Brand of America

Mikael Wagner
10 min readDec 23, 2020

As a Brand Marketing and Communications practitioner for half of my life, it has been troubling to watch what was once considered a great nation crumble in front of your eyes. The past four years of the Trump Administration, and I hesitate to call it an administration since leadership didn't exist, left millions of people worldwide in utter shock by the temper tantrums, screaming for attention non-stop lying, often holding the bible in one hand. Nothing done by that administration did anything to help the American people or make stronger connections with our world allies. I wish that I could blame him for the destruction of the American brand, but he isn't the cause, but a catalyst that fast-paced America on the path to destruction. America was a great country to international visitors, world trade, climate change, or anything else that may have benefitted the American people.

As I dedicated time searching for the truth in news stories for over 1,400 days, I discovered that the image of America started crumbling many years ago, nevertheless, not as low under the out-going administration. I am sure that Trump would willingly blame the American brand's worsening on anyone except himself, but he doesn't get all the credit this time. During the George W. Bush presidency, America's brand took a deep dive, causing other nations to look at America with a cocked head and a look of disapproval, like Pepé the Crow. During the Bush-era, most of us believed that it couldn't get any worse, and we truly wanted to believe the lies and stories released in starting our deterioration as a nation. Under the Bush Administration, the country was involved in a major war in Iraq where many people died unnecessarily on both sides. Human rights violations and abuses occurred at Guantanamo and then alienated old allies.

After Bush exited, the country took a deep sigh and prepared for better days. There were huge improvements under President Barack Obama. Most countries around the world rejoiced and reunited with the new leader. Leaving the country and the President's office on a very high note after eight years, a healthy nation punished with Donald Trump. This mediocre reality show host epitomised the worse parody of America. Everything flowing from his lips is lies. His behaviour helped me and many of my colleagues' research and understand one of the worse narcissists' personalities to exist. Many shocking statements made most people start to hum or sing out loud when he talked to stay cool, calm, and collective. Unfortunately, it didn't work. I am sure that everyone worldwide remembers the harsh, racist, homophobic and sexist things he voiced with pride. For starters, he banned Muslims and called Mexicans rapists, he joyfully attacked allies while embracing dictators, and added more insult to injury by rejecting proven science and facts that would protect its population of people. He also called Africa and Haiti shit holes. Adding fuel to fire, Trump announced that laziness is a trait in blacks. With him leading the country to demise, the country's brand took a nosedive. Many years of good work and relationship building were destroyed in many idiotic tweets, making America the laughing stock of the entire world. When 74 million Americans voted for him in November 2020 to be President for another four years, the whole world laughed even harder at the ignorance or stupidity of those fooled to believe his fake stories.

All Americans will suffer from the actions of the past four years. To date, there has been a significant drop in international visitors during that time. As a result of his trade wars, American products took a considerable dive. Even China boycotts American products. So the brand that the administration has created is and will continue to impact businesses. Companies must devise a way to disconnect their global image from American politics or corrupt politicians. It won't be easy to rebuild when so many organisations are connected to American politics or politicians. The time for making positive changes is now.

Out of curiosity, I conducted a small survey with 50 of my colleagues and friends about America's brand, and the feedback received is well thought out and honest. I developed six questions to obtain feedback.

America has been known as a great country. In the past four years, do you think America’s image is weaker?

  • Yes - 49 No - 1

If you had to create a brand of America today, what would that brand be to describe the United States of America?

  • Land of Unequal Opportunity
  • America Divided
  • America Put Through The Test - Let's hope that she will rise more robust from the fire like the Phoenix.
  • Divided
  • Divided We Stand
  • Infected Nation
  • Greatly Divided
  • Divided We Fall
  • A Great Country in Great Change
  • America is currently a very sad and unsettling place. As an immigrant, I came to the USA looking for freedom, prosperity, and happiness, but all I see now is racism, division, and uncertainness. The whole world is laughing at us because of the lack of leadership and failing policies.
  • If you can picture the statue of liberty, leaving her post and struggling to climb over her country's border wall.
  • Greatly divided
  • Ball of confusion and hypocrisy.
  • We aren’t a brand. We’re a republic. We don’t have a business model or a marketing plan. We have a Constitution – that needs repair.
  • We are experiencing leadership difficulties. Please stand by.

