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HORIST: Trump is mismanaging his presidential brand.

HORIST: Trump is mismanaging his presidential brand.

For more than four decades, I advised many of my clients on managing their public images, a form of “branding” – as it is referred to today.  It was one of the basic services of my business – especially for political and other personalities who had public notoriety.

For many years, Donald Trump has been in the branding business – some even say a master of promotion.  No one can deny that he turned his name into a brand that reflected success, wealth and sophistication, of sorts.  In many ways, Trump made a career of being the Hugh Hefner of real estate – big, bold, flashy and an obvious subtext of Bacchanalian sexuality.  Like Hefner, Trump, himself, became an integral part of the lifestyle brand.

Much of the image carried over in his one-time ownership of the Miss America Contest.  Trump built on the contest’s multi-talent approach – with sexuality dominating the marketing strategy.  Oh sure, there were those exhibitions of poetry, baton twirling and tap dancing, but it was the diminishing-fabric swimsuit contest that got all the promotional funding and the ratings.

Trump entered the everything-thing-that-glitters-is-gold casino business.  Again, the image was big money being thrown around by folks in Armani suits and Halston gowns being captured by the paparazzi as they arrived in chauffeur-driven Bentleys or self-driven Maseratis.  It was pure Trumpian – a perfect fit.

Trump even turned the cold – and occasionally cruel – business world into a television hit with his “The Apprentice” program on NBC.  In those days, the “peacock network” was far from critical of The Donald. It was in full partnership.  He created entertainment by firing people with little regret or compassion – including the celebrities who made the show more than an office meeting.

Imagine that.  Big rich, famous and powerful people being humiliatedly discharged in front of millions of viewers.  The show placed Trump in the seat of power as the ultimate authority – something that may have bearing on his presidential style.

Of course, not everyone likes the Trump brands.  For some, the Trump brands were too brash, too vulgar and too tacky.  They were viewed as a low-class effort to be high-class.  They did not appeal to the Brahmin establishment who knew that Martha’s Vineyard was not wine country and had actually been inside those mansions in the Hamptons.  But then, you cannot please everyone.

If Trump’s strength is being a master of branding, his weakness may be that he is a one-trick pony – a branding savant, of sorts.  His brand has placed him as a ringmaster in a uniquely American Circus Maximus in which the lives of the rich and famous – or wannabe rich and famous — were played out for glamourized public entertainment.

Trump did well with his business, the Miss America Contest, casinos and “The Apprentice” because they were already a perfect fit for the Trump brand.  The presidency, however, had a long-established and quite different brand.  There is an aura of seriousness and solemnity about it.  Many past occupants of the White House referred to the presidency as a humbling experience – but not Trump.

The need to tweak his brand was obvious from the day he came down the escalator after announcing his candidacy.  Throughout the campaign, during the post-election transition period and well into his days in the White House, among the most frequently used words was “pivot.”  Would Trump adjust his brand to fit more comfortably into that big leather chair in the Oval Office?  Many thought he would – and even  he hinted at it, from time to time.  Others hoped he would – and yet others doubted it.

When he didn’t pivot – alter his public image (brand) – critics accused him of violating the traditions and norms of the presidency – euphemisms for the presidential brand.  Trump has been mistaken in believing that he could fully impose his brand – his style – on the presidency.

The lack of proper image or brand management is the reason that the Trump personality has become his Achilles Heel.  Take away the personality issues that the Democrats us as a smokescreen and look at the policies, issues, programs, proposals and appointments and Trump looks like a pretty good President for most of America – excluding the hardcore left-wing Democrats who are currently sliding down the slippery slope of socialism.

Noting Trump’s failure at brand management is, in no way suggesting that he should not be taking on the entrenched establishment, pushing back against the deep state and draining the swamp.  Toughness is not the Trump brand’s weakness.  We like strong presidents – and the need to disrupt the long-failed elitist Washington establishment was a more than a worthy goal.  Arguably, he would have been – and still could be — more effective and more popular with a bit more compliance to the presidential brand in terms of style.

