Republican nominee-turned-America’s soon-to-be 45th President Donald Trump’s campaign thrust his eldest daughter – Ivanka Trump, who played a central role on the campaign trail and behind the scenes, as well – into the spotlight. Her close involvement with her father’s highly controversial campaign resulted in a large social media movement aimed at boycotting Ivanka Trump’s eponymous collection and mounting concern as to how her brand, which consists of shoes, clothes and accessories, would fare as a result of the damage that she was potentially doing to her brand in the eyes of many consumers.
NOT AS UNPOPULAR AS YOU MIGHT THINK
Despite large social media movements, which seemed to indicate otherwise, a pre-election Brand Keys survey found that the Ivanka Trump brand remained favorable among consumers, particularly in the millennial demographic. Her father Donald’s brand, on the other hand, experienced a far more negative reaction, “particularly in the last year due to campaign rhetoric and the release of a videotape capturing him making lewd comments about women.”
As of now, it seems safe to say – albeit speculatively – that the First Daughter’s company is slated to perform well in light of the recent vote, at least according to analysts. On Wednesday, Neil Saunders, retail analyst at Conlumino USA, told Women’s Wear Daily, “Obviously, there is a lot more interest for all things having to do with Trump.” He further held that Trump’s presidency “could bring greater interest” to his daughter’s company and that “it could be helpful if they want to expand the brand overseas into other markets.”
Katie Smith, a retail analyst at Edited, said Wednesday that in the past week alone, 17 global retailers have increased the number of new Ivanka Trump products arriving into store by 24 percent compared to the same seven-day stretch last year. In addition, global sellouts for the Ivanka Trump collection have been up 78 percent in the last week, Smith said. During that selling time, fewer discounts were applied to the brand than a year ago.
And it seems the best is yet to come for Ivanka. While the campaign trail has seemingly proven to be largely positive for her brand, the post-election period could be even better. The NPD Group’s chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen said Ivanka Trump has the “natural advantage to be able to leverage the brand to a higher level of popularity,” without the negativity that could come from making a not-so-popular decision as commander-in-chief.
IS THAT LEGAL? IS THAT ETHICAL?
Going forward, Ivanka's brand will hardly be without significant struggles. The most immediate trial that the brand is facing: Marketing in a way that does not cross legal or ethical lines and that does not deter consumers.
The eldest Trump daughter has already come under fire since the election for allegedly "trying to use her father’s presidency to sell things." According to New York Magazine's The Cut blog, "Ivanka is already using the publicity from [her father's] impending presidency to hawk accessories from her jewelry line. After the family appeared in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, an employee of Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry sent out an email to journalists with details about what the president-elect’s favorite daughter wore on the program. The email included a style alert about the $10,800 bracelet — Ivanka’s 'favorite bangle' from her Metropolis Collection — and encouraged them to 'share' the information."
Government ethics experts have warned about possible conflicts-of-interest arising from the Trump family's business holdings and political responsibilities, and this includes Ivanka. But as of now, because Ivanka is still a private citizen - as opposed to a government employee - she is in the clear, legally - and probably ethically - in connection with her on-and-off camera marketing ploys.
Yes, Ms. Trump is a private citizen. She is also, however, part of her father's transition team; she holds a position in its executive committee. Does this change things, you ask? Well, not really. There are stringent legal rules that explicitly prohibit government employees from using their position in public office for private gain. These laws do not apply to transition teams, though. Having said that, Ivanka very well may be bound by ethical considerations in connection with her spot on the transition team; these "rules" are most commonly laid out internally (aka by the Trump team in the case at hand).
The legal/ethical rules that apply to Ms. Trump may soon change. Ivanka stated in the family's recent "60 Minues" interview that she will not formally serve under her father's administration. It is worth noting that Donald Trump is not permitted to appoint his children to official roles in the cabinet or a federal agency in accordance with 5 U.S. Code § 3110, a federal anti-nepotism law. That does not mean, though, that he could not bring his children into the White House in some other capacity, as has been done in the past (most notably doing Bill Clinton's tenure).
If her position were to change to one of a federal employee, Ivanka would be subject to the provisions of 5 CFR 2635.702, the federal statute that governs the "Use of public office for private gain." The statute specifically prohibits employees from "the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity." This language - on its face - certainly seems as though it would serve to ban the promotion of the Ivanka Trump Collection by Ms. Trump and her team in connection with her formal duties in the White House.
Trump's brand is said to be "revamping its policies" following the election and in the wake of criticism that the business is trying to profit from her father’s rise to the White House. With many women #GrabbingTheirWallets in protest against Ivanka's brand, no small number of voters still reeling as a result of Trump's win, and the chance that Ivanka - a trusted advisor to her father - will take a more significant role in her father's impending presidency, Ms. Trump and her team need to tread quite carefully in terms of marketing the brand as to not alienate the fans they still have by way of a show of marketing-induced-impropriety.