“Made in Germany”: America’s Fascination with German Products
16.09.2010
When are Americans fascinated by German products and when do they get skeptic? What do you need to know when entering the US Market as a German company? Patricia Sauerbrey Colton speaks about opportunities and limitations.

By PatriciaSauerbrey Colton

BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi – that is German engineering. Carsyou can rely on. To Americans, the German heritage comes with perfection, attention to detail and durability. When Germansdo something, they do it right. Even Volkswagen advertises its cars in the USusing the slogan “Das Auto”. Marketing departments, it seems, have discoveredAmerica’s fascination with German products. The appeal is obvious when it comesto cars: the dependable, meticulous and straightforward mentality of theGermans provides a perfect fit to sophisticated technology.

Our international market research reveals this fascination withina broad range of product areas. However, the label ‘Made in Germany’ by itself doesnot guarantee a product’s success in the US. Depending on the category and thespecific product branding, the label “German” can have advantages ordisadvantages.

American attitudes towards German products range between twoextremes: on the one hand they are fascinated by the meticulous perfection ofGerman products, but on the other fear their military-like severity. Americans often attribute German products, forexample, with environmental credentials that have been painstakingly proven. Butecological benefits of this kind can also felt to make very directdemands on users. If a German brand conveys to have to commit to a newextremely environmentally friendly lifestyle, German products easily comeacross as being too prescriptive and restrictive- especially for freedom-loving Americans. Therefore, especially in theautomotive category, perfection and autonomy need to go hand-in-hand and be atthe same time psychologically present to consumers.

Americanssee German health-focused products as being particularly credible. Theimage of a tall, lean, disciplined German contrasts sharplywith the image of an overweight, undisciplined fast food junkie. Buthere too, if the focus on health is taken too far and does not provideroom forspontaneous outbreaks or indulgent pleasure, American consumers willfeel constrained.

International studies conducted at rheingold show thefinancial crisis has given the special appeal German products have an extraboost. America’s belief in total economic freedom has been shakenviolently and is perceived as being the cause for the crisis. As a result, American consumers feel they need to add morestructure and regimentation to their lives. The American health care reform, orbetter said health revolution, can be seen as an expression of this.

Thebalancing act between freedom and severity is different for each marketingchallenge. It needs to be explored for individual markets, specific productsand brands in the US. At our local US office rheingold LLC, we can help you takeon this strategic challenge.

 

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