Donald Trump and brands: An uneasy relationship

  • Published
Signature L.L. Bean boots are displayed for sale at the L.L. Bean store in Burlington, Massachusetts, U.S. January 12, 2017Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
L.L. Bean is known for its heavy boots (other boot makers are available)

In itself, it was nothing out of the ordinary: a morning tweet by Donald Trump thanking a supporter.

The subject of his thanks was one Linda Bean, who was praised for her "great support and courage" in the tweet on Thursday. But his post, like many before it, had wider repercussions.

Linda Bean is an heiress of the Maine-based catalogue business L.L. Bean - a company Mr Trump then encouraged his 19.7m Twitter followers to support.

The tweet poses all sorts of questions about whether it is correct for the most powerful man in the Western world to endorse certain brands over others.

But what is the broader effect of a brand being associated with Mr Trump - a man who, despite his election win, will enter the White House next Friday less popular than the man who leaves (at least according to one poll this week)?

L.L. Bean

Image source, Twitter

Linda Bean was found by the Associated Press to have made a large donation to a pro-Trump PAC (political action committee), named Make Maine Great Again.

As a result, she and L.L. Bean have been targeted by anti-Trump groups, including one, #GrabYourWallet, that urges a boycott of companies associated with the billionaire and his family.

L.L.Bean was forced on the defensive earlier this week.

Its executive chairman, Shawn Gorman, wrote on Facebook that the company was "disappointed to learn that Grab Your Wallet is advocating a boycott against L.L.Bean solely because Linda Bean, who is only one of 50+ family members involved with the business, personally supported Donald Trump for President".

But despite the company's statement, the links to Mr Trump may not necessarily have been harmful: on the day of Mr Trump's tweet, the company's stock price ended the day higher, and Linda Bean told Fox Business there had been "a slight uptick" in business in recent days.

And the website for her own lobster restaurant crashed after Mr Trump linked to it (perhaps accidentally) in his tweet.

Lockheed Martin/Boeing

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
An F-35 fighter jet (other fighter jets are available)

In mid-December, a little more than a month after he won the election, Mr Trump took aim at the US defence giant Lockheed Martin.

Shares in the company fell after he tweeted that he would cut the cost of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after taking office.

He wrote: "F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20."

The F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons programme, costing about $400bn (£328bn), so it's no small fry.

The lobster restaurant in this particular relationship is Lockheed Martin's rival, Boeing.

After Mr Trump tweeted that he had asked Boeing to look into producing a cheaper alternative to the F-35, that company's shares jumped.

New Balance

Image source, Twitter: Kiemzi
Image caption,
New Balance trainers being set alight (other trainers and fire-starting materials are available)

Days after the election, the footwear company's vice-president appeared to praise Mr Trump's trade plans in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Matt LeBretton said Barack Obama had "turned a deaf ear" to US business. "Frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction," he said.

The company put out a statement saying it supported the trade positions of Democrat candidates too, but the damage was done - literally, in some cases, as New Balance shoe owners set fire to their footwear.

Yuengling beer

Image source, @EricTrump
Image caption,
Mr Trump's son visited Yuengling's brewery in October (other beers and Trump children are available)

Back in the weeks before the election, the owner of the oldest brewery in the US (in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, no less) expressed his support for the Republican candidate, and his frustration at what he saw as high tax rates.

The outrage followed a similar path to that of New Balance, minus the fire-starting - online anger, the promise of a boycott of Yuengling beer, and one-star reviews on its Facebook page.

But it is not clear now just how seriously the calls for a boycott affected Yuengling. Their Facebook page, for example, is now awash with support.

And there's only one fact that matters - in Pennsylvania, the state where Yuengling is the most popular beer, Mr Trump ended up winning 48.2% of the vote, with Hillary Clinton on 47.5%.

That's a result that helped push him towards the White House, and he'll take charge next week. Although, as a teetotaller, he won't be celebrating with a Yuengling beer.