We Brits love shopping but when it comes to buying American products almost half of us are put off by its US origin, according to findings from global research company GMI. Its survey of global consumerism and whether US heritage is a good or bad thing revealed some surprising results. The Dutch, astonishingly, were most consciously anti-US: 54 per cent find the US heritage detrimental to a product's image. French consumers are less adamant, with only one in three finding the US origin a liability. The majority of Germans—63 per cent—believe it's neither here nor there, but, then, 62 per cent hadn't bought American products in the last three months. In China, on the other hand, over half of purchasers found the US origin an asset. US-born transatlantic brand expert Allyson Stewart-Allen is unsurprised by the growing antipathy to Americana.
"Unfortunately, I think it has a lot to do with the current president and American foreign policy," she says, as well as the prevalence of the US in almost every sphere of popular culture. "There is a lot of pushback from the Americanisation of other cultures," she adds. "I don't think it will go away for a while; even after the November 2008 election."
Despite the very stark findings of the GMI survey, Stewart-Allen, whose International Marketing Partners advises on global business and culture, notes this is hardly a new problem: "American companies often take for granted that their US background will be an asset. But you need to test that asset." She believes any nationality in an increasingly globalised economy would do well to "assimilate". Successful companies, notes Stewart-Allen, should effectively "lose their country of origin", except where their nationality is an asset. "It's only a benefit where your heritage plays well," she says. "US-made surf gear, for example, or Levi's jeans."
She cites big multinationals such as Ford as good at divorcing their products from a particular nationality: "We're slamming US markets as we sip our Starbucks and drive our Ford," she jokes.
But is it just the Americans who are guilty of going local and thinking global? Emerging economies may start to dominate the high street. But they will be fighting a different battle—"made in China" is not generally a marker of quality. Whatever the nationality, Stewart-Allen recommends directors practice that most international of business rules: exceed the customer's expectation.
Posted 5 July 2007 : Director.co.uk