If there is something the Trump administration should excel at doing, branding is it.
Brand recognition, both home and abroad, is a critical component in the competitiveness of U.S. business. But in a globalized economy, the United States itself is competing with other countries for jobs, investment and economic growth. If there is something the Trump administration should excel at doing, branding is it. And the time to do it is now.
Crafting and curating a viable long-term U.S. economic brand is critical to realizing the full benefits of a potentially large boost in trade. Winning the twenty-first century will require nations to differentiate themselves in the minds of global consumers and business leaders.
Right now, the United States is losing. According to the latest Country Brand Index from 2015, the United States is ranked seventh as a national brand, down from first place in 2009. There are few good times to have eroding global perceptions, and the middle of a tenuous recovery is not one of them.
The origins of a good or service matter to consumers, who use the place of manufacture and the location of the company to quickly judge quality and desirability. And it’s not just about “made in” either. Studies have shown that where a product is designed matters to consumers even more than where it was assembled or where the corporation is based—especially when the location of designer is communicated to consumers, and the location has positive connotations associated with it. The effects on the perceived level of quality can be considerable.
Think of German engineering, Italian leather and French fashion as examples of the powerful, long-term impact a national brand can have on the perceptions of other countries. It is the reason companies selling fashion often give their products French sounding names. But a national brand is not established quickly. It is one thing to conduct an advertising campaign for Coca-Cola, but it is entirely another to articulate the soul of American business.