Wednesday, February 15, 2006

American jingoism in ads

This comment over at Marmot's made me think:
I think in the US (and Canada) there’s less of a tendency to buy merely for nationalistic reasons--after all, why is the US’s balance of imports/exports totally out of whack in favour of imports?
While I do think the average American consumer--no wait, I really can't speak for any place outside of where I've lived, like California--does tend to employ nationalism less commonly than the average Korean consumer, I don't think the gap is that wide. And certainly American companies are not above appealing to nationalism/jingoism/patriotism when it suits them.

How about Chevrolet, which bills itself as "
America's Brand" bringing "an American Revolution"? And not long ago, Ford also used to have advertising slogans that appealed to citizens of the USA to buy American.

This 2001 Businessweek article talks about the advertising aftermath of 9/11, in which many companies promoted how buying products from them will help the country:
In many cases, an overt appeal to patriotism isn't necessary or palatable. Take the Big Three carmakers. The Commerce Secretary asked them to pump up demand, which they've done with 0% financing. Given the state of the economy, these guys would be offering rebates and discounts right now in any case. So why does GM have to boast that it's aiming to "Keep America Rolling," while Ford pledges to "Help Move America Forward"? Free financing can slice up to $4,000 off the total cost of a $22,000 car. For many, that's reason enough to buy. Wrapping those sorts of deals in Old Glory, and doing so to the accompaniment of chest-beating rhetoric, just adds a saccharine tone to what is otherwise a great deal.
In all fairness, I think appeals to American patriotism can be forgiven in such a trying and scary time (and I would be somewhat forgiving toward some of the Korean corporate appeals to Korean consumers in the wake of the economic collapse of 1997 and 1998). My point was that corporate appeals to patriotism are not unique to Korea, and they are certainly not unheard of even in today's United States.

In the end, whether buying a Hyundai Sonata being selected as MotorWeek's Best Family Sedan of 2006, or an Apple Computer that consistently produces great machines and excellent software to run them, a patriotic consumer is going to do more for his or her country by rewarding domestic manufacturers who make their product well rather than rewarding those who do little more than make an appeal to nationalistic connections.


  1. Just the other day, I saw an ad for a product that boasted "made in the USA, not Japan." I was surprised to see an ad specifically mention Japan of all countries. I wouldn't say that there is less jingoism in American advertising. I would say that "made in Korea" is more pervasive. My Korean language textbooks and dictionaries are full of sentences like "Foreign products aren't as good as those made in Korea. In a textbook written for foreigners, this is offensive to the learner. Two former colleagues working for a Korean company in LA told me that they were ordered to do business with ethnic Koreans whenever possible.

  2. Are you holding your breath for any product for which there is a domestic import susbtitute in Korea to be designated best anything in Korea, ala the Sonata in the US?

    Korean magazines are constantly talking up quality stuff from Europe, Japan, and North America. Half of the "cool stuff" I hear about is stuff I first read about in Korean publications. I don't really know what the equivalent of Consumer Reports, MotorWeek, or J.D. Powers would be, but Korean-language media frequently talks up the quality and functionality of foreign-made products.


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