Friday, June 28, 2013

Apple Designed in California! Does it matter if it was made in China (not USA)?

One cannot seem to miss Apple’s designed in California campaign this summer. It’s on TV commercials, a new film, web banner adverts and even double-page spread out in Wall Street Journal.  

Apple has long positioned the “designed in California” tag on its products but only now seems to be going to town with it. While the campaign sounds like a smart move by the tech giant to get consumers to look past the “made in china” label on iProducts, it is also a tacit acknowledgement of the reality of our times.  Chris Rawson blogs Many Americans, all the way up to the President himself, have wondered why Apple has outsourced virtually all of its manufacturing overseas. At a dinner with several top US technology executives last year, President Obama asked Steve Jobs flat out what it would take to bring those jobs back to the US. According to Jobs, there's simply no way for it to happen.

Globalized nature of business of manufacturing, supply chain and even consumerism means multinational firms find it hard (if not impossible) to manufacture in a region or country alone.  There was a time, not so long ago when "Made in USA" gave the perception that the product came with a stamp of quality. Similarly, other nations had their claim to fame: Swiss watches, cheese and chocolates, German engineering, Japanese electronics and cars and so on.  The stamp of provenience was more than a stamp of quality; it was a matter of regional or national pride

And then came the outsourcing wave with China taking the lead on manufacturing and assembling every product conceivable. And it is not just China as the recent Bangladesh clothing factory disasters brought to our attention. Offshoring IT Services to India and its impact on immigration and visas has been a hot button issue in western countries for much of the past decade.
Brand managers increasingly have very little claim to provenance or origin that they can attach to a product’s marketing. Which is probably why  those at Apple are trying to shift the focus from “made in” to “designed in.” On the surface this in itself sounds like a smart argument, a marketing coup if you will. Similar is the case with Blackberry’s claim of being a Canadian crown jewel Other firms following Apple’s marketing mantra include Noika's imitation: “Designed in Finland. Made in Korea” and the hip sneaker brand Vans claims to be "Designed in California."  
On the flip side, quintessentially Japanese car makers like Honda and Toyota are increasingly trying to look and sound American (ref: Toyota Camry beats Ford F-150 as most 'American made'). If Toyota were to start branding Toyota Camry as Designed in Fuji Technical Center, made in USA, would that stick?!
I wonder if this is why LA times is already calling “Apple's'Designed in California' TV ad flops with consumers

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