Artist rendering of the George W. Bush Presidential Library from the George W. Bush Foundation.
With yesterday’s dedication of the George W. Bush Library, there’s been a lot of conversation around ’43 and his approval rating over time. One should look at this as an interesting examination of brand, and how behaviors—or lack thereof—are fundamental to shaping the reputation you want your brand to have.
When W. left office five years ago in 2008, his approval rating had sunk to an abysmal 23 percent. That’s the lowest approval rating since Truman inched out 22 percent back in 1945 after the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It may not be hard to remember why Bush’s numbers were that low, but what’s interesting is how they’ve risen since then. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals that his 23 percent approval rating has now risen to 47 percent.
Of course, history tends to go easy on presidents the further they get from Pennsylvania Avenue, but Bush’s brand has also improved because of how he’s conducted himself in the public eye since sitting in the Oval Office. His “brand behaviors” have changed a great deal since 2008, and the public is responding.
He’s acted with a cool sense of disconnect (something that many probably appreciate), but adds that, “I’m retired from politics (happily so, I might add), but not from public service.” He has demonstrated an unexpected amount of respect for our current president, thanked him publicly on many occasions and refrained from engaging in publicly criticizing him.
These behaviors have helped to heal the wounds that some say he left on his own brand. While there will always be constituents who neither forget, nor forgive, his brand-approval is nonetheless on the rise. His strategy is working.
He ended his remarks yesterday saying, “the success of a nation depends on the character of its people.” The same goes for brands. While Bush’s behaviors in office may have left him with some scars on his character, his behaviors since are slowly patching those up.
Tom Shanahan is an Associate Consultant at Interbrand New York.