How Globally Competitive Is Brand America?

Recently, two annual survey reports were published that try and answer the question of how competitive Brand America is relative to other nations. Unfortunately, the reports provide polar opposite results making the question extremely difficult to answer.

Brand America is Just Fine

The 2012 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index annual report rates the United States as the #1 nation in the world. The same ranking reported in 2011, although the 2012 NBI score is actually +0.21 points higher than 2011.

This study has been conducted annually since 2008. It collects data on the image of 50 nations. The study size is roughly 20,000 adults aged 18 and up. The study is conducted online and is run in 20 “core countries” believed to be representative of global opinion.

“While the top nations retain their high ranks, in a year of continued economic, social, environmental and political challenges, ordinary people around the world seem less impressed by other people’s countries than they were in 2011.” Simon Anholt, NBI Founder

“Reputation have-nots continue to close the gap. In fact, the United States is the only country within the top-10 with an increase in overall NBI score, as it retains its #1 place position held since 2009.” Xiaoyan Zhao, GfK Senior VP and Director of the NBI Study

Brand America is in Trouble

The 2012-13 FutureBrand Country Brand Index annual report indicates Switzerland has jumped to #1 as Brand US falls further into decline. The United States is ranked #8, down two places from #6 in the 2011-12 CBI report.

According to the 2012-13 CBI results, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and Germany (in that order) all have stronger brands than the United States.

The CBI collects data from “3,600 opinion-formers and frequent international travelers from 18 countries”. FutureBrand uses a “hierarchal decision model” to process the data and create the rankings.

Here is an excerpt from an article published by reviewing the 2012-13 CBI results:

“The Decline of the Iconic United States Brand: Undeniably one of the world’s most widely recognized country brands, the United States, has traditionally enjoyed a reputation in-line with its core values and ideals, such as freedom, democracy, ambition and individualism. In the face of successive fiscal crises, however, the influence and normative values of the West are beginning to lose clout with a global audience. Perhaps as a consequence, the United States brand has declined eight places in the overall index since 2009—a year when the US led the index at number one.

Despite an upswing in brand perceptions following the 2008 appointment of President Barack Obama, attributes like Political Freedom, Stable Legal Environment and Freedom of Speech have suffered declines in perception as the nation nears its 2012 presidential election. Amid questions of foreign policy, the near-approaching “fiscal cliff” and a staggering US$14 trillion national debt, brand USA is left to face its biggest opportunities and, possibly, setbacks during this year’s election cycle.”

Read more here:

What is Reality?

Is Brand America the leading brand globally or in trouble? The data certainly don’t make it easy to answer.

So, one additional data source I look at for insight is Xavier University’s American Dream Composite Index. I have blogged about the ADCI before –

American Dream Composite Index

Interview With The ADCI Team

Time To Change The Dialogue

Utilizing The ADCI To Identify Regional Level Performance Gaps

Utilizing The ADCI To Identify State Level Performance Gaps

The ADCI is a measure of the degree to which people feel they are realizing the American Dream. The September ADCI score was 64.1 indicating there is almost a third of the American Dream not being achieved. In my opinion, that is a significant amount of the America Dream yet to be enabled and we need to better understand the roadblocks in the way.

Since so much of the American Dream is not being realized, I tend to believe that Brand America cannot afford to rest on its laurels and I advocate behaving as though the FutureBrand CBI data is the more accurate picture. The worst case scenario if we act as though the CBI data is right and it turns out the NBI data is the more accurate reflection of realty, is that make a strong Brand America stronger. That is a Type II error I’d be willing to accept.


Which picture of Brand America do you believe and why? Is it the NBI ranking this suggests no problem, or the CBI ranking that suggests a problem increasing in size? How do you feel about people in the United States only achieving 64% of the American Dream? Is a letter grade of D on the authenticity of Brand America’s Promise acceptable? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

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