"So it's no surprise that global consumers respond to what they see as U.S. imperialism by shunning brands that trumpet their American provenance. According to a December poll by Global Market Insite (GMI), 50 percent of respondents in Asia and Europe said they mistrust U.S. companies, and 20 percent said they consciously avoid U.S. goods. The poll caps a wealth of anecdotal evidence, including calls by politicians for boycotts and stories of European restaurants turning down U.S. credit cards. "
And it's not just products, says Clay Risen's excellent piece on Brand America in the current issue of New Republic, which clarifies and magnifies an enormous issue for the Bush administration and the US in general. Risen talks specifically about multinationals suffering due to an American image problem abroad, but the subtext is all about the means and ends of American soft power, which has been popping up everywhere of late. In the March/April Foreign Affairs, foreign relations expert Steven Cook talks about the right way to promote Arab reform, and of course there's the UNDP's 2004 Arab Development Report (Executive Summary), which does attack the Bush administration somewhat, but is generally fair. The newest Bush tool, the Millenium Challenge Accounts, which supposedly delivers money to nations who show improvement in key developmental and political areas and most recently approved funding for powerful and so strategically relevant Madagascar, is essentially impotent, having coughed up a measly $110 million since its 2001 inception.
What we have to wonder is when this administration will wake up and realize that it is fanning, not extinguishing, a fire. The US is selling not only Royales with Cheese and Grande Mocha Lattes, but also democracy, and while some seem to be buying with gusto, some are reluctant to dive in, and still others offended. The problem with Bush and the neocon efforts is that their salesman do not use a sweet, seductive sales pitch but the butt of a gun, embargo threats, or other economic sanctions. Marketers for multinationals are able to adapt to anti-Americanism, and have even begun to do just that:
"Pepsi may have taken the new anti-Brand America strategy the furthest: According to The Economist, the soft drink-maker has launched an ad campaign in Bahrain that builds up Coca-Cola as an American brand while positioning itself as the local favorite."
Perhaps what is best about the CEO's and marketing VP's of major multinationals is that they have no policy power, and are thus unable to inspire fear. Here and now I call for a reversal of the strategy the Department of Defense employed to steal Robert McNamara from Ford for its Secretary position. Let's send our best foreign policy officials back into the breach, as heads of international marketing for McDonald's, Starbucks, and the like, and we might soon see understanding break over previously staunch global citizens. Wolfowicz' appointment as World Bank President is probably a step in the right direction.