Sunday, June 12, 2005

Beacon No. 44: The U.S. "Brand" Takes Fourth Place


The U.S. is the fourth-ranked national "brand" in the world, according to a study of 10,000 international consumers' preferences. The Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index purports to measure how well-regarded a country is via six indicators: exports, governance, investment and immigration, culture and heritage, people, and tourism.

This would ordinarily be great news for the U.S.—fourth out of the world's nations!—but unfortunately, the study seems to have some substantial problems.

For one thing, it includes just 11 countries out of roughly 200. They placed like this:

1. Sweden
2. UK
3. Italy
4. Germany/USA (tie)
5. Japan
6. China
7. India
8. South Korea
9. Russia
10. Turkey

It's unclear what criteria Simon Anholt, whose work focuses on how places brand themselves, and Mercer, Wa.-based GMI used to narrow their list down to these 11 nations. If they wanted to include the world's most prominent countries, then why Sweden? And where are Brazil and Spain and Australia? Also, Anholt-GMI apparently polled from one set of countries about a second, slightly different list:

Consumers in the following countries were polled about their opinion on these nation brands: Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom, and the United States.

I would have had more faith in one-to-one mapping of those surveyed with the countries they were surveyed about. It's possible that tiny Denmark's preferences matter because it is the Cincinnati of northern Europe, an Everyman nation whose citizens predict world opinion. But while Anholt-GMI cared enough to ask Danes their opinions, it didn't care enough to assess Denmark as a nation. Canadians were also asked their opinions, but Canada doesn't appear to have made the list.

Third, Turkish opinions about other nations aren't mentioned in Anholt-GMI's explanation of its poll (download it here; registration required), but Nation Brands Index surveyors did ask everyone else about Turkey.

The whole exercise seems lopsided, particularly in the press release announcing the poll: "First Ever Global Poll of How the World Sees the World: USA Not Even a Runner Up in Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index that ranks Nations as Top, Rising or Falling Brands."

Fourth behind Italy, Sweden and the UK—and neck-and-neck with Germany—is far better than I would expect from all the doomsaying about U.S. public diplomacy. I hope Anholt and GMI include many more countries in the next Nation Brands Index, and make their methodology more transparent and consistent.

(Thanks to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Review for the initial item.)

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