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Friday, July 28, 2006

Global Teens Growing Indifferent to "Brand America"

In case you missed the memo, the stars and Stripes have seen better days.


Even before George W. Bush’s theatrical “Mission Accomplished”
cameo aboard the uss Abraham Lincoln, brand visionaries had already set
out on their grave task of sorting through the marketing ramifications
of a president gone wild. Their collective conclusion would prove
inevitable: if you want to insulate yourself against the usa’s rapidly
tarnishing global image, you’d better stop wrapping your brands in the
Red, White and Blue.



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CONTINUED...

Three years later, the tumult has quieted. Far from indicating
a reversal of America’s fortunes, however, the relative calm has more
to do with grim resignation. “America” – the brand, the idea, the dream
– just doesn’t move product like it used to.


A marketing study released early this year puts a pretty
savage point on the dilemma. Based on research conducted in the summer
of 2005, Chicago branding agency Energy bbdo ranked the “likeability”
of 54 globally-marketed brands amongst 13 to 18 years olds from a
baker’s dozen of countries, including the United States.


Of the big brands with roots in the usa, just five – Nike,
Colgate, Coca-Cola, M&Ms and Kodak – made it into the top ten.
Contrast this with ten years ago, when a comparable study conducted by
D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles discovered near-total supremacy of US
brands over the much-desired teen demographic, capturing eight of the
top ten “likeability” slots.



It’s clear that name recognition is not to blame for the
decline. In the new study, McDonald’s ranked second for name
recognition, just behind Coca-Cola, yet plunged to #32 when ranked
according to likeability. Disney and Pepsi suffered the same fate,
placing #9 and #3 for recognition, respectively, yet not even breaking
the top twenty for likeability.


“An association with the US seemed to be a drag on the
likeability of brands, despite high logo recognition,” noted Chip
Walker, executive vice president at Energy bbdo, in a January interview
with Women’s Wear Daily. “There seems to be a great ambivalence towards
America among global teens.”


alt 


While none of this spells out-and-out doom for US brands, being
forced to stop drinking from the poisoned well has left marketers
scrambling to uncover new formulas for generating teen cool.


Of the US entries in the current top ten, Nike has perhaps been
the most aggressive in shedding its mantle of Americana in favor of
“localizing” itself across the world. Hence the ongoing Joga Bonito
(Play Beautiful) campaign, featuring the likes of Brazilian footballer
Ronaldinho Gaúcho and the retired French icon Eric Cantona. Hence,
also, Nike’s move to acquire other brands that already enjoy local
caché – as with Canadian hockey-equipment manufacturer Bauer, now Nike
Bauer – or its new, $43 million sponsorship deal with India’s national
cricket team.


In a roundabout way, then, it may be tempting to prophesy that
the Brand America crisis could ultimately be a boon to those US brands
that have been coasting on borrowed cool, obliging them to fabricate
more resilient, bespoke identities that are better suited to emerging
markets.


Tempting, yes, but likely also a tad hasty, given another
major finding of the bbdo Energy study. “Marketers face big trouble,”
note the study’s authors, “62 percent of global teens are apathetic
about marketing and advertising. That is, they are not anti-brand, but
perhaps more dangerously, they just don’t care – don’t care about
wearing brand logos, don’t believe advertising, and feel there is too
much advertising in the world.”


This isn’t just a small matter of a few errant kids. The global
teen market is huge and growing – in 2002, worth approximately $170
billion in the States alone. More trenchantly, adolescence is regarded
as the ideal moment to begin cultivating “positive consideration” and
brand loyalty, right at the moment when kids begin to make independent
purchasing decisions. No wonder, then, that the specter of a
disinterested, brand-apathetic teen is to a marketer what root rot is
to a gardener: a sign of horrible, “dangerous” things to come.


Clayton Dach

source: AdBusters

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