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  • President G.W. Bush: The Brand Challenge

    He served his country to the best of his ability for 8 long years. Yet despite his good intentions his nation did not seem to approve of his actions. And so, after countless hours campaigning and nearly a decade of public service, he leaves behind a personal brand in shambles. This is not the legacy anyone dreams of.

    Yesterday, I asked the following on Twitter.


    Twitter community responds

    The community suggested the following:

    • Matt J McDonald / @MattMcJD fade into the sunset. try to do some good with any cache you still have ala Bush Sr. and Clinton.
    • Steve Burg / @burgsteveBush needs a major re-branding effort. His approval rating is so low he might be the brand that gets scrapped because it is so lost
    • Erica Friedman / @yuriconI’d take this opportunity to rewrite the current brand campaign totally and go back to “good ole boy who made good.
    • Steve Greifer /@honeyshedceoLay low until it’s time to redefine reality.

    What I would recommend3158109874_ac3f29f90a

    I would recommend that Bush not go the way of Nixon, remaining silent while leaving a nation in turmoil (until the right paying interviewer comes along).

    I would recommend the following:

    1. Former President Bush should take a vacation. Take some time to gather his thoughts and determine what’s next for the former most-powerful man in the free world.
    2. Hire an experienced consultant.
    3. Set personal branding goals. Determine what it will take to get to those goals. For the purposes of this post, I would consider his primary goals to be reframing history and gaining a favorable legacy.
    4. Prepare for an extremely slow growth curve. This is a nation who would rather forget the past 8 years. Changing this perception and re-invigorating/growing a constituency will take time.
    5. Prepare for dialogue. Determine tone, stance, fair practices, guidelines for engagement, overall strategy and next steps.
    6. Start a blog. Keep it simple. He doesn’t need to do anything other than publish simple text posts. The traffic will come organically from his celebrity. He should write his memoirs, or at least a non-premium (non-paid) version of his memoirs on a blog, complete with comments and trackbacks. Starting six to ten weeks into the Obama Presidency, he should write one post a week for at least two years. This will be the platform on which he re-humanizes himself as a person, bringing his nation into his inner circle.
    7. Show some class, support President Obama as the leader of our nation.
    8. Slowly build favorable relationships with real people, both offline and online. At best, many of these relationships will begin as extremely cordial. Favorable relationships may build over time.
    9. Gradually reintroduce yourself as an influential thought leader. Identify key passions that are not incredibly controversial and have both a long shelf life and nearly universal appeal. Just because he isn’t in the White House doesn’t mean that he cannot do good over the next 20 years.
    10. Once you are real, stay real. President Bush, your nation may be able to forgive you once. Maybe. But they will not do so again.

    This would be my recommendation. What would YOU do?


    Jon Burg is a Senior Emerging Channels Strategist with Digitas, a leading global interactive agency network. Jon blogs about the evolution of marketing, media and technology and the resultant impact on the human experience at Future Visions.


    Jon is the Senior Emerging Channels Strategist at Digitas, a world leading digital marketing and media agency and member of the Publicis Groupe S.A. Jonn blogs at Future Visions. He’s tasked with monitoring, tracking, analyzing, strategizing and activating against all things web 2.0. Areas of particular interest include media ethnography, emerging technology, user and channel experience evolution, social media, mobile media, distributed media, gaming, the ambient web and multi-platform/multi-channel operations planning.

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    9 comments on “President G.W. Bush: The Brand Challenge
    1. avatar
      Steve Simon says:

      I would suggest a few weeks and or months of pure family time & rec. I have been in the situation he is in, albeit on a smaller scale 🙂
      The recharge of a few weeks with nothing but select activity can not be over estimated. it will allow hi to think clearly; and the removal of the pressure needs to sink in.
      Following that short period If I were speaking with him I would tell him to take a large notebook,one with easy to remove pages and in this book I would list every future activity I might see myself doing. From causes and projects to family activity. I would then tell him to start sifting throught the pages, rewriting the thoughts that appealed the most to him and eliminating the ideas that seemed interesting for a time, but faded over a few days. Remember this man has a wide selection of activity to choose from.Finances are not an issue, access to things, people and places are not issues eith. There may be a hundred items in his notebook.
      I then would suggest he go in and place in order of interest the remaining ideas.
      Following the selection and ordering it is time for the researching, here is where I would suggest a prof. hand to discuss the areas of interest. Their pros and cons etc.
      Pick the top ten, flesh them out and start making the notebook’s list come to life.
      Allow yourself the ability to change the list and modify all.
      Have a good time, make sure those you love have a lot of interaction with you and wait until the Lord takes you:)

    2. avatar
      Neal Wiser says:

      As a professional marketer, I think you covered most of the bases. This brand is in trouble and professionally, it would be an interesting one to tackle.

      The problem is that no matter how much “good” he may have done or may yet do, there will always be people who absolutely hate him, so you have to start from the perspective that you have a loyal core audience from which to rebuild, but you are NEVER going to get everyone.

