I am reading a book named ‘No is not enough’ by a journalist Naomi Kleim. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the present-day politics of US and much of it applies to many countries like India too. Branding and politics is one of the significant topic here. Reading was a painful experience for me as it brought me in touch with the reality, the reality hidden behind the visibles. I always knew all was not well, but never thought all was so ugly.
Research and development (R&D) used to be a very important component of the companies. It still is. But there is reduction in the percentage of investment in R & D for production and innovation of the product. Today one of the major aim of a large scale producer is branding and monopoly associated with the brands. Advertising is very much connected to creating brand loyalties. Two competing brands needn’t produce the products in their respective showrooms. Many a times they are produced in the same place, by the same people. Only brand name differs. We pay a lot for the brand and much less for product. Brand loyalty is something each company tries to build up. In the world of variety, capturing the loyalty of customers is of utmost importance. I have so many friends who are crazy fans of Manchester United (not because of any player there), and they remain loyal to that club. There is no logical reason for many such things and life doesn’t go by logic always. Despite the other clubs getting better players and better results, loyalties of many don’t change and that is the success of the club/product. The loyalty of me towards India, Catholicism, my family remains despite all their shortcomings and failures. Brands also start belonging to that private circle. (I don’t say people don’t change brands, but loyal followers change only for a serious reason).
We have movie and sports stars whose name itself is a brand. They sell products; they positively use it for social campaigns. But a dangerous breed of branding occurs in the modern, rational world. It is the branding of politicians. I don’t say it has started today, but it is very dangerous for a modern, thinking, analyzing crowd. We had Nehru, Indira, MGR, Jyoti and many other popular brands in the past; today Modi is the most popular; Mamata, Kejriwal, Siddharamaiyya and others are also selling brands. (I may write on Modi-brand later). Today, the most famous brand in world politics is Trump. I am not a fan of him by any angle, but let us see some tendencies of Trump branding.
Trump was a real estate developer, who became the president of US without any political experience. He is super-rich. ‘Trump’ is one of the biggest brand names in the world. It is popular all over the world, though they might be rarely involved in the ground level business today. But he sells his brand name and brand name is brought by others. All the Trump towers in the world may not be under his company. But the owners have paid for the use of the name. Donald Trump is no more involved in the direct running of the Trump empire. But as Naomi Kleim says, he is not dissociated with the Trump brand or he can’t be dissociated from the brand. Because brand is his name. The government officials in many countries are not supposed to hold other private offices, as the interests can be benefited by virtue of the decisions s/he takes as an government official. And Trump is not holding any such post, so there is technically no conflict of interest.
But Donald Trump is the president of the country. Surely ‘trump brand’ is brought by people for big money knowing well that He is the president. The policies are governed by him. His policies in the external affairs, defence sector, oil and other areas definitely affect the major players. Is it not a give and take policy? The people would be definitely willing to pay more for ‘Trump Brand’. Thus US presidency has to indirectly (if not directly) benefit the ‘Trump Brand’.
I agree that the protests and dislike of several people do cause some damage to the Trump Brand. But I guess they might be loosing many small-scale customers, but gaining many more big shots. The gain is further helped by the number of ex-executives of high flying companies like Goldman, Exxon-mobile and others in his extended cabinet at significant positions.
There may not be any legal oppositions for such presidencies. But is it ethical? Trump openly differentiates against many sections of the society. Are such brand politics increasing the game of differentiation?
(Some could even think, it is America’s matter. Why should we be affected? But Trump’s policies in defence, oil sector, climate policy, immigration and others affect the entire world. Some say the damage in some fields can be irreparable. We are not living in islands).