Although this happened a while ago, and Ms Beers has long since departed the Pentagon, her thankless mission unfulfilled, I think this is a useful story in terms of some of the misunderstandings that constantly plague organsiations about brand design and communication.
(You can read a full transcript of a radio interview on the subject â??hereâ?? – it’s very funny and worth a look).
The major problem with this initiative is thinking that what America does, and the American ‘Brand’ are two seperate things and that through advertising alone you can become the thing you want people to see. To think you can communicate a message about the benevolent, caring USA, while 24hr news channels broadcast footage of American carpet bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates the most amazing nievity. America is MacDonalds and Democracy, Bruce Springsteen and Imperialism, Disney and Capitalism, Hummers and Freedom, all rolled in to one self-contradictory whole, all at once. If, (with particular reference to this article and the ‘branding’ of America’s foreign policy), there is a desire to shift people’s perception, that is going to have to start with a change in behaviour. Perhaps America could develop a new foreign policy built around the famous ‘have a nice day’ mantra. The essence of this policy would be to ‘out-nice’ other nations through a strategic combination of displays of overwhelming generosity and kindness, thus shaming countries of the world into better behaviour towards their citizens and each other. While this is only a ‘top-of-the-head’ suggestion, I am adamant that creative thought needs to be applied to what America is actually doing, long before they think about ‘selling it’, (their words, not mine), to the rest of the world.
You don’t need me to spell out the parallels here between branding a nation through communication, and the numerous occurances of organisations trying to project a new image through communication alone, rather than looking at the fundamentals of what they are doing. Rather than thinking about Re-Brand’s, I always urge people to think about a â??Re-Doâ??