      Before starting, I would perform a comprehensive discovery with the “client” to establish precisely what his goals are. If he’s still figuring that out, then it’s too soon to start any re-branding, but once they are established, then you can get the ball rolling quickly.

      Fortunately, there is a lot of good data available on the public’s perception of the brand, so the foundation is there. However, this client should be prepared for the long, long haul. This brand is going to take years, perhaps as much as a decade, and concentrated attention and effort to rehabilitate. Start very small with the core audience and slowly build from there focusing on new accomplishments. Ignore the old unless there is a clear example of significant success, otherwise you’re inviting criticism and rehashing old arguments.

      It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

    3. avatar

      Wow.. He really has his work cut out for him. I hear they’re talking about war crimes now. That’s a bit tougher than a poppularity contest.

    4. avatar
      Chris says:

      If President Bush was a man of any ethical standing (which the last eight years has illustrated that he probably wasn’t), he should use PR101 and embrace transparency – apologizing for his mistakes (yes, call the Iraq War, Katrina, the lack of regulation that led to our current economic crises mistakes). Then, he should quietly take a vacation, regroup, and then maybe try to reverse his negative impact on the country by engaging in philanthropic efforts through the remainder of this life.

      Unfortunately, history will not be kind on GW Bush. But embracing humility (and possibly even acting “christian”) will be his best approach.

      Or, he could act arrogant and hire a “branding consultant” to improve his image – that’s what most ostracized CEOs and rich criminals do (because, after all, it’s all about improving his image, right?)…

      • avatar
        jon burg says:

        I agree that there is not short term win for GW. But he may have an opportunity to augment his current unfavorable reputation by embracing a new frontier.

        Focusing on the past will not help build a better tomorrow. We need to safely and properly acknowledge what has happened, and embrace was it still to come.

        PS – hiring a consultant is the rational thing to do. This is not your mom and dad’s local store brand. This is a job for a professional, isn’t it?

    5. avatar

      I appreciate your post and the points of view of everyone of those commenting on this post. If the assessment is that he’s a brand “in trouble”, then I would wholeheartedly agree with your recommendation. In fact, I know that he’s writing a book to fulfill the purpose of exactly what you mentioned in recommending that he start a blog. As a blogger myself, I believe there would be more interaction and conversation with a blog as opposed to a book yet I also believe in “different strokes for different folks”. Just as some people would never read a book on a computer screen – some may prefer a book to hold as opposed to a blog.

      Yet, I don’t subscribe to the idea that he is a brand in trouble. He has a strong brand that is authentically who he is…whether the majority likes it or not. I live in Midland, Texas which over 30,000 West Texas residents greeted the former President and First Lady on Tuesday. He spoke of his “pioneer spirit”, his “type A” personality and that he “never had to have an opinion poll to come up with what he thought”. That personality and his values, whether anyone agrees with them or not, is a part of his personal brand. Personal branding is not about positioning. It is about extracting what a person’s brand is and exuding and expressing it in a way that honors a person’s unique deliverables and core values. While his “brand” may not be palatable or agreeable to the rest of the nation, to West Texans he very much fits the brand of a determined wildcatter and rough and rowdy oilman. Here, in West Texas, the majority greets his brand with open arms, vivacious pride and a slightly arrogant and big-hearted Texas pride.

      I’ve known him since he was governor of our great state. And, he’s very Texan complete with hat and Texas pride.

      Is that a brand gone bad? Or, it personal branding honoring those brand attributes that make you uniquely you and attracting those who appreciate that brand? Is it positioning to please the masses? Or, it is that focused, target audience that will be your own personal fan club (in any industry) that you’re after? Is it being “rich in your niche” or is pleasing all?

      I cannot say I’ve agreed with everything that he’s done. Yet, as a personal brand strategist, I do feel it’s not that he has a brand in trouble yet a brand “in line” for a specific target niche. And, in personal branding…is that a bad thing?

      Your post inspires many great thoughts and questions. And, I so appreciate you posting it. For me, when I read it, I had to sit down and really think “Is this a brand in trouble or is it a brand authentic”?

      • avatar
        jon burg says:


        I applaud your sincerity and your respect for this man’s service. And while he has an incredibly loyal following in some areas, his final approval rating as president was just twenty two percent – lowest ever save for Nixon. His legacy is his brand. And as of today, his legacy is a twenty two percent approval rating.

        I believe that he has a story to tell to at least thirty to fifty percent of the country who may not currently approve of him, but may change their tune with time and context. And while publishing a book may address some of this nations concerns, I do not believe that this alone will change his legacy.

        Brands can be both authentic and in trouble, can’t they?

    6. avatar
      Maria Duron says:

      Great thoughts. I agree it can be AND and doesn’t have to be either or. I just read this great post from William Arruda and think this exemplifies a brand in trouble with more facts than public opinion. Just my 2 cents worth. Enjoy your post and conversation!

    7. avatar
      Sue Currie says:

      Great advice re George who?? How quickly we forget. Perhaps he should follow the example of President Obama and gain some poise. What is poise? Read further…

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