What is 'Made In America' Worth?

Posted: Nov 02 2012

by Eric Schurenberg

Probably more than you think. As more manufacturing returns to U.S. shores, early signs show that a "Made in America" label is a serious competitive advantage.

Think of the label "Made in America." What brand images come to mind? Odds are, you've conjured up a picture of one of two scenes.

First, there's that rugged, sturdy (if underappreciated), no-frills, American quality. It's the stuff of Chrysler Automotive's much-praised "Imported from Detroit" ad, and Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA." If you buy this two-fisted version of "Made in the USA," you also likely buy American because you're patriotic. You don't care if elites would rather buy a BMW.

The other Made-in-America vision embraces an artisanal, moral, locavore sensibility. Think of Whole Foods, or, in apparel, Brooklyn Industries. In this vision, you buy boutique American goods because they're holier-than-corporate and show off your elevated taste (not to mention your ability to afford such taste). 

If one of these images is all that comes to mind, though, recent research and certain branding experts suggest that you're selling "Made in America" short. The label still has far more international cachet than Americans are likely to give it credit for. Even in the United States, buyers have proven that they'll pay considerably more for some kinds of American-made goods--simply because they expect them to be a better value.

International perceptions of "Made in America," are rooted in global perceptions of the country itself--and that news is surprisingly favorable for domestic manufacturers. Simon Anholt is a British branding consultant and creator of the Anholt-GfK RoperNation Brands Index, which measures a nation's international reputation. In the market-research company's most recent survey, released in late October, the U.S. ranked first--for the fourth year in a row.

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