Made in the U.S.A. Gets a Big ‘So What’

Discussion
Jun 10, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Check carefully. Those red, white and blue flags you were waving at the Memorial Day parade probably weren’t even made in the U.S.A., and if you’re like many consumers here, you don’t really care.


According to the American Demographics Perception Study, many U.S. consumers, especially those who are younger adults, well educated and affluent, give products made here in this country high marks but they’re still buying foreign produced goods in categories such as automobiles, electronics, etc.


Consumers with lower levels of income and education are most likely to look for the “Made in the USA” patch when shopping, reports the study.


Moderator’s Comment: Does made in America mean anything to American consumers anymore? Is there a “Made in the USA” niche ready for a retailer to fill?


If you’re doing business down south, it might be of interest to know consumers from that region of the country were, according to a report on the Ad
Age
Web site, “slightly more likely than residents of other regions to scope out U.S. consumer goods.”

George Anderson – Moderator

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16 Comments on "Made in the U.S.A. Gets a Big ‘So What’"


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Don Delzell
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Don Delzell
15 years 8 months ago
Personal preference aside, the business question asked here is “can a niche be exploited by marketing around Made in the USA.” Answer: not so far, and not very successfully. The reality is that country of origin is very far down the “needs” profile of most consumer groups. Certainly there are small and mostly regional pockets of consumers who place vast importance on country of origin. It may even influence their purchasing, if all else is equal. The studies I have seen show a huge discrepancy between what lower income groups say they like, and how they actually spend their money. Price is king, and if the lowest price at a minimum quality level is made overseas, the research indicates that it gets bought. No, I would not advise most businesses to focus a marketing and merchandising campaign around Made in America. On a selected basis, where the product will still be competitive in price, and the customer demographics are aligned, then yes, it makes sense. But remember: like so many other ideas, this one is… Read more »
Mark Storer
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Mark Storer
15 years 8 months ago

As with most things, consumers need a reason to alter a decision. As silly as it sounds, I only buy “Made in the U.S.A.” rawhides for my dogs because I have the impression that they contain less pesticides and other chemicals unhealthy to them. If we have a belief that “Made in the U.S.A.” has a meaning that will cause us to alter a decision, it will continue to have value. If we believe that there is no value in the statement, we will ignore it. What is “Made in the U.S.A” supposed to imply: quality, value, patriotism, loyalty? If we market the attributes of the statement, the statement will continue to have value.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 8 months ago
Participation in a global economy, which we’ve determined is a benefit to our country, requires the free flow of goods and services across national borders. Certainly many U.S. trade restrictions exist for various good or poor reasons, but to pry open foreign borders for our exports, we must in turn open our own. As the world’s largest consuming nation by far, we’ve created a domestic market that we can’t supply by ourselves. We must import. The long view is that by allowing foreign goods into our country we are creating emerging foreign markets for our own goods and services. Currently, my partners and I are putting together a program to export upscale and midscale California wines to China. The appetite for these wines is voracious there, and the finer California wines cannot be counterfeited by the Chinese – the labels can be counterfeited, but not the wine. There was a time that the Chinese government put several hurdles in front of initiatives like ours, but those are going away and the market is opening up.… Read more »
Ed Dennis
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Ed Dennis
15 years 8 months ago

Made in the USA – I love it! I want every item I buy to be made in the USA. Does it help me make up my mind what to buy? SURE. I will buy Made in USA Honda’s, Toyotas, Mercedes made in Mexico, Dodges and Plymouths or made in Canada Impala’s. There was a time when made in the USA was a sign of quality. Sadly, quality improvements in Europe and the far east have eclipsed the “standards” that were deemed acceptable in America. Unfortunately, “Made in the USA” would seem to refer only to the wages of illegal workers. Lousy management, Wall Street greed and corrupt government seem to have resulted in a cynical population that doesn’t have the motivation to vote. We seem to be getting what we want, because we don’t seem to be willing to do anything to correct our condition.

Mark Barnhouse
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Mark Barnhouse
15 years 8 months ago

I don’t know if I can add anything original to what’s already been so well said. But I believe a tipping point is coming–more consumers on the high end are quite conscious of just how much worse our collective national debt (personal and federal) is made by transferring so much wealth out of our borders (read the cover story in the July/August Atlantic Monthly, a look back from 2016). Free trade is wonderful, but only if all sides benefit (and I fail to see how Americans benefit when they carry $10,000 in credit card debt, for purchases of items that mostly came from out of our borders). This idea will eventually become widespread enough that maybe, just maybe, we will change our ways. I don’t think politicians are smart enough to figure it out, but individual consumers are.

This is a bigger problem than just consumer goods, obviously–but we all have to do our part.

