New Balance Tries on American Flag in New Ads

Discussion
Jun 17, 2009
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By George
Anderson

Only about
25 percent of the merchandise it manufactures is made or assembled in the
U.S., but that’s enough for New Balance to wrap itself in the American
flag. The athletic footwear company is looking to tap into what it believes
is a shift in consumers’ thinking on the importance of buying products
made at home.

As an AdAge.com article
points out, New Balance runs the risk from its new campaign of being perceived
as "disingenuous." The company’s retort is that while only some of its
products are made or assembled here, most other companies in its space
produce all their goods outside the U.S. It also points to 1,300 jobs at
factories in the U.S. compared to zero for the competition.

"Given
the economic climate, we think our celebration of a manufacturing success
story will resonate with both our current consumers and consumers who may
not to be as familiar with our brand,"
New Balance spokeswoman Amy Vreeland told Advertising Age. "Typically,
in tough times, people focus on fundamentals and values, and this story is
really about people, their craftsmanship and community, which is core to
the American way of life."

The New Balance
campaign, which will include print, radio and online ads as well as an
online documentary, will launch this week.

Jamie Gordon,
director of knowledge and insight at Trend Influence, is among those who
think New Balance has picked the right time for this particular message.

"American
consumers are feeling a sense of unity, affirmed by the ability to pull
ourselves up by our bootstraps,"
Ms. Gordon said. "It’s great to see New Balance, as an American brand,
embracing their American equity and helping the American consumer to be more
optimistic and see a better, brighter future."

Discussion Questions:
Is now the right time for brands to be emphasizing a "Made (or assembled)
in America" theme? Will the New Balance campaign work considering most
of its product line is made outside the U.S.?

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13 Comments on "New Balance Tries on American Flag in New Ads"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

I think it’s a mistake. If the component parts are sourced offshore the product isn’t “American” if all you are doing is assembling the products [in America].

Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Couple of points I think are relevant here from the lens of the consumer. One is transparency, the other is involvement. New Balance has the opportunity to put both to good use if they are honest in the ads, and if they adopt a test and learn philosophy, engaging consumers in the feedback loop. The campaign could be a nice story of the evolution of “made or assembled” in America now means to their constituents. The days of global sourcing are here to stay and consumers know it. If New Balance is trying to figure out the messaging strategy with their “listening skills” onboard, they could have a nice opportunity to lead the conversation in the category.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 10 months ago

The proper time to emphasize the “Made in America” theme was when it was true. New Balance’s current attempt to blend its patriotic soul with its rubber soles strikes me as being as sincere as an apology from David Letterman. Whether or not New Balance’s “cuteness” works will test which ranks higher today, commercialism or patriotism–as we tend to push its substance into a whispering disappearance.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Being made in the USA didn’t help General Motors and it won’t help New Balance. It this age of instant communications, we will all know that despite what they suggest in their advertising, “only” some of their products are made or assembled in the U.S. Then how does the consumer who buys into the idea, buy the U.S. made shoe rather than another New Balance?

The American consumer has been over the “Made in USA” decades ago. New Balance would be better off touting performance and value rather than take the risk of being called out because “only” some of their products have a USA home.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

I’m with Ryan on this. Consumers know what “Made in America” means and New Balance is stretching that definition a bit too far; far enough that it may cause a consumer backlash or leave the door open to criticism.

Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

This one is going to bite somebody in the laces. Consumer skepticism is at an all-time high–especially among the consumers who are likely to respond to a “wrapped in the flag” campaign. They will actively probe for chinks in the claim, and when they find them “but we’re so much better than the other guys who are really, really bad” just won’t cut it as an explanation.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Producing part of the product in the US does not make it “made it America.” New Balance is risking a major backlash that could damage its credibility. This is not the year after 9/11. Most of the reports on the economic talk about the global ramifications–how does “made in America” resonate with consumers in this new environment in the first place?

Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Somebody is smoking stuff over at New Balance. For many of the reasons already posted by others, Ryan is so, so right.

Tina Lahti
Guest
Tina Lahti
11 years 10 months ago

When it comes to branded apparel the country of origin is, for me, an assumption of the importance of quality to the garment’s manufacturer. If an item is made in the brand’s home county I assume that they themselves manufacture it, and that the quality of the finished product is so important to them that they are willing to absorb the high costs of owning and maintaining an exclusive manufacturing facility. Interestingly big brands seem to understand this. The label on Coach bags used to simply say “Made” in the United States. Now they say “Handcrafted” in China.

Douglas Gray
Guest
Douglas Gray
11 years 10 months ago
“Made In America” has value if it is true. We use it on our own products but only when everything in the item is from the USA. In press releases we state if some particular ingredient is not from a USA source. Certain ingredients are simply not grown in our country. We have one product called “Old Glory Ice Cream Sandwiches” that is actually made with two cookies of the American Flag. We went to extraordinary efforts to make sure everything in the product and packaging was truly American grown, processed and in the case of packaging, printed in the US. The only material we could not source was the plastic film we wrap the sandwiches in and the pure vanilla flavor. We felt anything less would leave us open to criticism. I think New Balance may be in dangerous territory with such a high percentage of ingredients not from US sources. The consumers that value such a claim can be very vocal if the feel mislead. Made In the USA has great value especially… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
11 years 10 months ago
I’ve never been very comfortable with “made in America” as a selling point, because too often it rings like a double negative, as in “not made by non-Americans.” I know this is sensitive for some citizens who rightly feel they should support what’s good and right about this country. But one of our nation’s core values is commercial freedom within limits. In our increasingly global and interconnected world, it seems artificial and protectionist to urge Americans to pay more for a commodity just because it’s “patriotic.” New Balance may be justly proud that it has been able to keep some of its production domestic. But as others have noted here, it should be careful not to suggest that American origin alone justifies higher prices, as this appeals to a baser instinct. I’d be much more comfortable hearing marketers who can truly claim their products deliver superior quality, lower cost, or better overall value because they are made in the USA. This is no easy feat, but I firmly believe American companies should be capable of… Read more »
Bryan Larkin
Guest
Bryan Larkin
11 years 10 months ago
In the sustainability/green space it is called “Greenwashing” when a company overstates their plans/capabilities/actualities when it comes to their sustainability program. It is looked on very unfavorably by those serious about sustainability. And it hurts brand and sales. I could see that some subset (small? large?) of the population would feel similarly about “Made in America”. Perhaps if this subset doesn’t “buy into” the marketing message, it will become known as “Flagwashing”. However global things have become, I think there is still some level of pride taken by many Americans in purchasing something made in the USA. I think the “buy local” initiatives around produce have a different initial driver (not really thinking about “buy American”) but the end result is the same. The producers are just part of a smaller community, but a local, American community none-the-less. Vermont has a great program that focuses on products made in Vermont…and it has helped their economy significantly. I think New Balance has a fine “new balancing” act that they need to perfect – very carefully and… Read more »
michael rich
Guest
michael rich
11 years 10 months ago

I believe Made In USA is important for reasons other than flag waving. The consumer will continue to ask questions about where their products are made, what they are made of, and who makes them.

If you say made in China, no one gives it another thought. However, when you say the product is “Green” and Made in China, that’s where I see a huge disconnect. How green can it be outside of the materials used to manufacture it? New Balance can promote its products proudly for a variety of angles. Made in USA is only one of its messages.

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