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Should We Cheapen the 'American' Brand?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The American economy has been quite the case study. From its humble roots in farming and agriculture to the Industrial Revolution to where we are now, a system based primarily on consumption, supplemented by speculation. Oh the places we'll go.

Throughout the decades, the American consumer has been rising in importance. Along with their stature in the system, their insight too on the products and services the system provides has increased. It is not a bad thing, but it does create a dissonance when we look at consumption habits versus value.

Let's look at "Made in America."

If we were to look at current public sentiment, we would think it would be safe to say that the amount of goods and services based and made in America would be increasing versus those based and made elsewhere. And of course, with ethnocentricity in effect, if we looked at U.S.-made products, we would also give them a quality premium over products made elsewhere, whether the goods deserved it or not.

CBS St. Louis found a study done by the University of Missouri, and it found that U.S. consumers do in fact put a price premium on American-made goods, but though they perceive the goods to be better made and of higher quality, consumers will still opt for the less expensive option. The study focused on clothing, so it would be unfair to expand this study across all categories. In the study the researcher showed participants two shirts; one that was made in the USA, and the other made in China. The U.S. shirt was valued by the participants at $57, while the other was valued at $40, a 42% difference. 

The research then suggests that consumers over-value American products, and prefer the lesser-priced items. So the question that the advertising world must face, then, is how can we change that perception if we need consumers to buy more American-made stuff? Let's say that economic conditions improve and more manufacturing jobs are made in America. How can we make sure there is a ready market for these businesses to service?

The question doesn't give to an easy answer. The study suggests that consumers should educate themselves more on the products that are made in the U.S. in order to create a level playing field. Yes, if only consumers knew that the American-made products weren't made nearly as well as they thought. Or that the U.S. products and China-made products weren't all that different. Do you see the issues with that messaging?

If American-made products are priced competitively against foreign-made products, it could help consumers build a notion that they are getting a deal when buying American.

Either way, if American businesses want to be more competitive, this study gives insight into how they can do it.

h/t : The Consumerist


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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