The Made in America movement :: Growing up and going strong

Remember green washing? Some marketing specialists claim that it stymied the long term acceptance of the Green movement by mainstream consumers. The sentiment was there – in 2007, 9 out of 10 shoppers felt that the environmental impact of a product was important to consider when making a purchase, and 7 out of 10 would pay up to 20% more for a green brand.

The problem was that we had no official definition and no authority on the matter. Questionable products started jumping on the bandwagon and quickly being ‘green’ didn’t mean anything anymore. Eventually we got Eco-Logo and Green-Seal certifications but it was too late – the window to deliver the message properly had closed. The MADE IN AMERICA movement is thankfully setup a little better.

First of all, we’ve got groups like the US Patent Office (along with several independent companies) certifying products on a continuum from “Made In America” down to “American Brand”. Arming the consumer with real, verifiable certifications gives the American Made classification legitimacy and a low barrier to entry. Also, having an official definition by the Federal Trade Commission gives us an indisputable set of criteria. So what does it mean to be Made in USA? The standard, according to an FTC rule from 1997, is that “all, or virtually all,” of the product was made in the United States. The product should contain “no, or negligible,” foreign content. But there are no hard-and-fast percentages. The FTC looks at such factors as the final place of assembly, product costs attributable to various countries and how far back in the manufacturing chain the foreign content is, said Julia Solomon Ensor, an FTC attorney. Clear cut right? What about products or brands that can’t meet this definition? Well there are variations on the seals. The Patent Office has seals showing the percentage of US parts – the set below from Made In USA Certified gets even more specific.

And what if a company fakes it? Claims to be something that they’re not? The FTC certification runs on the honor system and there’s no requirement to be checked out before making the claim. However, a competitor can dime a fraudulent product to the FTC and they’ll investigate. If it’s a bogus seal, the company is fined. Alright cool, we’re a legit American Made product, a majority of our parts are sourced inside US borders and we can prove it. How much is it worth to us? Should we invest in a campaign to get this message out? How much of our Identity should we hang on this fact? Is there anything negative about making this claim? In a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted for Industry Edge by market research firm YouGov, a whopping 81 percent of respondents said they would buy something made in the U.S. because they believe it will help support our economy. That’s about as unanimous as you can get in this business. There’s no research that I can find examining the question of negative connotations of American products – but when the positive is that high, you’re on safe ground.

Most consumers are taking every chance they get to make strategic purchases – it feels like I’m doing my part to bring manufacturing back to the US. Also, YouGov found that 42 percent of those surveyed think buying American-made items will get them a higher-quality product, and 38 percent said buying American is important to being patriotic. That’s pretty good but it gets even better. They’ll pay more – sixty seven percent of people surveyed said that they would pay more for a product made in America. And soon US made products will no longer cost more to make. Hal Sirkin, a senior partner with the Boston Consulting Group, sees next year as the tipping point. In 2015, the gap between the cost to manufacture in China and deliver to the United States versus the cost to manufacture in the United States will be less than 10 percent.

All right, it’s worth investing in this message but for how long? Is this a vanishing market trend? How many years can I expect to see a bump from this new consumer awareness? Well that’s the best part, Millennials are even more zealous than Baby Boomers (the former champion of buying American) about US products. At the moment they’re still broke, jobless and fretting huge student loan bills but once they get their collective act together, we’re likely to see a surge in the demand for domestic products for decades to come. So, if you’re lucky enough to be able to claim Made In America, your customers see your product as higher quality, worth the extra money and important to the health of the US economy. Scream it from the rooftops. It’s worth the investment and should be featured as a key part of your USP. We can help. If you’re interested in hearing how Akavit can help your brand tell it’s origin story, drop us a note.

Originally written while working at Akavit – used with their permission.

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