Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tear gas "Made in USA"

Is being gassed by a US-backed regime a "brand touchpoint"? For the one being served, it's certainly a bad "brand experience."

A colleague wonders about the impact of "Made in U.S.A." tear gas canisters fired at anti-government demonstrators in Egypt. He suggests that these exported canisters used against civilians damage America's brand.

Let's agree that it doesn't help. Tear gas – whatever the provenance – stings like hell. Weapons from any country of origin are hated by those they are used against.

At the same time, the association of the US with the current government of Egypt is well known. Presumably bags of grain enter the country stamped "U.S.A." – and movies, commercial jets and other exports reflect economic ties between the two nations.

The fact is, America's brand image in the Middle East is the product of a complex web of factors – historical and current, economic and military, local and geo-political. The fact that a company in Pennsylvania makes and exports tear gas does not help Brand U.S.A. But the label "Made in U.S.A." is stamped on every jet plane we export and implied in every speech our leaders make.

Our brand is seared into the minds of our enemies and friends. That we make tear gas as well as gasoline is part of our projected, paradoxical image of brutal violence and noble values.



Jerry Kuyper said...

Good points, but I wonder if those bags of grain really are branded "USA".

As far as films and planes I would wager there is a fair amount of confusion where they come from. I saw a survey a few years ago that indicated people are often confused about the origin of brands.

I only have the vaguest sense that I'm aboard a Boeing or AirBus plane.

Do most Americans realize when they fill up that Shell (Shell Oil Company) is a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell or that Haagen-Dazs isn't from Denmark?

Perhaps our best hope is that the demonstrations will assume the USA sent the tear gas to Egypt in case of an attack by North Korea.

brandsinger said...

Wise words, Jerry. This is a rich, complex subject. America's reputation in the proverbial "Arab Street" is not favorable, and any chance to rub our noses in misdeeds is gleefully seized upon (and not without reason, I might add).


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