From New Balance and Under Armour going on the defense after backlash for Trump-related comments, to the daily saga taking place between the Ivanka Trump brand and the #GrabYourWallet campaign, footwear hasn’t been this political since Senator Wendy Davis famously wore Mizuno sneakers for her 13-hour filibuster in 2013.
For companies like Marc Fisher, which produces Ivanka Trump footwear, the first daughter’s name is putting brand loyalty to a test.
“If I were a license partner of the brand, I would demand accountability and an action plan as to how the company is performing and what their plans are to get better,” said Leslie Friedman, image consultant and author. “I would then seriously look at how I’m branding and selling the licensed product and alter what I could to be more appealing to the customer. This would probably include retraining sales associates to effectively counter customer disapproval of the brand.”
The sales racks at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street Flagship in New York City are currently filled with Ivanka Trump footwear and the brand’s new product has noticeably been moved to a quieter side of the store. However, Friedman does not recommend discounting the brand’s products, but rather maintaining normal retail prices.
“By heavily discounting the brand, you’re acknowledging that it has low worth. Instead, keep your retail prices normal, and find a way to tell your customers why you like the Ivanka Trump brand and why they should too,” she said.
After retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus dropped Ivanka Trump’s collections from their websites and activists of the #GrabYourWallet campaign claimed victory, mentions of Nordstrom online increased by 336% in one day, reported Kelly Terry, Brandwatch senior PR data analyst.
“There’s a lot of data points to look to, website visits, social media mentions—all of it from a brand perspective isn’t great,” Terry said of the press Ivanka Trump’s brand continues to receive. “You never want a brand to be associated with one political view over another unless that’s something you want to standby and put your name on.”
Terry goes even further to suggest the Ivanka Trump brand take a step back from the public eye and come back after a hiatus with a new plan to reclaim consumers’ confidence.
“As I’ve seen through some of the brand backlash after election day starting with New Balance, Pepsi, GrubHub—people are becoming a bit more numb to brands being swept up in a political conversation,” said Terry. “The first immediate action [I’d think of] might be to take a step back out of the limelight for about a month then reenter with a well thought out message to the American people.”
Dr. Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO of Vivaldi consulting firm, likened the current Ivanka Trump brand troubles to those that ultimately led to the demise of American Apparel. However, unlike American Apparel’s downfall, the Ivanka Trump brand does not have one specific incident to come back from, but rather is merely guilty of wearing the Trump name and dealing with what some have called unethical remarks from the president.
“[Ivanka Trump] lives with this as her father and the perceptions that the Trump brand has acquired through all of the things through the media—I think it’s very hard to recover [the perception prior to the election],” said Joachimsthaler. “Identity is destiny [in fashion]. The identity of the brand is too closely connected to Trump…the name Trump. I think it’s so harmful right now. You can’t recover [from] this, you can’t fix this.”
Time is not on the Ivanka Trump brand’s side, either. The company will have to deal with at least four years of backlash from those opposing Trump’s administration, which could lead to more retailers dropping the brand and a deeper sales decline.
Deborah Reynolds, international image expert of About Face Image Consulting, Inc., suggests the Ivanka Trump brand manufacture within the United States.
“In Ivanka’s situation—domestically created products would be a big plus to enhance a local job market,” said Reynolds. “She needs to be clear on the market—who will purchase the products, the values of the target market customer, and that has to be consistent with the retailer’s values. Values, values, values! If you get this right, everything else falls into place.”
Taking the public’s eye off the president could help. “Publicity around giving back would be a huge plus—selecting a worthy charity to receive part of the proceeds of the sale, that the retailers and consumers can wholehearted endorse and stand behind,” said Freidman.
Unfortunately for the Ivanka Trump brand, the future seems out of its control and in the hands of the president. Freidman believes the brand retains the ability to recover, and says that the method, the president’s actions and Ivanka’s role in politics will play determining factors in the brand’s ability to continue.
Terry also believes the brand can recover, but admits that it will rely heavily on factors outside of the brand’s control.
“As of right now, I think that it could recover. I think that it depends on some outside independent factors that people who work for the Ivanka Trump brand have no control over,” said Terry. “But if they work hard and get lucky—yes.”