Nearly 250 companies have licensed the logo for a campaign called Colombia es Pasión -- or "Colombia is Passion" -- that seeks to restore global confidence in the country as a trading partner, tourism destination and investment opportunity. After years of violence and corruption, Colombia's tough-minded president, Alvaro Uribe, has developed a close alliance with Washington and unleashed a military offensive that has guerrillas reeling.
Marketing consultant David Lightle has worked with a public-private partnership in Colombia that operates two stores in Bogota offering hundreds of products featuring the campaign's heart-shaped logo. The logo also appears inside boxes of Colombia's exported roses and on the tail of one of the planes flown by national carrier Avianca. There's even a "Colombia is Passion" bicycling team.
Some critics say that such efforts often amount to mere sloganeering. British author and consultant Simon Anholtis, who coined the phrase "nation brand" in 1996, says it sums up a simple observation that "it's the responsibility of good governments to be, in effect, brand managers." But advertising and marketing entrepreneurs have so distorted the concept, he says, that he sometimes is sorry he brought it up. Read the whole story...
Times' op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote last week that an Obama victory "could change global perceptions of the United States, redefining the American 'brand' to be less about Guantánamo and more about equality."
Few observers dispute that Brand America is not as highly regarded in other countries as it has been in the past. The debate is more likely to be about how much that matters to our national interests. Kristof argues that, if Obama wins, we may have an opportunity to "rebuild American political capital in the way that the Marshall Plan did in the 1950s ... ."
The Economist is hosting a debate Sunday afternoon in New York on the subject. Advertising great Keith "You Deserve A Break Today" Rinehard, chairman emeritus of DDB Needham Worldwide, will join three other luminaries in chewing over whether Brand America can be "salvaged" and eventually "be as great as it once was."
Rinehard and Peter Beinart, a writer and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, will evidently maintain that it can. Political theorist Benjamin R. Barber and Parag Khanna, director of the Global Governance Initiative, will argue against the proposition. John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, will moderate.
Efforts to actively promote Brand America began in the Clinton administration with the establishment of the position of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.
Charlotte Beers, who had an extraordinary career at J. Walter Thompson and Oglivy & Mather, reportedly had a frustrating tenure in the position from October 2001 to March 2003 Dick Martin, a former AT&T public relations hand, argues in Rebuilding Brand America (2007) that rather than having the opportunity to set strategic direction, Beers wound up defending political decisions that had already been made by others in the wake of 9/11. "Charlotte Beers made the classic advertising rookie mistake of giving her client what he wanted rather than what he needed," Martin writes.
The undersecretary position is currently held by James K. Glassman , a libertarian columnist and author. In testimony before Congress after he was nominated, Glassman brought up discussions in the press about the nature of the job before him.
"People speculated on what I would do to burnish America's image, to increase our popularity ratings -- as if the United States were a brand of soft drink or an entrant in "American Idol" seeking global votes," he said. Rather, said Glassman, "public diplomacy's role is to help achieve the national interest by "informing, engaging, and influencing people around the world."
It should be prove to be an interesting debate -- not only at Manhattan's Gotham Hall on Sunday but also as it plays out in the real world should Obama win the election. Or not.
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In the same branding vein of nation building, Barry Silverstein writes about how eight elite Eastern colleges have turned a sportswriter's moniker from the '30s into a powerful marketing tool. But each individual school has its own challenges. Cornell, for example, faced an image problem -- it was widely perceived as a "country cousin" to its brethren -- by abandoning a modern logo and reverting to the traditional school crest.
The Harvard Trademark program has six staff members and administers policies that are, Silverstein writes, "mind-numbingly comprehensive."
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"When [George] Lois, born in 1931 to Greek immigrants, started plying his craft, the old-school (WASPy) advertising industry was rather staid and artless," writes Steven Heller in his positive review of George Lois On His Creation Of The Big Idea (Assouline, $50) in Sunday's New York Times Book Review.
"Lois and his mentors, like Paul Rand and Reba Sochis, and colleagues like Helmut Krone, Gene Federico and Lou Dorfsman represented the first wave of 'ethnic' men and women -- mostly New Yorkers -- who joined agencies like William H. Weintraub and Doyle Dane Bernbach or started their own small firms," Heller points out.
Dorfsman, who was primarily responsible for shaping the image of CBS over his 40-year career at the network, died last week on Long Island at age 90.
Heller points out that Lois' ads had "humanity." He mentions one campaign in particular that sought to restore the public dignity of boxing great Joe Lewis, who had widely publicized problems with the IRS. "Of course, not all big ideas were meant to right wrongs (most were intended to sell products), but Lois sometimes used advertising to help change popular attitudes," Heller writes. Read the whole story...
The Journal is playing catch-up on this story, although it notes that McDonald's executives still maintain that the program is on track.
We excerpted similar pieces from the Chicago Tribune in both February and May.
The Journal story also reveals that customers have prompted McDonald's to test hot and cold drinks that are made with just chocolate, caramel and mint flavoring at some restaurants in the Detroit area. Read the whole story...
With smaller screens, narrower keyboards, less computing power and a price tag of under $500, netbooks are expanding the laptop market by making it more affordable for families to own multiple computers, analysts say. Read the whole story...