Saturday, April 01, 2006

Branding America

Restoring America’s Reputation Around The World
By Marisol Vargas

American brands, once popular, have been losing popularity around the world.
According to Keith Reinhard, president of Business for Diplomatic Action, Inc., a not-for-profit private sector effort aimed at improving the standing of America in the world, “the problem is not about the ads, it’s about the actions.”

Mr. Reinhard, also the Chairman of DDB Worldwide, one of the world’s largest and most creative advertising agency networks, a brand is not about what it says and what it does, but “how and why you do it.”

The reality behind these sales drops is that the public no longer sees American brands as having the unique sense of cool. In the rest of the world, the perceptions of America and its citizens are very negative leaving this view of America in the mind of millions who are refusing to buy its brands. In a research followed by Mr. Reinhard, 37% of the British population accepted to be less likely to purchase anything made by America.

Up until five years ago, the Unites States was still seen as the land of opportunities. People from all over the world looked forward to coming to the United States whether to live, work, study or for pure pleasure. After the tragedy of 9-11, Mr. Reinhard and a group of employees assembled a seventeen country “task force” in order to find out what other countries like and dislike about America. This research was made with the intentions of finding out what America is doing wrong, and what we, as Americans should do to change the perceptions people have in their minds.

From this research, it was proved that, in most countries the opinion of America is very unenthusiastic. In some countries such as Italy, Chile, Spain, Indonesia, Australia, Britain, Germany, France and China, Americans are known as arrogant, loud, disrespectful, ignorant, self-absorbent, among other negative terms, making it obvious to figure out why its brands are no longer being accepted by most in the world.

The biggest challenge, according to Mr. Reinhard is getting Americans to care and to do something to change their attitude. Most people in the United States seem to not care about the anti-America feeling in other countries and the problem the U.S. economy around the world is being faced with, but until people become friendlier and change some aspects of their personality, the rest of the world will not perceive Americans any better than they do now.

One of the antidotes to anti-Americanism is to train those who work at the borders and at customs office in airports, making them friendlier and easier to deal with since many of the bad experiences visitors to the United States have had, originate there. In the research followed by Mr. Reinhard, some of the individuals interviewed mentioned they would never go back to the United States because of the excessive hostility they were treated with when entering the country. These experiences offended them and left them not wanting to ever return to the country feeling a sense of resentment and antipathy toward the country and its citizens. Why? Because people’s behaviors are based on perceptions, why go back when you are not treated properly. The solution to this problem is “Change the attitude, not laws.”

The attitude is the main problem in building America to be once again attractive to the world. If everyone makes a small effort to become a bit sensitive to the problem, the world will start seeing the U.S. from a different angle, and then, the rest of the population would become “good American citizens Ambassadors to the world.” Once a small change takes place, once again the United States will stand for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to the rest of the world, Mr. Reinhard said.

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