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Branding Advice From Ivanka Trump

We all know the Trump brand. We see the name on skyscrapers, NBC television -- even steaks. The world can't get enough Trump! Built by billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, it's a name that exudes prestige and luxury. Ivanka Trump, his daughter, has also developed her own personal brand, through modeling, owning her own jewelry line, and taking an executive position with the Trump Organization. I recently spoke with Ivanka about her personal brand and how she has used social media to develop her own extension of the Trump name:
Do you ever think of your personal brand when you're in the spotlight? How do you describe your personal brand?
Trump: As an ambassador of the Trump organization, I spend a lot of time thinking about branding considerations and ways I can reinforce the family brand -- both as representative of Trump and in my own way, as an offshoot. It started with The Apprentice; my brothers and I became more visible as a part of the organization and a part of what the Trump brand stands for.

As an offshoot of that, I've taken some initiative independently to create and define my own brand in fine jewelry [the Ivanka Trump Collection]. I have a very successful boutique on Madison Avenue; we're growing all over the world. We just opened locations in Kuwait and Qatar, and next we'll be extending into China. I also have a shoe line that's going to be coming out in Spring 2011. And I wrote a book, The Trump Card, which was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. So there are things I'm doing to create my own identity, but all of it goes back to serving the Trump brand and reinforcing our message of quality and luxury. Between my brothers and my father and myself, we have the ability to cross many demographics and reach out to different potential consumers. I have the largest Twitter following [@IvankaTrump] of any luxury brand. It's because we're not just a static brand. We're dynamic, we're based on a family. We're not just a name -- we have a level of accountability, and people associate us with what luxury means.

How can other people grow their personal brand? What are your recommendations?
Trump: It really depends on the person and what type of brand they're looking to develop. Not everyone needs to be a luxury brand, and not everyone wants to be one. I think people can spend time thinking about customer service, who their customer is, what their customer wants from them, what market niche they have to fill. Being a brand is just about reinforcing a core business. You can't have a solid brand if you don't have a strong business, and most strong businesses have developed a strong brand identity. It's really about understanding your market and figuring out unique ways to reach out and to make some noise against the clutter.

So what strategies have you used to market your brand and attract positive attention while staying true to yourself?
Trump: New media is a great way to relate with your consumer on a much more personal and targeted level. So whether it's posting a recipe about the dinner I cooked last night or talking about the renovation of Trump International here in New York, it's speaking in a more direct fashion. Obviously traditional media, television and magazine publications, have also been extremely important for our brand. The Apprentice is one of the most incredible assets that my father has created for us as a company. When we do something great, we get tremendous attention for it -- the type of attention that another developer couldn't budget for. The availability and the interest in what we're doing can be incredibly powerful for us.

You've got a large following on Twitter. What have you been tweeting about, what reactions have people had, and how has it helped you grow your business?
Trump: I tweet multiple times a day; sometimes it's promotional, and sometimes it's more personal. I don't think people like to read things that only have the appearance of being promotional. So I'll send a message about something that I care about, a project that some organization is working on. Then I might show the soon-to-be-completed Trump Hotel in Toronto and ask for people's feedback and opinions, or tell them about the opening of a Trump property. I get tremendous feedback, which is very helpful. It's an amazing form of direct marketing in that you really get a sense of who your customer is, and you also get to know those people who may not be your customers yet but are aspirational and are hoping to be.

Do your father's actions, whether positive or negative, impact the way you're perceived by the public?
Trump: Well, we're all identified as a family, but naturally we have to develop our own identities, so that as time goes by we're not co-mingled. With that said, of course my actions reflect upon my father, and his actions reflect upon the Trump brand. That's something we're very cognizant of. That's why we choose to behave in a certain way. I want to represent the Trump brand in a way that is positive, and in a way that upholds our values as a company.

[photo credit: Carter Berg]

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