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[29 comments]

Thousands Call on Macy's to Fire Trump

November 13, 2012

Donald Trump likes to talk and tweet — a lot. While Mr. Trump has the constitutionally protected right to say pretty much whatever he pleases, the issue from a marketing perspective is whether he has damaged his personal brand to the point that companies such as Macy's and NBC should do a cost/benefit analysis of continuing their business relationships with "The Donald."

That question, at least from the point of view of Macy's, may soon be answered as over 462,000 individuals (as of 8:30 a.m. ET today), have signed a MoveOn.org petition calling on the department store chain to part ways with Mr. Trump for engaging in "unpleasant, nasty and despicable behavior." The complaint lists sexist behavior, denial of climate change and Mr. Trump's "birther" crusade against President Obama. Interestingly, the petition did not refer to Mr. Trump's  call on Twitter for a "revolution" in the U.S. due to his unhappiness with the results of last week's election.

The dump Trump movement appears to have reached final straw status with an apparent nod in a Macy's commercial to his birther activities. In the spot, Mr. Trump is seen asking the actor Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street) if he is the real Santa while tugging on his beard.

The petition asserts that Macy's is not following its own policy of being a socially responsible company "with a belief that actions speak louder than words" by continuing to sell fragrances and ties fronted by Mr. Trump.

[Image: Macy's Christmas spot

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Discussion Questions:

Has Donald Trump become a marketing liability for Macy's? What would you do with the Trump relationship if you were running Macy's?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How much does a business relationship with Donald Trump help or hurt Macy's image in the eyes of the public?

Comments:

Has Trump become a marketing liability for Macy's? Let's be honest, he's a liability for mankind. He's devolved into the worst example of blatant self promotion at the expense of most everyone around him.

There was a time he was a master of the 'spin' ... he lost that magic long ago as his ongoing Twitter taunts, insults and bragging attest to.

Macy's has created a great commercial ... should have left 'the Donald' on the cutting room floor.

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Kevin Graff, President, Graff Retail

Trump's tweets on election night are consistent with his lifelong narcissistic ambition for media attention. He's never been exactly the arbiter of good taste but given Macy's investment in the relationship, the first question it will ask is what the sellthroughs and margin are on Trump's goods. The answer will come from there.

In retail, democracy is often voiced in terms of customers buying things, though there are a number of retailers whose brands stand for core values that would have precluded them from associating with Trump in the first place. That's not an indictment on Macy's nor a glorification of others, that's just business. It will be interesting to see what Macy's does.

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Phil Rubin, CEO, rDialogue

Donald Trump has become irrelevant, and a drag on Macy's. Macy's should dump him and move on. Surely they can do better than hire a spite-filled, nasty man to pitch their stores.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

It's not a good practice for a retailer to use a polarizing figure to be its spokesperson. Donald Trump definitely gets attention, but it's not worth the risk.

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David Biernbaum, Senior Marketing and Business Development Consultant, David Biernbaum Associates LLC

Macy's will continue doing business with Trump as long as his merchandise sells profitably. But is the Macy's brand being damaged by his antics? Absolutely.

It's safe to assume that the 50% of the electorate casting ballots for Obama already found Trump's positions offensive and at least some of the rest consider him to be a clown. Is this really something that Macy's wants to be associated with, especially with so many stores in urban and suburban markets?

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

Feels like Trump is a marketing liability for pretty well everything. There's just something that's not right there. Bad energy. Just do some free wheeling word association with his name and tell me the first five that come to mind. Do those words make you proud? Do you hope they are qualities your own kids develop as they grow?

There are those who make belligerence, stupidity or acerbic talk an act (a Don Rickles or Joan Rivers for example), but we all know it's an act and that behind the routine is something else quite wonderful. With Trump there appears to be no act. That really is it. I sure don't want it and I'll get my ties elsewhere.

