, Singapore

Has the shutdown damaged "Brand USA" for Singaporean businesses?

By Graeme Somerville-Ryan

If the United States of America were a car brand, you might think twice about running out to buy the latest model. After all, my close friend who owns the last late-model Saab now struggles to find replacement parts.

No doubt some commentators will sit back and snigger at the latest Republican-Democrat impasse; others will be far more concerned about the risks to global trade and the impact on business.

There can be little doubt that the US Government shutdown and the looming US debt ceiling issues are, in marketing speak, ‘bad PR’. Some brands would not survive this sort of press, but others seem to be able to dodge bullets and retain brand strength.

Brand USA is a complicated beast. The financial markets will, I suspect, use these events and the associated uncertainty to their own advantage. FOX News will give the shutdown a wonderfully melodramatic name. We will probably pay more for petrol even though the US Government vehicle fleet should be at a standstill. But will this actually damage the brand?

Fortunately for all concerned, the US is not a make of car. Indeed, it is reasserting itself as a maker of cars. It is worth remembering that the US is Singapore’s 6th largest export partner, taking 5.5% (or S$27.44b) of Singaporean exports.

Singapore is the 18th largest source of foreign direct investment into the US and the total direct investment from Singapore into the US currently stands at US$22.11 billion. This is not insubstantial ‘brand capital’. Actually, it’s not insubstantial capital in any form.

The separation of the commercial and government sectors is one of the great advantages of the US system. Brand USA is not only the mechanism of government; the core values of brand are actually far better articulated through general commerce.

Few other national brands could manage the effects of a government shutdown and possible default as well as the US—brand loyalty remains strong, driven by ongoing trade and financial connectivity.

People will still want to travel to New York, customers will still purchase US goods. Banks will still continue to lend, stock markets will still continue to trade, the US will still be seen as the land of opportunity and the home of modern innovation. Importantly, US businesses will continue to ply their trade in Singapore.

Of greater importance to Singaporean business partners and investors, the fundamentals of Brand USA are doing well. The jobless figures continue to fall; manufacturing continues to strengthen on the back of new, cheap, energy supplies; and the real estate market continues to recover.

Brand USA (Commerce division), seems to be doing alright. If the guys in charge of Brand USA (Governance) got their act together, and followed the brand guidelines properly, we might actually get out of the great recession.

It should also be remembered that this has happened before, most recently in 1995 and 1996. Brand USA survived then, and Brand USA will survive now. And we had better hope so – where would us marketing folk, and B-Grade celebrities, be without Google SEO, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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