Jamming The President’s Brand

The Trump brand is gold-plated, business-sense. Remember, a brand does not have to be completely, or partially, true. Coca-Cola is not your happiest moments with friends. Naomi Klein, in a video posted on The Intercept on Wednesday, defined 45’s brand as, “He’s the boss who’s so rich he can do whatever he wants”. She called him and gold the opposite of Superman and kryptonite, because he seems to always be in contact with it. Klein’s video gives listeners four steps to encourage the President to ‘support’ popular causes by undermining his brand and his business interests.

Klein wrote a book in the 90’s called No Logo. It looked at the rise of companies whose main product is the brand they use to market the physical items they sell. It documented companies outsourcing their manufacturing operations to factories in countries with weak labor and environmental protections. The book is also an activist’s guide to jamming the meaning of brands. Jamming a brand means using art and creative activism to reframe the intended meaning of the brand in the public eye. A culture jammer might wheatpaste a murdered union organizer onto a Coca-Cola billboard to highlight the company’s connection to brutal union busting tactics in the developing world, or make an oil-soaked pelican costume and attend the public events of a fossil fuel company who recently spilled their poison, all of them. The Yes Men are expert culture jammers. They prank the mainstream media and corporations to highlight issues of profit being put before people.  

The President is a superbrand. People lease his name to go on their buildings. He starred in a reality TV show where his main job was dramatically saying, “You’re fired”,  to disqualified contestants. He won the Presidency, the most powerful elected office in the world, partly by repeating the questionable statement that he is a good businessman, after all, he started out with a small loan of $1 million from his father. Now, as President he pushes the TRUMP brand, his daughter Ivanka’s brand, and the potential for his supermodel second wife to also have a brand. In Melania’s defamation lawsuit against The Daily Mail, her attorney referred to Melania’s time as the FLOTUS as a, “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.”

This brazen statement admits that the FLOTUS views her husband’s Presidency as a commercial opportunity. POTUS has flaunted ethical standards by refusing to separate the himself from his business holdings or release his tax returns, and  taking executive actions that benefit his stocks, such as approving the Dakota Access Pipeline and launching Raytheon’s tomahawk missiles into Syria. Also, Trump and Kellyanne Conway have made public statements in support of Ivanka’s clothing business and Ivanka has since claimed a spike in sales.

So, Klein pitched a four step plan to jam the brand of, “the boss who’s so rich he does whatever he wants.”:

The first step is to, “fire the boss”. The Trump brand relies on business authority. The President tells other people what to do. To jam this perception the public needs to double-down on the strategy that seems to have White House Advisor, and Christian Supremacist, Steve Bannon on the firing line. Stop President Bannon. TRUMP is a puppet of X politician or billionaire. President Ryan Pulls The Strings. Koch First? Any slogan or graphic implying that the President is not his own master, repeated to the point of exhaustion, damages the brand.

Step two. “Make him less rich.” Boycott his products and force his brand into a crisis. The #GrabYourWallet campaign maintains a list of companies affiliated with the President at grabyourwallet.org. According to their website Saks OFF FIFTH, Burlington Coat Factory, Sears, Kmart, Jet, HSN, Gilt, ShopStyle, and Belk all responded to their boycott by removing some or all Trump family products. Jet, Gilt, and ShopStyle removed all of these products and were struck from the list entirely. A leaked document from TJ MAXX, linked on their website, revealed that management instructed their stores to take down signs for Ivanka’s products and disperse her clothes through the store. The stores responded to the campaign, and so did the President. He criticized Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping his daughters products, and one of his mouthpieces literally said, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff”, on Fox & Friends. These responses are further fuel for the #GrabYourWallet boycott.

Three. “Go after the big fish.” This means his real estate empire. The TRUMP name is on 27 buildings internationally, but he often just leases his name to the owner. His Presidency is a personal gamble that during and after his tenure as a pervasive elected official his brand will be worth more, or at least equal to its current value. His wife’s lawyers line in the defamation suit exposes his ploy, just switch the Plaintiff. “[Melania Trump] could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.” A group of New York tenants seized this strategy to remove the TRUMP label from their apartment building last November. Six-hundred petition signatures instigated the name changes of three buildings from Trump Plaza, to their street addresses. This creates an opportunity for people everywhere to hold the American President accountable using his golf courses, buildings, and other investments as metaphorical testicles in a vice.

Four. Klein wants us all to, “be a nuisance”, to the TRUMP Empire. Tighten the vice, but remember to treat his employees with respect. They are not their boss, nor do they necessarily support him. She suggested focusing your typical phone-in campaigns, usually reserved for political offices, to his businesses and locking up their lines. She hinted at people reserving rooms in his hotels and cancelling them at the last refundable minute. This strategy could also extend to the activists who tilled the word RESIST into the green of a Trump-owned golf course in Virginia. This is the fun part of her four steps, just remember to consider the risk-reward ratio and your own personal comfort with risk before planning your world-changing action.

Presidents divest from their financial interests before taking office because those interests can be manipulated to control their holder. The President should never be compromised, but the current President is inherently compromised. That can be used to our advantage through culture jamming, boycotts, and direct action. By successfully reframing the TRUMP brand activists can defeat the Trump agenda in two ways. There is the potential that he will correct his course and substantively address climate change, class inequality, and political corruption as PR move. And failing that, changing public perceptions of the supposed billionaire uber-mensch we refer to as our President will harm his chances for reelection in 2020.


Check out Klein’s video at The Intercept, here.


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