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Russia's one-man brand

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

(Read caption) A giant Russian national flag is on display near the Kremlin in centra l Moscow.

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Not long after joining the world, we are immersed in brand options: first Pampers or Huggies, later Coke or Pepsi, Apple or Android, Republican or Democrat. Companies spend billions on sharpening brand distinction, touting their brand’s benefits, and trying to win brand loyalty. Whatever tools are used, however, the one constant for marketing mavens is that image and reality have to match. Quality can’t be faked. The product has to deliver.

Nations polish and sell their brands, too. A good brand image facilitates commerce and tourism, and is money in the bank in an international crisis.

Last month, Brand USA, a new public-private consortium established by Congress, released a video titled “Land of Dreams” to promote the United States as a tourist destination. Rosanne Cash sings amid scenes of gorgeous landscapes and a dazzling variety of people enjoying themselves. The video is notable for what it doesn’t show: flags, presidents, monuments, and military might. After the controversial wars of the past decade, America has badly needed image improvement. Reminding the world of its people, natural beauty, and possibilities seems a promising shift.

Other countries have memorably burnished their brands. Remember “Cool Britannia,” “Israel is Real,” and “Incredible India”? Those were hits because they were human-scaled and genuine.

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