What do we want America’s brand to be?

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

13 March 2015

The brand of America is fracturing

Yesterday, I took a look at the Hillary Clinton email scandal from a brand perspective, noting that the equities and weaknesses of the Clinton brand meant that Hillary must tread lightly here. (She needs to be more transparent.)

But it’s not just candidates that must consider their own brands. We as a nation must as well, and I don’t think we have a grasp on it – and our leaders especially don’t.

Think about this. The Republican Senate sent a letter to Iran, telling the Middle East country that, if an agreement is reached with the White House, Congress will not agree to it. Therefore, there’s no reason to make such an agreement with the US because it will be fruitless.

What does our brand stand for today?

What does our brand stand for today?

Now, let’s look at this dispassionately, as you would as a brand consultant. The purpose of any brand is to keep your current customers (citizens) and reach those you wish to influence (the rest of the world.) This action by the Republicans hurts on both fronts.

For the rest of the world, what is the brand promise of sending the letter? Is it that American can get nothing done? Whether that’s true or not (and it’s hard to argue that it’s not true) isn’t the point. The point is that the brand message means there’s no reason to deal with America because nothing gets accomplished. How does that help anything?

Now, let’s look at that brand promise from the inside-out perspective. When we, as consumers, remain loyal to a brand it’s primarily out of consistency from the brand that we have originally coveted because it is an aspirational reflection of us. For most of Americans, our nation has been a strong and deeply felt reflection.

But the lack of consistency becomes a serious issue. We want to predict that its brand promise remains the same. The letter is unprecedented and any agreement has started with the White House. We speak to the rest of the world with a single voice. This action just re-enforces a growing belief that America has lost its way.

Even if you think of this politically (and I’m not), it sets a precedent in which Congress plays a different and more confusing role in foreign affairs than it has ever been before – no matter which party the President leads. Imagine how difficult it is to negotiate a treaty with a White House staff let alone with 535 members of Congress?

This leads to a larger issue. What do we as Americans want our brand to be? One of inaction? One who wields power just because we have it? The brand of “No”?

What about the brand of rightness? What is the right way to do things so that the end result is something positive and progressive?

As Clinton and others begin revving up their campaigns, that is a question they all need to answer. We as voters must do the same.

What do we, as brand stewards, want the brand of America to be?


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