The brand of the free

I’ve often wondered how some countries become world famous while others remain completely anonymous (I should stress here that ‘famous’ means ‘famous’ in my limited, Western European perception).

For instance, both Ireland and Jamaica are known throughout the planet despite being relatively small and poor.

Every small town in Europe seems to have an Irish bar, and whenever you’re abroad you always seem to bump into someone from the Emerald Isle. While the music and culture of Jamaica is something you can find everywhere from Dutch tea towels to American movies.

So why is it that they punch above their economic weight while Turkmenistan and Equatorial Guinea just fade into the background?

My totally unscientific theory places the blame/thanks squarely at the door of branding.

Ireland owns green, which denotes its landscape and lets you know immediately whenever you see something Irish anywhere in the world. This suggests an admirable attitude of exploration, which is then backed up with little extras like Guinness (loved around the world) and the gift of the gab/great literature (also loved around the world).

Jamaica owns red, gold and green, but it also owns the spirit of being laid back through its music and its reputation for having natives who like to smoke da ganja. We’d all love to be swinging happily in a hammock listening to Bob Marley as the waves lap on the golden sands nearby, so we all love the idea of being Jamaican.

Both countries have accidentally created fantastic brands that sell themselves 24 hours a day, and that serves them well.

But then there’s the daddy of them all: the USA.

You could hardly suggest a country of endless wealth (or debt) and 300 million people was punching above its weight, but American culture rules the world to an extent that far surpasses every other country in the world combined.

Movies, music, TV and literature are four ways in which the Land of the Free bestrides the world like a colossus, but if you go to the States you’ll also see that its design and attitude often brings forth an admiration and/or affection that you just can’t put your finger on.

For example their broken down old diners evoke a million familiar emotions, even if you’ve never been in one; their used car lots have the kind of signage that makes them seem cool in a way that ‘Mick’s Second Hand Cars’ just can’t compete with, but beyond that they seem to have a brilliant knack of making things seem way bigger and better than they actually are by branding them in a way that grabs some part of your head or your heart.

Even things which mean nothing much to the rest of the world, like the Department of Homeland Security, The Supreme Court, the Iowa Caucus, Twentieth Century Fox, the Tri-State area, Hall Of Fame, Independence Day, Inland Empire, Triple Doubles etc…

They just know how to squeeze something out of nothing until you give a shit and want it despite yourself.

And it translates into trillions of dollars a year for them.

And much as you’d like to deny it, I’d bet that there’s something American that just plays your insides like a piano.

And this is its soundtrack: