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January 14, 2005


Anti-Americanism in consumers

Since we all know how much the whole world freaking hates the US these days, a clever market research firm recently polled 1,000 consumers in the UK, Canada, France, and Germany to find out how much this anti-Americanism spills over into their buying habits. A nice chart plots the selection of brands on two axes, one showing their perception of the "American-ness" of their product, and the other showing how strongly they say they will avoid buying the brand.

The results have inspired us to generate this guide for American companies who want to market their products to foreigners, who appear to be irrationally averse to certain goods that they perceive as being somehow more American than others.

  • If the name of your company sounds vaguely foreign or European, especially French, you have nothing to worry about. Brands such as Estee Lauder, Ralph Lauren, and Gillette are all perceived as not particularly American, and consumers don't plan to avoid buying their products. National Geographic apparently has enough of an international focus to be untainted by Americanism.
  • Brands that specifically align themselves with images of America, or that are defining elements of American culture, don't fare as well. Disney, Marlboro, McDonald's, Coke and Pepsi (though Coke is seen as more American) are all shunned by foreign buyers.
  • If you have the word "American" in your company name, forget it. American Express, American Airlines, and United Airlines are all thought of as extremely American, while Northwest Airlines is not. Consumers say they wish to avoid all three of the airlines, however.
  • If your brand produces the gold standard of whatever product you produce, it doesn't matter if you're perceived as American or not--everyone in the world will still want to buy your stuff. Levi's is perceived as very American, but few of the consumers polled say they plan to avoid buying Levi's jeans.
  • But when it comes right down to it, no consumers really make any sense. Jack Daniel's, about as American a brand and image as you can get, is perceived as being less American and more desirable than is Budweiser (despite there being a Czech beer by the same name) or Starbucks. As the article's author notes, "Some of the other results make me think that the people polled are just dumb. Chrysler, which polls in the danger zone as very American and unlikable, is owned by a European company!"

categories: Business, Culture, International
posted by amy at 1:38 PM | #

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