Consumers’ Love for American Brands Untainted by Growing Concerns About “Brand America,” New Research Shows

J. Walter Thompson deconstructs American brands and their position on the world stage to explore the opportunities and the challenges posed by the climate under the current administration in “Brand America,” a new report published by JWT Intelligence today.

While perceptions of Brand America have taken a turn for the worse recently, American brands are still widely viewed favorably, JWT’s findings suggest.

Global attitudes towards the US under the current administration are nuanced.

More than 40% of respondents from Mexico, Russia and the UK have a negative view of America, directly linked to the events of the past year, and mostly driven by the actions of the US government.

However, 90% of Indian respondents view the US very or somewhat positively – higher, even, than the 83% of Americans who hold a positive view of their own country.

Despite concerns about “Brand America,” approval ratings of US brands range from 78% in the UK to 93% in India and China – again, higher than US respondents, whose approval rating of American brands is 90%. These figures have changed little since 2012, suggesting that consumers at home and abroad distinguish between “Brand America” and American brands.

Only 15% of respondents say it matters whether a brand comes from a country of which they think highly.

Terms most readily associated with American brands are “quality,” “innovative” and “expensive,” mentioned by 55%, 51% and 46% of respondents, respectively. Biggest drivers of brand affinity across all respondents are “quality,” “trustworthiness” and “familiarity.”

Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, McDonald’s, Microsoft and Nike were the first American brands that sprang to respondents’ minds.

How brands behave – and their social conscience, especially – is a key concern among respondents. 40% of respondents want a brand that values its customers; 22% want a brand that does good in the world; and 19% want a brand that cares about more than just making money.

Respondents’ understanding of where American brands are from is nuanced, however – in part due to national partnerships and/or national product variation, demonstrating a weakening of the notion of brands having a national identity.

When asked, 31% of Indian respondents think Ford is American; 40% of Chinese respondents think Facebook is American; 59% of Britons think Amazon is American; 63% of Mexicans think Coca-Cola is Russian; 62% of Americans think Apple is American.

Moving forward, American brands should be ambitious – by being good to become great, rather than simply focusing on being big, JWT advises. They should provide leadership. They should think local. They should be honest and transparent. And they should focus on emotion and experience.

Those American brands that acknowledge the interconnectivity of brands and consumers across national borders and behave in a way that recognizes we are all tied together are more likely to be more people-orientated and successful, the report also suggests.

Tamara Ingram, CEO, J. Walter Thompson, said, “Thought leadership, and insight, are at the core of J. Walter Thompson’s DNA. We constantly strive to understand change, in culture, and in consumers, and what impact this will have on brands. America the brand is undergoing a critical shift on a global stage right now, and we wanted to understand how these changes were impacting its stable of global powerhouse brands. Our insight? America’s brands continue to endure, though they may need to evolve. I’m thrilled to unveil this groundbreaking piece of JWT research.”

Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group, added, “Since our study ‘The Political Consumer,’ which we released prior to the US election, we’ve been examining the changing relationship between consumers, brands and the political situation. With headlines appearing about the US, and its reputation as a global thought leader evolving in this controversial administration, we wanted to explore how much this was affecting American brands. And further, examine the role of US brands internationally, their origins and values, and how that should change in future. We’re excited to unveil this study with an original global survey of several international markets.”

Publication of the “Brand America” report follows indications of a marked change in attitudes towards America in recent months.

The number of international visitors to the US in the first quarter of 2017 fell by 4.2% – or 700,000 people – year on year, according to the latest figures released by the United States Department of Commerce.

The fall equates to a loss of $2.7bn in spending, according to Oxford Economics.

While 64% of respondents expressed confidence in Barack Obama doing the right thing in world affairs during the final year of his presidency, 22% of respondents expressed confidence in Donald Trump, according to Pew Research Center’s annual Global Attitudes survey conducted in 37 countries in spring 2017.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that confidence is closely related to consumer spending.

About the Innovation Group

The Innovation Group is J. Walter Thompson’s futures, research and innovation unit. It charts emerging and future global trends and consumer change and innovation patterns, and translates these into insight for brands. It offers a suite of consultancy services, including bespoke research, presentations, co-branded reports and workshops. It is also active in innovation, partnering with brands to activate future trends within their frameworks and execute new products and concepts.

The Innovation Group is part of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, a platform for global research, innovation and data analytics at J. Walter Thompson Company. It houses three key in-house practices: SONAR™, Analytics and the Innovation Group. For more information, please visit and follow us @JWTIntelligence.

About the survey

The survey by SONAR™ included 500 people from China, India, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. (3,000 in total)


J. Walter Thompson Company was founded in 1864 and has been making pioneering solutions that build enduring brands and business for more than 150 years. Today the company has evolved to include several global networks including J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, Mirum and Colloquial.

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About the Author: Bob Cooper

Bob Cooper is Canadian Business Tribune''s senior editor. He is also a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a bestselling author. He lives in London Ontario and covers the intersection of money, politics and finance. He appears periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) The National Post, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s,, Vice and He also has served as a journalist and consultant on documentaries for CBC and Global News . In 2014, he was the winner of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers' investigative journalism award, and the winner of the Izzy Award for Journalism from Ithaca College's Park Center for Independent Media. He was also a finalist for UCLA's Gerald R. Loeb Award and Syracuse University's Mirror Award. Before becoming a journalist in 2006, Sirota worked in Washington for, among others, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Minority Staff and the Center for American Progress.