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Made in America: Apple and Motorola Take a New Marketing Approach

by Todd Haselton | July 4, 2013July 4, 2013 10:00 am PDT

made-in-usa

For as long as I can remember, many of America’s largest tech firms, including HP, Dell, Motorola, Apple and others, have hired international manufacturing firms such as Hon Hai and its subsidiary Foxconn to build new products. It’s actually not out of the ordinary for computers from multiple manufacturers to be made under the same roof abroad, even if that seems like a weird concept. Now, however, Apple and Google’s Motorola Mobility are hoping that a new “Assembled in the USA” marketing approach will attract consumers.

Apple said earlier this year that it will manufacture a single line of Macs in the United States, and confirmed during its Worldwide Developer Conference that, indeed, it will build the Mac Pro in Texas this year. The company typically works closely with Foxconn, which builds Apple products in China and other countries around the globe. Likewise, Motorola on Tuesday said that it will soon assemble and sell the new “custom” Moto X in the United States, though it’s still unclear where production will take place. Google, Motorola’s parent company, also said it will manufacture Google Glass in the U.S.

My goal is not to tackle the politics of whether or not we should all agree if products should be made in America. To be fair, I think there’s a global concern in regards to the financial crisis and it’s not one that’s limited to the United States, Europe, or any other land mass. I do think this is one of the first times I can recall in my 28 years on this earth that there’s been a focused approach on telling consumers if products are made in the U.S. – save for, perhaps, clothing made and marketed by a few U.S. companies.

I do know, however, that the auto industry took this approach during the automobile boom, and more specifically during wartime with other countries. The auto industry, and Detroit in particular, has seen its fair share of hard times as global competitors entered the auto industry and manufacturing was performed overseas, oftentimes in cost saving measures. Again, I’m not taking a positive or negative stance one way or another on this methodology, I’m just pointing out what has happened in history and creating a discussion.

And I realize this branding trend is starting again. American companies, perhaps spurred by government initiatives, are starting to bring assembly lines back to the United States. This time, though, it’s in the form of electronics. So, I wonder, how does this affect U.S. citizens? Is there the potential for new jobs here? I think so, but not just for U.S. citizens. Indeed, Foxconn said that it, too, has plans to open a plant in the United States – specifically in Los Angeles and Detroit, according to recent rumors.

Apple Mac Pro 2013 - Back - Press

Foxconn has a unique approach, if rumors are to be believed. It hopes to recruit engineers from top universities, including MIT – where both national and international students earn degrees – and train them in its plants in China and Taiwan. It then plans to bring those engineers, hopefully after learning fluent Chinese and the intricate manufacturing processes, back to the United States to work in the U.S. plants.

In that sense, it’s a multinational effort. While it may seem on the surface that it’s only beneficial to the United States, it could very likely indeed benefit educated students around the globe. American companies will still provide business to Foxconn, and Foxconn will help train students from a variety of universities and filter them to its plants around the world.

Apple already says its products are “Designed In California.” Soon, some will say that they’re built in the United States, and the Moto X will likely offer the same stamp. I wonder how this will affect buying habits in the U.S.? Will consumers flock to a specific product because it’s built here? How will this affect international firms like Hon Hai? Will Dell, HP and others follow suit?

I think the tech industry is very different beast from the auto industry. And our generation, too, is different. We grew up knowing dozens of tech brands, some consumers already have preferred brands, whether it’s LG, Motorola, Samsung, Apple, HP, Dell or another tech firm. Maybe you bought a washer and dryer from LG, liked it and decided to buy an LG smartphone and have since purchased an LG refrigerator, for example. Will a “Made in the USA” sticker change how we think about brands we’ve already grown to know and love? Let us know what you think in the comments.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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