Brand America Image Improving

Brand America is #1 in 2009 according to the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index. In 2008, Brand America was ranked #7.

This remarkable shift in global sentiment reaffirms the relevancy and competitiveness of Brand America’s promise. In my opinion, the ascent to #1 reflects global optimism that Brand America is beginning to address the authenticity of its promise. It also reflects a desire for Brand America to succeed.

The press is crediting President Obama with the dramatic turn around in global perception of Brand America.

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2083874

http://www.canada.com/news/national/Canada+brand+drops+ranking+while+tops+Global+index/2072895/story.html

I credit the shift more with a return to an aspirational positioning of Brand America’s promise. President Obama has been consistently communicating a message of global responsibility and collaboration. Within the context of current events, he is reminding the world of the principles upon which Brand America was established. So much so, that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as an encouragement to keep Brand America on an aggressive path to reestablishing the authenticity of its promise.

Awarding President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize as a strong signal of encouragement to continue behaving in ways consistent with Brand America’s promise has not been without controversy. Many people believe proven performance and not potential should be the standard of measure for such an award.

http://www.watoday.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/peace-prize-becomes-a-travesty-20091011-gs9f.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-feldman/the-outrage-pandemic_b_316405.html

Regardless of your point-of-view on appropriateness, winning the Nobel Peace Prize affirms the world’s desire for Brand America to behave in a way that is authentic with its promise.

In a broader sense, it is a great case study in the making that reinforces the importance of effective place brand management to ensure the sustained relevance, competitiveness and authenticity of your place promise. When a place brand has a compelling promise and behaves in a manner consistent with that promise, it will be rewarded.

Now is the time to strengthen Brand America by ensuring your community, region or state is well branded and able to effectively compete in the global economy. If we do so, then the world will have been right to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Brand America’s Chief spokesperson. President Obama may have been given the award, but it is now up to each of us to earn it.

For an additional and very interesting perspective from Bono on both the Nobel Peace Prize award and the need for a strengthened Brand America – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/opinion/18bono.html?_r=2. Bono characterizes America as a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man. This New York Times column is worth reading.

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14 Comments so far

  1. Shelley Rosen

    October 14, 2009

    Ed, this blog is so true in many analogous ways to consumer branding. The brand America was tarnished, we lost our shine because we lost our focus on what mattered, “the people of America”, the consumer. We lost our optimistic spirit becasue we were not focused on whate made Americans happy. President Obama did the one thing that leaders of great brands do, he listened to what the people wanted and articulated an aspiration in a compelling, relevant way. As a symbol of his aspiration he was awarded the Nobel Prize AND I might add has won the prize in absence of someone else rising to the occasion to offer solutions for a world in crisis. Let’s face it, America needs to be a healthy brand so we can help other nations and people.

    As a fellow Canadian, however, I am saddened to see Canada drop in rank. Lat year they were ranked the fourth “Happiest place to live” in the world. The US was not even on that list.

    Brand Canada needs to focus on thier rich resources, high quality lifestyle and give more people reasons to visit the brand Canada; a true treaure. The Vancouver Olympics may help but the leadership must market and communicate their assets now as we all live together.

    In the end, a brand is a promise. When a leader makes a promise, he/she must align everything in their organization to make that promise come true. Brand America is no exception. President Obama has made promises, is getting people engaged and talking about solutions and holding himself and his administration accountable for making those promises come true… a sign of a real brand champion.

  2. Mark James

    October 14, 2009

    To be sure, its impressive to see the shift in one year, especially given the continued effects our financial sector has had on the world monetary system. So how to we use this shift to advantage our economic development opportunities? Is it time for strong message development to be used to encourage foreign direct investment; for an emphasis on trade development with products associated with Brand America? Thoughts?

  3. Eric Swartz

    October 14, 2009

    In this instance, it’s impossible to separate the message from the messenger. President Obama is the symbol of a new, re-branded America, one that has attempted to make a break from the recent past and reconnect with the vision and values embraced by most of the world.Yes, America is a place, but, more importantly, it’s an idea, a hope, and a promise…and in the parlance of branding,the global audience and/or stakeholders who witnessed our recent brand disconnect are beginning to see American ideas and actions as coherent and congruent with one another. It’s a very positive signal. It certainly points to the fact that a brand’s tone (or ethos) is the glue that shapes experience and gets people thinking in the same direction.

