Browsing the archives for the marketing tag.

What does “Made in the USA” mean today?


imagesI love this question.  Love. It. The answers I get from people are so varied.

For this post, I decided it would be interesting to ask folks I know what they think, similar to what Laurel Nelson-Rowe has done in her latest post via ASQ’s View from the Q.  

When I asked a few people I know in the tech industry (gen x engineers) what “Made in the USA” meant to them, their responses were:

  • Unimpressive
  • Poor Quality
  • Marketing
  • Expensive

Don’t shoot the messenger here. Seriously… 

When I asked folks of varying positions within the manufacturing industry, their responses were:

  • Quality
  • Quality of Life
  • Built to Exacting Standards
  • Pride
  • Skilled Labor
  • High Tech
  • Jobs

When I asked a few folks in my mom’s retirement community, their responses were:

  • American Pride
  • Jobs
  • Quality
  • Craftsmanship

When I asked family and friends, responses included:

  • Poor Quality
  • Quality
  • Happy
  • Jobs
  • Unions

When I asked a couple of friends in China, their responses included:

  • Quality
  • Costly (Expensive)
  • Technology
  • Premium

I asked my 11 year old, and he just said “stuff that’s made here.” So, perspective…

I asked my son this question because he was just asking me why Japanese cars seem to be better quality. It’s no secret that I’m a Subaru fan, so I’m sure he derived the question from something I had said previously. But, nonetheless, his question provided me with an opportunity to share that fun story about Deming and how the perception of Japanese made goods really changed after the war and through the use of quality methods and tools we still use today. Fun story. Also, interesting case study on how a country’s brand was effectively repositioned in the global marketplace.  No easy feat.

At the end of the day, the most common response to this question usually relates to quality somehow.  It is most certainly a significant component of a country’s branding.  What “Made in the USA” means simply isn’t consistent, and we’re sent mixed messages by the media, industry groups, politicians, unions, etc. What “Made in the USA” means depends on who you ask.

So, we need to think about what we want “Made in the USA” to mean. How do we want to stand out in the global marketplace? Some would argue that “Made in the USA” is cool again, with companies like Apple making U.S. production a component of their social responsibility initiative.  I can’t help but also think of a former student that insisted his products for a new fishing lure business be made here in America. Within that industry, I’d say the strategy would likely be good marketing as well but this individual was serious about it for reasons beyond branding.

I’m not going to say “Made in the USA” is hipster just yet… But, who knows?

The COO Effect:

“Country of origin information constitutes a product trait that is external to the product itself. It serves as a surrogate for product quality, performance, reliability, prestige and other product characteristics that cannot be directly evaluated.

Research has demonstrated that consumers tend to regard products that are made in a given country with consistently positive or negative attitudes. These origin biases seem to exist for products in general as well as for specific products, and for both end-users and industrial buyers alike. The nature and strength of origin effects depend on such factors as the product category, the product stimulus employed in the research, respondent demographics, consumer prior knowledge and experience with the product category, and consumer information processing style.”

Sidenote: Remember “America’s Freedom Fabric”


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Personal Branding Using The Brand Deck… An Introspective Activity


Some time ago, I noticed an article posted about a Kickstarter project from the co-creator of Cards Against Humanity, and I was compelled to check it out. The idea is cool:

“Brand Deck is a collaborative exercise that will help you identify your brand’s characteristics.”

At first, I just thought it would be a fun activity to do with my marketing class. But, the moment I opened up my Brand Deck it was obvious that this could be one of the best personal branding tools yet.

Over the last few days, I’ve tried out the activity myself.  And, I’ll be recommending it during my upcoming presentation at ASQ’s Annual Service Conference.  It’s a great tool, and it’s a fun activity…

Step 1

I setup the four columns:

  • You Are
  • You Are Not
  • You Are Torn
  • Does Not Apply

Step 2

Each card has two sides.  The instructions say “for each card in the deck, pick the word that you have the strongest reaction to and put it face up in the pile where it belongs. Go with your gut.”

This was actually a really introspective process.  Are you disciplined or relaxed? Steady or dynamic? It took some time to get through the whole deck.  And, I leveled up and decided to leave it out for a day or two and revisit to see if I felt the same way. There were one or two cards that I shuffled around after giving it some time.

