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The Great American Rebrand

We invited one of the world’s leading ad agencies, Wieden+Kennedy, to give us some ideas on how the USA might restore luster to the brand.

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This story is part of Fast Company‘s “USA: Can This Brand Be Saved?” package, approaching the question from a variety of angles and perspectives, ultimately aiming for an in-depth look at what America’s brand is, how it’s changed over the past four years, and where it needs to go from here. Click here to read the whole series.

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Since we’re examining America in the framework of a brand that needs a tune-up, we figured we might as well take this metaphor to its most logical extreme: We hired an ad agency.

And if you’re going to ask an ad agency to pitch you on possible solutions (read: get ideas for free), you want your problems taken on by the best there is. So I called up Wieden+Kennedy, a shop that’s been making iconic work for giant American brands for decades, to see if they’d be willing to take on the most challenging, cantankerous, beautiful, confident client they’ve ever faced: America.

To my surprise (did I mention the budget was less than the President pays in taxes?), the folks behind “Just Do It,” “This Is SportsCenter,” and “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” said yes. Dilly dilly!

[Image: Wieden+Kennedy]

THE BRIEF

America was never perfect. But historically it’s been this country’s push for progress both culturally and technologically that has instilled in many a pride of being here, or a drive to become a part of it.

Over the last number of years, issues that have long been a challenge have either been made worse or hit a breaking point—racism, income inequality, voting rights, political division, and the fragility of democracy, among others—that collectively have significantly diminished the American brand.

We need a rebrand. How do we not only engage and enlighten our audience to once again see the promise of the American brand, but inspire them to help build it?

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We want to reach Americans of all ages, with a particular emphasis on young people who are losing hope in the future, but also older generations who feel like something has been lost.

Because so much of our talent and power comes from immigration and global partnerships, we also want something that can resonate with the rest of the world.

That said, we’re not here to engage in both sides-isms. Climate change is real. Inequality is real. Black Lives Matter. But we need a message that can resonate beyond preaching to the choir.

THE PITCH

Strap on your stars and stripes and dive into the slideshow above: “The Great American Rebrand” by Wieden+Kennedy’s Michael Hagos (creative), Brad Phifer (creative), Alix Toothman (strategist), Henry Jinings (designer), and David Pierce (animator).

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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