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Trump endorsement raises questions

News, 16 January 2017
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NEW YORK: Donald Trump's explicit endorsement via Twitter of a privately held Maine retailer, coupled with campaign donations from a family member, has left marketers wondering how best to deal with being name-checked by the president-elect.

Brands are more likely to have prepared themselves to react to criticism from Trump, but it seems they may also have to consider the implications of being praised and how that might divide opinion among consumers, the New York Times reported.

The fact that Linda Bean, granddaughter of L.L.Bean's founder, gave thousands of dollars to a political action committee supporting Trump has added an extra dimension, suggested Andrew Gilman, chief executive of CommCore Consulting Group, a crisis communications firm.

"Is there a quid pro quo in the Trump Twitter world, where if you do something nice for him or give him a donation, that you're likely to get an endorsement tweet?" he asked. "That's new stuff."

Previously, Gilman has advised brands to prepare for Trump in much the same way they would for a natural disaster – something highly unpredictable but a big risk if it occurs.

Meanwhile, Shawn Gorman, L. L. Bean's executive chairman, faced with the threat of a boycott by Trump's political opponents, has been at pains to emphasize that "no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L. L. built".

Insults are more common currency, however: at a press conference last week, Trump dismissed Buzzfeed as a "failing pile of garbage" and CNN as "fake news".

But in the polarised world he has helped create, brands have been able to turn such invective into a reverse endorsement. Vanity Fair, for example, put a December tweet rubbishing the magazine and its editor on the front cover of its latest issue.

"For us, it's the gift that keeps on giving," said editor Graydon Carter. "His last tweet brought us 80,000 new subscribers in two weeks."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff

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