Elle Magazine has been hitting it out the park with its editorials lately. Their most recent, titled “It is Not Normal for a First Lady and Daughter to Try to Sell You Stuff” by Sady Doyle is not only a comment on conflict of interest and corruption within a public servant role, but also on branding and marketing.
If you have been keeping up with American news, you must know that many are in uproar about Donald Trump’s many violations of the emoluments clause–here’s The Atlantic’s well-thought out take on the issue. He refuses to resign from his businesses and his sons are continuing to carry out to completion the business contracts that were already in progress before he became president.
The complaints are not limited to Trump himself, but also to his daughter Ivanka and his wife Melania. Ivanka’s name is attached to many a fashion merchandise line from which she is not clearly separating herself; Melania is suing the Daily Mail for publishing a libelous article (that has since been retracted) about how she once worked as an escort, which she says has deprived her of “the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial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.”
Clearly, both women were keen on using their prestige as FLOTUS and FDOTUS to expand their revenue-making opportunities. Which, of course is ridiculous, considering a) they didn’t need the added prestige, and b) they are connected to the President of the United States of America, who will also benefit from any income those two women receive, which is illegal.
So how are you supposed to navigate being a business person and your personal branding when you’re also a public servant? Oh, I don’t know, maybe make good on your claims of separation from your business interests in foreign governments? Actually make a concerted effort to put someone else in charge of those businesses and refuse to accept any income from them until you are out of office? Maybe don’t run for office in the first place?
Ivanka’s brands have been dumped by Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Belk, Jet.com, HSN, Shoes.com and ShopStyle; T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have told their outlets to dispose of all Ivanka Trump branding signage, but not to explicitly get rid of her merchandise. These companies have distanced themselves from the Trump brands because products aren’t selling, but also probably because they don’t want to be associated with such a heinous family. I applaud this decision.
It’s a longstanding tradition that the president’s spouse has driven fashion trends, much to marketer’s delight, but that kind of branding doesn’t work when the president’s spouse and daughter are clearly using their position for personal gain. Let this be a lesson in branding and democracy…