I sat there, in front of my 32 inches Samsung TV, watching ‘The
Practice’ in awe of the suits, scandals and society. I sat there, on my
Indian couch and culture, dreaming the big American dream. We all
did. While the world watched, America, year over year, signiﬁed
power, freedom, opportunity and success. We all dreamed in red,
white and blue. And in dollars.
Today, as I glance around, trying to ﬁnd the ‘proud of being
American button’ engraved on people’s chests, I only ﬁnd ﬂags of
disdain and broken promises. They all nod their heads in
bewilderment when asked whether they considered themselves true
Americans or not. ‘What do you mean ‘true’ Americans?’ They
So, I took up the quest of understanding Americans. I sent out
surveys, raised questions in person, eavesdropped on conversations,
interviewed bloggers and studied various charts. I asked them all,
what had changed and what hadn’t? American citizens or global
habitants? Stayed true to tradition or created their own cultures?
I asked them, ‘What does it mean to be an American?’
- Mansi Trivedi
Sources: Gallup Survey, Pew Study, Primary Quantitative/Qualitative Research,
iBrand/TCE Study, Blogs
“Your whole life is
freedom. So many
people have lost
fortunes, but they
went back and kept
going until they
ﬁnally made it. You
take what you have
and go make
Hariett Ball, school teacher on “Being an American”
Four questions and an insight
1. Who considers himself/herself as
being an American?
2. What does being an American
3. What has changed and how?
4. Who is the new ‘American’?
5. The new American - Insight
1. Who considers himself/herself as being an
Demographic Divide when it comes to patriotism
• Less % of the younger age groups consider themselves patriotic and higher % of older age
groups consider themselves more patriotic. (Gallup Survey)
• For the older generations, being American lies in heritage, traditions and ideals. As such,
much tighter correlation between being and buying American with older generations because it
deﬁnes them through their traditions and values. (Gallup Survey, Pew Research)
• Americans are jaded by the current situation and their conﬁdence on America being a super
power is deteriorating. Although, there is also a growing trend of people supporting their local
communities and helping their communities prosper.
• Life-stage: Younger Married/Unmarried age groups are not motivated to buy only American
• Domestic/Imports: Import vehicle buyers tend to be more open to a multicultural society are
not only valuing American ideals but those of other cultures too (GM Ibrands Study)
• iBrands (GM Buyer Behavior Study): Friends and Families and Action Heroes are more
traditional and prefer American manufactured products whereas Progressive Enthusiasts
consider themselves patriotic but their consideration for American manufactured products is
lower. Progressive Enthusiasts also think that being an American is a vital part of their identity
but they also tend to be more open to various cultures, environmentalism. Their preference
towards American manufactured products indexes lower than other ibrands.
2. What does being an American really
Behavior more important than background
• Last two years have seen a lot of cultural shifts. The young have embraced it and what it
means to be an American has changed for them. The younger generations themselves
deﬁne what it means to be an American. Purdue University Survey results found that
behavior is more important than one’s background in deﬁning who is an American.
• Gallup Youth Survey asked youth (aged 13-17) what it meant to be an American? They
said that Being American means accepting others, treating everyone equally, being open
to new ideas and thoughts, appreciating your freedom and not taking what your ancestors
did for granted.
• Americans are calling for new solutions: They want to work hard to restore their secure
lifestyle. They are looking at the government to provide them more solutions. They are
expecting companies to function responsibly and help rebuild America’s image as a
responsible nation. AAR research in April, 2008 found that respondents are likely to
recycle, drive a hybrid car, and take other actions to reduce their impact on the
• Americans are interested in the truly different and yet authentic. Americans believe in
products/brands that truly give them the freedom to choose, anything that reﬂects their
beliefs and reinforces their image as being smart citizens. (Some examples include being
associated with brands like Prius, Trader Joe’s, Greenworks, Apple)
3. What has changed and how?
Americans look for social responsibility amongst companies
• There is a difference between Being American and Buying
American. Being American is not translating into buying
American for younger generations. Because as opposed to the
Boomers, Generation X and Y don’t buy brands based on
ideologies but buy brands based on performance.
