Will Brand America Regain its Shine?

February 23, 2009

By Katie O'Connell

The Economist is hosting an online debate called "This house believes that Brand America will regain its shine" February 17 - 27.

As Barack Obama assumes the presidency, he inherits a battered America from George Bush. Has America's image suffered irreversible damage? Or can Mr. Obama restore it, once the glow of his honeymoon has worn off..." says Christopher Lockwood, US editor of The Economist.

The online debate includes arguments from Kishore Mahbubani, Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy NUS, who spoke at NAFSA conference in 2007, and Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide who was part of a panel on public diplomacy moderated by Judy Woodruff at the 2008 NAFSA conference.

In Mr. Reinhard's remarks at the NAFSA conference, he emphasized that "brands are not what you say, a brand is who you are, what you do, how you do it, why you do it." He noted the importance of listening:

In branding, we listen to all perceptions. The positive ones we hope are true, and we want to build them. The negative ones we have to divide into two. Negative perceptions which are true, we have to change the product."

Reinhard referred to visa reform, border enforcement, and the image of the "ugly American" as examples of areas needing improvement. In the case of negative perceptions that are not true, he said, "we have to change the communication."

How do you feel about America's "brand" around the world? What positive perceptions do we need to build on? How can we change the negative perceptions? What are the most pressing challenges President Obama faces as he seeks to repair our image?


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