Technology Donald Trump Twitter

How should brands respond to a tweeting president?


By Lisa Lacy | n/a

January 20, 2017 | 9 min read

“If you are endorsed by Trump, you should put it on the ground and back away slowly.” -- Jason Carmel, chief data officer at Possible

It seems only negative Trump tweets can benefit brands -- and that's only if they have predominantly anti-Trump audiences.

It seems only negative Trump tweets can benefit brands -- and that's only if they have predominantly anti-Trump audiences.

The New York Times, which has found itself – and its writers – on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s Twitter wrath many, many times, has compiled a comprehensive compendium of the people, places and things Trump has attacked on his go-to middle-of-the-night social platform.

It includes plenty of media brands and Hollywood personalities, as well as Super Bowl 50, Major League Baseball, the IRS, Amazon, Macy’s, T-Mobile and Broadway darling Hamilton.

But, funny enough, Hamilton, which the New York Times reported was well on its way to joining the Billion Dollar Musical Club alongside longtime theater staples The Lion King, Phantom and Wicked – and coincidentally made the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a household name – reportedly had its most successful week ever, selling $3.3 million in tickets and setting a Broadway record, after Trump tweeted the show was “highly overrated".

To be fair, some of these brand attacks came before Trump was the GOP frontrunner in the 2016 election and there was any kind of reasonable expectation he would act remotely presidential. And arguing whether a zebra can – or should – change its stripes is likely a debate for a different venue.

However, what IS relevant is Trump’s impact on the brands he calls out on Twitter – and how brands should respond if they find themselves in the crosshairs of a tweet from the Oval Office – or are on the receiving end of praise from the 45th President.

Look at Boeing and Lockheed Martin, for example.

After Trump pitted the companies against each other to see if he could get a better deal on some pricey planes, their stock prices rose and tumbled respectively at first, but have since essentially returned to their pre-tweet prices -- $158 for Boeing and $253 for Lockheed -- as a deal is reportedly close for the latter and the former downsizes.

“When you look at the charts, it was a quick moment in time,” said Allyson Savage, global vice president of communications at digital agency Possible. “From a brand point of view, it sucks to be on the receiving end [of Trump criticism], but there’s not that much to worry about.”

And this is coming from an agency that has what it calls an Empathy Model tool that analyzes social data to determine the emotions consumers are feeling and, in turn, evaluates whether a given brand should be part of a conversation and, if so, how that brand should respond based on how people are feeling.

At the same time, the average consumer is not likely buying products from Boeing or Lockheed, which makes L.L. Bean another potentially interesting example here. However, as a privately held company, we can’t compare stock prices to see the impact of Trump’s “Buy L.L. Bean” tweet. But it’s perhaps worth noting the company has been mum on the incident after issuing a statement from the executive chairman after the donation news and subsequent backlash that prompted Trump’s tweet.

And, in the end, this may be brands’ best move in the wake of a Trump tweet – unless, like Hamilton for instance, they have predominantly anti-Trump audiences. And that means there’s some potential to tap into the joy that results among left-leaning consumers when they see brands respond to Trump negativity, said Jason Carmel, chief data officer at Possible.

And because L.L. Bean didn’t see a big spike from supporters and Trump’s pats on the back don’t seem to last long – or have any impact at all, really – Carmel said, “if you are endorsed by Trump, you should put it on the ground and back away slowly.”

Vanity Fair is another example – but obviously on the other side of the fence.

After a December 2016 story said Trump Tower’s Trump Grill “could be the worst restaurant in America”, Trump tweeted Vanity Fair is in “big trouble” and “dead!”

Vanity Fair, however, wasted no time running ads touting itself as “The Magazine Trump Doesn’t Want You To Read”, driving 13,000 subscriptions in 24 hours, which was reportedly the highest number of subscriptions sold in a single day ever at Condé Nast.

This is in part because Trump opponents are four times more active on Twitter than Trump supporters, Possible said. And, the agency added, Vanity Fair was able to tap into the former’s fear over Trump’s continued attacks on the media.

SNL may be doing that, too.

Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump is clearly the Tina Fey as Sarah Palin of 2016/2017. Trump, it seems, is not a fan, tweeting it is “unwatchable” and the Baldwin portrayal “stinks”.

Viewers disagree. In fact, SNL reportedly wrapped up one of its best seasons in decades with an average of 11.3 million viewers, which Forbes said was up 26% from the year prior.

The Baldwin-as-Trump videos are also gold for SNL on YouTube with millions upon millions of views apiece, including Trump’s third debate with Hillary Clinton and preparation for the cold open after the election.

And then, of course, there’s the Grey Lady, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Tronc and US Representative John Lewis, which have received Trump criticism and have reportedly seen boosts in subscriptions and book sales. However, at this point, like SNL, there’s only conjecture any correlation exists between anti-Trump sentiment and increased consumer demand.

“What’s interesting is [there’s] nothing this guy can touch that gives anybody a bump – even if you look at groups on the right side of the aisle that see support, they don’t get a windfall from having Trump talk [about] them,” Carmel said. “You figure that if Trump is knocking a brand or supporting a brand, one of these combinations would work, but, in fact, any time he tries to knock a brand…[they] can play it safe or to their advantage. When he supports a brand, it gets virtually nothing. It’s interesting how there’s really no way for brands to really get on the Trump bandwagon from an endorsement.”

In other words, consumers have notoriously short attention spans these days – insert goldfish joke here – and so Possible’s recommendation is to either use a Trump tweet to galvanize an anti-Trump base or to simply sit tight until it blows over.

“Rather than take all of these tweets seriously, really just treat them like a Snap – they’re here today and gone in 30 seconds,” Savage said. “Don’t do anything [and] two hours later it will be gone.”

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