• For the older generations, being American lies in heritage,
traditions and ideals. As such, much tighter correlation
between being and buying American with older generations
because it deﬁnes them through their traditions and values.
• But with the new President, there is a movement of people as
they earn up to the situation and are determined to revive
America. 58% of all Americans think the economy will
improve under Obama.(HCD Survey, December 2008)
• Nearly all (92%) of people surveyed expect businesses to
behave as good corporate citizens by putting more emphasis
on being socially and environmentally responsible and less
emphasis on short-term proﬁts.
4. Who is the new ‘American’?
There has been a shift on what Being American means: from
Background to Current, from Heritage to Potential
Old ‘American’ New ‘American’
Being American is
Being American means
deﬁned based on
freedom, pride and
Buy Brands that are
Trust Brands that embody responsible, that will play a
that heritage role in our bright future,
brands that reﬂect my ideals.
The ‘new’ American is
The new American is hopeful and optimistic
about the future of America. He/She is
patient and realizes that they have taken the
Optimistic ﬁrst step towards revival. They are working
harder towards a better tomorrow, towards a
He/She is not leaving it up to you or me to
change the world. The new American is standing
Responsible up, taking up personal responsibility and owning
up to the challenge of revamping the current
situation. He/She is working towards greener
country and encouraging corporate responsibility.
He/She will ﬁght for what is right because he/she
is armed with global weapons - expression
Tenacious through online platforms - blogs,twitter,forums etc.
He/She abides by the ethical rules and will call
you out if you fail to follow. He/She will ﬁght for
a good cause.
The ‘new’ American wants
The new American wants transparency in brands
they buy. The ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in
America’ tag does not inﬂuence purchase but a
Transparency brand story does. The new American has access
to limitless information and concealing
something will only lead to rejection.
He/She embraces technology. Not all of them
understand it but they all appreciate it. Stay
ahead of the curve, be the ﬁrst and create user-
Innovation friendly manuals. Be approachable, not
intimidating. The new American wants companies
to not take them for granted but constantly
display their capabilities.
The new American wants to rely on companies
that admit their wrongs and rectify the wrongs.
He/She wants socially responsible brands that
Accountability will help them become good global citizens. The
new American is ready to forgive the past if the
efforts are made to make the future better.
Starting today, we
ourselves up, dust
ourselves off, and
begin again the
work of remaking
- President Obama
1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s Today
Revival of ‘Living God Bless
Faith in the Road to
the American America
American Dream Revival
Gaining the American Superpower Status:
1960’s •The average family owned a home in the suburbs and bought a new car every few years
•Able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle that was not available to the average citizen before
World War II.
Focus on individuality and ﬁnding inner peace
•Increasing divorce rates, female-headed house-holds, focus on individuality and ﬁnding inner
1970’s peace over material satisfaction
•Economic stagnation and recession
•Auto industry found itself largely unable to sell its gas-guzzling large cars, which were its
most proﬁtable. Consumers, faced with rapidly increasing car and fuel prices, were demanding
smaller, more economical cars that got improved gas mileage.
The Me! Generation of status seekers
•The 1980s became the Me! generation of status seekers
1980’s •Hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and mega-mergers spawned a new breed of
•Blend of conservative family values alongside a period of increased telecommunications.
•Auto industry had lost its ﬁrst-place standing to Japan. One out of every four cars sold in
1980 were imports. By the second quarter of 1981, the Big Three were showing proﬁts again.
In 1985, Americans owned one car for every 1.7 people in the country.
The Electronic Age
•Changed the way we communicate, spend our money and do business.
•An open, diversiﬁed society, a functioning democracy, a healthy economy, and the means
1990’s and will to face and overcome its problems
•Auto Industry developments of the late 1990s focused on global expansion into new
markets. Through most of the 1990s, auto makers sold a little over 15 million cars and light
trucks a year in the U.S. market. That changed in the late 1990s: With gasoline prices low
and many U.S. consumers feeling ﬂush from the tech-stock boom, auto sales surged.
