American shoppers, in the midst of war, say they will show their patriotism with their pocketbooks. New research revealed that tensions between the U.S. and its traditional allies are having a large impact on consumer attitudes toward brands and companies identified with countries such as France and Germany.
Wirthlin Worldwide and Fleishman-Hillard International Communications surveyed 1,003 adults from March 21-24. They were asked questions related to consumer spending habits since the outbreak of war, but only one question posted a statistically significant change over that four-day period: Would they boycott or avoid products from countries that were not joining U.S. coalition efforts in Iraq?
"We asked them two questions about this," explained Philip Diehl, co-chair of Fleishman-Hillard's Public Affairs practice. "Would they purchase a U.S. substitute for a foreign product … or would they boycott a foreign product? We were surprised by the strong sentiment of the latter, and it just got stronger each of those days as Americans watched the media and realized their expectation of a fast war was turning into a longer, more complicated war."
According to the survey, 64 percent of respondents said they are "much" or "somewhat" less favorable toward French companies and products; 46 percent said they are "very" or "somewhat" likely to try a substitute; and 29 percent said they are more likely to "boycott or avoid" French brands. As for Germany, 52 percent said they are "much" or "somewhat" less favorable toward its companies and products; 47 percent said they are "very" or "somewhat" likely to try a substitute; and 19 percent said they are more likely to "boycott or avoid" German brands.
The survey found that German marketers may be more at risk than French ones, since more than twice the number of respondents could name German brands as name French ones. The top five most familiar German brands are in the automotive category, but the next most familiar is Heineken—in actuality, a Dutch beer. —NOREEN O'LEARY