October 11, 2016 11:29 pm
Updated: October 12, 2016 8:21 am

Vancouver Trump Tower is a ‘PR nightmare,’ according to expert

The Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver

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While many in the Republican party are willing to dump Donald Trump over the presidential candidate’s 2005 remarks in which he said he fondled women without consent, the developer of Vancouver’s Trump Tower is staying firm.

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The idea to change the name of the under-construction Trump Tower in Vancouver was first floated in December 2015 after Trump proposed to ban all Muslims from entering the United States if he were elected president in 2016.

Even Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson weighed in, sending a passionate letter to the developer asking to dump the Trump name from the building, first announced in 2013. Furthermore, an Angus Reid poll found 62 per cent of Canadians wanted the Trump name off the towers in Vancouver and Toronto.

At the time, the Trump campaign was in its infancy and nine other candidates stood between the businessman and the presidential nomination.

READ MORE: Vancouver mayor asks developer to dump Trump name

Now, 10 months and countless political debacles by Trump later, a portion of the Republican party has vowed to disavow the candidate.

A bombastic debate performance and a Twitter rant criticizing Paul Ryan and the Republican party followed Friday’s explosive leak catching Trump on a hot mic while filming a 2005 episode of Access Hollywood. In the tapes, Trump claims to have grabbed women by the genitals without consent because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

His comments created the biggest story of the 2016 election so far, and resulted in an unprecedented fallout among senior party leaders.

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former California governor Arnold Shwarzenegger, former presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich, Arizona senator John McCain, and George W. Bush’s former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice were among the dozens of current and former party leaders to denounce Trump following his comments about women.

 

But the developers of the businessman’s skyscraper in B.C. — the Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver — are standing by their man.

A spokesperson for the Holborn Group refused to comment on Trump’s politics and would not offer justification as to why the company continues to stick with the Trump brand. They only referred back to their statement issued last December in the midst of calls to drop the name:

“Holborn is a Vancouver-based private real estate development company that owns Trump Vancouver. When Trump Vancouver opens in 2016, we will create as many as 300 jobs. Holborn, a company that has contributed immensely to the growth of Vancouver, is not in any way involved in U.S. politics. As such, we would not comment further on Mr. Trump’s personal or political agenda, nor any political issues, local or foreign. Our efforts remain focused on the construction of what will soon be the finest luxury property in Vancouver and beyond.” — Joo Kim Tiah, CEO of Holborn Group

They added that they are under contractual obligation to keep the name.

READ MORE: Trump’s name, image removed at Dubai development amid uproar

And while the tower appears to be almost finished — lamps and furniture can be seen in the windows into the hotel portion of the tower — the building will not open until January 2017. It was originally set for August, and then fall 2016.

The timing is suspect, according to experts.

Lindsay Meredith, professor of marketing at Simon Fraser University, says celebrity endorsements like this can be a “PR nightmare.”

“The endorsement is a problem, because Donald seems to shoot his face off a lot and manage to offend a lot of people.”

He suggests the developers could be purposefully delaying the opening to avoid the negative connotations with the Trump brand. In the span of a few months, the presidential nominee has managed to offend many groups, including Mexicans, Muslims, the disabled, African-Americans, prisoners of war, combat heroes, Asians, and women.

READ MORE: Man hangs Mexican flag from roof of Trump Tower in Vancouver

“You try not to go to market at the same time your candidate is blowing the roof off things with his comments. Wait for the election to be over, let the dust settle a little bit, then go to market.”

He added businesses, like Holborn, should not go to market when “all hell is breaking loose … and Donny is pretty good at breaking the hell loose.”

The Trump Tower installed massive chrome lettering spelling “Trump” earlier in the summer, but covered it in blue tarps a short time later. A spokesperson at the time shrugged off questions about why the signage was covered, saying the tarps protected it from scratches from construction debris. But Meredith suspects it was a PR move.

“From a marketing standpoint, poor old Holborn is between a rock and a hard spot.”

Meredith said Holborn is wise to wait until the election is over to let the dust settle, as many buyers in Vancouver wouldn’t touch the brand with a 10-foot pole.

But that all depends on what manner Trump handles himself in the coming months. If more insensitive comments keep hitting the news, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if the project was delayed further.

“Hopefully Donny says nothing more about Canadian health care or Canadian women for that matter, God knows what … I’m so glad I’m not a consultant on this job.”

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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