Brand America Needs a CMO
In these fractious and partisan times it’s interesting how U.S. politicians of all stripes are eager to distance themselves from their chosen profession. Democrats and Republicans alike, no matter their actual tenure, are all suddenly Washington “outsiders.” And in the Age of Trump, many have also developed a newly found appreciation for how businesses are run, and think government could learn a trick or two from corporate America. We don’t need a President, they seem to be saying, we need a CEO. Hence Trump.
Government-as-business is an interesting concept, which got us thinking: Why not elect an American CMO, a kind of Marketer-in-Chief?
The question isn’t as facetious as it might seem. Lots of countries actually do elect or appoint someone – often a “president” with limited legislative clout – to represent their country without having any overt political baggage. Truth is, in Europe that’s what royalty’s for.
America desperately needs a Marketer-in-Chief. America the Brand isn’t so brave anymore. You don’t need to conduct an audit to see the signs of dwindling brand loyalty and a confused brand identity. A good CMO would have read the signals long ago: The latest Rasmussen Poll shows that only 42 percent of likely voters think their country is “heading in the right direction.” Amazingly, 31% think we’re heading for a second civil war.
Overseas, Brand America is being bashed as bad as tainted Tylenol or New Coke. Trade wars and tariffs certainly don’t help, nor the hideous spectacle of children in cages. The president is a divisive and unpopular figure at home, and reviled abroad.
But Brand America has dealt with crisis before and come through, so, what’s the problem now? As some famous American once said, “a house divided cannot stand,” and Brand America has some deep-sea-trench divisions on strategy and values. No self-respecting CMO would stand for this. It used to be that the country coalesced around a universally accepted brand promise: Liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness, etc. This was considered enough. Now, while we might agree on the brand promise, we dogmatically disagree on how to deliver on that promise. Even the role of government is being questioned. Meanwhile, as our fearless political leaders seem to encourage polarization, we flounder dealing with looming competitive threats from Brand China and the rest.
As any agency head knows, brand equity is hard to earn and easy to lose. The United States divided would pose even the most sage of brand managers to blanche. But like all brands, there’s invested equity. There is a reason so many people from so many nations want to come and live here.
All we need is a Marketer-in-Chief.