Brand America. Bruised or Beaten?

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America’s status at home and abroad is not at all clear. Is the America of the last century gone? The ‘global powerhouse’ done? The ‘American Dream’ over? Or just in a state of flux?

Dreary questions for sure. And yes we go through this every election cycle, but a lot of the mud flung on the walls by the PROTUS hopefuls is sticking. There are real concerns about America’s future across every demographic.

It’s absolutely astounding to me, that after a decade’s movement to moderate our culture (you know ‘everyone gets a prize’, ‘we need to sit with our enemies’, ‘share the wealth’, etc., etc.), the two earliest surging candidates, Sanders and Trump, are anything but moderate. Arguably they represent extremes on either side, and voters are turning out in record numbers to support them.

No question, anger at the seemingly dysfunctional government is driving this, and this isn’t new. Obama and the Democrats took over eight years ago with a kinder, happier mandate. Just two years later the Republican’s stormed back and won the senate as the ‘tea partiers’ pushed for dramatic change. Alas, not much happened to favor either agenda. The frustration grew.

Furthermore, today we have a world in deep doo doo. Global economies struggling, dire political and religious unrest, environmental decline, traditional cultures and ethnicities losing ground. And, closer to home, of course, adult children still at home. The list goes on. No matter your concern about the world and your life, it is a rather grim picture going forward.

So here’s the question or, at least, a question. What is the American ‘brand’ in all of this?

I see two factors – America’s role in the world and, the strongly philosophically, divided populace at home.

It’s possible that the first rules the second.

The world play is critical. The world has become a single marketplace where physical borders are less apparent. American Corporations aren’t necessarily American anymore but global entities with offices, plants and people working across time, space and currencies every second of the day. We may be upset with US companies moving facilities and jobs overseas but that’s how they have learned to compete in this highly leveraged and regulated world. And no one likes to talk about China’s influence on the global economy and our ridiculously high national debt.

No matter what your concerns, be they financial and personal security or cultural values, we need to look at the world to understand our future.

And on the personal level, the digital generations are now global. We communicate and share anywhere, anytime worldwide with a simple click or a touch. Our younger cultures are increasingly globally centric, connected and in many cases nationally ambivalent.

What the ‘baby boomers’ see as lost values the millennial sees as just the new norm.

Why even third world terrorist organizations recruit and terrorize anywhere they want via the World Wide Web.

The world is morphing into cultures beyond countries, and if America does not understand and succeed at the world level, it will not win on the home front…regardless of political doctrine.

So what happens to the Brand America? Can it remain the powerful symbol of a land and it’s people or does it have to change? Are we fierce, gun-toting, freedom fighters guarding our borders with our lives or are we open -minded individuals with a ‘cork -floating-on-the-ocean’ mentality? Or both?

As a traditionalist, I would rather not change but as a realist I believe we should deeply examine this question and find the right answer … and rather quickly.

One answer is to look into the emotional needs of the people. Americans of both parties are showing an angry reaction to their government and leaders.

Anger is not a good emotion to base a brand on. It usually does not last long. But what is behind anger can be useful. I believe in this case it is fear. People are worried about every aspect of their future and with arguably good cause. There is no good news or simple answers anywhere and leadership has been lacking.

So what do we do with this?

I would suggest that in a changing world with a deep fear of continuing to survive, the American Brand has to stand for two things to regain its power status in the world and continue to be the iconic, symbolic inspiration for its people.

The ‘brand’ has to be both TOUGH and FAIR.

 ‘Tough’ to compete and win on the world stage and ‘fair’ to optimize opportunity for all. It is extremely important that the world knows where we stand on key commercial or personal endeavors. We desperately need to take a hard line where we need to, but we’ll only gain respect and support, both domestically as well as abroad, if we are fair.

It’s quite simple. America has little trouble in the ‘tough’ department, but it does need to have precise positions and build its defenses to back them up.

The real breakthrough is in the ‘fair’ department. On the one level ‘lies, cronyism, lobbies, special interests’ all need to go. On another so do overreaching regulations and ‘PC’, controlling dictates like ‘the rich are bad’ and ‘everyone gets a prize’ and only certain ‘lives matter’. We all matter equally and can thrive equally if the game is fair.

If a new leader emerges who can execute on toughness and fairness and the American populace can see this happening, then I believe that Brand America for the next 50 years will shine through.

 What say you?

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