Independence Day brings chance to reflect on the role of business for Brand USA

As American business leaders celebrate Independence Day this year, hopefully they will reflect on what their organizations can do to keep building economic interdependence as the world’s largest economy, keep international business partners engaged and focus on business as a powerful force that unites all countries, not divides us.

With Ipsos Mori’s latest research findings that America’s influence on world affairs has seen its biggest ever drop, comes a bitter pill for a country that perceives itself as generous, open, entrepreneurial and welcoming the world’s huddled masses.

It brings me back to my work with Business for Diplomatic Action task force, a group set up by DDB’s Keith Reinhard in 2004 as a mechanism to help American big brand CMO’s discretely coalesce under the “protect Brand USA” banner.  Fuelled by President Bush’s foreign policies and low popularity abroad, US brands started finding their heritage a liability in overseas markets.  As the only non-US based contributor, my task was to listen to local intel when European consumers revealed their declining trust in American brands.

And now with this study of over 18,000 citizens from 25 countries (April-May 2017), we have another reputational knock in 2017.  Just 40% rated the influence of the US on world affairs as positive (10% very positive, 30% somewhat positive) while 60% rated it as negative (35% somewhat negative, 25% very negative).  Their prior survey from September 2016 showed a US rating 24% higher, revealing the biggest decline across the 10 countries and 4 international organisations studied.

Over this 6 month span, it’s hardly surprising that the largest reputational loss was from Mexico (down 47 points), followed by Spain (38 points), Belgium (33 points), Italy (28 points) and Canada (27 points).

Americans themselves between these 2 periods see their own influence on world affairs much less favourably, down 17 points from 84% to 67% while seeing Canada (86%), Australia (86%) and the UK (75%) ahead in these stakes.

Those countries rated by the study’s 18,000 global citizens across 25 nations see Canada (81%), Australia (79%), Germany (67%), the United Nations (64%), France (59%), the European Union (57%) and UK (57%) as having a positive influence on world affairs, with the US behind China (50%) though ahead of Russia (35%), Israel (32%), and Iran (21%).

Despite the Brexit vote, the EU has more positive ratings than the US in the UK and every country surveyed with the exception of the US and Japan.

What does this all mean?  That low trust in the US potentially bleeds into the trust placed in US business.  Perhaps re-establishing the Business for Diplomatic Action task force can insulate business’ reputation.  Or maybe it’s down to waiting for a new CEO to head Brand USA…

[photo credit: @ Jeff Bridgman,]

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