Make America Great Again

This general election season, as the two major candidates for the United States presidency vie for supremacy in the Rust Belt, the rhetoric on job growth is hot and heavy. Much of the polemic is directed against corporations fleeing offshore in search of cheaper labor, and remedies lean toward cracking down on these companies, penalizing them for leaving. What if, instead, companies wanted to manufacture in the US? What if companies built strong American brands that commanded premium pricing to offset the cost disadvantage? What if branding could make America great again?

Baseball and Apple Pie Never Looked This Good Before

The best brands create and sustain themes of resonance. There is no one-size-fits-all panacea; some of the best emerging brands have dramtically changed the conversation between brands and their audiences. One of the shifts in the conversation has been from bigger is better to small is beautiful. The hipster holy trinity of local, artisanal, and small batch has gone mainstream. Take beer for example – local microbrews now proliferate grocery and convenience store shelves, forcing an embittered Budweiser to launch a baffling campaign lauding itself as a “macro beer.”

Here are three brands that trumpet their made-in-America story as vital ingredients of their brand personality:

  1. Allen Edmonds couples a rich heritage with an updated offering that is as relevant to millennials as it is to “suits.” 100 sets of American hands caress the leather on its 212-step journey to footwear bliss.
  2. American Giant makes what Slate calls “the greatest sweatshirt known to man” in the United States, choosing to limit spend on distribution and marketing and focusing on the product. The result: "Great product, made here, sold at prices that make sense."
  3. Shinola has built a Detroit-based luxury brand focused on watches that grace the wrists of Presidents Clinton and Obama. The brand, which has brought manufacturing jobs back to the Motor City, looks to create a design and lifestyle experience centered around Detroit-cool.


Let Resonance Guide The Way

These three brands exhibit different executions of incorporating American-made into an overall theme of providing exceptional and thoughtful products. They are defined by a purpose and a commitment to craftsmanship and citizenry that is stitched into the very essence of the brand. And their business draws from a rich pool of people who are aligned in how they want to consume. When the fit between the brand’s purpose and personality and its audience’s consumption philosophy is that snug, loyalty is high and premium pricing is the norm (all three price in the premium range.) The brands prosper, and American jobs grow.

Which bring us to the point of the story. Yes, branding can make America great again. But it is resonance that works the magic. American Giant and Allen Edmonds demonstrate that brands create resonance when they credibly exhibit a purpose that is shared with their audiences (such as eschewing low labor costs in favor of craftsmanship). Branding is about elevating from transaction to connection, from consumption to relationship. CMOs looking to build strong brands must obsess about identifying and leveraging the themes of resonance that bind this relationship. How well does your brand resonate?


Watch this space for my upcoming report on the roadmap that gets you to Brand Resonance. In the meantime (if you haven't already), check out my Branding Never Sleeps report. And it goes without saying … Keep On Branding!