Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: US Brands' Decline Shows Risks of Complacency

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: US Brands' Decline Shows Risks of Complacency

Article excerpt

Three years ago, a student in my department rushed into my office and thrust a piece of paper at me, bearing the details of a doctoral symposium to be held in Philadelphia on the topic of international business. He was writing his thesis on global marketing and pleaded for the research funds to buy a plane ticket to attend the event. Eventually, I consented and off he went to email his registration to the conference committee.

Hours later, he returned to my office, dejected. The event was funded by the US government and places were exclusively reserved for US students.

'A conference about internationalism that excludes international attendees?' I asked. He shrugged and left.

US business and, more specifically, marketing, is about as parochial as you can get, but it is hard to criticise the insular perspective of US marketers when they have proven superior at marketing for so long.

Anyone who has worked in the US will tell you that Americans are simply better at marketing, especially branding, than anyone else. Don't believe me? Last year, the US accounted for 4% of the world's population, 33% of global GDP and a whopping 58% of the world's most valuable brands.

Myopia is clearly no handicap when you are the front-runner in a race with no hurdles.

Last week, however, there was a stumble. Marketing News, the bi-weekly organ of the American Marketing Association, ran with the front-page headline 'Fading domin-ance'. Inside, a US marketing professor had published the results of a small study, showing a very deliberate swing away from US brands toward those of a 'non-domestic origin' over the past four years.

The results fit wider trends that have many senior American marketers openly questioning the sustained global dominance of their nation's previously unassailable brands.

To its east, the US is losing out to resurgent European competition.

Whether through the dominance of the luxury sector by companies such as Gucci or the introduction of design and creativity to the mass market by the likes of IKEA, European brands have taken an aesthetic, original and profitable path to success. In Dyson versus Hoover, and Audi versus Ford, it is the Europeans who are winning. …

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