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Can the power of personal brand Trump reputation?

A bad reputation isn’t usually considered a good thing (unless you’re a WWE wrestler or a movie villain). But is having a bad reputation necessarily a death sentence for a business? Or can it be overpowered by the power of a strong brand? 44’s Editorial Assistant Amie Pryal looks across the pond for some answers…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, the name Donald Trump will be familiar to you.

Whether it’s the press and social media collectively cringing at his latest outburst on Twitter, or his loyal fans praising his honest and cavalier attitude, Mr Trump’s giant presence is hard to ignore.

So how would you assess his reputation? Over here in the UK, it’s not so great. And basing our opinions of the man purely on his reputation, most of us were astonished he was elected to the most powerful position in America – and arguably the world.

Before his presidency, Donald Trump was renowned for his wealth, his business acumen, and for his talent for marrying young models.

There were big negatives in his background too, of course. He has filed for bankruptcy six times and has a penchant for saying whatever comes into his head – no matter whom he offends.

So how did a man with such a muddy reputation become President?

The answer is his personal brand.

Trumping the bad rep

Like him or loathe him, Trump has an undeniable personal brand that appears to have eclipsed his negative reputation. His honesty and outspoken personality divide opinion – but still, even the haters can’t help but tune in to see what he will do next.

As Forbes says in Six Personal Branding Lessons We Can Learn From Donald Trump: “The strongest brands in the world often repel as many people as they attract”. And it’s a good point to bear in mind when looking at the Trump trademarks.

Arguably, the strength of his brand comes from the absolute confidence with which it’s built, despite the reality of the situation.

If you Google the memorable phrase ‘make America great again’, it comes as no surprise that the searches return Trump’s face emblazoned all over the screen. The trademark phrase was, after all, the headline to his presidential campaign.

Trump himself said: “…the phrase, that was mine. I came up with it about a year ago, and I kept using it, and everybody’s using it. They are all loving it”. (MyFox New York, March 2015)

Would it shock you to find out that ‘make America great again’ is not an original from the mouth of Mr Trump?

It was actually coined by former President Ronald Reagan, and was one of his most well-known campaign slogans. Trump’s confidence, and his brand, has completely eclipsed Reagan’s – so should we be surprised that it’s obscured his negative reputation too?

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe” (Donald Trump – Twitter, 31 May 2017)

In his TED Talks presentation about personal brands and reputation, Tim Leberecht said: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

For any other brand, business or individual, that idea would probably make you want to ensure that your reputation was a positive one.

But not if you’re the self-confessed ‘man who loves to be hated’.

Trump’s signature trademarks – his oddly coiffured hair, his distinctive manner of speaking, his facial expressions – have become ammunition for an army of internet trolls. The numerous memes circulating the internet based on comments he’s made have often concealed the political circumstances in which they were delivered.

There are far more people who could do a reasonable imitation of Trump, or give an example of something cringeworthy he’s said, than could tell you what his policies are. And he shows no signs of slowing down or censoring his opinions, despite the negative press he receives.

It just goes to show, a strong personal brand can work wonders for a bad rep – it could even help you win the Presidency!

So, here are three things to take from Donald Trump that could be beneficial in building a brand, or supporting a (hopefully positive!) reputation:

1. Confidence – have confidence in your personal brand and in the work you’re doing.
2. A strong slogan – here at 44, we take pride in our values which are the bedrock of our business. They’ve become our maxim.
3. Honesty – whilst we wouldn’t recommend being as brutally honest as Donald Trump, honesty with colleagues and clients will help you maintain a strong support base, and build the kind of trust that brands feed on.

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