Resiliency and the USA brand

Today marks a period of expansive debate on the purpose and meaning of the brand, USA. We are besieged by a barrage of proclamations, accusations, and editorial arguments that invite interrogation of the definition and saliency of the USA brand. Meanwhile, the global political climate of populism and self-determination has incited new expressions of patriotism. When the context of a brand shifts, the foundation of that brand is called into question. This is as true for the brands we purchase and love as it is for the nations to which we belong and that we praise. 

In the United States of America, the arrival of summer coincides with an annual celebration of our formation in 1776. The time-honored traditions of Independence Day arouse associations with the values articulated by the founding fathers, which serve as the bedrock of our democracy. Turning attention to the USA brand, it is incumbent to extract from the storied debate of our separation in 1776 the crystalizing principles upon which our American authenticity rests. From this ethos springs the truths that guide the ship of state and help navigate to a place of trust and fulfillment as a nation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

– Philadelphia, July 4, 1776

One sentence, 34 words, 170 characters: The poignancy  of these truths casts a brilliant light that has been the beacon of our democracy—and our national brand—for centuries. The USA brand is defined, protected, and sustained by the principles that shaped a nation bred by the people and for the people.

We exercise the same expectations of our national brand as we do of our entertainment, fashion, automotive, or food brands. These brands shape our personal identities, expressing how we see the world, how we want to be understood, and where our affinity lies. Brands paint the landscape that defines our points of view as individuals and as a collective.

As practitioners of branding, we analyze ten dimensions that, in aggregate, make up the DNA strands of the world’s best brands. Reflecting on the USA brand, the most significant of those dimensions is authenticity. In its most simplistic form, authenticity is saying what you mean and doing what you say. Deviation is embracing hypocrisy. Organizations and nations must be resilient in fighting the temptation to compromise principles in order to achieve short-sighted gains. Expediency is never a sustainable growth strategy. Brands that violate authenticity join the vast plains of bleached bones in the graveyard of deceased brands.

The elegant expression of a universal truth is unassailable. These truths are the basis by which we create our sense of purpose, our identity, and our navigation through the complex nature of modern existence. Today, we are challenged to examine the truths that govern how we see the world, how we define our role in that world, and how we shape our legacy as citizens of the blue planet.

If the test of authenticity is measured by the adherence to the truth of your brand, we must reflect on our truths to evaluate our conviction and our resiliency to live our guiding principles. To do so requires an honest interrogation of our stated purpose, memorialized in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold this truth to be self-evident that all men are created equal…

The USA brand is under certain scrutiny. Can we stand, unbiased, and defend our brand’s heritage in support of this self-evident truth? Do our brand’s actions authentically support these principles of equality? The backbone of the USA brand has been deformed by a lax historical precedent for upholding its ideals, and denial of the invitation it made to the world. We need leaders that remind us of our brand’s core values, and why equality continues to be vital to our identity and purpose.

And how has this truth been supported by our messaging? Listen to the narrative of the USA brand. Is it open, tolerant, inviting, empathetic and optimistic? These are the characteristics that foster equality, and should be the expressions of our brand. When we see this in action, our pride swells and our connection to the brand grows along with our trust. However, when we see this in violation, our values are assaulted and our trust is quickly reneged. It is no small task to be true to your beliefs, but to afford deviation is at best inexcusable and at worst unthinkable.

The architects of democracy understood the ravages of oppression and the corruption of tyranny on a functioning society.  If the guiding principle of the USA brand is equality, then the manifestations of its attainment are our inalienable rights:

… Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

As we assess the power of our USA brand to influence our actions and behaviors, how prevalent are the expressions of joy, laughter, innocence, freedom and contentment?  Is our culture— the caretakers of the USA brand—in alignment with these inalienable rights?  Is our leadership—the stewards of the USA brand—the embodiment of these rights, fighting for their preservation and resilient in their convictions? You can be that judge.

In this time when we salute our heritage, pay homage to those that shaped our values, and embrace those that stand as champions of our brand, take a moment to reflect on your contributions to protect the authenticity of the USA brand. If our founding principles ring true, if our fight against hypocrisy is honorable, if our ethos is greater than our ego, and if our shining light of freedom remains an inspiration, then your loyalty to the brand will be rewarded. Exercise democracy as it was defined and as it is guaranteed.

The 241-year-old USA brand is a testament to resiliency, worth the work to ensure another 241 more.

 

Contributors

President, New York/San Francisco