Dual-Income Families and rise in patriotism
•An American family grew to dual income families in majority.
•International trade grew and so did concern over energy supplies
•Explosion in telecommunications
•Concerns with international terrorism and war
2000’s •The debate over global warming.
•The U.S. market for cars and light trucks continued to be strong till 2005. But sales fell
afterwards. Hurricane Katrina caused gas prices to climb above the $3 mark, and sales of big
vehicles plunged. Although light trucks still accounted for over half of the U.S. passenger
vehicle market in 2005, sales declined. Conversely, passenger car sales grew.
Rise of the Creative-Class and Environmentalists
•The American family is smaller than before. People are marrying much later in their lives and
Today a lot of couples are adopting the empty nesters lifestyle.
•The advent of digital decade, this decade has seen the emergence of the Creative Class, the
D-I-Yers and those who are documenting their entire lives online through tools like Wordpress,
Liveournal, Facebook, Flickr, Blogger, Twitter and so on.
•A new trend of ‘Eco-Iconism’ has also grown. People are making an effort to buy green and
lead a eco-friendly lifestyle.
•The auto industry is seeing a dramatic change. Rising gas prices has sent a panic amongst
truck buyers. The demand has shifted towards small cars and favorable perception has shifted
towards the imports. Toyota has overtaken GM as number 1 automaker of the country while
domestics continue to struggle.
Gallup Survey, 2007
How proud are you to be an
- The 9/11 events reinstated the feeling
of patriotism amongst people but as the
country started suffering economic
problems and the war issue, the
number of people proud of being an
- The survey shows that the higher
educated, younger, lower income
group of Americans from urban
areas tend to be less patriotic.
2008 GM iBrand Proﬁle Study
On Buying American
• Lifestage: Younger Married/Unmarried age groups are not motivated to buy only American
– Never Married Individuals, Dual Income No Kids, Young Educated Female, Young Afﬂuent Males, Inﬂuentials, Educated Wealthy
lifestage groups are more open to a multi-cultural America and are not motivated to buy American as compared with other lifestages.
They think that America is the only superpower nation in the world but don’t necessarily prefer American manufactured products.
– Empty Nesters, Mature Couples, Mature Families, Widow/ers are more traditional in their attitudes. They think that it is necessary to
receive a religious upbringing, being an American is a part of their personal identity and they value American ideals.
• Domestic/Imports: Import vehicle buyers tend to be more open to a multicultural society are not only valuing
American ideals but those of other cultures too
– Domestic owners tend to be more religious, they feel that Being American is a vital part of their identity, there’s no better place to live
than in America, no country even comes close, they also prefer to buy American manufactured products and value American ideals. They
think that environmentalists are extremists and not reasonable people.
– Import owners are more open to cultural inﬂuences from other countries and would enjoy living abroad. Given a choice, less than half of
them will buy American. It is about being a sponge. Taking in the best that America has to offer but blending it with other Non-American
products/cultures have to offer.
• iBrands: Friends and Families and Action Heroes are more traditional and prefer American manufactured products
whereas Progressive Enthusiasts consider themselves patriotic but their consideration for American manufactured
products is lower
– Friends and Families and Action Heroes are the highest indexed ibrands that prefer American manufactured products. They tend to be
more traditional and think that being an American is a vital part of their personalities. Friends and Families are more pessimistic towards
America’s future as compared with Action Heroes and Progressive Enthusiasts.
– Progressive Enthusiasts also think that being an American is a vital part of their identity but they also tend to be more open to various
cultures, environmentalism. Their preference towards American manufactured products indexes lower than other ibrands.
2008,2009 Trendwatching.com Reports
Greed to Generosity
Recent ‘Trendwatching’ report highlights the consumer shift in proudly
accepting brands that submitted to being socially responsible.