Reflecting on the American brand

As I think about the American brand, my heart is heavy today.

I am a brand guy, which means I spend my life toiling over the brands that influence my purchasing decisions. If I am not reflecting on my experience, I am placing myself in the lives of others. I consider what drives them to make distinct brand choices. This is my career. It’s what motivates me. It compels me to move forward.

American brand
What is the American brand today?

The world we live is a curious place. It’s filled with facets and brilliance. It’s a seesaw of duality: simplicity and complexity, anxiety and peace, wisdom and insecurity. It’s a delicate balance.

With a sense of wonder and fear, I look to our majestic country and ask, “Are we still on course?”

What is the American brand?

The question is, “What is the American brand?,” especially as we learn more and more details of the latest mass shooting and the the divisive nature of our country is accentuated.

I once had refined thoughts about this. The American brand meant we lived in a place where a guy like me, who once barely had two cents to pay for an electric bill —only to later own a successful branding agency.

The American brand stood for promise and its fruition.

These days I just don’t know. Our country seems to be a hateful place of blame and fear. I worry for my children and their children. These are the thoughts of any parent, but nowadays then seem a little more legitimate.

Who will wield a weapon tomorrow? Where? When? How many next time? As David Crosby cried out at the end of Neil Young’s,“Ohio,” “How many more? Why? Why” How many?”

As America heals its wounds and we consider the American brand, I’m reminded of a common branding misconception. I once wrote that, “Brand is about the customer. How else will they be able to see themselves in the brand and covet being a part of it if it doesn’t say something about them? It’s more powerful to say, for example, that your customers are innovators rather than saying “you,” the company, is the innovator.”

The American brand is about us. What we make of it is entirely our choice.

Pearl Harbor changed us all

On the eve of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, President Obama addressed the American public last night on ISIS, terrorism and the world we have live in now.

As today is the 74th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, it’s important to remember that it was another moment in which America entered a new, more dangerous world – just as we did on September 11, 2001.

Pearl Harbor
America was never the same after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

It may be surprising to some that American in the pre-Pearl Harbor days was much different than what it became after World War II. I’m not just talking about the realization that there are evils in the world or the technological innovations that arose from the war.

Before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, we were, in essence, isolationists. Not to the extreme of the Chinese or anything, but America was an oasis. We were separate from the problems of the rest of the world and very reluctant to enter, what was known then, as the war in Europe.

There was a whole movement, a large one, to keep us out of that war – and it was working. The attacks at Pearl Harbor changed all that. We entered the war and, fighting in tandem with our allies, the Axis powers were defeated years later.

Where the attacks of Pearl Harbor eventually led us.

But nothing was the same. We were no longer isolationists and, instead, became a superpower, surpassing the British Empire and leading to our distrust of the other emerging superpower, the Soviet Union.

We became a citizen of the world. We became the protector, looked to by some to be the side of right against wrongs of other powers.

It’s not too far of a stretch to say that Pearl Harbor, which put us into World War II and transformed us into a superpower, would eventually lead to our fighting in Korea and Vietnam to protect the world against Communism, and now to battling terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to some extent, Syria. Even when an ally, such as France is attacked, we are not isolationists.

Pearl Harbor started us on the road to where we are now, both good and bad. The attacks remain one of the most transforming events in our nation’s history.

The attacks of Pearl Harbor should not be forgotten, which is a concern because many of those who were at Pearl Harbor or fought in WWII are leaving us now. It’s the nature of history that some events eventually fade into the past.

But Pearl Harbor was more than significant. It changed all of our lives.