Brand America’s Global Ranking

I have always learned that you get what you measure, and I must admit throughout my career the saying has been true more often than not. But, it is important to select the right measures and to understand their limits so you can have confidence in your assessment of whether your brand is on or off track.

Measuring the relative performance of Brand America is not easy.  The data available is often conflicting, so it s challenging to present a clear picture on the health of Brand America.  But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the various data sets and try to better understand the points of difference and points of parity for Brand America versus other competitive locations.  Understanding the drivers for success and investing in making Brand America as competitive as possible will only serve to benefit our national economic performance.

Here is an overview of three Reports I look at annually.

FutureBrand 2011-2012 Country Brand Index 

This study is in its 7th year. The latest report shares perceptions of 113 nations. The FutureBrand Country Brand Index is a global study that seeks to measure the strength of a nation brand the same way as any other brand. The study explores awareness, familiarity, preference, consideration, advocacy and active decisions to visit or interact with a place. The five key dimensions reported are Value System, Quality of Life, Good for Business, Heritage and Culture, and Tourism. In the FutureBrand model, a strong country brand is one that makes people’s life better.

One thing I really like about the FutureBrand philosophy is the recognition that country brands have to manage many touchpoints – advertising and public relations, political representation, business climate, cultural ambassadorship, tourism and product exports. There is recognition for the complexity of the branding challenge. But, simply because it is complex that doesn’t mean it is impossible. I like to define a brand as a promise. FutureBrand describes it as an asset that must be carefully managed.

The FutureBrand Country Brand Index is created from 3,500 business and leisure traveler interviews, quantitative research in 14 primary markets, input from 102 expert contributors in 16 cities, and crowd-sourcing of real-time feedback from a collaborative online exercise. Then FutureBrand makes sense of the input by crunching it through their proprietary ‘Hierarchal Decision Model’.

The 2011-2012 Report ranks Brand America #6, down 2 rankings from the last Report. Brand Canada is again ranked #1. Interestingly, Brand UK fell out of the Top Ten list. For perspective, Brand Canada displaced Brand America as the #1 country brand back in 2010. Brand America has been on the decline ever since. The Report notes data collection was prior to the downgrade of Brand America’s credit rating and prior to the Occupy Wall Street movement hot the news. This suggests the 2012-2013 may be rough as well. Looking at the Brand America ranking on the five key dimensions gives some insight into the opportunities to improve performance – Value System (#14), Quality of Life (#14), Good for Business (#7), Heritage and Culture (not in top 25), Tourism (#4).

A logical conclusion from this measure is that Brand America is in trouble and slipping quickly. We need to do a better job ensuring the Brand America promise is delivered across all relevant touch points.

Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index

GfK Custom Research produces the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brand Index. Simon Anholt started the Nation Brand Index in 2005. The study looks at a nation’s global ‘image’ by evaluating six dimensions – Exports, Governance, Culture and Heritage, People, Tourism, and Investment and Immigration. Interviews are conducted among citizens of 20 countries around the world. In each survey country, about 1,000 online interviews are conducted with people age 18+. Each of the 50 nations is evaluated by up to 10,000 people in this global study.

According to their press release, Brand America remains the #1 most admired nation. The following is an excerpt from that release:

The United States’ score lead over second place Germany has widened compared to last year. “The strengths of America’s international standing continue to be innovation, opportunities and vibrancy. While the country still does not make the top 10 list for the way it governs domestically and behaves globally, it has made significant improvements in the area of governance,” said Simon Anholt, NBI founder and an independent advisor to over forty heads of state and heads of government around the world. “The tumultuous political and economic climate across Europe has actually benefited the U.S. in that respect, and raised the country’s governance ranking over Spain, Italy and Ireland.” 

I reported on this study in a previous blog post and provided some additional perspective from the program leader.

A logical conclusion from this measure is Brand America is in great shape. We simply need to accelerate performance on the current course and the brand will remain healthy.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) FDI

One way to think about FDI inflow is as a vote of confidence in the economic value potential a nation represents. Evaluating share of global FDI inflow is a way to assess if that confidence is growing or declining. I like to look at the Inward FDI Flow data and compare select markets on a share basis.

Here is what the data look like from 2000 – 2010.

I presented these data to a graduate economic class and was bombarded with questions about the methods I used to clean the data set and minimize double counting. The data are captured and presented as UNCTAD reports it. I have not done anything to alter the data from its original published state. That may not be the most precise way of looking at the data, but from my perspective, it is a ‘good enough’ way for the purposes of this discussion. It is also a way I can explain and reproduce.

A logical conclusion from this measure is that Brand America has room for improvement and may be benefiting slightly versus Brand EU on a share of FDI inflow basis from the global economic crisis.


I just shared three different measures that provide somewhat conflicting pictures of the health of Brand America. Is it any wonder the economic development community tends to be confused on whether Brand America is in trouble or not?

I created the Strengthening Brand America Project because I believe our nation is losing global competitiveness and we need to learn how to leverage local community branding as a strategy to become more competitive for FDI. I think the best course if action is to assume Brand America is under serious competitive pressure and, as an economic development profession, to sharpen our place branding understanding and application. If I am wrong, the worst-case scenario is our nation gets even stronger as a result.  If, as a profession we assume the ‘Brand America is in great shape’ conclusion and simply stay the course only to learn in hindsight we are wrong, then we will have lost global FDI share ad will have to work three times as hard to regain it.

To me the course of action is clear – learn how to better brand local markets for capital investment (including making business climate improvement investment choices with the CEO in mind), and in aggregate we will collectively create a stronger Brand America.

What is Your Opinion?

Should we stay the course or should we get aggressive in learning how to reapply product and corporate branding principles to make our communities, Regions and states more competitive for capital investment? If you think the latter, consider joining the Strengthening Brand America Project and helping increase awareness of the website among your contacts and colleagues. Here is the link to join (it is free and easy) – Share your thoughts. Also, if you have a favorite measure or unique perspective on the health of Brand America, please share it as well by leaving a comment to this post.

Pay it Forward

If you have a Facebook account, become a fan of Strengthening Brand America. If you are a LinkedIn user, join the Strengthening Brand America Group. If you like twitter, follow BrandAmerica to keep track of updates on this website.

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