Is the Trump brand worth $4 billion?

Posted at 9:45 PM, Feb 27, 2019

President Donald Trump loves to talk about the quality of Trump golf courses, buildings and even water.

Financial documents released by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen during his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Wednesday show Trump, in 2013, put a financial value on the brand: $4 billion.

The number appears in a document that, according to Cohen, was used to demonstrate Trump’s net worth to Forbes magazine as well as to bankers and insurers.

There are no additional details on the statement Cohen provided to Congress about how the “brand value” was determined or why it appeared so suddenly. And brand value, traditionally, is almost impossible to quantify.

“It is a very elusive thing,” says Robert Passikoff, president of the brand consultancy Brand Keys, who’d tracked the Trump brand for the past 30 years. “I don’t think there’s ever been an accurate internal accounting of the value of his brand.”

Some standard brand valuations consider the future value of net earnings directly attributed to the brand. Others evaluate the total costs and values of brand assets and liabilities.

“Is brand value the value of everything connected to the brand? All the money you’ve taken in? The profit you make? It’s not just existing deals, it’s the future, too,” Passikoff says.

Trump, historically, has been one of the most significant examples of what he calls a “human brand,” Passikoff said.

“There were luxury brands, jewelry brands,” he says. “But there weren’t human beings wandering around being the brand.”

It is also unusual that the line recording brand value as an asset appeared in one year but not previous years, says Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“The other thing that is interesting is that it’s a strangely round number,” says Calkins. “Brand valuation is complicated and to get a round number is unlikely.”

It’s not clear how the presidency has impacted the brand.

As recently as three years ago, Passikoff says, there were more than 20 companies paying Mr. Trump to distribute or produce Trump-branded products.

Yet, earlier this month, the Trump Organization shelved plans for two new US hotel chains, citing a toxic political climate for the Trump brand.

But Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., who is overseeing the family business with his brother Eric while his father is in office, couldn’t resist plugging the famous name.

“When politics are over, we will resume doing what we do best which is building the best and most luxurious properties in the world,” he said in a statement. “The interest in the Trump brand has never been stronger.”

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