Robert Chan
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Robert Chan
15 years 8 months ago
Very sadly, our country has been saddled with greed from Wall Street and from CEOs who want to make the numbers and cash in their stock options. As a result, products, particularly consumer electronics, computers and everyday consumer products such as clothes, are all made by somebody outside the U.S.A. now. I still remember the Zenith and Motorola TVs, all made in USA and were very reliable, yet costly. Well, the Japanese were the first to beat us in the consumer electronic games. Now our automobile industry is going through the same cycle as consumer electronics. At the end of the day, it all boils down to corporate and Wall Street greed and American products were sacrificed to feed those hungers. At one end of the spectrum, we have educated consumers who demand price and quality and US made products can no longer deliver these attributes. At the other end of the spectrum, poorly educated Americans still want to buy made in “USA” because they are talking about products derived from the jobs, thus meaning… Read more »
Al McClain
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Al McClain
15 years 8 months ago

Although “Made in the USA” is not a primary reason to purchase in most categories, I’ve often thought that CPG suppliers are missing an opportunity to tout that many of their products are made here, and link that to high quality. You’d also think that the Grocery Manufacturers of America and other similar associations might want to promote the contribution that their member companies make to the economy by producing their products here.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

It means very little to shoppers, who vote with their dollars. Time and again over the years, I’ve seen waning manufacturing industries (shoes and apparel come quickly to mind) come out with “Crafted With Pride in the USA” or whatever on logos and in advertising, but the erosion to offshore providers didn’t slow down at all. So I think chasing that illusion and waving the flag may make you feel good, but will ultimately be a waste of money, time and resources. I don’t expect current trends will be reversed until our dollar has shrunk low enough so that it is cheaper to produce here again. Ouch.

Irma Nykolyn
Guest
Irma Nykolyn
15 years 8 months ago

I have always preferred “Made in America” merchandise, and I have a Master’s degree to boot. Case in point, Coach, my favorite handbag manufacturer stopped manufacturing in the USA ages ago. I used to avoid the “Made in China” handbags, but now there isn’t even a choice. At this point, I care more about quality than country of manufacture — a sad statement about the demise of US manufacturing.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

The FTC set guidelines years ago to regulate the proper use of the “Made in the USA” label. [Click here to read them.] They seem reasonable, but there’s a loophole inherent in this line: “The term ‘United States,’ as referred to in the Enforcement Policy Statement, includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and possessions.” It so happens that the U.S. has ‘possessions’ overseas (specifically, the Northern Mariana Islands, between Hawaii and the Philippines) and some manufacturers are reportedly producing products in sweat shop conditions there, then claiming “Made in USA” status. Legislation has been introduced to correct this (the subject, as it happens, of Tom DeLay’s most recent scandal). As consumers become aware of these practices, the label may lose its luster.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 8 months ago

Made in America used to be a source of pride. I’d like to see that happen again. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen until we get our political leaders to stop selling off pieces of this country with ill-conceived free trade agreements for the sake of political expediency.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
What comes to mind almost immediately when ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is mentioned is cars. Taking a close look at these products, the component percentage that qualifies as such is slipping dramatically. What they have become is ‘American Brands’ rather than ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ There has of late been a further erosion in this market due to the Korean manufacturers. I do believe that the automobile industry, being once the largest manufacturing sector in the country, set the tone for the decline in American manufacturing. There was a saying some time ago that ‘So goes GM, so goes the country.’ This has become true — so true that in some markets in the country GM’s market share has slipped below 15%. Whether it was arrogance or incompetence, the American automobile companies continued, even when the message was clear, to fail to meet the consumers’ needs. What is interesting in this decline, while price was a factor, it was, in my mind, not the determining factor. However, as a result, the impact to the consuming… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

I worked for a major apparel company many years ago that proclaimed “made in America” long after everyone else had moved production to Mexico…then they grudgingly went 807 long after everyone else had moved production to China…they stubbornly held to this “distinction” against all reason as consumers said “so what?” and retailers chimed in “what’s wrong with you?” Two bankruptcies and complete dissolution followed for this company that once was an undisputed leader.

I agree with Warren. With the exception of a few novelty concepts (American Apparel), the MADE in America ship has sailed, never to return. Not only that, I would add that Tom Friedman has it right in his latest book … DESIGNED in (China, India, etc.) is around the corner!

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
15 years 8 months ago

Walking through a mass merchant store today, I came across a shirt with a car graphic with Made in America in script underneath it. When I looked at the label on the inside of the shirt. It said it Made in China. Enough said.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Niche markets (very very small and niche) can and do exist in all countries for a range of different products. As each country’s best quality output is identified, it gains merit and a following. That isn’t to say that products are bought – or are likely to be bought – on the basis of patriotism alone but, more importantly I think, on the basis of recognition of who is best at what. This is one of the ways in which globalisation can be good for all. As each country produces a smaller range of products they can specialise and fine tune more, phasing out the ones that they are not so good at. The end result is that consumers get the best of all worlds and each country’s manufacturers can focus on what they do best.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 8 months ago

This reinforces the outsourcing of manufacturing to
cheaper labor countries, and further spells trouble for
the USA and its economy. USA needs to become a superior
service driven industry country.

Interestingly, it wouldn’t hurt our retail shop businesses! Hmmmmmmmm

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