About 100 days into the Trump presidency, I wrote a Forbes.com article titled “Is Brand America Tanking?” There were early warning signs that perceptions of the United States around the world were slipping following the change in administration. One branding consultant I spoke with at the time cautioned: “We need to wait for more robust data before drawing any definitive conclusions.”
Enter “more robust data” from two, completely different sources.
The first source is the Anholt-GfK “Nation Brands Index.” For the past thirteen years, this global survey measures perception of 50 nations in six key dimensions: Governance, Exports, Tourism, Investment Immigration, Culture Heritage, and People.
Last month, the 2017 Nation Brands Index survey findings were released – the first time the survey of 20,000+ individuals has been conducted since President Trump’s election. The United States dropped from the No. 1 overall nation brand to No. 6 in the survey. As the chart below indicates, the United States declined in five of the survey’s six categories:
Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index
Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan all rank ahead of the United States in the current survey. If we were at the Olympics, the chants might be “USA…USA…Number 6…Number 6.”
I asked Dr. Vadim Volos Global Director of the Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index if the United States (or any country) had ever seen such a dramatic drop in global perceptions. “This is the second time. The first time was back in 2008 in the last year of President Bush’s presidency. The U.S. dropped to No. 7 but rebounded after President Obama took office.”
The second source signaling a decline in Brand America comes from National Travel and Tourism Office within the U.S. Department of Commerce. In a report released in late November, international visitor arrivals to the United States for the first six months of 2017 dipped by 3.9% — a decline of over 1.3 million visitors from the previous year. That included significant drops from Mexico (9.4%), United Kingdom (6.2%), India (12.9%) and Brazil (14.3%).
According to Roger Dow, President and CEO of the US Travel Association, “The latest government data is deeply concerning not just to our industry, but to anyone who cares about the economic well-being of the United States…These numbers are an undeniable wake-up call, and correcting this troubling trend needs to become a national priority.”