January 19, 2005

Write First ... Think Later?

If you want to read a pretty crummy article, check this out -- Slate's Daniel Gross writes about a Global Market Institute poll of European and Canadian feelings about various American brands. Here are some of the things Mr. Gross had to say:

"GMI reached a surprising conclusion: Some American companies are more American than others."

You're joking right? This is a "surprising conclusion"? I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume this is sarcasm, but the text doesn't really bear that out. And this guy writes "daily commentary about business and finance." O.k., soldiering on ...

Interesting points, all. But I don't think a simple algorithm of Americanness adequately explains the results. Take a look at the safe quadrant. It seems that Europe, the metrosexual continent, is willing to overlook national biases when it comes to personal grooming and pampering. Personal hygiene companies Gillette, Kleenex, Colgate, and Procter & Gamble all avoid trouble. So do apparel companies Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Estée Lauder. (Maybe the French think Estée is français?)

What? It's not a simple algorithm? Brilliant work, Sherlock. Of course it's not. Nobody actually said branding and Americanness involved a simple algorithm. In fact, GMI's Ken Pick, who is quoted by Daniel Gross, serves up several different explanations for different cases. He no doubt could have explained the nuance for the personal hygiene and clothing companies (e.g. not only are they in some way "localized", as he describes for MasterCard vs. American Express, but toothpaste brands don't shout out their country affiliation like many flagship beer brands do). But wait ... there's more!

In the end, however, some of the rankings defy rational inquiry. How is that Jack Daniels, with its u-r-American name, is considered less American than German-sounding Budweiser?

"Defy rational inquiry"? Just because you don't get it doesn't mean it defies rational inquiry. Daniel Gross seems to vascillate between barely understanding GMI's allegedly "suprising conclusion" and not knowing a corporate brand from a cow-tagging implement.

Does he seriously think that we should compare Jack Daniels' and Budweiser's Americanness solely based on their names? Come on!

And don't get me started on how he spends the entire article referring only to Europe and Europeans. Did Canada join the EU in that last round?

I'm generally a big Slate fan, but slipshod "analysis" like this makes me retch.

Posted by anatole at January 19, 2005 10:32 PM

I was right with you until that oxymoronic last sentence.

Posted by: Mike Hoye at January 22, 2005 06:19 PM

So, yeah, you've kind of got me there. :) I don't always go to Slate for deep, rigorous analysis, mind you, but I'm a little more disappointed of late than I used to be. I wonder if the Washington Post takeover will have any effect.

Ditto with Salon, which I once looked forward to on a regular basis but now find hopelessly predictable. They used to do some interesting investigative pieces, but these days, possibly with the exception of some interesting technology writing, they're doing a lot more Michael Moore-ian connecting of dots ("Surely there must be a vast right-wing conspiracy in here somewhere!").

Posted by: Anatole at January 26, 2005 10:16 PM