Countries are like little homes; they house a nation, hold ideologies and provide shelter and comfort to their people in hopes that the occupants will nurture better ideas for themselves and further advance humanity. These are the primary desires and goals of most countries on this small planet, and America is no exception.
For decades, billions of people around the world slept at night — on empty stomachs, in dreadful circumstances — dreaming of the freedoms and liberties of America, which they likened to a great land, a paradise and a final destination point.
The best and brightest of the world gravitated to the great USA in search of golden opportunities; in hordes they came, and en masse they settled. America became the nation which acknowledged greatness and provided the driving force to allow the dreams of small, ordinary people to take form and flourish.
Land of Opportunity
Free from restrictions, allowing grand expressions with extraordinary liberties, no other nation in the history of mankind has been able to match such a grand scale of opportunity.
Now, however, it seems that this home of the American nation has started to resemble an old mansion: elegantly pristine but known to be haunted, sitting at the end of a dead-end street where ghosts, mysterious apparitions and unexplainable signs have emerged.
This planet — like an old street — is already full of such haunted houses, which at times seem abandoned, lifeless and unable to give or receive neighborly warmth; factors so critical for any country on the global scene. But is America really haunted?
The Three Americas
We can easily divide the citizens of America into three key groups.
The first group makes up the majority of the American population; the 70 to 80 percent who live happily from coast to prosperous coast. These are the nicest bunch who are content with their daily lives, sports, cheap tobacco and liquor, often oblivious to the affairs outside their own state, never mind the globe. Often challenged with the simple and basic choices — paper or plastic, smoking or non-smoking — they hardly vote, hold faith in their flag and their president, and ask very few questions.
Secondly, the 20-30 percent of the population is comprised of first- or second-generation immigrants and their extended families who have settled primarily within urban sectors and have succeeded in commercial enterprise. They make up a significant portion of the economic pillar in society, and are forced to keep a close eye on global affairs, which may directly or indirectly affect their ventures. They are active on the global scene.
Then there is an extremely small remaining percentage of people — the administrative gatekeepers in each state’s capital who oversee the remainder of the population. This power group has become so preoccupied with identifying an evil that exists outside its doors that it has lost the capacity to identify any possible evil within. These three groups of the nation are coexisting despite their three very separate directions. There is nothing wrong with this arrangement; similar breakdowns exist in the majority of the other hundreds of nations.
Trillion Dollar Mask
Can this badly damaged image of America be fixed today? By whom and at what cost? What must it include: a new costume, a new mask or a new heart? These are very important underlying questions, but the biggest question remains: Can an entire country be branded to the rest of the world in the same fashion as a breakfast cereal or laundry detergent?
The answer is a flat no. Only the branding circus would come up with such a superficial, logo-centric, slogan-happy attempt to rebuild a nation painted with banners and billboards. In reality, countries cannot be branded in such a simple process from the past. Nations are already branded over decades and centuries by their histories and cultural interactions and exportable identities.
A global image is not in the hands of a polling company or controlled by a branding agency — rather, they take form in the minds of the global masses who paint their own mental picture based on their own interpretation of a nation. Therefore, it demands an awesome force, as the global public will not be swayed by ad campaigns, rather by the exuberance of sincere and honest truth and internal fixing leadingto an inviting charm. After all, this is how American image was built in the first place.
As a rule, if it has cost trillions to get where America is in the global public opinion today, then it is easily understandable why it would cost a similar amount to fix the damages. Nations can only hope to improve their domestic issues first before reflecting out to the world and preaching to the rest of the neighborhood.
Turning it Around
In commercial terms, American brands have lost their luster at an alarming rate during the last five years and are now in serious danger of being overpowered by brand new identities arising from all over the newly repositioned world. The future is clearly drawn out for new countries trying out this global image-creation wizardry while the early signs indicate a major worldwide mega branding and global-image-repositioning shift.
How can this great nation of America nurture harmony within, balance the out-of-touch extreme ideologies among Republicans and Democrats and educate its youth? Currently the lowest in voting rate among the G8 nations, it must deeply engage in voting and really take care of its own people. Most importantly, it needs real guts and must once again re-learn to face the truth and move forward in the good, old-fashioned American style.
Come next Halloween, after all the trick-or-treating and childish pranks are over, the real hunt will start again, only this time people will beg for votes at your doors. On that chilly November night, the complex electoral system will leave its mark on American democracy. The big question now is whether the haunted house will blossom with life or become scarier, as it engages in more unexplainable events and craves for more burnt offerings.
Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80s and also foundedABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago. Currently, he is on a lecture tour in Asia and can be reached at[email protected].