Step 3

I followed the deck’s instructions, which were “once you’ve sorted all of your words into their appropriate piles, discard the Does Not Apply pile, and narrow down to one to six words for You Are, You Are Not, and You Are Torn.”

This was not easy. I decided to get some outside perspective. I narrowed down each column to about a 10-11 each.  And, I reached out to my spouse, friends, co-workers and parents for their pick of the six that best described me. I even looked up a few of the words to make sure I was really grasping the meaning correctly.  It really makes you think!

I usually recommend people do some “market research” during the personal branding process. It’s certainly interesting to see the subtle differences in how you’re perceived. 

Step 4

After narrowing it down to six in each column, I took another look at You Are Torn and decided none of the words were ever going to make the top six for the other columns. I removed that column and left myself with a snapshot of who I am and who I am not.

In this process, it’s possible to identify opportunities and recognize things that could be a weakness.  While the process is fresh, why not follow-up with a personal SWOT analysis? You could actually use the cards to complete the SW part.

Side Note: If you like Facebook quizzes, you won’t be able to resist this.



I haven’t tried out the NSFW deck yet. But, with instructions that say “figure it out,” I’m game.

All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” – Tom Peters, Fast Company

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Calling all members…


My career has been in the B2B space.  As such, I have a fond relationship with various associations related to the industries we work with.  I look to them as the best sources of secondary market data, utilize their broad membership to stretch my marketing budget on related trade exhibitions/conferences, use their knowledge base for insightful details/resources, and look to their membership as ideal candidates to partner with on various quality related projects.

In fact, my very entry into the quality industry and associations in general started with ASQ. It’s how I got acclimated into the industry as I started my career out of college.  Sixteen years later, I’m ASQ certified, blog, have a Fellow application pending and am active in the local section as Education Chair.  Bill Troy hit home in his latest View from the Q post: “Think leadership experience, practice and application of skills, and personal achievement.”

Levelling up with recruitment & volunteering…

Now, having seen a local perspective of ASQ serving as Education Chair, I do see the challenges of recruiting members and getting people engaged as volunteers to further the message and advocate what we do.  For example, I was successful with the national Adding New Voices referral program last year, but was discouraged to find out many of our local members had not heard about it.  In fact, I’m discouraged to find out more and more members I speak with only attend our local meetings for recertification units.

We went to social media for increased engagement and have seen little gains there.  In fact, a small percent of our members would be considered active. So, how do associations call people to action at a local level?

You see it at WCQI each year, but as sections we need to bring that feeling and momentum home and spread the word to our coworkers and friends.  ASQ reaches so many areas now that it’s challenging not to find someone within a company that wouldn’t benefit from the networking and knowledge that the association provides.

Here are a few ideas I’ve considered for our local section:

  • We have organized a World Quality Month BBQ picnic at Veteran’s Park where we are encouraging members to bring friends and family.   We have also partnered with another association, APICS, on this event.
  • I would like to see us promote and offer more coupons to individuals who bring in new people to monthly dinners. Incentivize sharing the love.
  • We could offer brief introduction/presentations to local businesses.  Bring bagels… they’ll come.
  • We could host networking events and encourage members to bring a co-worker or friend. Cooperating with other local and related associations broadens the possibilities here.
  • We could have a presence at local trade events, such as job fairs. Many people I speak with don’t even realize there’s an association out there related to quality!
  • We could reach out to the Tampa Business Journal or others. They always need content, and we need exposure… win-win.
  • We could consider placing a classified ad or other announcement in a local business journal.  Many times, just posting an event is free.
  • We could reach out to local trade schools or community colleges with quality related courses and get students involved as they start their careers.
  • We could also offer students or people new to the industry local member mentors to guide them and answer any questions they may have.

I’ve got more, but quickly learned during our first strategy meeting that our objective was mostly in retention of existing members. And, the challenge really exists in our ability to get people to volunteer their time.  Life is busy… I certainly understand and respect that.  But, we’re even having difficulty filling Board positions and the people already volunteering are maxed out.

