Miruna Codeanu

The American brand is now “made in China” and what that means for the rest of the world

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2013 at 8:40 am

It was 2004 when a documentary a la maniere de Michael Moore appeared: The End of Suburbia . It is now available on Youtube:

I watched the movie in 2006, two years before the 2008 crisis was officially announced.  I’ll sum it up for you: the American economy is based on massive and constant expansion of consumption. The movie concentrates on oil and the theory that oil is an exhaustible resource. Truth is that the movie, by underlining existing problems in the American economy, was basically announcing the 2008 crisis.

The American economy is based on constant expansion of consumption. Yes, nothing abnormal about that, that is the ground base for all consumerist societies. Tremendous expanding rates of consumption mean growth for a country as long as the workforce within the country can provide enough income to buy back what it produces. When it fails doing so, the system collapses. And it did. The American suburbia was the result of the support given to consumption and became a symbol for the American dream, the American lifestyle. Later came Wal-mart, part of the American lifestyle. Wal-mart meant American and “made in China did not exist back then”. Then corporations were born and thenthe never ending blabbering about globalization started, when the story has a simple bottom line: “It’s the economy, stupid” be that national actors or private actors. And so, later on “made in China” started dominating the American market and the world market. Brands that were known to be a part of the American spirit are now labeled as “made in China”. The American dream is now “made in China”.

“Made in America” was a brand, for which branding had been made. America was for quite some time a lovemark for the rest of the world. The US had made their investments in branding and managed in selling it to the world. Long before 2008 America started being made in China and there was a “made in China” label somewhere on the back of the product of some brand that was supposed to say and shout American, but the consumers were unaware. Then came 2008. 2008 wasn’t a year in which we woke up one day and the crisis was there. It was the year the world America was forced to publicly acknowledge it was facing an economic crisis. In between 1940’s and late 2000s corporations and social media had been born and spread, so little could be done to engage old or new media in a PR campaign supporting “made in America”, “the American dream”, “made in China” could work as long as there was profit, and there was profit.

While “made in America” was a brand and sometimes even a lovemark with the American dream attached to it, little did the Chinese invest in “made in China”. America was cool. Communist China was pretty much quite the opposite. With all eyes starting to watch China and acknowledging it as a world power, in terms of nation branding China is becoming the epitome of uncoolness: poorly made items, sweatshops, repression of human rights, violence, lack of freedom of speech, exploitation, communism, you name it, is starting to be associated with China. China is in the transition to liberalization and will probably learn to invest in branding, but that takes time. With sales dropping because of “made in China” labeling associated with poorly quality and coolness some are back to supporting American. An example for that is Walmart and here you can find the article saying that Walmart plans to invest $50 billion over the next 10 years on made in America products. They are doing it because they love their country, they are doing because they have been walking a slippery slope for the last few years. This was China’s costly mistake. By the time “made in China” will be as well regarded as “made in America” it will as costly and so corporations will head Africa but that’s another story and a lesson to learn for Africa for the next 10-20 years, because yes, Africa is rising

Nation branding can be a costly lesson to learn, and that goes to you to Romania. So, dear Mrs Grapini(the Romanian minister for Tourism), at least now we have a logo to be associated with our country which was closer to branding than to a dusty, stiff and uncool national image that you’re back to. Nation branding can mean an entire economy collapsing as its down to consume, consumption and consumers afterall.

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  1. Apple seem to want to switch to the same model as Walmart. I don’t know if it’s because they love their country — it helps the US economy, no doubt about that –, but it certainly sounds cool, as in, it might appeal better to Americans at this time.

  2. […] Not long ago I was telling you that Chinese companies need to learn branding and it seems they are almost there. (find the post here) […]

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