  4. Allan Hooper

    October 14, 2009

    I’d like the opportunity to tie comments on this in with the recent blog on negative campaigning. Here’s the simple message: “We’re better together”. I think more than anything it is our divisiveness that detracts from the consistency of our brand. Negative campaigning (advertising) is a whole lot different when it’s about a fast food meal versus threatening the livelihoods and jobs of people in one state or another. In the same way, we need to accept the notion that the Nobel Peace Prize does affirm the world’s desire for us, Americans, to behave in a way that is authentic with our promise. Let’s start to adhere to a higher standard of appreciating all we have (every state has its pros and cons) and acknowledging the accomplishments of others apart from their political perspectives.

  5. Ed Roach

    October 14, 2009

    Kudos U.S.A. for gaining the top spot!

    To go from seventh to first is astonishing to say the least. Maybe the Big 3 should have collectively signed up the President to endorse them. We could have saved a great deal of bail out money.

    Perception is reality in branding. Obama has yet to accomplish anything tangible, but the simple fact that Americans elected a black man apparently is too compelling for the world’s citizens.

    I remember only a few year short years ago, while my wife and I were vacationing abroad, we were approached by a store clerk who apologized for “thinking” we were American. She discovered in our conversation that were are in fact Canadian. I was astounded that she felt the need to apologize for her thoughts. Wow, that’s a bad brand.

    Now, full circle – are we non-Americans going to have to start wearing American flags on our lapels when we travel? maybe so, eh?

    To think only last year the States were #7 and now my fair land, Canada has fallen to #7, sahme on us. Our government likes to brag that we are weathering the recession better than most, but that boast doesn’t appear to resonate with our world neighbours. Perhaps we should try harder at differentiating Brand Canada on traits other than finance.

    Brand America stands for hope. Minorities around the world no longer view America as the red neck nation. Obama proves that everyone REALLY can be President. I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime, but what a pleasure to be wrong.

    American business will prosper due to Brand America’s standing. It should provide the inspiration all place brands require to differentiate themselves and provide that genuine experience. Taking a bold visionary step to healing your pain points, CAN ultimately provide impetus to strengthening your brand and lure growth to your constituency.

    Way to go cuz!

  6. Joao Freire

    October 14, 2009

    There’s a perfect fit between Obama and US brand values. US is the land of opportunity and justice. Moreover, this fit also transmits to the market another US core value: diversification.

    The image of a huge diversified country that is ready to take risks and reward success has an impact on the effect of the county of origin

    The implication is that there aren’t many countries that can use their brand and its´ effect of country of origin in very diversified products as Brand America is able to do.

    Brand America can sell entertainment (Disney), technology (Oracle), design (Apple), fashion (Ralph Lauren), cars (Ford), food (M&Ms), liquor (Jack Daniels), wines (Napa Valley), etc. There are only a few countries that are able to do this, yet:

    Yes Brand America Can

  7. Ed Roach

    October 15, 2009

    Shelley – Re: Canada Brand. I’m afraid we don’t have the leadership in any party today that has the potential to be a brand champion.

    Our Obama isn’t even on the horizon.

  8. Tim Guen

    October 16, 2009

    I suppose it’s not a shock that the America’s brand image improved in this most recent poll. As much as we are bemoaning the glacial speed of the economic recovery and 10% unemployment here at home, the situation abroad is arguably worse.

    The NBI tracks six distinct categories, but there is an unmistakable connection between high brand rankings and economic performance; four of the top five ranked Nation Brands are in the top five of world economies (in GDP), which naturally affects factors such as exports, immigration and tourism. Compared to France (#2 ranked in 2009), who is still in recession with over 10% unemployment forecasted for 2010, and whose workers are marching in the streets of Paris in protest of President Sarkozy’s policies, it’s hard to see how the U.S. could rank behind them.

    Speaking with colleagues from Europe and Canada, there is a strong expectation that the US will be the first country to emerge from the global downturn, and that recovery in the US will be the strongest. Access to capital, while tighter than in recent memory, is far easier here than in European or Asian markets. The US dollar is universally stronger than any other currencies, and America has far more resources (e.g. corporations, innovative thinking, energy, educational, and financial) to put against solutions than any other country in the world. Whether we employ these resources properly or not is rather a moot point; simply being the country with the resources will always be admired (or envied) by those who don’t have them.

