Grocery Shopping for America: Mitigation Strategies for Threats to National Identity. Working Paper.
Institutional threats to national identity from within—internal threats—and from outside—external threats—affect sales of brands symbolic of a culture, either national or foreign. We suggest national identity as a mediator and the focus of brand advertisements as a mitigator of the adverse effects of threats. We test our propositions through four studies that include secondary data analyses and lab experiments. In study 1, we analyze weekly supermarket scanner data, encompassing sales of over 8,000 brands across more than 1,100 US stores in 2004. We find that sales of American-sounding brands declined in counties with higher coverage of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal (internal threat) and sales of non-American sounding brands decreased in counties with more war causalities (external threat). We use lab experiments in studies 2 through 4 to show that, (a) national identity is a mediator, (b) advertisements highlighting the quality of the brand mitigates the negative effects of internal threats for American sounding brands, and (c) advertisements highlighting brands’ activities that help American causes mitigates the negative effects of external threats for non-American sounding brands. Our research highlights the risks brands face from national associations and provides mitigation strategies.