Donald Trump sees little benefit from his unprecedented presidential bid if he loses on Tuesday.
At a rally in Nevada last month, he told supporters that "if I don't win, this will be the greatest waste of time, money and energy in my lifetime, by a factor of 100."
But failure to reach the White House may hold one upside for the developer — his controversial campaign may not damage, or could even help, his business long-term. Despite divisive statements and proposals on the trail that have made Trump one of the most disliked presidential candidates ever, the campaign could actually help his brand in the long run, some branding experts said.
Though Trump likely hurt himself with consumers for at least some time, he kept the bluster that propelled him to fame and may have even unlocked new customers and opportunities along the way.
Early indicators show Trump may need damage control if he returns to private life next week. Nearly every demographic group thinks less favorably of the Trump brand now than before the election, according to a CNBC survey last month.
Other data showed Trump's brand value and foot traffic at his properties have dropped during the campaign. Some consumers reacted particularly badly to a leaked 2005 video showing Trump bragging about groping women without consent.
While the effects remain to be seen, experts identified multiple reasons why the campaign may not hurt Trump businesses in the long run. Trump was disliked even before he launched his campaign and stuck to his brand of "aggressively" marketing himself and "stirring emotions," said Henry Schafer, executive vice president at the Q Scores Company, which measures the appeal of people and brands.
Consumers often discern between a product and the person behind it, experts added. Some say Trump has won new support for future ventures, such as a rumored TV network, from a wider demographic — blue-collar Americans — even if some high-end consumers abandon him.
"I think he could potentially lose more of his high-end customer base simply because they are not necessarily the ones in his voting demographic," said Karen Tiber Leland, a branding expert and author of "The Brand Mapping Strategy." "But at the same time he could potentially have opened up a whole new market for himself in middle-market goods and services — more consistent with the demographic of a large portion of his voters."
In addition, the 70-year-old tycoon effectively used the campaign as an audition for the next generation of his company's leadership. His three oldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — got significant media exposure and delivered speeches at the Republican National Convention. Ivanka has at points distanced herself from her father's campaign even as her fame grows because of it.
"It's sort of counterintuitive but Trump has actually helped himself tremendously win or lose," said Paul Friederichsen, partner at brand consultancy The Blake Project. "What's happened during the campaign is I think that he has successfully introduced his next generation of faces for his brand, and those are his children. The audition has been pretty impressive."
Even if Trump does not win the presidency, he would likely start to pass off more of his business responsibilities to his children in coming years.
Leland said that although many consumers have short attention spans, the Trump brand would likely see the most lasting damage from his comments about women. She said Trump may not recover from that damage if he does not do more to show remorse.
Still, she said, "he has stayed 100 percent remarkably consistent with who he is from the beginning. Like him or hate him, there is no doubt that the Donald is and remains the Donald."