Can American Brands Save the American Brand Name?
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Martin Sorrell, founder and CEO of WPP, one of the world’s largest and most international companies and home to BAV Consulting. Sorrell has a clear pulse on global dynamics and a powerful expertise in branding—and a thorough comprehension of the impact branding can have on global relations. In our conversation, he stressed that some countries simply aren’t doing a good enough job paying attention to their brand—and then reiterated these thoughts in an op-ed last week, noting that the United States may be in danger of tarnishing its brand image (source: WSJ) as a fallout from spying allegations by the U.S. Government.
Sorrell’s words were blunt: "For brand America, this is not good."
To date, as our BAV data demonstrate, the U.S. is a political beacon for other countries. It is a leadership brand globally with above-average Esteem – a key indicator of political power.
While the U.S. is strong both on Economic and Political power, its personality globally gravitates towards the political sphere. It has more to lose on that front.
Our research indicates that Esteem – and with it, political power – is driven by certain personality dimensions for country brands. These key drivers of political clout include perceptions of being:
ProgressiveUp to Date
Judging by the backlash from the NSA scandal, the United States is expected to take a major hit on at least two of these key drivers, highlighted in red: Socially Responsible and Progressive. Spying on civilians—not to mention foreign political powers –is something many would consider to be an irresponsible violation of basic rights, and America’s image as a forward-thinking and socially progressive society will undoubtedly be tarnished as a result. This would likely impact America’s stature as a responsible political leader on the world stage.
So, what are the implications of this for brand USA?
It turns out that, in addition to the actions of the US government, America’s companies and brands are core to the shape of brand USA. This graphic shows which American brands drive people’s perceptions of brand USA most in the identified countries:
But that identification between brand USA and American companies’ brands is a two-way street. Just as the companies’ brands shape brand USA, brand USA creates either positive or negative impacts on American brands. So in positively shaping brand USA, America’s companies will benefit from a stronger brand USA. (Scott discussed that relationship in his piece as well.) And the analysis above provides some roadmap for how American companies can help do that, namely by focusing on progressive innovation, quality, and originality when they are highlighting their connection to brand USA.
And the government has a role as well. A weakening of brand USA, even marginally, could have dramatic impacts. As a result, the American government should work at least in parallel, if not directly, with corporate America to strengthen brand USA on these same dimensions. Both the government and the leading American companies need to think of themselves as “Brand Officers” for brand USA - and they all should realize it’s a mutually beneficial partnership. The government can benefit and gain credibility from its association with innovative, up-to-date American industry, while CEOs can benefit from the “Brand Rub” that comes from the still immensely powerful brand USA.