The World Now Expects Authenticity

FutureBrand’s most recent Country Brand Index research study ranked Brand America #1. Kevin Roberts authored a brilliant post on the driving reasons for the top ranking. Kevin’s blog is a constant source of provocative information that really makes you think. I highly recommend visiting it frequently.

The Country Brand Index is a survey of roughly 3,000 business and leisure travelers from nine countries. According to a Reuters published article by Miral Fahmy, “The United States was seen as the ideal place for business, one of the top places for families, shopping and quality products, as well as one of the countries people wanted to visit whether 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 #1.

These two global surveys strongly suggest the world is ready and anxious for a Brand America that walks the talk in a way that is authentic with its core promise of equality and the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The #1 rankings are also testimony to the continued global relevance and competitiveness of the Brand America promise.

Regardless of your personal political affiliation, it seems clear President Obama has rekindled global hope in the authenticity of Brand America’s promise. The challenge now is to deliver against that hope and recognize the impact of public policy, diplomacy and public relations on the world’s perception of Brand America’s promise. This will require strong collaboration of members in the President’s Cabinet, particularly between the Department of State and the Department of Commerce. Actions taken and speeches given by Cabinet members impact the perception of Brand America.

President Obama has been characterized by some as the new Brand Manager for Brand America. The analogy has merit.

But, brand management is a proactive exercise. It requires a coordinated Brand Team effort to deliver success; and, just like any other product, in-market performance will ultimately make or break the global image of Brand America. Consequently, to succeed, it is important an effective product development program (public policy reform, infrastructure upgrade, asset creation) be developed and implemented by appropriate members of the Cabinet and that the Brand America promise be consistently communicated to the world.

It is also important for all Governors to place a high priority on strengthening individual state brands and make business climate improvement choices that enable their state to be more attractive for foreign direct investment. State level FDI inflow performance among the top 5 states suggests this can be an effective strategy.

FDI Inflow Top 5 States

FDI Inflow Top 5 States

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5 Comments so far

  1. American Brand Manager

    November 25, 2009

    This article is entertaining, and a great example of the problems that arise when marketing/PR becomes a substitute for substance.

    Obama’s “repositioning of Brand America” is little more than telling the rest of the world anything it wants to hear (and grovelling while doing it) while postponing any decisions on hard issues such as ending Iran’s nuclear weapons program, finding a solution for Afghanistan or curbing the enormous U.S. deficit funded largely by China. Obama is in essence reenacting the same strategy that led to his election to the Presidency, where he promised an undeliverable Utopia without mentioning any unpleasant details or tax increases.

    The problem with this strategy is that reality bites. Obama’s dramatic fall in popularity in the USA is a natural result of running on a platform that was largely vague pablum about “hope and change”. When people figured out that “hope and change” really meant a massive socialist takeover of the auto, finance, insurance and healthcare industries, combined with “stimulus” deficit spending and currency printing on the order of a Third World country, and smear campaigns against any industry making a profit or any TV network willing to ask him tough questions, people began waking up from the seductive marketing trance. As a result, political independents have abandoned the democrats, and this election the GOP won statewide victories in New Jersey and Virginia, both states that had supported Obama. The lesson: Brand repositioning can only work in the long term if it is backed by substance in the product.

    As someone who has both an MBA and a background in international relations, I predict that Obama’s brand management will face similar problems with the “rest of the world” fairly soon. Already we can see that “Brand America” is headed for the discount rack in China, where Obama’s recent trip produced no significant results. Beijing University students can’t conceal their laughter when our Treasury Secretary says our debt is sound. And the “life, liberty” rhetoric was largely absent on this trip, it doesn’t amuse our bankers.

    The image of America as the best place for “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” will further be tarnished when the Bush tax cuts expire and more “soak the rich” taxation is enacted to pay for Obama’s programs. Already engineering graduates from India and China are electing to return to their home countries in higher percentages, seeing better business opportunities at home than in the USA, which will damage our high tech position in the long term .

    The biggest damage to Brand America will come from the disillusion that sets in when Obama is forced to make decisions on Iran, Afghanistan, and other potential trouble spots. The fact is the US military is still the only force powerful enough to maintain a stable world order, and we can’t run away from the responsibilities of our power. If Obama is forced to use it to disarm Iran’s nuclear program, the American Brand will take the popularity hit among the weak who sit back and criticize when the powerful act. If he does nothing, he will invite further nuclearization of the Middle East when countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt seek to counter Iran. The American Brand will look weak and ineffectual if the latter path results (you might even see nostalgia for Bush). In that event, Obama might want to consider the marketing advice of that famous brand manager, Niccolo Machiavelli, whose advise on brand positioning was that it was better to be respected than loved, as affection is transcient.

    It remains to be seen whether domestic policies built on massive deficit spending, rising taxation and socialist regulation will be ones that enhance America’s brand image of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Likewise it remains to be seen whether the American brand is enhanced long-term by a foreign policy that avoids making tough decisions.

  2. Ron Starner

    November 25, 2009

    It will be hard to build up Brand America without shoring up the foundation for manufacturing in the U.S. That foundation rests on many things, but chief among them are quality schools and an ongoing commitment to R&D funding. Now is not the time to cut and go backwards.

  3. Elliot Liebson

    November 25, 2009

    One project will prove our success or failure at this very endeavour, and set the tone for years to come: Dreamliner.

    If it succeeds (and I surely hope it does), it will send a loud and clear message that American manufacturing and technology are up to snuff (for all that the components are manufactured across the planet); if not, then it says we’re in big trouble.

    For that matter, just getting the plane in the air successfully will send the message.

    For better or for worse, after all that has happened with the automakers, we need Boeing to score a win. And soon!

  4. Rob Wolfe

    December 11, 2009

    The emergence of this topic is interesting given this year’s transition on our own political front. Earlier this year, I read an editorial in the Toronto Star titled, ‘Obama Stressed America’s ‘Brand’. While the election may have had more to do with the branding of Obama himself, the branding of our nation is certainly an interesting topic for ongoing discussion among branding experts. I question whether the voice of a new president with a strong personal brand under the roof of the branded house of the USA is enough to change or strengthen the nation’s brand image. Just as for any product, the management of the brand requires laser focus on all the components of the brand.

    If you’re interested, earlier this year I posted an article, The USA Brand, with insightful, provocative and emotional responses representing five different nations:

  5. […] relevant globally.  But, as I’ve noted in prior posts, we need to be ever vigilant to ensure the promise remains authentic.  We can each help by focusing on ensuring the effective delivery of our local community and state […]

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