It’s Independence Day, which means celebrating our core values as a nation -- freedom from tyranny, constitutional democracy, prosperity. Which are also ‘brand values’ for the United States as a global venture. We promote and sell America to the world -- with music and movies, technology, leadership in international financial institutions such as the IMF and G-8.
On this 237th day of American independence, we’re checking in on Brand USA -- the United States’ image as a global economic power.
The 2010s did not start on a positive note. In August 2011 Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for poor fiscal management.
“We were one of the few triple-A countries, and then we weren’t,” says economist John Canally at LPL Financial, the nation’s biggest network of independent broker-dealers. “It was a big psychological hit.”
But since then, says Canally, “the economy is chugging along at 2 percent -- not great, but it’s a lot better than people would’ve thought a year ago. Our budget deficit is getting better, we are creating some jobs. And I think money is flowing here, there is a lot more certainty in the path of the U.S. economy.”
Which has sent stocks soaring, and global investors flocking to U.S. Treasuries and dollars.
“You’d have to say the brand is getting stronger,” says Stan Collender, a political analyst at Qorvis Communications in Washington, D.C. “The U.S. logo is about as strong as it’s been in the last 5-10 years.”
Several brands that top a list of the 25 most patriotic brands in America aren't exactly American anymore.
Collender says the U.S. is certainly doing better than its main competition -- Europe, with its persistent austerity, recession and high unemployment; China, with its banking troubles and real estate bubbles.
Collender says this country’s single best brand ambassador is the Federal Reserve under Chairman Ben Bernanke.
“The U.S. Federal Reserve -- independent, less susceptible to politics -- did a hell of a good job and continues to do a good job. And there’s a certain confidence in the markets because of it.”
But Collender says Brand USA has one big stain on it: political paralysis on budgets and deficits. The sequester -- across-the-board formulaic federal budget cuts -- going into effect early this year was one result.
“It’s a little bit like all the officers of a corporation are still squabbling,” says Collender, “and stockholders are wondering whether they’re ever going to be able to make decisions.”
Marketing expert Cindy Gallop has this take on America’s core brand. Gallop led the U.S. office of British advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and now runs the website IfWeRanTheWorld.com.
“This is the nation that invented democracy,” says Gallop. “This is the nation that, more than any other, stands for freedom -- personal freedom, freedom to do what you want, to build the life you want, to live the American Dream. Those are qualities and values and truths that the rest of the world responds to, precisely because they are signally lacking in many other countries.”
Gallop says the world knows the American brand through the revolutionary tech companies people connect with every day: Google, Facebook, Apple. “America is the home and birthplace of the most influential tech ventures that are making life better for vast numbers of people worldwide,” she says.
But that praise comes with a warning: the U.S. could now be damaging that very identification with freedom, creativity, personal expression. That's because of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's revelations of U.S. government spying and surveillance, including on foreigners who use these American-made digital-communication platforms.
Earning a potential Bronx cheer for Tech Brand USA.