Many believe – this writer included – that had Trump tweaked his brand to fit the presidency – pivot, if you will – he would have won the popular vote, passed 50 percent in popularity, held on to the House in 2018 and would be coasting to a victory in 2020.  If Trump fails to get re-elected, it will be because he has been incompetent in managing his brand in terms of the presidency.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Rose Blevins

    I suppose many would still prefer the mealy mouthed Presidents whose only thought was to appease everyone so they could be liked. Meantime they were allowing our constitution to be trampled on. It was easier to bury head in the sand and the next person deal with it. America needed someone to wake us up to the fact that we are standing at the top of the cliff. He does not use finesse but people understand what our options now that he has had to blast them to us. God Bless him.

  2. Ruth Welt

    You nailed it!

  3. Jack

    Trump is Trump and really could care less about his marketing potential while President, he is working for Americans not other countries like our last 3 Presidents.

  4. Jeffrey Grant

    Larry, Larry, Larry,

    Technically as far as brand management goes, you are correct. But, what is at hand has nothing to do with branding at all. In reality Trump is leading (and thankfully winning) a civil war.

    The war is us (Christian-Judeo freedom fighters) against an invisible enemy; an enemy of limited moral underpinnings that weaponizes political correctness and has its own perverted definition of fairness and America’s Constitution. This enemy’s efforts are supported by a demented cabal made up of the MSNM, information service providers (Google) and our entire entertainment industry.

    And recall that one of GW’s regrets was not standing up to the flack from the left.

    Trump is absolutely amazing.

    Please revise and resubmit this piece!


    • Frank S.

      Jeff, you are spot on, but you forgot to add academia to your demented cabal list.

      • Jeffrey Grant

        Thanks Frank, I thought the list was a little short and forgot to include our academic indoctrination mills – that begins at pre=school.

  5. Stanley Steamer

    Larry, everyone was wrong about Trump winning. EVERYONE, including millions of guys like me who voted for him in both the primaries and general. Right up until Election Day, we didn’t believe he would win.

    He was right…you, me and everyone else on earth was wrong…and nothing has changed since 2016. We FINALLY have a President who puts substance ABOVE style. Fuck style.

    And as if changing his style now would change anything anyway.

  6. Earlissimo Ricardo

    “Take away the personality issues that the Democrats us as a smokescreen and look at the policies, issues, programs, proposals and appointments and Trump looks like a pretty good President for most of America” – Let me re-phrase this; A Pathological Liar – Money Laundering – Pussy Grabber for Christ fits right in to the Talibangelicals way of life. They don’t follow Jesus, just wrap themselves in the Flag and carry a fake cross around. I am ALL FOR THE WALL, as soon as Mexico Pays for it. You can even call it what it is – “The Great Wall of Trump”. He HAS No substance. Tried to get Mexico to Pay for the wall, they refused as did most of the US, so he Raped the Military Budget instead…Held more hearings into Hillary than were held for 9-11 Attacks with ZERO Indictments while saying the Special Prosecutor (A Life-Long Republican appointed by Republicans)was a witch hunt. That Investigation so far has netted guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies, including top advisers to President Trump, Russian spies and hackers with ties to the Kremlin. Said he’d release his Taxes but now has an army of Lawyers specifically to prevent their release. Drain the Swamp? the only people fleeing D.C. are Trump Appointees who average less than a Year on the job before leaving. Delcared he would defend LGBTQ Rights and has done the opposite, Promised to Repeal and Replace the ACA, has not…Promised to Balance the Budget & Eliminate the Debt and has done precisely the opposite (Worst ever actually), Promised to reopen Coal Mines and create 50,000 new mining Jobs – Mining Jobs are lower now than they were under Obama. Said he would invest 550 Billion in Infrastructure and create more jobs than Any President…..job growth is now lower than any President since Reagan. Many of us gave him a chance but he proves to be an ASS to our Allies and Kiss our Enemies Asses while ignoring Military and Intelligence Leaders while claiming he knows better. He does not, He IS not. His only hope for re-election now is to Legalize Pot – then Millions of Stoners will vote for him who never voted before. It’s Time to “Make America Honest Again”.