Affairs of State: Looking for love through branding

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The State Department, which implemented the Monroe Doctrine, is about to embrace a new doctrine: Branding.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is making the branding of the State Department an unusual goal of his administration, and has named former J. Walter Thompson Co. Chairman Charlotte Beers assistant secretary of public diplomacy. She and Mr. Powell both served on the board of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. for several years before the jetmaker was sold.

"I am going to bring people into the public-diplomacy function of the department who are going to change from just selling us in an old [U.S. Information Agency] way to really branding foreign policy," he said in public testimony in mid-March. The goal, he said, is "branding the department, marketing the department, marketing American values to the world, and not just putting out pamphlets."

Mr. Powell wasn't more specific about how he planned to achieve that goal. Like most nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, Ms. Beers declined to be interviewed.

But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said "branding" doesn't mean spending millions to launch an ad campaign. Instead he said Secretary Powell is calling on Ms. Beers because he believes the department's difficulty in getting funding from Congress stems in part from a failure to explain its mission at home and abroad.

"What we need to do in the new age is to reach out a little farther," said Mr. Boucher. "We need to reach out to constituency groups for whom we open up markets so they tell people who don't know what we are doing."

"The State Department has taken the view that to know us is to love us," he added. "If we explain ourselves, people will automatically see the virtue of what we are doing."

He said that overseas the department also needs to be better understood. "Internationally, we want to be identified in terms of the positive role we play," he said.

While Ms. Beers won't have an ad campaign to get across the message, she will have other tools at her disposal. The State Department sponsors speakers both at home and abroad and uses Internet sites and visits to the U.S. from overseas groups to generate publicity.

Ms. Beers may have no State Department experience, but as a veteran ad-agency executive, she has diplomatic experience. Ms. Beers rejoined WPP Group's JWT as chairman in March 1999, and had been chairman-CEO of WPP's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide from 1992-1997. A veteran of Tatham Laird & Kudner, Chicago, (since evolved into Havas Advertising's Euro RSCG Tatham), she served in posts including chief operating officer and CEO.

In her diplomatic appointment, Ms. Beers will replace Evelyn S. Lieberman, who departed with the Clinton administration.

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