A Brand is a mental construct within our mind that has been created and crafted to associate a set of emotions with a product, company, person or thing.
America, the USA, is not just a nation, it is a global Brand.
Brands are what make something worth more than the sum of its parts. And what allows any of those parts to command more respect and power than they are capable of by themselves.
Apple would not be worth as much if you shut it down and sold off the pieces. Neither would many, if not most, of the biggest brands out there. Like Coca-Cola. Ford. Intel. Microsoft.
An iPhone by any other company would be just another smart phone. An iPod would be just another MP3/media player. But skillful marketing and Brand polishing make it significant beyond the device itself.
The USSR had a Brand.
It was branded into the minds of the world and those within its sphere of influence were not only under its thumb, their shared recognition and obedience gave inordinate power to a few men in Moscow.
Sure it had tanks, bombs, soldiers and airplanes but anyone could have those. It also had a willingness to back up its edicts with those tanks which it had demonstrated as and when needed in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
We, in the West, respected the nuclear capability of the USSR so much that we matched it. And never dared to get into a real shooting match with them for fear of the consequences to all of us.
But then some people in satellite countries of Moscow began talking about democratic change and Moscow didn’t smack them back for it. After a while someone noticed that they could cross from the East to the West along the border in one of those countries and the border guards weren’t preventing it. They told the media and the media reported it. And people began to try it out for themselves and got across and back with no problems. And they recounted their tales which also got reported in the media. And some waited for the grumbles from Moscow followed maybe by tanks.
Moscow didn’t send any tanks.
Another Warsaw Pact country lessened their border controls and people began crossing. Moscow still did nothing.
Yet another country and Moscow did nothing.
And just like that, the USSR fell apart before our eyes.
It still had all those tanks and planes and bombs. What it no longer had was Belief. A simple thing like Belief in the Brand. Even those few men in Moscow had lost that belief.
Once those under its rule no longer feared it they no longer believed in it. And once that lack of faith and belief began to spread it was like wild fire on a dry grass field. And the USSR was effectively dead.
After you think about that for a moment come back to the USA and the world of today.
The world of today
In the last few weeks there have been clear signals in the media that both Moscow and Washington are returning to stances preparing for a Nuclear conflict. A CBS 60 minutes piece visited US forces and we learned that because of what they perceive as renewed interest in the limited use of Nuclear options by Moscow the USA has returned to some of the behaviours of the past as well. For the past two years B52s have been flying what we used to call X Missions. So there’s Always a few B52’s in the air flying offensive missions against Russia, each bomb carrier loaded with 20 nuclear tipped cruise missiles. They stopped doing that decades ago but they are doing it now.
Yesterday Zhironovsky warned of nuclear conflict if the wrong person, Clinton, gets elected. He’s a bit given to making outrageous statements and Putin keeps him around for jobs like that.
China has been making large strides out into the world in ways we’ve never seen it do. (or at least for the last thousand years) They are garnering more and more economic influence in Africa for instance. And that buys political influence. More budding students are going off to universities in China and India than the USA if I’m not wrong. More and more people in those continents are seeing their lot in life, their countries, being improved due to Chinese influence.
More movies are made outside the USA than ever before and soon Hollywood will not be the biggest producer of movies. And not the second biggest either. That’s one of the biggest conduits for exporting American Culture to the world.
Many who study these things say that this may be China’s century – at least until India overtakes it in population. And that the USA’s influence will wane.
Let us now return to the USA.
Someone is using WikiLeaks to release stolen emails from the Democratic campaign. The Democrats and the FBI say that’s Russia meddling in the electoral process of the USA so that the Republican candidate will get elected. Months back the Republican candidate publicly invited the Russians to hack into his competitor’s emails and do this very thing.
No Republican emails are being leaked, just Democrats. The Republican candidate has stated that he’d like to go back to the isolationist USA, a USA that doesn’t get involved in foreign escapades. That would suit Russia and China just fine. The Republican candidate has no foreign state experience, or any government experience whatsoever. An ineffective, gun shy, president of the USA sounds tailor made for Moscow’s needs.
As I write this the countdown to the presidential election is measured in weeks.
The Republican candidate’s beginning to come under more and more pressure as it becomes clearer that he’s losing the respect and support he needs to win because his past is surfacing and making people disgusted with him. And as that happens he’s beginning to say things that make some feel he’s unhinged. He’s making accusations about conspiracies to steal the election. His bad behavior is coming back to haunt him and he’s denying everything and attacking everyone.
His core supporters may be standing by him but the core of the Republican party are beginning to publicly recoil in disgust and distance themselves from him. Some are even advising others to vote Democrat!
The gong show that is the US Presidential election has become so enthralling that the whole world is watching now. With the USA being the most powerful nation and Brand on the planet the idea that it can be shaking itself to pieces live 24/7 is enthralling.
That’s got to worry those who have think in the terms of a global brand.
If you’re trying to get other nations to go along with your ideas and plans it does not help if they seriously doubt your ability to follow through on them. Or be there to support them if needed.
If Trump gets elected, though at this point that looks like a vanishingly small chance, but if he does: How would you look at the USA and him if you were in some other country?
Would you possibly see it as a Clown Show with a Dangerous Clown that had Nuclear Weapons?
Would you worry that he’ll begin withdrawing from treaties and agreements he decides are ‘the worst deal(s) ever’?
Would you worry that he’d threaten you with a Wall?
If the election keeps devolving into more and more absurdity one result will be that it will be hard to take Washington as seriously as you used to.
If Clinton gets elected but the world still sees Washington as an ineffective clown show what happens then?
Remember the USSR?
Your Brand’s value, it’s Power, resides mostly in the heads of everyone it touches.
Weaken that mental construct and the Brand is damaged. Weaken that global Brand and that leaves an opening for China and Russia to grab more of the real estate, economic influence, and mental brand loyalty in the world.
Is it possible that maybe someday we’ll be saying ‘remember the Republican Party’?
Or even scarier, ‘remember the USA?’
Personally I really hope the clown show shuts down before it gets that far.