I will say that ASQ is unlike any other association I’ve been involved with over the years and the only one that has remained consistent.  The passion in the people you do meet at WCQI suck you into a world where you feel like you can really make a difference.  And, the association is there to back you up in your efforts.  We just need to get that feeling to our local sections and spread the love to the community.

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Fun w/ Target Marketing – Breaking the ice…


The intro marketing class I teach at HCC gets started this evening… Always fun and something I look forward to!

One of the unique things about this class is that I have people working in groups on a final project, and students tend to not like that so much.  They’re tasked with working in groups of 5-6 to create a new product, consider and develop the 4Ps (product, price, place & promotion) and then make a pitch in front of the class on the last day.  I’ve had groups make commercials, print t-shirts, make mock products, etc. They really get creative and have fun with it.

On the first day of any class, I try to avoid the generic introductions.  It’s difficult for me to remember students when they just say their name and why they’re there.  Instead, I decided to have them work in groups and create a “target market” profile of themselves.  “Painting a picture of your customer” is indeed one of the accepted ways of analyzing who your target market is within the actual business world. Maybe there’s some inspiration from Erik Wahl there as well, although we’re using markers and not crayons.

Each student gets a printout of a person and is asked to draw and represent themselves. When we do introductions, I tie in the concept of target marketing and ask students to consider what each individual might purchase based on how they’ve represented themselves.  A good way to tell is by the ads you get on Facebook.  That’s targeted!

Target Market:

“The consumers a company wants to sell its products and services to, and to whom it directs its marketing efforts. Identifying the target market is an essential step in the development of a marketing plan. A target market can be separated from the market as a whole by geography, buying power and demographics, as well as by psychographics.” (Source)

Aside from a fun way to do introductions and a great way to demonstrate target marketing, I noticed last semester that it was easier for students to form groups for the project, and they seemed less apprehensive overall.

Last semester, students gave me a hard time for not having one to introduce myself.  So, I made one in the 15 minutes I give them to do it. And, it’s at least worth a little chuckle. What would you sell this person?!




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Making Sense of Social Media


I’m excited to be doing a webinar tomorrow for HCC’s Institute for Corporate & Continuing Education.  I love webinars because you get an interactive experience that you can be involved in from any location. Good stuff.

So, my topic for tomorrow’s webinar is Making Sense of Social Media.  I love this topic for a few reasons, but mostly because I think social media has earned a reputation that’s not consistent with what its capabilities are.  For example, we complain about Facebook, but we can’t resist logging in one or more times per day… Over 900,000,000 of us (unique users) are using this website every month, for an average of 15 hours and 33 minutes each.” According to a recent Pew Internet Project, “two-thirds of online adults (66%) use social media platforms and say that staying in touch with friends and family members is a major reason they use these sites.”  But, there’s more to it…

I’ve seen what social media can do for us, personally and professionally.  I continue to see social media changing the world we live in every day. Our online presence is real, and it’s something we need to put thought into, use to our maximum advantage and  actively manage.

The biggest misconception is that social media is difficult to understand and takes too much time. I hear a lot of people talk about social media being a waste of time, but I’m here to say it can be quite the opposite.  Employers are out there right now Googling potential candidates (Over 90% are planning to use social media and 2/3rd have said they have successfully filled a job using social networking), trying to create cultural communities within their organizations, and building relationships with their customers in ways we’ve never imagined.  They’re not considering it a waste of time, so neither should we.  And, I’ll argue that it’s fun and offers some serious benefits if you do it right.

In the webinar, I’m discussing a few questions that I get quite often:

  • What is social media?
  • Who is using it?
  • Why are they using it?
  • How can you use it? (Personal Branding > Professional Development)
  • When should you use it? (Plan > Do > Check > Act)

When there’s a method to the madness, there’s enjoyment.  Planning is key… Figuring out what you’re wanting to do is key (objectives/goals)… Figuring out how much time you can reasonably dedicate and then making sure you’re using that time in an efficient way is key…

Strategic participation in social networks offers benefits that far exceed keeping in touch with family and friends:

  • Establish yourself and identify your competitive advantage to potential employers
  • Continuous learning that supports quality of life and success at work
  • Personal satisfaction
  • Networking opportunities
  • Community involvement

It’s worth considering.



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