Brand America Image Versus Identity

Brand America may be digging itself into a hole.  We need to put down the shovel and focus on delivering the promise.  It is time to address the gap.

The Strengthening Brand America Project is designed to help bridge the gap between global perception and the reality of Brand America through more effective use of place branding.  The concept is to is to help economic development professionals and government officials see how the choices they make in asset creation, infrastructure investment, public policy reform and diplomacy impact both the image and identity of Brand America.  While admittedly Brand America is more complex to manage, the lessons from product and corporate branding are instructional and highly relevant.

Understanding the reapplication and making better choices at the local level will help strengthen Brand America and bridge the gap.

In previous posts, I have commented about image versus identity and the critical importance of authenticity for a brand promise.  If a brand does not “walk the talk” of their brand promise, then the gap between image and desired identity will only get larger and eventually the desired identity will be no longer be attainable.

I’ve also commented on the remarkable turn around of Brand America’s global image in the annual Nation Brands Index study.  In spite of the great news, I purposefully positioned this turn around as the world voting in expectation.

Brand America would do a better job of walking the talk.

And now I’ve become aware of The Last, Lost Empire authored by Dr. Ted Becker and Dr. Michael Briand.  In my opinion, it is a sobering reinforcement of the need for Brand America to work even harder on ensuring the authenticity of the American promise. Failure is simply not an option.

The way I became aware of the book was from a blog post Ted authored that caught my attention. It shares three pictures that highlight the gap between Brand America’s emerging global image and the desired identity of its citizenry.  Pictures that serve as a reminder we have a lot of work to do.

How we address the political challenges facing our nation matters and clearly impacts Brand America’s image.  Brand America’s promise of being the one place on this planet where “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, rings hollow if we do not ensure the authenticity of that promise in today’s world.

Here are three questions Ted’s blog post raises with respect to authenticity –

  1. How do you reconcile the abandonment of hope and hatred for a major private sector company depicted in a grafitti message with the promise of Brand America?
  2. How do you reconcile the picture of a For Sales sign depicting unprecedented foreclosure rate on homes and loss of the American dream for so many people?
  3. How do you reconcile the existence of a wall on America’s southern border with the inscription on the Statue of Liberty which reads “…Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teaming shore.  Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” ?

Because I do not know how to ask for input without inviting political bombast, I am going to treat the above as rhetorical questions designed to stimulate your thinking around how important it is the decisions you make in economic development are aligned with Brand America’s promise.

I will undoubtedly have more thoughts after I read the book.

In the interim, the question I would like you to answer is – What are some impressive examples of where Brand America is doing a good job of “walking the talk”?  I look forward to some uplifting and hopeful input.  Thanks in advance for responding.

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