What are three things that you feel have impacted the brand of a once-great nation in the world?

  • Lack of Political Leadership
  • Police Brutality, Social Injustice, and Prejudice
  • Low-quality public education
  • Social media/freedom of speech
  • Creation of Mistrust of Journalism (along with the rise of "opinion news" over "fact-based journalism").
  • National Leadership that has unabashedly advocated for reinforcing white supremacist values and blaming people of colour and immigrants for the nation's challenges.
  • Donald Trumpism (I'm still confused about how and why he rose so fast as a national "hero" and why 70 million Americans even voted for him in 2020).
  • Politics, Racism, Greed, Isolation, and Dishonesty
  • Leadership akin to Cult
  • Social Injustice, racism, and Trump.
  • Politicians representing themselves and not the people
  • Greed over governing
  • News Media misrepresenting the news
  • Lack of experience of the current administration
  • The greed of the current administration
  • The aging of white middle class
  • The Trump Administration has fed the worst version of our society: The racism, hate, and divisiveness that has been somehow dormant for a while. Trump has woken the worst of American culture and has given license to the racism [that already existed] to flourish in the open.
  • Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively influenced the economy and racist people’s real instincts.
  • The politicians in office [on both sides] whether support Trump or don’t fight him strong enough, making the situation harder for the working class and making the COVID-19 pandemic deadlier and harder to resist.
  • The great test of democracy, its strengths, and flaws exposed
  • Uncut wrath of racism
  • The inability of the Trump administration to maintain a leadership role in the western world
  • Social Injustice, Racism, and Trump
  • The rise of Trump and his appeal to the right-wing minority in the United States
  • The enablers of Trump from the leaders in the Republican party
  • Social media promulgates false information and conspiracy theories.
  • Trump and unbridled selfishness, as my UC Berkeley professor, Robert Bellah, named it way back in the 1970s, amoral privatism.
  • Racism and the aftermath of slavery
  • Imperialism and arrogance
  • Current administration’s unprecedented level of graft, corruption, and self-dealing
  • Politicians/Elected Officials putting party before country.
  • Decision making based on what’s right for business with little regard for the health and welfare of the people or the environment.

What are three things that may be done to improve the reputation of America?

  • Stabilize Economy
  • Systemic Change of Policing Policies.
  • Legislative Reform
  • Enforce laws against prejudice and implicit bias.
  • Provide quality Public Education.
  • Restrict gun sales / make guns illegal to the general public.
  • Fire Donald Trump (check!)
  • To have friendly leadership, to embrace World Neighbours, and re-join the World Health Organization.
  • Immediate reversal of Trump's international isolationist actions to start rebuilding relationships internationally and rebuild America's reputation globally
  • Mandatory Racial Bias Training across all Federal & State Institutions.
  • Advocacy, Organising and Connecting.
  • Ending Racism.
  • Social Justice, Equity, and Equality.
  • Getting back to the basics of our Constitution.
  • Integrity and honesty from politicians.
  • Truth in reporting the news.
  • Restore faith in the American Dream by returning to a real middle-class society and taxing all incomes family from very little at the low end to Eisenhower level taxes for the very high incomes.
  • Mend historical relationships with other countries, re-join the Paris accords, and if possible, the Iran agreement.
  • The new Biden Administration might help improve America if its people hold him accountable. Any administration other than Trump’s is better.
  • There should be a systemic change for racial relations: There should be police reform, reallocations of funds to help with mental health in the community, there should be police accountability when officers break the law, the police qualified immunity should be eliminated, the real history of slavery should be taught in schools.
  • The newly discovered vaccine against COVID-19 can be a game-changer and will help re-open the economy.
  • Strengthen and improve the integrity of the voting system.
  • Re-join with allies on world concerns; viruses, climate, things that affect all.
  • Social Justice, Equity, and Equality.
  • A new administration in the White House
  • Elimination of right-wing policies of the Trump administration
  • Demonstration of improvement in social justice in the United States
  • Inaugurate Joe Biden so we have a President who can pull us back from moving the wrong way and start us back moving towards justice for all.
  • Reparations for slavery and Jim Crow, Native American land theft, and exploitation of farmworkers
  • Re-join the Paris environmental accord and commit the United States to carbon neutrality.
  • Repeal the Second Amendment
  • A return to fact and science-based policies
  • Ditch the America First isolationist policy
  • Employ the best and brightest minds—emphasizing what you know is more important than who you know.
  • Represent America with a diverse administration. If race is no longer a factor in the distribution of opportunities, and Americans see it reflected in the President’s administration, the country's divide would begin to close. Lead by example.
  • Provide quality public education and get rid of the terrible US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos - she is an embarrassment.
  • Restrict gun sales/make guns illegal to the general public.

