Is ‘Made in America’ made for millennials?
For millennials, “Made in America” remains a key product attribute, but only if it conveys a sense of quality. Millennials aren’t necessarily buying American products to be patriotic or to support the American worker, but because the “Made in America” badge can serve as a mental shortcut for quality products.
Let’s look at a post-recession 2012 Economist/YouGov survey for context. Attributes such as quality and price — more practical and less risky reasons to buy — were significantly more important. Rather than a reason to buy, “Made in America” has become a purchase justification that made you feel better about what you bought, not a deciding factor on whether to purchase.
Millennials grew up during the Great Recession and experienced parents losing jobs and, in some cases, homes due to upside-down mortgages. This generation was subjected to an austere and practical lifestyle — an experience that shaped their values and influences their habits today.
Quality is key
Millennials are a practical generation. According to a 2015 Ford Motor Company Poll, 79% of millennials said they value high quality over good looks when purchasing a vehicle, and the top car-purchasing factors for this generation included cost, gas mileage and safety features. With product quality playing such an important role, 91% of the millennials polled in this study said they trust the quality of American products to be equal or better than products made elsewhere.
This pragmatic mindset from a highly educated, Google-informed generation tells us that if quality is evident, millennials will “buy American.”
A 2016 Mintel Research study, “Marketing to Millennials,” demonstrates millennials define quality as being durable and with a level of craftsmanship. Millennials, at this stage in their life, have limited but growing financial resources. They’ll spend more for quality, and in their minds, “locally made” equates to quality.
Compared to other generations, millennials are more likely to associate quality with products they purchase. Mintel points out this is especially true with older millennials (ages 30 to 39) who were exposed to the early 2000s “locavore” movement of eating food that is locally produced within 100 miles. Millennials are the most environmentally conscious generation to date, and a local purchase lessens the environmental footprint.
Locally made products are also more unique than those created by multinational corporations. And millennials demand personalization. It lets them show who they are, where they’ve been and what they’ve experienced. When it comes to home furnishings, they want “one-of-a-kind” accessories or statement pieces that become a conversation when entertaining.
Marina Westfield, a member of the Brunner Millennial Homeowner panel, emphasizes her desire for unique design: “I like unique furniture that fits in with my design aesthetic. I like to buy vintage furniture, which is usually better-made anyway and tends to not be at a regular box store.”
“Made in America” is good; locally made is better
Unlike their parents, millennials aren’t buying American-made products because of a desire to support their fellow countrymen and women. They’re doing it because they want unique, high-quality products. “Made in America” is better than “Made in China,” but not nearly as powerful as “Made Locally.” That’s because millennials have been burned by brands leveraging “Made in America” to communicate quality, but not backing it up. And this generation recognizes when a brand is unauthentic with labels such as “Assembled in the USA.”
The Brunner Millennial Homeowner panel was asked to define “Made in America.” With a tinge of skepticism, Nate Miller said it best: “It means, hopefully, it’s great quality.”
For the millennial generation, “Made in the USA” isn’t the patriotic badge that drives purchase, but another marketing claim meant to communicate a sense of quality.
David Sladack is SVP and director of channel marketing at Brunner, and he leads the agency’s Home Enrichment practice.
Product Central: Channellock 910 Cable/Wire Cutter
Here at HBSDealer, it’s more or less an annual tradition to check in with the status of the Made in USA movement — and spotlight some products that are promoting domestic manufacturing.
The momentum is there, even if the majority of retailers don’t believe it’s a total cash cow yet. (In 2014, 65% of our readers said Made in USA had a “moderate impact” on sales — if the price is close.) We’ve been asking the same question around this time every year. And in 2015, the results were much more dispersed: 38% said it had a “big” impact, 35% voted “moderate,” and 27% said “small.” Last year, in 2016, 43% said “medium,” and 42% said “mild,” with only 15% voting for “turbo-charged” — even as domestic manufacturing became a rallying cry in the presidential election.
Still, suppliers seem to be heading further in the direction of American-made products.
According to Nu-Wood, American manufacturing isn’t just sought-after because of the quality and patriotic value, but also because of the delivery timeframes. When companies don’t ship overseas, pricing and response time benefit.
Huttig also recently announced an agreement with American Fasteners Co. to produce collated fasteners here in the Southwest United States under the Huttig-Grip brand, a response to demand from its customer network.
Their offerings, among several others, are represented below in our annual roundup of Made in the USA products.
Here is a product featured in a recent issue of HBSDealer:
Channellock 910 Cable/Wire Cutter
Channellock has been a beacon of domestic manufacturing in Pennsylvania for years. Among a number of new snips from its factory floor is this cable/wire cutter, equipped with a universal grip, high carbon steel blades, and a superior-grade 8 pivot bolt. (channellock.com)
Check out other products featured in the March 2017 issue of HBSDealer.