The "Made in America" label was once a symbol of solid, blue-collar American jobs. You were more likely find it on a pair of overalls - ones that people actually wore for work, not as a fashion statement - than on a luxury product like a designer handbag.
How times have changed. Today, the "Made in America" stamp has expanded far beyond its humble origins into industries like high-end fashion, artisanal foods, and gourmet cookware.
This shift reflects not only a change in the American business culture, but a change in what consumers want - and that's where marketers come in.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when marketing a Made in America brand.
Transparency is necessary if you're branding your product as "Made in America."
While transparency is an integral part of digital marketing for any brand, it becomes even more important when you're making a high-value claim like "made in America."
In fact, you cannot put that label on your product unless you meet the regulations set by the Federal Trade Commission. According to the FTC, a product meets the requirements for the label if "all or virtually all" of its parts are made in the United States.
If you don't quite meet that requirement, you can make what's called a "qualified claim." That would be something along the lines of what you'll find on the back of your iPhone: "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China."
The bottom line? Be very careful when deciding to use "Made in America" in your branding. Doing so disingenuously will not only lose you customers - it could even get you in trouble with the FTC.
Your customers will see the label more as a reflection of themselves than of you.
As I wrote about in my recent book Momentum, marketing is going through a massive shift in terms of what "customer focus" means.
Marketers have always been focused on the customer - after all, that's who we spend all our time trying to understand and connect to. We would ask ourselves, "What does our brand say about us?" and do our best to clearly articulate the benefits of our product to potential customers.
Today, brands must instead ask themselves this question: What does doing business with us let our customers say about themselves?
The customer appeal is very clear for brands that possess a made-in-America ethos - meaning the brand prioritizes domestic sourcing, creating American jobs, and supporting the local and national economy, whether or not the product actually qualifies for the Made in America label.
If your brand supports these things, then by extension, your customers do too. And in an age when all of us are sharing so much about our values, our likes and dislikes, and how we spend our time and money - in other words, cultivating our personal brand - in public forums like social media, that can be a very valuable distinction.
Be tasteful about how and how much you incorporate Made in America into your branding.
No matter how much your customers value the Made in America label, or one of its unofficial offshoots, you're still trying to appeal to your brand's audience. You don't want to strike a wrong note by being pushy with the label, but you also don't want the information to sit unnoticed on a rarely-visited page of your website.
Consider the luxury leather goods maker J.W. Hulme Co. The company has a long history - it was established in 1905 - and being made in America has been a hallmark of the company since the beginning.
Because of that 100-year-history, the "Made in America" verbiage is displayed prominently on their site, although it's seamlessly integrated so as not to be overbearing. For the J.W. Hulme Co., being made in America is a signifier of exceptional quality and longstanding tradition.
Then there's the sports display case company BallQube, which incorporates their Made in America status throughout their website with "Made in the USA" and an American flag in their page footer. It's subtle, yet it still conveys that being made in America is integral to the brand.
Branding a product as Made in America can certainly give your brand a boost - provided you do so with care and transparency. For more on the importance of brand authenticity, read my post "The Missing Piece of Your Winning Formula."