Despite slow progress the American economy is moving forward (or sideways), and foreign brands being successful in the United States continues to be a worthwhile pursuit. I am preparing to head to Japan, Hong Kong and China next week to meet with companies who have a desire to enter or be more successful in the U.S.A. I think aside from the American penchant to spend another big reason is the maturity of the American consumer.
I am not referring to the age of the American consumer but the overall sophistication and predictability of American consumer behavior in comparison to major markets like Brazil and China. When taken as an entire market the EU is certainly large enough but what really exists in Europe is a number of local markets that do not behave in any coordinated fashion. While consumers in the EU are sophisticated, what plays well in France is unlikely to do so in Germany or the U.K., so on and so forth. Each market has to be approached as a unique entity.
Today the talk (and rush to make a marketing impact) is all about marketing to the mainland Chinese. Wages are increasing, tastes both luxury and non-luxury are continuing to develop and the opportunities are enticing. Yet China is a very immature market in comparison to the U.S.A. market. Fold in the Chinese government’s watchful eye and influence and what you end up with is a very tenuous and unpredictable market. What will happen to the Chinese consumer when the real-estate bubble finally bursts, (and it will eventually despite the massive efforts by the government to stave it off)? The Chinese having savings deeply imbued in their psyche and in my view could easily go back to what is both familiar and not a distant memory. This is in stark contrast to the American consumer who is conditioned to buy and spend – something that is highly unlikely to change unless there is a financial catastrophe.
Brazil and China will continue to be an allure to brands that are looking to expand and capture the minds of new prospective customers. But it will be a number of years before any multinational brand will think of bypassing the U.S. market as not being worthwhile. Having success in the United States is still vitally important as well as financially attractive.
American consumers understand marketing and their being marketed to, and that is a part of their everyday lives. That sophistication forces all marketers looking to attract American consumers to raise their games. But it’s worth it since a brand making it in America is still a big win – even if it’s harder than it used to be.