Trumped up
A view from Dave Trott

Trumped up

New York is not a place for shy people.

It’s one of the richest, most powerful places in the world.

And the richest part of New York is Manhattan.

A tiny island, nine miles long by one mile wide.

Crammed full of the biggest, most expensive buildings in the world.

And among these buildings, one name stands out again and again.

The name of the man who owns more of Manhattan than anyone else: Donald Trump.

He is an amazingly successful businessman.

He must be – the buildings he owns are everywhere.

Trump Place, Trump Plaza, Trump Park Avenue, Trump World Tower, Trump Palace, Trump SoHo, Trump International Hotel, Trump Parc, Trump Parc East.

Usually, they’ve got his name on the outside in huge gold letters.

That’s how proud he is of all of them.

The letters say: "This is my building, I own it." 

Except he doesn’t.

None of those buildings are his.

He sold them, often to pay off loans.

Loans he had to take out to build or buy them in the first place. But part of the sale agreement was that they had to keep his name on the building.

So Trump Plaza will always be known as Trump Plaza.

And people will think he owns it.

Not only that, he also gets paid for use of his name.

It’s very clever in lots of ways.

It reminds me of the prostitutes’ motto: "You got it, you sell it, you still got it."

To buy the building, he has to borrow money.

To pay off the loan, he has to sell the building.

He sells the building along with compulsory use of his name. This makes him more famous, which makes it easier to borrow money for the next building.

The more buildings he buys and sells, the more famous his name is.

The more famous he is, the more money he can borrow.

Meanwhile, all the people buying his buildings have to pay him for the use of his name. And to keep that brand going, it’s important that he be seen as hugely successful.

Which is why Donald Trump was furious when Forbes rated his worth at $3.2bn.

He didn’t want people reading that, so he threatened to sue.

Trump said they miscalculated and his real value was $8.6bn.

Forbes wanted to know how he figured that.

Trump said his biggest asset was his name, which was valued at $4bn.

So the logic is, what makes him rich is the value of his name.

And the value of his name depends on him being perceived as rich.

As long as he is seen as being rich, the value of his name goes up.

Which really will make him rich.

And if he’s seen as rich, the value of his name goes up even more.

Which makes him richer.

And eventually, of course, what he’s selling is his fame.

If people believe he is rich, he really will be rich.

But they have to believe it.

And they’ll believe it as long as he appears to be rich.

Trump must be the ultimate brand.

Because the brand is the product, which is the brand. 

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.