FAQ – Strengthening Brand America Project

Ed Burghard


I have been asked a number of questions about the work I am doing with the Strengthening Brand America Project and the American Dream Composite Index™. Here are answers to the five questions I get asked most frequently.



What is the Strengthening Brand America Project?

It is a website based educational initiative to help teach economic development professionals how to effectively brand their community, region and/or state. Some of the more popular sections of the Project are:

  • Blog – This is where I share insights from my 3-year career at Procter & Gamble and my 5-year assignment as the Executive Director of an economic development organization responsible for branding the state of Ohio.
  • Voice of Your Customer – This section shares feedback from site selection consultants on what economic development professionals should consider doing to deliver even better service. It is intended to be a candid performance review for the industry.
  • Expert Interviews – Discussions with thought leaders like the Honorable Tom Ridge former Governor of PA and the first Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • Special Challenges – I am concerned about the readiness of communities impacted by the shale energy industry to effectively manage the opportunity. This section provides insights into the choices community leaders will need to make and how to most effectively collaborate with the industry to ensure sustainable economic prosperity.

If you don’t use the Strengthening Brand America Project to get business leads, why do you invest so much time on it?

Great question. I am in the Encore Career stage of my life. As a P&G employee (and now retiree), I relate strongly to the company’s purpose of “Touching lives, improving life”. The Company helped me master the skills of brand building and gave me the opportunity to apply them as an executive-on-loan in the field of economic development. During that assignment, I identified an opportunity to continue to fulfill the P&G purpose by educating economic development professionals on the successful application of branding to make their community, region and/or state more competitive for capital investment. I recognized my career experience was unique and that what I learned could be of benefit to others. Consequently, I started the Strengthening Brand America Project as a way to share my knowledge and to improve branding mastery in the economic development profession.

I accept very few project assignments, and then only from friends. These projects help keep my hand in the “doing” side of the equation. The time I invest in the Strengthening Brand America Project is genuinely about making a positive difference while my experience is still relevant.

What differentiates you from the typical consultant who offers advice?

I am a big believer in the value of experience from doing what your profess. I am suspect of taking advice from people who have never successfully applied it themselves.

At P&G, I was awarded the title of Harley Procter Marketer because I was recognized by the CEO and CMO as 1) a master of branding, 2) having built a track record of success in applying branding to grow in-market businesses [doubled sales and nearly quadrupled profit of the portfolio], and 3) being able to teach others to become branding masters.

As an Executive-on Loan, I got the opportunity to start up and run the Ohio Business Development Coalition from 2005 to my retirement in 2009, and then as the organization’s Executive Director through 2011. During that time frame we developed and launched the Ohio brand, and the state won the Site Selection Magazine’s Governor’s Cup annual award for 5 of the 6-years.

I believe my track record of consistent success and the proven ability to reapply branding concepts from the private sector into the public sector affords me a unique perspective. But, my experience is just one key differentiator. The other is that I have a career of having been held accountable for delivering results. It lends credibility to the counsel I provide through my blog posts.

Why the focus on the American Dream?

I see the American Dream Composite Index™ (Xavier University) as a measure of the authenticity of Brand America’s promise. It is a way of quantitatively assessing if our nation is delivering what James Truslow Adams described as “That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with an opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement”.

I can’t think of a better end-measure of performance than to assess if people living in our country are realizing the American Dream or not.

On the principle of “you get what you measure”, an over focus on job creation can be detrimental to fulfilling the promise of our Nation. And, while having a high-paying job is a goal of many Americans, it is not the goal for all Americans. Over emphasis on job creation can lead to destructive behavior (e.g. poaching companies from neighboring municipalities). It can create a scarcity mentality (let’s fight for our piece of the pie at your expense) versus an abundance mentality (let’s increase the size of the pie so we both prosper).

Focusing on measuring attainment of the American Dream gets the economic development profession and elected officials working on initiatives that will create sustainable prosperity. It will ensure our Nation is built to last.

In collaboration with Xavier University, I have an opportunity to provide the American Dream Composite Index™ data to the economic development community so it can be used to inform local strategic planning. I view it as a game changer and am excited to play a role in educating the profession on how to use the data effectively.

Helping people living in our Nation to better achieve the American Dream is the ultimate way to fulfill the mission of “Touching lives, Improving life”.

I am about to publish a 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report that will make it easy for Governors to know how well their state is enabling achievement of the American Dream relative to all other states.

If somebody wants to get involved, how can they help?

There are a number of ways to help the cause, and none of them cost money.

Commenting on blog posts is a great way to participate.  We learn best by asking questions and sharing our experiences.

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