Made in America: ‘Buy local’ mentality leads to economic patriotism

Made in America. To suggest that this marketing message doesn’t resonate with today’s American consumer may come off as sacrilege, especially considering how job creation was a central issue in this month’s presidential election.

But there are two questions marketers of “Made in America” have to ask. First, does this marketing message have staying power?  And second, where does it rank in a consumer’s purchasing decision tree?

The answers? Yes, “Made in America” will still be a differentiator after the economy fully recovers. But that differentiator does not yet outweigh other considerations like quality and cost.

“It’s a different person now shopping ‘Made in the USA,’” noted Dave Schiff, chief creative officer of the ad agency Made Movement. It’s not a guy driving an F250 with a gun rack in the rear window, he said. “It’s a person almost like an organic consumer — an enlightened consumer that realizes there is a lot of good things that happen on the tail-end of a purchase.”

“Made in America,” as a marketing message, may in fact be traveling along that path of products featuring “organic” on their packaging, noted Jay Forbes, president of The Forbes Connection. For 20 years consumers weren’t necessarily willing to pay more for organic, but as that message has penetrated the value-
oriented Walmart shopper, “organic” has become a premium position.
The same may be happening with 
“Made in America.”

Even though “Buy American” resonates extremely well with value-oriented shoppers, today the message is still just a tie-breaker when perceived value — quality and cost — are equal, Forbes said. “That is beginning to change with the severity of the economy,” he said. “People think local, and that mentality is starting to impact ‘Buy American.’”

According to research conducted by Perception Research Services over the summer, the majority of shoppers do take notice of such packaging claims as “Made in the USA” — 3-out-of-4 Americans said they were more likely to buy American because it “helps the economy.”

“There is definitely a sense of ‘economic patriotism’ around the idea of American-made,” suggested Dave Wendland, VP Hamacher Resource Group. But it goes beyond that, Wendland suggested. “Consumers will be willing to pay more for the safety and quality of 
American-made brands,” he said.

That may be the underlying message that will continue to resonate with consumers beyond a struggling economy. “When you go a little deeper and you see what are the kinds of products [American consumers] care about, … it’s about what people ingest — foods, beverages and particularly medications,” Jonathan Asher, EVP of Perception Research Services, told DSN. “Manufacturers aren’t necessarily thinking about it enough: If you make it here, make that clear.”

Click here to see the six companies profiled by DSN that sell on their American-made heritage.

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