The bad news just keeps rolling in for the Ivanka Trump fashion brand. In the latest development, an investigation by Agence France-Presse alleges that the Ivanka brand imported 59 tons of clothing, bags and shoes from China, which were "steaming toward American ports" by ship as of Jan. 20.
The date is significant because it was inauguration day for Ivanka Trump's father, Donald Trump. During his inauguration speech, Trump reiterated a consistent theme of his presidential campaign, pledging to "buy American and hire American."
On Wednesday, President Trump used the "buy American, hire American" line during a public appearance at the Willow Run Airport near Detroit, where he met with auto manufacturing leaders. Here's a snippet of that conversation reported by the Detroit Free Press:
“I know you’re competitors, and you’ll always be competitors, but we’re all on the same side on … keeping jobs in America and creating new jobs in the United States,” Trump said at the American Center for Mobility.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. AFP also found Customs records for 82 shipments from China that occurred in just under four months between Election Day and Feb. 26.
AFP reporter Ben Dooley reports:
"Trump uses his presidential pulpit to censure manufacturers -- both domestic and foreign -- for using overseas labour to make goods for American consumers, but the Ivanka-branded orders have kept rolling in."
After tweeting, "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom," on Feb. 8, top advisor Kellyanne Conway stepped in to support his daughter's business.
Soon after the Feb. 8 tweet, Conway plugged the Ivanka line during a television appearance. That embroiled her, and the Trump administration, in a serious breach of federal ethics rules.
While the legal consequences of Conway's remarks were playing out, the appearance reportedly sparked a surge in sales for the Ivanka brand.
Presumably that surge was due to interest on the part of President Trump's supporters. The problem is the merchandise Trump supporters bought in response to Conway's plug was likely not "made in America."
In short, consumers who thought they were supporting President Trump and his pro-America message got scammed.
A study of effective boycotts indicates success is elusive. Boycotts fail often, and especially if the target is a strong company with a good reputation.
Boycotts are more effective when the target company is already showing signs of weakness in terms of its public reputation.
That's the problem that has plagued the Ivanka brand since Donald Trump began campaigning for president on a platform heavily laden with anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican rhetoric.
The Trump connection rumbled under the surface throughout most of the campaign, but it burst into fiery effect in the run-up to Election Day after brand strategist Shannon Coulter launched the #GrabYourWallet boycott campaign.
Rather than narrowly targeting Ivanka products, Grab Your Wallet cannily aimed at retailers carrying Ivanka products.
By Coulter's measure, the campaign has been a success.
On Feb. 25, Coulter linked to a Business Insider article reporting on the boycott:
"Since the presidential election, retailers that are being targeted by an anti-Trump boycott have dropped 3,600 Trump-branded products.
"That represents a 61 percent drop in products since Nov. 23."
If #GrabYourWallet does prove effective, part of its success could be due to the way that Coulter has harnessed President Trump's weapon of choice -- Twitter -- and deployed it against the Ivanka brand.
Rather than simply issuing information about which retailers are carrying what products, Coulter's Twitter account has become an interactive online community where supporters meet like-minded souls and swap news, tips and team messages.
In the latest development, Google's Chrome search engine just launched an official #GrabYourWallet plug-in that offers instant alerts for online shoppers seeking to avoid retailers that carry Ivanka merchandise:
"Simply install the plugin, open Chrome, and use it as you normally would. Whenever you happen to be on a website that’s currently on the #GrabYourWallet boycott list, you’ll get a simple, helpful alert," reads the Chrome extension page.
Sleeping Giants lists more than 1,500 companies that have blocked automatic ad buys from appearing on the Breitbart site.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.