Thursday, August 18, 2005

Our nation´s ¨brand¨ is damaged goods

Bye Bye Miss American Pie
Our nation´s ¨brand¨ is damaged goods

by Alan Bisbort - August 18, 2005
Hartford Advocate
Buy American? Yeah right!
The World This Week
We have, as American consumers, been led to believe that people in the front offices of corporations were smart enough not to lead their enterprises, Enron and Tyco notwithstanding, onto the rocks of fiscal disaster. Corporations have a million little schemes and mind-games, perfected on Madison Avenue and at ethics-free business schools around the country, for brainwashing the herd into continuing to consume their products. There are a zillion little awards and a zillion do-gooder charities on which they can get their name prominently placed near the top of the benefactors' list that would connote "good corporate citizenship."

Nonetheless, the brainiacs in the front offices, and their political consultants, have proven themselves to be dumber than the posts Bush is pounding into the dirt at his fake Texas ranch during his "working vacation." For the past four years (yes, it has been four years since the world united behind us on 9/11/01), the CEOs and stockholders have sat with their thumbs up their asses while George W. Bush has broken the cardinal rule of business success: you don't shit on your brand.

That's because behind every good American product is, tacitly or overtly, the American flag. And, as Bush and his tin-eared, bully boy cronies (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Negroponte and Bolton, in particular) have trashed the nation's good name around the world, they have also trashed, by extension, America's products. Madison Avenue may be able to brainwash a captive American audience -- numbed by the seamless propaganda of a corporate-owned telecommunications industry -- but the rest of the world is giving our products their middle finger. And we are sinking, sinking, sinking economically, diplomatically and politically as a result.

No, this isn't another liberal, America-bashing screed. (In fact, I'm beginning to think conservatives are the ones who really "hate America," but that's another column). I've always tried to make it a point to "buy American" when there's a viable choice or option; I've even gone further, by trying to buy my goods and services in the town where I live. But there's precious little out there made in America anymore, and often the only choice is some rinky-dink crap churned out in Chinese ant-farm-like factories. Thus, I've found myself buying less stuff, which, of course, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Here's the hard news that got me off on this tangent, found in Financial Times , not exactly a radical lefty rag. The FT recently reported that the U.S.A. is "increasingly viewed as a 'culture-free zone' inhabited by arrogant and unfriendly people." No, this was not based on a study conducted in France. It was a 25-country study that included many of our erstwhile allies. The report concluded that anti-Americanism is walloping the bottom lines of corporations with products considered "distinctly American."

The author of the survey, Simon Anholt of the Anholt-GMI Brands Index said, "The U.S. is still recognized as a leading place to do business, home of desirable brands and popular culture. But its governance, cultural heritage and people are no longer widely respected or admired by the world."

Yes, I know this doesn't concern the yahoos in Texas or in places where Clint Black and Ted Nugent are popular, but it ought to concern the so-called "business community." To wit: the U.S. ranked 11th in the Brands Index. The country ranked 1st was Australia, of which respondents expressed "an almost universal admiration of its people, landscapes and living and working environment."

That used to be the United States. Before Bush.