There’s been a lot published about the U.S. trade agreements lately, about the growing deficit in U.S. trade with other countries. President Obama realized a setback in Tokyo with the Trans-Pacific Partnership when Japan failed to commit to opening its markets in rice, beef, pork and poultry.
At the same time, McKinsey Global Institute (the think tank within McKinsey Consulting) just published a report that the view of global trade changes that we all have — cheap manufacturing in Asian countries landing on store shelves at Walmart, at the expense of more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. — is not exactly correct. According to Susan Lund, an author of the report, that image is less and less relevant with each passing year. “In fact, the growing and larger share of global trade right now is about knowledge-intensive goods and services,” said Lund.
The report apparently details the full range of “global flows” which reflect interconnections of any type around the world. This means that it looks not only at the trade in goods and services, but also the flow of currency among countries, as well as information being shared through digital channels.
According to The New York Times, “What it shows is a world in which the fastest-growing forms of interconnection are not the ones that fit a lot of those preconceptions.”
In a recent opinion piece authored by the editors at The Times, the Obama administration and the U.S. should learn lessons from the North American Free Trade Agreement and use that knowledge to forge better agreements in the future.
Our country has lost about 5 million manufacturing jobs over the last 20 years, even as we all embrace the benefits of outsourced jobs through less expensive products. As we move more deeply into a truly globalized economy, it’s clear that we are truly ambivalent about the process and results. We lose jobs, and wages are much lower now as we work to compete with labor in other countries. But we also understand that we can reap tremendous benefits, especially if the U.S. is able to equitably manage the ratio of imports to exports, opening up new markets for goods, services — and yes, ideas and information — created here.
It has me thinking: How would my industry make a significant contribution to the epic, Goliath-proportioned challenge of trade for our country? It seems apparent that the U.S. is not at all well liked in some countries, and for reasons that require no research. A history of imperialism, military aggression, and a strong sense of nationalism has created a deeply entrenched image problem that no American company or industry could possibly weather.
★★★ We can talk all we want about putting America back to work, but no one will see much change until we manage to build a desire for what we make here. It’s a global economy, and our goods are not getting the best store placement.
It starts with creating a desire to want American things. What are the opportunities to correct global perceptions of the U.S.? Also, what can we build on, as we aim to package brands for products created in the U.S.? One can easily imagine a consortium of leading advertising, branding, and marketing companies playing a role to define and solve the problem. Like any large scale branding initiative, the methodology is the same: Baseline performance. Architect a global scale of research that would inform and guide the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to U.S. brands. Execute and implement a system of solutions. To rally a strong sense of support, I would even create an internal label and communications to share the goal of the work, the importance of its success, the critical need for everyone to pitch in, back our nation as one collective interest, determined to make our own goods, services, and information all desirable in other economies.
How does all this get paid for? Simple. The U.S. Federal government is one source, of course. The other is an incentivized program for funding through industry associations who represent these trades. The American public and U.S. based businesses would also respond in an unprecedented way, given the opportunity.
A recent article even illustrated how U.S. hotel brands are being faked, or emulated in order to win customers in Asia. Hotels like the Haiyatt in China have nothing to do with the Hyatt brand, but the marketing is successful as customers are drawn to the impression of that kind of luxury. The Peninsula Hotel in Yangcheng has nothing to do with the Peninsula brand in the U.S., but also enjoys similar success.
How can we best capitalize on the equity of our current image? Is there a mandated, common national label that could accompany every U.S. product and service abroad? Are there other “change-image” campaigns that could build interest in our goods? What ideas would the world’s best advertising minds generate, in order to change the fixed image of our country and its people? Unlike the impressions that many people have of advertising, not all of it is fake or finessed in some way. There are indeed successful campaigns that change a perception — opportunities to enlighten us, educate us, about the benefits of a particular product or idea.
The politicians and academics can and should look at policy and international agreements. As for me, I would welcome the challenge, even at a pro bono level, to contribute to the problem through enacting change of large-scale bias, empowering our country through affecting global impressions of our national brand. U.S products and services are indeed viable on the world stage. One idea can be a powerful thing, and the right endeavor would seem to transform a world of opinion, which is always an inspirational thing.
Tags: American brand, authenticity, branding, international branding, marketing, marketing and advertising
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