The boycott takes place in the heads

The popularity of U.S. products has waned worldwide

Whether Coca Cola, McDonalds, Nike or Microsoft – the image of US brands is tarnished worldwide. Primarily affected are those brands that are considered typically American. This is the conclusion of a new international consumer study conducted by the U.S. market research company NOP World. According to the report, the number of consumers who buy U.S. branded products has fallen significantly in the past year for the first time since 1998. The reason for this is the blatant damage to the image of the United States caused by the war in Iraq and the Bush administration’s war on terrorism “war against terrorism”. However, corporate scandals such as the WorldCom affair and the refusal of the USA to sign the Kyoto environmental protocol also contributed to this damage to its image.

The market researchers at NOP World surveyed 30,000.000 people worldwide. The study was carried out between January and March of this year. Consumers were asked about. a. whether and to what extent they currently trusted major U.S. brands. The market researchers identified a significant loss of trust.

For example, the number of non-American consumers who trust Coca-Cola fell from 55 percent in the previous year to 52 percent. A decline can also be seen in McDonalds (from 36 to 33 percent) and Nike (from 56 to 53 percent). According to the study, Microsoft has suffered the greatest loss of trust. The percentage of consumers who trust Microsoft dropped another 6 percentage points from an already poor 45 percent to 39 percent.

“It is not that there is a massive boycott”, explained Tom Miller, manager of NOP World, at the presentation of the study in New York’s posh Millennium Broadway Hotel to over five hundred invited advertising professionals. Rather, it is a creeping process of erosion, which is considerably scratching the image of the U.S. brands. Miller speaks of a clear warning signal for the groups involved.

Boycott calls with expiry date

The effects of such a process of erosion go much deeper than, for example, calls for boycotts such as those at the beginning of the war in Iraq (Germans, don’t buy from Americans) …). Mass calls for boycotts may have a short-term effect on the sales of individual companies. However, they are often linked to a current, day-to-day political reason for boycotting and thus have an expiration date. If this reason loses its relevance, the effect of calls for boycotts will fade.

At the beginning of the war in Iraq, z. B. restaurants are removing American products such as ketchup, rice, Coca Cola and whiskey from their menus in protest. Esso gas stations were besieged. Lists of American companies whose products should no longer be purchased were circulated. And of course, Hollywood movies, videos and DVDs were also on the boycott index of the war opponents. In the meantime, the effect of these calls has long since fizzled out.

The idea of using consumer boycotts to exert political influence has a long tradition. Mahatma Gandhi called for the renunciation of British goods in his fight against the British colonial rulers in India. It is also worth remembering the worldwide boycotts against the apartheid regime in Sud Africa. That the latter finally had an effect, however, was primarily due to the fact that the calls to boycott Sud African products came not only from consumers, but were also supported by the governments of many states. These states froze their official trade relations with Sud Africa – a measure that hit the economic system in Sud Africa much harder than the calls for boycotts by individual consumer groups.

Become Turkic!

The long-term economic impact of calls for boycotts by individual social groups is usually small. However, if calls for boycotts are coupled with the introduction of alternative products, boycotted companies may well experience significant long-term sales losses. For example, the Arabic Coca-Cola substitute Star Cola experienced considerable sales growth after the start of the war in Afghanistan. In Iran, producers of Zam Zam Cola could barely keep up with the near explosion in demand for the Coca-Cola alternative ([link to 15290]).

The Turkish brand Cola Turka experienced something similar last year. The triumph of the brown fizzy drink from the Bosporus was prompted by the anti-American mood in Turkey since the Iraq war. In addition, there was a clever advertising strategy that cleverly exploited this mood. As advertising carrier the managers of Cola Turka had fished themselves the ur-American comedian Chevy Chase. In two commercials, which were shown on all Turkish TV stations, typical average US burgers gradually mutate into Turks after drinking Cola Turka. They weave Turkic expressions into their vocabulary, sing Turkic songs, eat Turkic food, and end up growing Mr. Chevy Chase grows a veritable mustache.

The producers of these commercials succeeded in caricaturing in approx. three minutes, the producers of these commercials succeeded in caricaturing the effects of U.S. cultural imperialism in a nutshell – in the commercial, however, with the signs reversed. The winking advertising message (“Drink Coke Turka and become Turkish”) was very well received in Turkey.

Is American culture honest?

The declining popularity of U.S. products has less to do with current calls for boycotts than with the fact that a change in attitude is apparently taking place in the minds of many consumers worldwide. U.S. brands are being associated with a U.S. aubenpolitik that is increasingly seen as “wrong”, “unfair” or “dishonest” rejected.

For example, according to the NOP study, the percentage of consumers who believe that honesty is an important attribute of American culture has declined significantly. It was below 50 percent in a number of key European markets, including France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey. In Germany, only 31 percent of consumers surveyed believed that honesty was a cornerstone of American culture. Typische US-Marken werden in diesen Negativtrend mit hineingesogen. Only 15 percent of consumers surveyed liked Coca Cola the attribute “honest” lend, in the previous year it had been three percent more. McDonalds dropped from 19 percent to 14 percent, Nike fell from 14 percent to 11 percent, and Microsoft deteriorated a full six percent in honesty from 18 percent to 12 percent.

Selling America to people who hate it

The NOP study sees the gradual loss of confidence in US brands and products as a warning sign for the US companies concerned. Until now, it has been possible to sit out calls for boycotts and wait for the current wave of enthusiasm to subside. The creeping brand erosion, on the other hand, cannot be reversed so easily. It has its roots in U.S. policy, which is increasingly viewed negatively by consumers worldwide. The boycott is not (yet) taking place at the checkout counter, but in people’s heads.

Brand erosion is therefore not immediately reflected in falling sales, but unfolds its effects gradually and damages sales of typical U.S. products in the long term. Market strategists are therefore calling on the affected companies to act quickly. “Selling America to people who hate it” – is the name of the problem. His solution is quite “simple”: We do not need another policy. A new brand image is needed.

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