Retina organized the project around five research tracks (desk research, qualitative interviews, public diplomacy workshops, quantitative research, and qualitative focus groups), two deliverable sets (Strategy and Branding), and three operational phases (Research, Design, and Testing). Based on this approach, we devised a thorough plan that included a very large number of people and activities, and that fit it into the aggressive timeline and budget mandated by the USDS.
It became quickly obvious that the existing nation branding and public diplomacy models established in academia and in practice did not fit the United States, which is an outlier among world countries due to its ubiquity, interest, recent history, and polarization. While the ICON model was partially used, we developed a new, proprietary model specifically for United States Nation Branding — the E.R.A. model (Emotional Resonance, Rational Resonance and Associative Engagement).
Once research advanced and the ERA model was developed, we worked with US ambassadors and USDS personnel around the world to draft, validate, and refine components of the strategy. We segmented the target populations, developed messaging and tactics for each combination of attributes and channels, and developed analytical models for measuring effectiveness.
Our resulting strategy and creative efforts were herculean. A detailed, actionable strategy was developed for each ERA component and over 40 branding concepts were drafted based on internal workgroups, input from the field, and creative sessions within the agency. Concepts were narrowed down to 20, then to four. The four branding concepts were tested in multiple in-country focus groups. In the end, the strategy was completed and adopted, and two branding concepts were selected, refined and implemented.