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Trump's Role As President May Be Boosting His Brand's Reputation

President Trump arrives to watch the Super Bowl at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday.
Mandel Ngan
AFP/Getty Images
President Trump arrives to watch the Super Bowl at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday.

President Trump's approval rating with voters may be the lowest on record for an incoming chief executive. But in one way at least, his popularity is improving a bit.

The value of Trump as a commercial brand, although still very low, has ticked up since August, according to the Reputation Institute, which measures the worth of various business brands.

As a brand name, Trump's "reputation pulse score" went from 31.7 in August to 39.1 in mid-January, says Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, vice president and managing director for the United States and Canada. Trump, the brand, is seen as aggressive, selfish and ambitious but also friendly, stylish and elegant, Hahn-Griffiths says.

The pulse score attempts to measure the public's emotional connection to various brands, by determining how much esteem, trust, admiration and respect respondents feel toward them.

"It's a proxy for the degree to which you love the person or company," Hahn-Griffiths says.

The improvement in Trump's score since last summer appears to suggest that his presidency is having an impact on his business ventures.

Seeing Trump in a presidential setting has solidified his support among those already predisposed to like him, especially men, Republicans and those over 70, Hahn-Griffiths says.

"I think he's probably benefited in many ways from the association with the presidential scene," he says. "[To] those individuals who really buy into brand Trump, it's a further endorsement that he is very much a status symbol in what he represents to them."

Since his long-shot campaign for president got underway in 2015, Trump has taken numerous opportunities to showcase his various properties, appearing often at Manhattan's Trump Tower and the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. During his transition period, he interviewed potential Cabinet officials at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

This past weekend, Trump attended a Red Cross ball at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, and he watched the Super Bowl at the nearby Trump International Golf Club.

The fact that Trump likes to frequent his own properties is no surprise to Michael D'Antonio, author of The Truth About Trump.

"He's really a creature of habit, and is accustomed to living in this cocoon that he created a long time ago. He doesn't really take the risk of encountering people and situations that are unfamiliar," D'Antonio says.

But it's not lost on Trump that the publicity he receives as president is also very good for the brand he has spent years cultivating, D'Antonio says.

"I don't think he's let go of his interest in these brands at all. His supposed detachment from the business interests of the Trump Organization isn't real. He's very much invested in these enterprises. He remains the beneficiary of them. He's a brand builder by habit, and the brand is his personality."

To be sure, Trump's brand value remains very low outside his base. The Reputation Institute considers any rating below 40 as "poor," which means Trump's pulse score is in the lowest category.

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Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.