Presidential candidates want to unite America, make it strong again, give it a future to believe in, balance its budget and pass its dream onto the next generation. Each, in his or her own way, paints a picture of what’s wrong with America, but which of them grasps what is right about America, what its value proposition is to its citizens and to the world? Which one has a real grasp of its brand?
A recent commentary by Merrie Carole Powers in The World Post  compared candidate Donald Trump as a brand to America as represented in the Declaration of Independence—arguably the quintessential statement of America the brand. This got us at SMstudy thinking about America the brand. What does the Declaration tell its citizens and the world about its brand?
A concise definition of branding states that it “is the process of creating a distinct image of a product or range of products in the customer’s mind. This image communicates the promise of value the customer will receive from the product or products,” according to the SMstudy® Guide: Marketing Strategy.
So, what distinct image of America comes readily to mind? For many the dominant image is the American Dream. Every presidential candidate mentions the American Dream, and their versions range from the ability to achieve anything through hard work and determination to having a job coupled with raised wages and health for people and their surroundings.
What image springs from the pages of the country’s cry to be itself, to be independent?
In her brand analysis of Trump-the-Brand, Powers used the “unique positioning, clearly defined purpose, truly held values, an authentic personality and a compelling message” elements of a strong brand. Marketing Strategy says that a product’s or service’s value proposition is crucial to its branding. We’ll use several of these to consider Brand America in the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration’s preamble is well known to many—having had to memorize it at some time during their school days—and it is the place to find the introduction of America’s brand image. In its first sentence the brand begins to take shape unassumingly—almost off-handedly as mere conditions for actions that follow—“it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…” The Brand claims for itself “the separate and equal station” “among the powers of the earth” “that the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” says it has the right to. That’s a strong positioning statement, even if it is not unique for countries.
The Brand has a great purpose: to “assume … the separate and equal station,” that is, to step up and take possession of equality among the nations of the entire world. It is an ennobling purpose. Kouze and Posner said in their work The Leadership Challenge that one of the best practices among successful leaders was the ability to inspire “an ennobling vision of the future.” People want to follow a leader that can do this. And they want to be identified with a brand that does this, too. Perhaps, this is one brand element that explains why so many people emigrate to America.
In Part Two of “Branding America and SMstudy,” we’ll look at Brand America’s compelling message and alluring value proposition.
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