As 2009 winds down, the pundits are already beginning to tally what Barack Obama has achieved during his first year in office. Even his more well-intentioned detractors contend that, though he may have made a high-profile speech or two, the new U.S. president can boast of few concrete achievements in foreign policy. Obama himself accepted the Nobel Peace Prize as a “call to action,” rather than a reward for his work, and gave himself only a “B+” grade during his recent interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Yet in one sense, Obama achieved more in the first 11 months of his presidency than his predecessor managed to in eight years. My research clearly shows that he has begun to restore America’s good name, an intangible asset with highly tangible (read: lucrative) consequences. As head of state, Obama has boosted the value of “Brand America” by just over $2 trillion, up from $9.7 trillion in 2008 to $11.8 trillion this year. That means U.S. goods, services, people, and even the country’s landscape are about 20 percent more enticing to the global market than they were in 2008.
I know this because I track the value of countries’ brand images closely from year to year. Since 2005, my Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI) has regularly measured the international perceptions of 50 countries by polling between 20,000 and 40,000 people in 20 to 40 countries. We have asked them to detail their perceptions of other countries’ human rights records, education systems, cultural lives, products, sporting prowess, and even kindness to strangers.