Do You Know America’s Chief Marketing Officer?

Ed Burghard“The last person I ever want working for me is someone who says ‘that’s not in my job description.”

Quote attributed to: Neil Tyson

My friend Andy Levine authored a blog post for Forbes about his interview with Vinai Thummalapally, the Executive Director of SelectUSA. Vinai has been in position for just over a year and shares his thoughts with Andy about the Organization’s mission and progress to date. In my humble opinion, it is a post well worth reading and I’d encourage you to do so.

In light of Andy’s post, I thought it would be interesting to revisit a post I wrote in 2011 about SelectUSA. Here is the upshot of what I said at the time:

I think SELECTUSA is a good start, and welcome step in the right direction. I am excited to see the Federal Government building on the success of the Invest in America Program (congrats to Aaron and that entire team for a job well done). I am very optimistic that over time SELECTUSA can make a meaningful and positive impact on reversing the declining FDI inflow share trend. I believe if the Federal Government will empower and resource SELECTUSA to become all it can be, then the result will be increased FDI and job growth in the United States.”

I feel much the same way today. SelectUSA is a major step in the right direction for proactive management of Brand America. I was thrilled to read that Congress recently passed a bill that the President has subsequently signed into law to reauthorize the program through FY 2018.

As America’s CMO, Vinai will need to address the global decline in Brand America’s equity. For perspective:

  • FutureBrand’s 2014-15 Report indicates Brand America’s equity position has declined from #1 in 2009 to #7.
  • Forbes Magazine’s 2013 list of the best countries to do business in ranks the US as #14, falling in ranking for the fourth year in a row.
  • FutureBrand’s 2012-13 Country Brand Index ranks the US as #8 and the published report offers this cautionary perspective – “Even the most stable, promising and iconic country brands can lose strength.”
  • GlobeScan/PIPA’s 2013 Country Ratings Poll ranks the US as #8 in global influence and its published report offers a similar cautionary message – “Views of the US have shown some sharp declines among the citizens of its allies”.
  • WIN and Gallup International’s 2013 poll indicates that “the biggest threat to world peace is actually America”.

Clearly, the need for SelectUSA is huge and any impact it can have to reverse the global equity decline of Brand America will be greatly appreciated.

But for SelectUSA to have its greatest impact, I think Vinai needs to have the organizational mission expanded. SelectUSA needs to be given the latitude to be the steward of Brand America’s promise (aka the American Dream). This means the Organization should annually appraise Congress on the perceived authenticity of Brand America’s promise and identify barriers to residents achieving their American Dream for Congress to take action on.

Some of these will be barriers businesses face in domestic job creation. But, the American Dream is about more than jobs and economic security. To truly succeed as America’s CMO, Vinai will need to be given the resources and latitude to assess all aspects of the American Dream and identify opportunities for “product improvement” that Congress (acting as the product development team) can consider addressing.

I have not personally met Vinai (hopefully that will change), but based on Andy’s interview I am a fan. Vinai has a big job and failure is simply not an option if we want Brand America to regain its lost global equity.  Unless I miss my guess, I don’t see Vinai saying that being the steward of Brand America’s promise is not in his job description.

I hope you take the time to read Andy’s blog post in Forbes. And, I hope you collaborate with SelectUSA and help them whenever possible/practical to protect and grow Brand America. Their success is a win for everybody.

2013 American Dream State Ranking Report

2013 American Dream State Ranking Report

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