‘Made in America’ Drives Sales

Discussion
Oct 14, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Considering how few items are entirely made in the U.S.
today, it is interesting that American consumers continue to express a preference
in domestically-produced goods.

A new Harris Interactive/Adweek Media
survey found 61 percent of consumers in the U.S. are more likely to purchase
items that are "Made in America" while
only three percent (they were kidding, right?) are less likely to buy. Thirty-five
percent didn’t seem to care one way or the other.

Interestingly, consumer preferences
for American-made goods varied based on age and geographical location.

Seventy-five
percent of adults 55 and older are more likely to buy "Made
in America" as are 66 percent of those between 45 and 54 and 61 percent
of those 35-44. Among 18 to 34-year-olds, the number drops to 44 percent.

Consumers
in the Midwest (67 percent) were more likely to buy American while the same
was true of 61 percent of Southerners, 60 percent of Easterners and 57 percent
of those living out West.

"Advertisers are always looking for a potent, feel-good message to help
sell their products. National pride is something that can always work and Americans
are proud of the products made at home," said a press release to announce
the survey results. "At the moment, car manufacturers are probably utilizing
this tactic best, especially as they try to dig themselves out of the problems
of the past few years."

Discussion Questions: How much of a competitive advantage do you think comes
with the "Made in America" label? Is there enough of an upside
for manufacturers to consider bringing at least some of their production
back to the U.S.?

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15 Comments on "‘Made in America’ Drives Sales"


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David Livingston
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

This is mostly “feel good” rhetoric. If buying American made products was really that important to consumers, we would not have all those manufacturing plants in China. There will always be some small market for American made products, just as there is for the “feel good” green products. Maybe then next marketing craze will move from Green Washing to Flag Washing.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 6 months ago

Not to sound too cynical, but these results tend to say more about the survey than about customer sentiment. There’s an old study related to graduating college students. The first question was “Do you want to make a lot of money?” The answers ranked well below “Doing good for mankind.” Other questions: “Do you want a nice car,” “Do you want a big house,” “Do you want to dress well,” etc, all were answered with a strong Yes, indicating that the they wanted to, well, make a lot of money.

The Made in America line is indeed a motivator. Who doesn’t want to help employ other Americans? However, for good or bad, it is on the margins of the final decision, placing well after the cost/value equation.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 6 months ago

Frankly, I can’t remember a time when any poll suggested otherwise.

American’s have always expressed a desire to “buy American.” That included the period when the big three were hemorrhaging sales to the Japanese and when Wal-Mart was single-handedly causing a U.S. trade deficit with China by selling boat loads of Chinese stuff to Americans.

I’d be more inclined to go on the basis of what consumers actually do than what they say they’ll do. History suggests the two are often very different.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 6 months ago

The “Made in America” label means more to those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. The memories of the tragedies of the depression and the evils in that wars can occasionally overshawdow price or quality dimensions of foreign-made goods since those memories involving the once-enemy nations of the today’s manufactures can still be significant. This is a generalization, of course, but it’s sort of thing that kept the American-made Buick alive.

To Baby Boomers and to subsequent generations the “Made in America” label falls short of price, quality or global fashion, particularly when you have discretionary income and no memories of war or deprivation. And when you are strapped and out of work, the lower price of foreign goods, particularly from Asian countries, looms heavily on your purchasing screen. These groups represent today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.

Thus, while the mood made be changing in America, unless the economy spruces up, the “Made in America” label still doesn’t have the magic it once had. Let’s hope that improves.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 6 months ago

I think asking people how they feel about “Made in America” is like asking them how they feel about motherhood and apple pie. The key question is not how they feel about it, but how they act on it. The evidence is pretty clear that for just about every (non-food) mass-market item, price is the real driver, not country of origin.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

The responses to the “Made in America” question on a poll reminds of the Chevy advertisement of “Baseball and apple pie.” I did not exactly get it right, but you get the drift. Of course the responses are going to be the popular answer. But the true reaction is price first then value will dictate what the consumer will ultimately purchase. The almighty dollar talks louder than our words most of the time.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Ted is right. Consumer responses to surveys do not indicate their true preferences; their buying habits do. Big box giants like Walmart are testament to Americans’ preference for inexpensive, foreign-made merchandise. Until we disavow our preference for $14 back-to-school jeans, manufacturing will remain offshore.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

This morning’s trade deficit news says it all.

“NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com)–The U.S. trade gap widened to $46.3 billion in August, driven by a record-breaking deficit with its largest trading partner China. The trade balance…widened from $42.6 billion in July, according to a government report released Thursday.”

Americans will buy American unless the imported product is less expensive or a better product. The will wave the Stars and Stripes until they have to put it down to take the money out of their pocket.

This is a silly survey and surprising that someone took the time to take it. The answer is in the numbers and the numbers haven’t suggested Americans prefer American for decades.

As for the value of trumpeting “American”…in many cases (think automobiles) it may be a negative.

Debbie Tewes
Guest
Debbie Tewes
10 years 6 months ago

I am an average consumer. I would be very likely to buy American knowing full well that I would be paying more for such an item if it were emphasized that I would help contribute to saving American jobs. It would also be much more effective to help us all to remember by way of a campaign ads, that saving jobs in America ultimately means saving your own as well.

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
10 years 6 months ago

I hate to burst the bubbles of all the cynics out there but as someone who’s in international sales for an American manufacturer, I can tell you that not only do American made products have cachet in the US but they also do abroad–the catch is that you need vision and a plan. Luckily, there are still small and medium sized US manufacturers that do.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
10 years 6 months ago

It’s all been said by the previous posts.

Country of origin, if considered at all, falls at the bottom of the decision tree.

Let’s not forget that competition amongst manufacturers and retailers in the USA was a driving force behind the eventual move of production offshore.

Initially the production moved off shore where labor intensive products allowed for significant savings to be achieved by manufacturers (such as shoes and textiles). Then as retailers began to direct import more product and price competition amongst brands and importers heated up it accelerated the production flight.

Consumers responded to these lower prices and thus began the two decade decrease of consumer products across nearly all categories.

Made in the USA has almost never been a real consideration at the checkout, low prices has been and will be King for the foreseeable future.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

“Considering how few items are entirely made in the U.S. today, it is interesting that American consumers continue to express a preference in domestically-produced goods.”

Actually, no: it’s precisely BECAUSE there are so few such goods–or at least that’s the perception–that the interest arises…80, 60 or even 40 years ago the question would have seemed frivolous.

That having been said, I have to go along with everyone else here: talk is cheap, American goods (frequently) aren’t; will Americans shop America-first? Sure, if it doesn’t cost them to do so.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
10 years 6 months ago

Price is the biggest driver in purchasing, not where the product is made. However, country of origin labeling is indeed informative and revealing for today’s consumers. This is true for food and non-food purchases.

Scott Sellenbaugh
Guest
Scott Sellenbaugh
10 years 6 months ago

After working at an apparel company that leans heavily on “Made in America,” I can say with certainty that although when asked most people will say Made in the US is very important to me, when it comes time to open their wallets, price trumps nationalistic pride, 90 out of 100 times.

Maher Kawar
Guest
Maher Kawar
10 years 2 months ago

A realistic survey would be to actually sell items, some made in America and similar items made elsewhere, and see which ones the consumer will chose by actually purchasing rather than saying they will purchase. Such a test will need to be made with different price differentials–such as same price, 10% higher, 20% higher, and so on, of the made in America products. I think such a test will will really answer the question.

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