    The Obama factor is an interesting consideration. One has to wonder how much of Brand America’s #7 ranking in 2008 was a referendum on Brand Bush, and whether the 2009 improvement is largely about addition by subtraction. Leadership matters to everyone, and the Presidents and Prime Ministers of every nation are proxies for the character of their country and the people who elected them. President Obama is on his first-term honeymoon in the eyes of the world, and it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of his vision and promise (like JFK’s Camelot). Since American politics is not that far removed from the superficiality of American Idol, the manner in which President Obama conducts our nation’s business will as important as what actually is achieved, as far as public perception and brand image is concerned.

    Ed, as much as I’m sure you are happy to see the rise in the Brand America ranking to #1 in this poll, I’m equally certain that you know that the ultimate goal has not been reached. There is much work to be done to insure that America does not concede its rightful place as the world leader in image and in deed. Keep carrying the torch high, please!

  9. Deborah Dudley

    October 17, 2009

    First of all the perception of America as genuinely standing for change and innovation was achieved not by Obama exclusively but by the voters who showed up and made it happen.

    I believe the global community was impressed by Americans who were serious about change and partnership and showed a renewed concern for positive development worldwide.

    This is tangible. Working with college students who are looking for a place in the global economy, being an American now has caché that under the previous administration was suspect. A positive global perception of Americans is an asset to their efforts in becoming part of that global marketplace. They have a renewed confidence instead of uncertainty.

    The Strengthening Brand America goals and objectives will support the next generation’s efforts to contribute to economic development by giving them positioning that is an asset instead of a liability.

  10. Dorothy Beach

    October 19, 2009

    Bono’s opinion piece in the NYTimes put clearly into words of how I have felt about the award of the Nobel to President Obama. In monitoring the Twitter stream of the approximatey 900 people I follow it was so disheartening to hear of the angst against his (our) prize for so many did not understand its implication. It was too bad that someone not native to this country had to take the risk of his big brand to show us what it is all about.

  11. Angelos Angelou

    October 22, 2009

    America’s brand has improved because President Obama has approached the world not in a black or white fashion, but rather with an approach of active engagement to tackle the economic, political, environmental and social challenges that we face. He has transformed the world with hope and leadership in a way that our partners have been expecting from the US for a long time. This has been achieved because of his recognition of interdependent and multi-pollar interests in the world which have to be served and respected. If we can now induce those trillions of dollars that we have been shipping overseas to be reinvested in the “good-old USA” without the xenophobia of buying our assets, we can actually can kick start the global economy again and reinvigorate economic development. It would be much better to have China invest their $’s in plant and capital equipment in the US, rather than feeding our consumerism by lending us “our money”.

  12. Meheer Thakare

    October 29, 2009

    I would agree with Angelos to some extent.

    The immigrant population from China and India with their low-wage acceptance (which by the way was higher than what they would earn at home) torqued the US economy for several years.

    The reason for Brand America’s decline in 2008 could possibly be linked to the recession when all of the sudden organizations started looking at India and China to invest for the relocation their processes and operations. Following this as Barrack Obama rised to power and sprinkled around his seeds of values amounting to a fresh new approach of United States, the Brand America rose back to place one with renewed assurances of its values.

    But I reckon, the US will still need to generate compelling values for sustainance. This could be possible by making the States more liveable for immigrants (e.g benefits) and establishing stronger strategic ties with India in the IT sector especially followed by the manufacturing sector in China. They could also look at generating further global awareness, thereby educating foreigners about the pros of investments, cultural dimensions in United states. Making the outsiders more aware of formal and informal institutions will help strengthening the Brand America in my opinion.

  13. Alan 'Brand' Williamson

    November 22, 2009

    Destination Brand Rituals
    As we’re in between Canada’s and America’s Thanksgiving rituals, it’s time to take stock of the two great North American destination brands.

    Ed, you’re right, this is no time for Brand America is rest on its renaissance laurels. It’s time for Brand America’s sub-brands to play their part. Silicon Valley, Hollywood, New England, New York, Las Vegas – your country brand needs you – now!

    As for Brand Canada, it’s time for you to find your new big brand idea and get yourself out of Brand America’s big shadow.
    You could start by poking around here:
    http://brandopia.typepad.com/brandopia_destination_for/2006/12/thanksgiving_ca.html.html

  14. […] for the first time or again.” These results come on the heels of and are consistent with the 2009 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index research I previously wrote about which also ranked Brand America […]

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