Skift Take

We can debate the effectiveness of Brand USA, the country's quasi-governmental tourism marketing body. However, pop culture has spread the nation's soft power, making the U.S. easily the most recognizable and searched-for brand in the world.

The United States has the most influential and recognizable country brand in the world, according to a new report from Bloom Consulting, a Madrid-based consulting firm specializing in country branding.

Each year the firm ranks 193 countries on the economic performance of their tourism industries and how well they’ve developed their brand strategies.

The methodology factors in hard and soft data in an effort to show the correlation between tourism receipts and effective branding. Rankings are based on (1) economic performance measured in tourism receipts over the past five years; (2) total online search volume for tourism-related activities and attractions within each country; (3) how accurately a country’s brand strategy reflects what the country has to offer to tourists; and (4) digital content and social media performance.

When the ranking was first created, it only measured engagement and followers on Twitter and Facebook but has since expanded to Google Plus and Instagram. Social media activity and general online presence are still given the least weight in the algorithm.

On a global level, Asian countries performed significantly better than in the previous year, in large part due to increased economic growth and online searches coming from China. Hong Kong and Macao increased by nine spot and four spots, respectively.

On the other hand, European destinations lost their edge with the UK, Italy and France all dropping in rank.

The United States, however, has topped the list for four consecutive years. Its success, however, may be surprising to those familiar with the country’s relatively recent entry into tourism promotion. Brand USA, the country’s first private, quasi-governmental U.S. travel marketing arm, was only authorized in 2009, and its success and effectiveness have been debated ever since.

According to Bloom Consulting CEO José Filipe Torres, pop culture plays a larger role in the United States’ branding than any tourism initiative.

“The U.S. is such a fantastic tourism destination because of movies. Everyone knows the American culture and understands the American culture because of Hollywood,” Torres told Skift in 2013.

Combine movies with music, TV, books and magazines and it becomes easier to understand the United State’s branding dominance despite its shortcomings in official tourism promotion.

This also explains why the United States’ economic performance, measured by tourism receipts, outweighs its relatively poor performance on social media in the ranking.

The ranking of the 10 top country brands are below alongside their CBS (Country Brand Strategy) rating, which Bloom designates based on the accuracy and effectiveness of each country’s brand strategy.

Ranking Country Change (Year-Over-Year) CBS Rating
1 United States AAA
2 Spain AA
3 Germany AAA
4 Hong Kong + 9 BBB
5 France – 1 A
6 Thailand A
7 Australia + 1 BBB
8 Macao + 4 AA
9 China + 1 BBB
10 Italy – 3 BBB

The full report below:

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Tags: branding, country branding, usa

Photo credit: A giant American flag blowing in the Florida wind. Sam Howzit / Flickr

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