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

Mr. Trump is a New York City icon. He says what many are thinking as there is nothing anyone can do to him. His brand is not being damaged at all. Move-on.org is a radical political organization whose goal is to advance the liberal agenda. Their approach is to slander and do harm to anyone who disagrees with their agenda. Chances are Mr. Trump donates his fee to charity as he does not need the money. Macy's and every other business should simply ignore Move-on.org. Blackmail is not the American way.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

It sounds like the kind of people who are complaining are not the kind of people that would shop at Macy's, or ever would. Reminds me of the story about Howard Stern. People who don't like him actually listen more to him than people that do like him. We have to remember that Donald Trump is simply a TV entertainer, who even took his character so far as to almost run for president. Whatever he said or does is for ratings. If he has gotten people to talk about him on social media, he has accomplished one of his missions and therefore Macy's should probably keep him. Macy's should be more concerned about how Mr. Trump is perceived among their customer base and not probable non shoppers playing on Twitter.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

Move on please, MoveOn.org . Donald has self-inflicted wounds and for most Americans the belief is that he has made a fool of himself over the course of the past few years by weighing in on various topics of which he has little expertise. His choice as no one influences him. I am skeptical as to whether he even believes half of what he says. But, he is as smart as a fox -- using the media thirst for "news" to give him air time that drives ratings, interest and in the end, keeps him in the limelight for 30+ years.

He knows full well that there is no such thing as bad publicity and is a big enough personality to handle whatever results -- Macy's and NBC decisions included.

Perhaps these types of petitions are more a play for contributions to the cause vs. real issues that should be supported by public outcry?

David Slavick, Director, Loyalty & Retention, FTD.com

The Donald is the Donald. Move.on can always locate a few hundred thousand people to complain -- it is their specialty. Macy's and The Donald are fun and his product turns. Many people do not analyze the Donald, they just smile and wonder about him. Best that we try to enjoy the uniqueness about people like Donald and find better things to be really concerned about.

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Tom Redd, Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit

What percentage of the 470,000+ people who have signed the petition to this point currently shop at Macy's and will no longer do so as a result of Mr. Trump's ill informed rants?

The vast majority of individuals holding the same opinions as Mr. Trump are older, white males. Are they more important to Macy's present and future prospects than the ethnically diverse and younger audience that associate with groups such as MoveOn?

'retailveteran'

Brian Williams said it best -- Trump has driven far past the last exit to relevancy. The Donald made his money the old fashioned way -- inherited from his father Fred.

Everything about him from The Apprentice to his ties say "buffoon." Good or bad for business, it's time for him to be quiet, sit down and take care of his wives and kids. Blech.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Many people choose to simply ignore Mr. Trump. They understand he is a self promoter with his own interest the only star he follows. I am not a fan or follower. I do agree with his right to freedom of speech. I do not agree that he can promote an internal revolution because his candidate lost the election. Please, his candidate lost Mr. Trump's state as well as his own adopted state, his state of birth where his father was so popular; and his VP candidate did not carry his home state. Face facts, Mr. Trump, you lost this one and the "birther" issue among many more. Move on which is what Macy's should also do. Someone has to hit him where it hurts. The only place for him is his bank account.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

So how did those attacks on Chik-fil-A work out? The Donald is a promoter of his own brand, not a politician. Relax, don't gnash.

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor TNS Global Retail & Shopper, Shopper Scientist LLC

First, Terry has to stop playing golf with him...nothing will change until that change happens!

Bill D'Arienzo, CEO, WDA BrandMarketing

If Macy's fires Mr. Trump, perhaps they should replace him with someone much less polar and controversial, say Michael Moore...just a thought.

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Mark Heckman, Principal, Mark Heckman Consulting

Setting politics aside, I still roll my eyes at the thought of anyone buying a Donald Trump product. Look at him. His hair alone makes him a punch line to an anti-aspirational joke. When I shop Macy's, some brands -- Trump among them -- remind me that they are a stodgy old department store. I'm sure that Macy's is not doing itself any favors with this association.

'tmlens'

Mr. Trump is a publicity hog who knows no shame nor restraint. I strongly believe in free speech, but his positions, like those of the most extreme factions at both ends of the political spectrum, simply exist to spread contention and dissent. If you are a brand, any brand, think twice before having any association with somebody like Mr. Trump.

Fabien Tiburce, CEO, Compliantia, Retail Audit & Task Management Software

Trump is a PT Barnum for our era. Even his real estate developments ooze self-promotion. His eponymous licensing deals go all the way back to eyeglass frames circa 1986. After he made the jump to reality TV I think he became dazzled by his own brilliance and lost his perspective. It's been fun, infuriating and embarrassing to watch.

His antics present Macy's with a bit of a conundrum. If his haberdashery line amounts to a significant profit generator for the chain, it will be hard to give it up. And Macy's chairman Terry Lundgren probably rubs elbows with Trump at social and charity events all over Manhattan.

But Macy's also covets a younger, hipper demographic they do not want to alienate. If the post-relevancy Trump casts a stain on Macy's hard-won image, then he's got to go.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

What I find interesting is how many comments have been entered on this topic, pros and cons. Just say Trump and someone has something to say. That means, good or bad, he is still relevant.

Lee Kent, Brings Retail Executives Together to Meet.Learn.Profit, RetailConnections

I would jettison Trump, not because the brand is damaged, but because it's unsavory.

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Carlos Arámbula, Managing Partner, MarcasUSA LLC

You know you've gone over the line when your friends call you out on national television. About ten days ago, Barbara Walters looked directly into the camera and said "Donald, stop. You know we're friends. But you're embarrassing yourself." Brands love to have figures who are larger than life as spokespeople, but in this case I'm sure Macy's is frantic to throw him overboard.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Never a good idea to alienate shoppers. The days of "as long as it gets their attention" are past. Macy's needs a loyal customer base; The Donald is not engaging them with his polarizing comments.

Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

I've never understood why Macy's had a tie-in with Trump in the first place. He's known for gaudy buildings and shameless self-promotion, attributes which -- whatever appeal they may have -- have nothing to do with the menswear line that carries his name...this isn't a male version of Martha Stewart here.

I think, though, that Frank may have hit upon it when he refers to him as a NYC icon: i.e. the relationship is a reflection of Herald Square's myopia that somehow America relates to this buffoon.

'notcom'

Trump has become an ugly caricature in so many ways and I don't think anyone still considers him and the image he conveys as fashionable. Macy's would do themselves a service by ending their relationship with him.

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Martin Mehalchin, Partner, Lenati, LLC

Definitely time to tell The Donald what he has told so many: "You're fired!"

Veronica Kraushaar, President, Viva Global Marketing, LLC

MoveOn.org has no room to question any person's or organization's integrity with proof of their own improprieties both well documented and known. This sort of discussion is a waste of time at best and a demonstration of just how polarized the audience here is in their opinion of the weak minded and strongly opinionated as in the Donald, ABC, NBC, MoveOn and the others.

'gjarnoldjr'

This is comical. MoveOn.org would protest any conservative. I'm surprised they aren't protesting that Santa be removed from Macy's commercials. My guess is that if Christ himself was promoting Christmas, MoveOn.org would have a problem with it. Oh wait, they DO have a problem with that. Sorry, but MoveOn.org is hardly a credible source to be telling Macy's what to do.

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Janet Dorenkott, VP & Co-owner, Relational Solutions, Inc.

First, continuing to use him as a spokesperson or to carry his products does not have to do with the sell through or margin of his products. Macy's is more than large enough to stop carrying his products immediately and end their contract with no material damage to their operating profits.

Second, the question is why they would continue to utilize such a divisive personality to theoretically drive their brand image. One would hope that the Donald's values are not the ones they want their brand to espouse. But who knows....

Finally, the polarization in America is a real issue and it would be appropriate for the major US retailers to demonstrate collaboration, diversity and a vision for a united country. Macy's could start by dumping the Donald.

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Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

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