What are your feelings, hopes, or vision for America in 2021?

  • We have to remain optimistic. Without hope, people perish.
  • That the country heals and learns from the last four years
  • That the country becomes focused on all Americans and does not favour one party over another
  • That Americans bond and agree to move forward together with a vision that includes everyone, newly American to multi-generational America.
  • Hoping new President & Vice President can inspire change and reduce anger and hate.
  • I am hoping that we can stop the Coronavirus Pandemic ASAP.
  • I am hoping that racial & immigration tensions can be addressed and remedied in some significant way. I am skeptical but have a desire for hope to be restored.
  • The left has the ball now, and if they screw it up, the right will regain it in 2024.
  • I am optimistic the left will correct things.
  • We have a long way to go to dig ourselves out of this mess.
  • A country where we can disagree and still co-exist
  • Return to our place in the world respecting all people and their varied beliefs.
  • Reduce tensions between law enforcement and the communities they should be serving.
  • Reagan was not the great President many may think, but he did say that our country could and should be “the shining light upon a hill.” Let’s have leadership that pulls us in that direction.
  • Reduction in our Department of Defence funding
  • Fairer taxes and closer relations with all countries
  • I have hopes for a better future. It feels like, without Trump in office, it will be better no matter what. There’s a lot of work to be done to improve racial relations in America: A few generations need to pass before people’s perceptions are changed; however, some changes like eliminating qualified immunity and reallocation of funds are changes that can happen immediately.
  • Every system in America is shattered or in disrepair, education, disease prevention, and electrical gridlocks. Get the pandemic under control and provide food, shelter, employment, and begin rebuilding social systems.
  • We have a long way to go to dig ourselves out of this mess.
  • I hope there is an improvement in all the various COVID-19 arenas.
  • Control of pandemic by massive, global vaccine programs.
  • I hope that the soon to be approved vaccines are distributed fairly and equitably and get to those in the greatest need.

Moving forward with new leadership in the White House, do you believe that things will get better in America?

  • Yes — 47
  • No — 1
  • Not Sure — 2

For the past 12 months, I have lived in a different country I now call home. Throughout my entire life, this is the first time I have been ashamed to be American. The moment I admit to being American, people open up and share how much disgust and hatred they have for the out-going President and America to support such corruption. Every day I think of my wonderful friends and family members trapped in what many consider one of the worse countries in the world with over 300,000+ deaths today. There are over 16 million confirmed cases in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that 80% of American deaths are people aged 65 and older. According to the New York Times, young adults are dying at historic rates. In research published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was found that among U.S. adults ages 25 to 44, from March through the end of July, there were almost 12,000 more deaths than were expected based on historical norms. This all happens while the out-going leader focuses on playing golf almost every day, sending out rude tweets, blaming others for his failures, encouraging hatred and racism instead of spending time being the leader of a once vibrant nation and saving lives.

Whether you agree or not, we all know that America’s distinguished international image is not coming back anytime soon. I hope that the incoming President and Vice-President will get the country back on track and repair the damage. They can’t do it alone. It’s up to the people to participate, become aware, and eliminate the corruption of elected officials, police departments, judges, and other leadership roles abusing their power. My lesson is life is being reminded to not depend or wait on others to make changes that affect my life, my community, my friends or my country.

Special thanks to everyone who participated and provided honest feedback.

Artwork by Adam the Creator



Mikael Wagner

Mikael Wagner is a communications project manager with focus on health promotion, public relations , marketing and focus group facilitation.