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Social and Strategic Research|United States|English

When the votes have been counted, will brand USA remain a winner?


by Chris Fleury

The volatile presidential nomination and election process going on now in the United States is clearly the big domestic news story of the year. It is also a leading story globally, as the world watches to see who will emerge as the next leader of the country that – according to the 2015 Anholt-GfK Nation Brands IndexSM – enjoys the strongest national “brand”. What impact will this year’s election process have on the United States’ global brand image?  

History reveals that the results of high-profile elections can affect national brand reputations.

A prime example is the United States itself. While national reputation typically changes little year to year, the country jumped from seventh place in 2008 to first place in 2009 in the Nation Brands Index, largely due to the election of President Obama. Following the 2008 presidential contest, the United States enjoyed not only substantial rise in its scores for Governance (including its role in international affairs), but also an improved image of its people, culture and tourist-appeal.

Governance is the U.S.’s relative weak spot.

In 2015, the U.S. placed first on the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI) based on its relatively well-rounded appeal as a cultural, tourist and business destination, as well as a generally positive view of the American people. But of the six dimensions that contribute to an overall NBI score, Governance is the U.S.’s relative weak spot. When it comes to the Governance dimension, the U.S. places 18th overall among the 50 nations ranked by GfK’s global respondents. Although its 18th place ranking on Governance is high enough to put the U.S. in the upper tier globally, it stands in stark contrast to its 1st and 3rd place rankings on each of the other five NBI dimensions. The 2015 NBI also suggests that it may be a surprise for some Americans to know that Governance is one area where the U.S. image could stand a boost globally. In fact, American respondents ranked the U.S. number one on all six NBI dimensions – including Governance.  

The NBI’s Governance dimension is comprised of five distinct national attributes, including several measures about perceptions of a country’s involvement in world affairs. Two of these internationally oriented measures (relating to protecting the environment and maintaining international peace and security), in particular, tend to depress the U.S.’s overall Governance score. But the country still only ranks 14th globally on the individual Governance attribute that is most directly relevant to the U.S. domestic political scene: "This country is competently and honestly governed." On this attribute, the U.S. falls behind many European democracies, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Americans themselves are even more humble when it comes to this particular component of the Governance dimension, ranking the U.S. only 6th globally.   

How the electoral process could impact the future NBI ranking.

It is, of course, too early to say for sure how the 2016 U.S. election will impact the country’s future ranking on the NBI’s Governance scale. But the NBI findings suggest that Brand USA could enjoy a particular boost if the election is seen abroad as having a positive impact on the U.S. government’s role in protecting the environment and maintaining international peace and security. In addition, the country’s reputation around the world – and even its self-image - will benefit if the global audience believes the U.S. has emerged from the election with more competent and more honest leadership.

Questions? Contact Chris Fleury at christopher.fleury@gfk.com.