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In the Marketing World, Americans Have the Bragging Rights

January 19, 2010

STEWART K KELLY, Marketing Strategy

Patrick O'Flaherty. "Who does he think he is?"

Self-confidence plays a big role in marketing. If you’re going to tell the world how good your organization/product/service is – while keeping a straight face – it helps if you really believe it. And it helps even more if you’re not ashamed to be enthusiastic. After all, one way or another, marketing is about creating a buzz.

This clever opinion piece from yesterday’s Financial Times looks at the role of naked enthusiasm in America’s business success; it reminded me why Americans seem to be so much better at marketing than their counterparts across the Atlantic.

As individuals, they learn to self-promote from an early age: to secure a prestigious college place, plum first job, big scholarship, or top internship. So as adults they’re quite comfortable waxing lyrical to anyone who’ll listen on why their approach to investment or sales or combine harvesters is the best on the market.

As a Dubliner living in the US, I can offer some anecdotal evidence to back up the FT columnist’s argument. Us Irish – and to a lesser extent other Europeans – learn from an early age to resent and begrudge those who display overt self-confidence or enthusiasm. “Who does he think he is?” is a popular Dublin refrain, usually aimed at a well-known entrepreneur or business exec. From birth, we are conditioned to play down and trivialize our own achievements and strengths, and we snicker at our brash cousins across the pond.

Yes, it’s part of our endearing self-deprecating culture. And perhaps we’re onto something when we accuse the Americans of taking themselves a bit too seriously. But when it comes to marketing – especially when you are selling your own expertise – self-deprecation has no place. This is why America continues to do it best.

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