Does Made-in-the-USA matter?

It came like a tornado.   Things were grey and uncertain and a bit blustery, and then the sudden clarity pushed everything aside.

Green was good.   People couldn’t get enough of Green.   Gear was Green, restaurants were Green, Leonardo di Caprio announced that the Oscars were going Green, magazines rolled out special issues devoted to Green, and some folks went all in on Green.

In the land of PR, the email inbox rang off the hook for nearly two solid years with writers and editors seeking anything Green.    It was a macro story, the Big one, and it tapped into the holy trinity of publishing … advertisers, editors and readers all wanted it, and they all got it.

The end of Green, of course, coincided neatly with a nasty economic plunge.   Editorial calendars culled Green from their rosters, as the number one concern shifted from sustainability to survival.    Outside of publishing, numerous entities (companies, countries) also dropped the Green idea for much the same reason.

Green still lingers around, but it’s not the same.   As a client of mine accurately foretold years ago, eventually we’ll get as much credit for being Green as we will for taking out the recycling:  which is to say, not much at all.

The Next Big Story hasn’t landed yet.    It may be years or decades till things coincide like 2007 again.    But if I were picking a favorite to win the horse race, I know exactly what number I would root for.  

It’d be Made-in-the-USA.

Not so much the flag-waving, fourth-of-July, rah-rah, Made-in-the-USA story … but the close-to-home, increased-quality, lower-carbon-footprint story.    It’s the story of companies and brands and people who still actually make things.  And it’s the story of economic success.

To be accurate, that Made-in-the-USA tag should actually be Made-at-Home or maybe Made-Right-Here, as there are many more companies who make things “locally” in their own part of the world, and who should get just as much credit.

In all honesty, I’ve been surprised that Made-Right-Here hasn’t ascended to the level of the Next Big Story quite yet.   The stories are already out there, already compelling, and already practically written.    

Organically, our small agency has wound up representing numerous clients that are either wholly or increasingly committed to the Made-Right-Here concept …  Woolrich blankets, Dale of Norway sweaters, Westcomb outerwear, Simmsfishing waders, Kokatat paddle gear, Sea Bags totes, Farm to Feet socks.   

As much as I’d like to take credit for how we sought out and developed a client base brimming with the Next Big Story, it’s simply not true.   The truth is that this is a legitimate trend, that companies are thriving because of their Made-Right-Here programs, and that the idea is growing.

But it hasn't reached "that level" quite yet.   

Part of this is the fault of the Last Big Story.     During the eco-frenzy of five years ago, being labeled a “Greenwasher” … aka someone overstating the claims of environmental goodness … was a peril to be avoided at all costs.    Brands are leery of being seen as wrapping themselves in the flag, and many media companies seem to be tiptoeing around the edge … wondering if things are actually as they seem, or some sort of jedi mind trick from the PR cabal.

It also could be that the big blocker to being the Next Big Story is that Made-Right-Here is dominated by smaller enterprises.   Less than 100 employees, less than 50 and in many cases even less than 25.     

A few months ago I called into an NPR talk show devoted to the topic, and mentioned the strength of domestically made goods in the outdoor industry.     It didn’t really take … he was more interested in companies with thousands of employees worldwide, than of a sector within an industry supporting a leisure time category.  

However, for media covering that exact sector, the response has been even more lukewarm, if that’s possible.    A story here and there, and that’s about it.   

Putting myself in their shoes, I can hear the editorial arm wrestling from the budget meetings fairly clearly.    The story is too complicated, the story is too boring, quality product is what really matters, our advertisers aren’t supporting it.   And I can respect that.

I also respect that the story is happening right now, all around us.     People are making huge decisions about where to do things and why.       Quality is world-class.    And people care. 


  1. Peter Watson10:33 AM

    Great post, Drew!

  2. http://fuckyeahmadeinusa.tumblr.com/