Is there any real power in the 'Made in USA' label when it comes to influencing American consumers? It depends on who you ask. If you're enquiring among America's free-trade economists that make up our country's ideological elite, the answer usually comes back "no." But if you ask the American companies that actually strive to sell American-made products and monitor things like sales increases and feedback from their customers, the answer is often "yes."
Foam-based furniture manufacturer Foamiture (www.foamiture.com) decided to redesign their website last fall when the economy began to falter, thinking that Americans concerned about losing their jobs would want to support companies that supported other American jobs.
The folks at Foamiture knew that the overwhelming majority of their customers were in the U.S., and the feedback from those existing customers showed they were inclined to do business with an American company.
First they added the American flag on their website with 'Made in USA' language emphasizing that their products were "manufactured and shipped to your door from our factory in Indiana."
Then they added a 3-inch by 4-inch 'Made in USA' paper tag above the American flag graphic on each order they shipped, and a slightly smaller but similar graphic on the outside of the shipping box.
These changes were made gradually over a six month period with no major changes to marketing or customer service to isolate the impact of their American made awareness campaign.
What was the impact from their awareness campaign? Orders per day increased 19.1 percent, order value increased 4.6 percent, and total sales increased 10.1 percent.
The companies highlighted in my "Buy American Mention of the Week" articles posted on my own website and www.WorldNetDaily.com also experience sales increases. Here are just a couple of testimonial examples:
"Thank you for writing such a powerful article about our company. The 'Buy American Mention of the Week' has been a huge success story for us. Within 48 hours after the newsletter went out to your subscribers, our sales shot up 23% and our registered users climbed 29%. For a new company like ours, that was quite a dramatic increase. If you or your company believes in and honors the 'Buy American Movement' and you want to get recognition from people who feel the same way, we suggest contacting Roger Simmermaker."
Ted Massinello, Owner
USA Coffee Company
"We've got to tell you that out of all the marketing we have done, your article and the 'Buy American Mention of the Week' have produced the best results so far!? During the time that the article and the e-mail went out, our website hits doubled, as well as our order volume."
Cynthia and Tom Darmstandler, Owners
Of course this patriotic marketing doesn't work for everyone, but I tend to think it's more the rule than the exception. I was surprised to learn back in 2004 that Maytag CEO Ralph Hake said "It would be nice if people care where it was made, but they don't," referring to Maytag's struggle to reap sales gains from emphasizing that 96 percent of their workforce was employed in America.
Maybe Maytag's problem was their marketing approach. The same marketing campaign isn't going to work for each company. I do know that my American-made Whirlpool refrigerator I bought earlier this year displayed a 4-inch by 6-inch paper tag inside saying it was "designed, engineered, and assembled in the USA."
I can't tell you the number of emails I've received asking me how to find and buy American-made appliances like refrigerators, and I would estimate that the volume of emails asking about American-made toaster ovens are probably a close second. Unfortunately, there are no toaster ovens currently made in the USA.
But apparently there may be some upstart domestic production on the horizon concerning toaster ovens. At www.misterpoll.com, they claim they are "in the works" to begin producing things like toaster ovens, radios and calculators that are "made by Americans."
Most polls continue to show that Americans prefer to buy American, and that they understand trade with other nations can increase economic growth as long as that trade is fair to domestic producers. A CBS News/New York Times poll in April of this year showed 66 percent felt that trade with other countries was good for the U.S. economy, but 60 percent of those same people polled said trade restrictions are necessary to protect domestic industries vs. 28 percent that felt free trade must be allowed.
It doesn't always make sense to our politicians that we need to manufacture in the U.S, even when higher American wages mean our standard of living is higher as a result. In his 2004 Economic Report of the President, George W. Bush said, "When a good or service is produced more cheaply abroad, it makes more sense to import it than to provide it domestically." Senator and two-time presidential candidate John McCain has said all buy-American provisions are "disgraceful," and he couldn't be stronger in his views against government procurement laws to buy American products "without using four letter words." How nice.
Buying American continues to experience favor as time goes on, whether it's the bad economy, dangerous toys and other items from China, or the ongoing outsourcing of American manufacturing to places like India and China. The reasons we need to buy American while there is still American left to buy are many, but perhaps there is none more important than the fact we can no longer expect to be an economic superpower unless we are also a manufacturing superpower.
Roger Simmermaker is the author of How Americans Can Buy American: The Power of Consumer Patriotism. He also writes "Buy American Mention of the Week" articles for his website www.howtobuyamerican.com and is a member of the Machinists Union and National Writers Union. Roger has been a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, has been quoted in the USA Today, Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report among many other publications, and is now a weekly contributor to WorldNetDaily.