where he claims that “when you are a star … you can do anything” to women, including grabbing their “p—-.”
The comments were made to Billy Bush, who at the time was an anchor for “Access Hollywood.” Bush has since been suspended indefinitely from his post on NBC’s “TODAY” show pending further review. Trump has called the comments “locker room” banter, and denied sexually assaulting women during Sunday’s second presidential debate.
The survey asked 1,536 registered voters about their opinions on Trump before the election, after he announced his candidacy and after the “Access Hollywood” tape was released. It broke down Trump’s influence in TV/entertainment, country/golf clubs, real estate, dress shirts, ties, suits and watches. Brand strength was shown as a percentage that represented added value.
For example, before Trump ran for election, putting his name to a TV or entertainment property increased the perceived value by 37 percent. After he announced his run, it went even higher to 43 percent. However, after the video was released, it dropped to 30 percent.
The Trump Organization declined CNBC’s request for comment.
Trump’s brand saw the largest drop in the real estate category, about 8 percentage points. He went from 30 percent added value before his candidacy and during his presidential run to 22 percent post-video. Country and golf clubs also took a big hit, declining 6 percentage points between when he announced his candidacy and the tape’s release.
It’s important to note that despite the declines, Trump’s added value still ranged from 22 to 34 percent for these three categories, a figure that Brand Keys founder and President Robert Passikoff called an “enviable” range for any category or brand in a release.
Passikoff told CNBC that the overall range for added value in the TV/entertainment category is about 23 percent, so Trump still is above average. However, the rate of decline could continue.
“Trump is still above average, but the election is a month away,” he said to CNBC. “If he loses, his brand is also likely to lose its ability to bring something special/more to the category.”
The reality is Trump has received an “unprecedented amount” of free media coverage, with conservative estimates at $2 billion in the media value range, said Paul Friederichsen, CEO of marketing communications firm BrandBiz. “That in and of itself has further propelled his brand recognition into the stratosphere,” he said.
Still, extremely negative news like the tape leaks will eventually chip away at his popularity, Friederichsen said.
Trump’s saving grace may be the fact that the public’s attention is fickle, and they soon forget scandals. Friederichsen pointed out that disgraced celebrities like Martha Stewart, Paula Deen and Tiger Woods have all come back from negative press. He pointed out that a few months after Ryan Lochte was proven to have lied about being held up at gunpoint in Rio de Janiero during the Olympics, he was competing on “Dancing With the Stars.”
And, while the allure and luster of Trump’s brand may be tarnished among some consumers who may opt to not stay at is hotel properties, go to his golf courses or purchase his apartments for now, Friederichsen said business leaders who want to make larger development deals with Trump — who are overwhelmingly male and less likely to be offended by the comments — will be interested in turning a profit, regardless of controversy.
However, Friederichsen didn’t discount the fact that these executives may have an emotional response to Trump after these recent revelations.
“There are two sides of every decision process: the rational side and emotional side,” he said. “The rational side is going to be dealing in terms of investment potential, but the emotional side is equally powerful as well.”