Public diplomacy is alive and well — Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and other musicians and artists have been gussying up the brand image of the US abroad for decades.
But according to a marketing study of Brand USA’s perception abroad, Obama’s election itself (as confirmed by the curious prematurity of his recent Nobel Peace Prize award) has — all by itself — managed to rebrand the USA. This rebranding was something that secretaries of public diplomacy — Charlotte Beers, the Aflac/advertising Queen and secretary of public diplomacy under Clinton, for one — have sought in vain to pull off for a decade or more. Same with Karen Hughes, secretary in the Bush 43 administration. For her, it was all about listening and responding to world perception about America — misperception, she believed. For Beers it was all about telling our story, like the great stories of great brands.
All that didn’t work. Those strategies failed. Until the election of the first African-American president who happens to be a citizen of the world — so the world and even Obama’s rightwing enemies agree — and a Wilsonian visionary, the world perception of brand USA was in the dumps. But all that has changed, at least, according to signs such as the Nobel and this new marketing study.