The Role of “Made in USA” in Branding Your Startup

Chances are, your domestic manufacturing practices have a place in the marketing of your brand and product. For some of you, “Made in USA” is used as a core message on your website, social media accounts, hang tags, email signatures and more. Here’s why you might want to rethink that strategy.

As a brand strategist with experience working with startups, I know that brand-savvy founders are always trying to create key identifiers for their brand: the people, activities, ideas, and feelings that consumers associate with it. Of course, many of these associations come from how a brand behaves in the real world. But, as 2017 demands, many of these identifiers must come about through split-second online encounters. And in a marketing environment where professional Instagram-ready photography has become the norm, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to have something to say.

For truly innovative products and services, what needs to be communicated to consumers comes to mind quickly: create something of immense value and your primary messages will walk up and shake your hand. But realistically most start-ups are creating products and services that showcase minor shifts and improvements to existing designs. In these cases, it becomes more difficult to know what to say.

 

So what makes your brand special, and why should anyone care? Often times from the point of view of a founder, the labour that’s been invested stands out. This is particularly true if the products are made in America, as the process can be a more intimate and expensive endeavor than doing so overseas. I worked with a great manufacturer in California to help bring my premium men’s underwear company to life, which gave me a better understanding of those who have manufacturing top of mind. In these circumstances, “American Made” can seem like a headlining selling point to consumers.

This is nice to know, but consider what it communicates. What does it say about what you sell, or why you’re qualified to fill a specific need? Does it reveal something about your brand’s personality, story or values? Being made in America suggests quality and ethical standards, yes. But just as “I was born in Kansas” doesn’t say much about me as a person, “American Made” should just be just one element of your brand’s greater identity.

Continue making your product in America and letting your customers know about it, but also do the hard work of identifying and articulating elements of your brand that are closer to the heart. Support a cause. Have an opinion. Stand for something. You have to execute a strategy to make people give a shit, because without a message beyond “Made in USA”, they almost certainly won’t.

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