Foreign Policy Marrs Global Perceptions of US Brands

28 August 2007

NEW YORK: One-time globally popular US brands have lost favor of late - ostensibly because of the US government's political policies overseas - reports the latest annual study by New York-based GfK Roper Consulting.

Jennifer James, a senior consultant at the researcher, notes increasingly negative attitudes towards Americans, their culture, and their brands. All of which have impacted adversely on once-esteemed names like Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Colgate-Palmolive and Kodak.

"Our foreign policy has contributed," believes James. "This past year we're starting to see consumer favorability waning in the developing markets in Asia, Latin American and Central Europe. That's why we're seeing [brands] slippage."

The GfKR study - now in its tenth year - tracks the 'likability' of sixty major brands, of which around half are American.

It indicates that while US brands have lost popularity in developed regions for several years, the loss of favor this year has spread to developing markets and affected even the American classics.

The five largest falls in "likability" were experienced by companies headquartered stateside. Coca-Cola plunged deepest by almost 40%, while German and Japanese firms experienced the greatest gains.

BMW and Sony both leapt by over 30%, with Honda. Mercedes, Sony and Volkswagen also doing well.

But experts don't agree as to whether the decline is triggered by xenophobia or by consumerism.

Despite James' opinion that US foreign policy is a contributor to the decline, Ann McGill, a senior faculty member at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business differs.

"I don't see a mindless, myopic, country-of-origin effect," she says. "That doesn't say an American problem but an American category problem."

She cites Disney's success (+19%) as proof that US brands are not universally disliked. And although less popular than of yore, Coca-Cola, Nike, Pepsi, Colgate and McDonald's still figure among GfKR's top ten most powerful global brands.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff