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Countries as umbrella brands

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As we head out of the American Flag Day holiday and look toward of the Fourth of July, I find myself reflecting on America as a brand. Before I dive into this topic, I should preface my comments with the fact that this is not a political debate or a jingoistic tirade brought on by the impending patriotic holiday.

Regardless of your political views or how global your perspective is, marketers can all agree that brands represent something to their consumers. It has been said that a brand is the sum of all the promises that are made to a consumer. Umbrella brands wrap around their [potentially] disparate sub-brands and, as I watched my daughter's Flag Day concert at school, it dawned on me that America is a pretty amazing umbrella brand.  

America has evolved as a brand—sometimes known for things that we are very proud of and sometimes getting a bit of tarnish on the brand. Regardless where the country has been in its brand evolution, some of its brand essence has stayed consistent. That is one of the things that make America such a unique brand.   Words like scrappy, entrepreneurial, meritocracy, innovative, resilient and proud all come to mind. 

It should not surprise us that, particularly in the fast-moving world of technology, America has some of the most respected and widely used sub-brands in the world. At the Internet Trends D11 conference on May 29, Mary Meeker and Liang Wu [analysts at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers] revealed that eight out of the top 10 most visited Web sites in the world are from American companies. Also, that 81% of their users are not from America. They go further and cite the fact that 88% of all mobile phone operating systems are of American origin (iOS, Android, and Windows dominating). 

This is a pretty impressive statement of brand for America, but it of course also raises the chicken-and-egg question: Does America build Apple's brand or does Apple build America's brand?  Apple, of course, realized that geographies bring brand essences with them. They have proudly labeled their products with, “Designed by Apple in California” for years and they market that fact. The Swiss knew their brand enhanced watch sales. The Germans knew their brand enhanced performance automobile sales.

So as we sit around the picnic tables on the Fourth of July, and we toast America's independence, we should reflect on what that means to the sales of our products around the globe an how America as a brand statement drives a certain emotional connection with our goods and services. In this amazing melting pot of a country, we should all redouble our efforts to ensure that we continue to build the brand that is America.

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