Brand USA: Democratic Propaganda in the
Third Social Space
by Belinda H.Y. Chiu
raditional approaches to foreign relations are being replaced by marketing
strategies to brand nations by enhancing their image and reputation. No longer is this
responsibility limited to government tourism boards. Rather, because “every nation
is already a brand,”
the responsibility to create positive perceptions of the nation-
state has fallen on the shoulders of departments of foreign affairs and diplomacy. As
an increasingly important tool to promote foreign interests and to attract allies—or
in marketing terms, loyal customers—branding allows nation-states to craft and
Branding is everywhere. But what is it? Brand equity of a product or service is
the set of value-added assets that is communicated and strengthened by building
name recognition, customer loyalty, and perceived quality. Although it had its
beginnings in the consumer product industry, it is no longer restricted to the Coca-
Citizens and leaders of foreign nations have existing ideas about other countries,
be they positive or negative. In a technologically-advanced and globalized world, the
branded nation has added pressure to be strongly aware of its own brand.
brand can be strengthened by favorable policies, such as debt relief and foreign aid,
or conversely, compromised by economic embargoes and declarations of war. Like
consumer goods, smart brand management is essential to maintaining a positive
impression and build loyal followers. However, as with consumer goods, smart brand
management can only sell the product. While branding can change perceptions about
the product, it cannot change the product itself.
This paper will first briefly discuss the “third social space” in a democracy, the
public space for media and marketing. According to Habermas, this third social space
sits between the first (the state), and the second (the market, or private sector).
Second, it will explore the characteristics of nation branding and its importance to
foreign relations, examining the case of Brand USA, with a particular focus on the
Shared Values Initiative targeted toward the Arab and Muslim worlds. Finally, it will
Belinda H.Y. Chiu
is currently a doctoral candidate in International Education Development at
Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also the Special Assistant to the President at the
Phelps Stokes Fund. Ms. Chiu graduated from Dartmouth College with an A.B. in Government.
She received her Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.