For those of us who've lived and worked outside the US, we understand how a county's brand perception can have a direct impact on our well-being. Rightly or wrongly, how you are regarded within a foreign society is partly related to how your country is regarded throughout the world (particularly if you're not fluent in the language).
For the last 6 years, our name has been mud.
But the deterioration of brand America has much broader implications from an economic standpoint. A country's brand perception often influences the sale of their goods. It can play a subtle, but very real role in whether US companies get contracts in other countries - or even the proper licenses and certifications to conduct business. It can effect whether consumers in other cultures buy our goods. It can play into negotiations. Bad brand perception can be detrimental to America's standing in business communities within these other countries. It can influence whether foreign companies enter into partnerships with American companies. Our country's continued prosperity is partly tied to the health of our national brand.
A brand that Bush and Cheney have completely trashed.
With Abu Ghraib torture photos, Guantanamo Bay's stain on due process, and the U.S.'s perceived ineffectiveness from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina, Brand America is hurting bad.
Perhaps an important questions we should be asking ourselves is this: "Is the way that we're conducting this war on terror, our stance on the environment, our unwillingness to sit down without pre-conditions, and other policies counterproductive to the wider agenda of the nation?" I'm not saying our goals are wrong necessarily. I'm not saying we should back down. But the tough-guy cowboy screw-you-all politics of the White House is a style that is doing far more harm than good.
As for the brand implications in the upcoming elections, I think Americans would do well to choose the candidate that will protect their interests while working to restore their relationships. In other words, the candidate most unlike Bush. Someone with a smooth touch, a silver tongue, a persuasive ability. Someone not John McCain.