Nation Building Brief
Four companies which use the concept of "building America" or a similar theme in their advertising are Greenlee Textron, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., HCSS, and the UAW (International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America). Another company which has used that concept in the past is 84 Lumber, which used the concept in its 2013 "We Build American" campaign. The Department of Energy also markets one of its programs under the name, "Building America". In this report, I'll go through each of the five companies currently using the concept and discuss how they are articulating this "building America" message across different media and what elements of the message are emphasized in their branding.
greenlee textron: building america
Greenlee Textron is a manufacturing company which builds tools for electrical and mechanical professionals. It has done this since 1862, and now has seven manufacturing facilities, all in the US. Greenlee is running an advertising campaign called "Building America", using the tagline, "Building America Since 1862". The campaign highlights the stories of longtime employees in its manufacturing plants. Their stories often emphasize pride, with one worker saying, "I feel proud to work for Greenlee. They make quality products and I'm proud to put my name on it.", and another saying, "I am a proud Rockford resident, and I'm proud I can work at a company who supports the community."
The tagline, which emphasizes the company's history, draws attention to its deep roots in the community, and the employees' stories emphasize local, national, and company pride. The ads, both implicitly and explicitly, promote the idea that Greenlee is supporting its community by providing high-quality jobs people can be proud to have. By putting its employees front and center in the ads, Greenlee is emphasizing its contribution to the community and the country, rather than, say, the quality or low cost of its products. The ads also emphasize national fraternity with customers through shared patriotism. One employee says, "We put American innovation and hard work into the tools we build here, and our customers appreciate that we're manufacturing right here in the USA."
abc: building America
Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC) recently used a combination of radio commercials, online ads, and digital content to promote its, "commitment to workforce development, safety and the merit shop philosophy." The ads focused on the contribution of ABC's members to American society. Mike Bellaman, the CEO of the group said, "[Our members] build all of America. They build infrastructure, hard—meaning utilities, roads, etc. as well as social—which means schools, churches and educational institutions. They build office buildings, retail complexes, stadiums—all the special places that we live in, learn, go have fun in, get healed". This message is repeated throughout the campaign.
The ads, like Bellaman's statement, emphasize the connection between both the American economy and the fabric of American society, and the construction industry. Moreover, they emphasize the likelihood of a serious workforce shortage in construction in the coming years, and how devastating that could be to both the American economy and American life. These ads do not highlight the employees or ground level workers in the industry, as Greenlee's ads do, but rather focus on statements from industry leaders, and try to paint the companies as "good guys" more directly by giving examples of the good work they do, rather than implicitly by showing how happy their employees are.
HCSS: I Build America
HCSS is a construction software company which spotlighted its customers, and the contributions they make to America, in an ad campaign called, "I Build America", under the tagline, "Pride. Respect. Construction". This campaign won "Best in Show" at the 2017 MarketingSherpa Awards by a unanimous vote by the judges. The campaign featured HCSS customers in a bracketed, "March Madness-style" competition. They set up a website, social media accounts, and "I Build America" clothing lines, all focused around what they called the "Construction Impact Awards". Companies who used HCSS products would write in describing the positive impact their work was having on America. They picked winners and featured them in the ads. Like Greenlee's campaign, "I Build America" shifted the focus off of the product HCSS was trying to sell, but this time it placed it on the customer. This "customer as the hero" model of advertising worked wonders for HCSS, as they saw revenues increase by a whopping 54% following the campaign.
Another important component of this campaign was that it focused on solving a real problem that HCSS customers were facing. Dan Briscoe, the head of HCSS marketing, explains, "Our customers in the construction industry are struggling to find and retain good employees … a career path in construction is not viewed favorably by teens, parents, and school counselors. Even in college, civil engineering isn't viewed as favorably as other engineering fields, even though the pay and opportunities are often higher." For that reason, the campaign emphasized the desirability of construction work and career prospects in the field. By showing that HCSS was aligned with the needs and values of its customers, they were able to better appeal to them.
Finally, like all the campaigns we've looked at, HCSS emphasized the fact that all other aspects of American life rely on the construction industry. In a blog post, as part of the campaign, HCSS wrote, "Construction doesn’t just mean orange cones and possible traffic—it means connecting cities through roadways and bridges so people can drive safely to work and to see friends and family. It’s about making sure people can turn on the water in their homes and use other utilities without issues. It’s about an honest day’s work with an honest day’s pay. Without construction, these comforts would not exist." They emphasize the value of construction work to society, showing both how careers in it are desirable, and how society generally needs the construction industry.
uaw: Build BUy USA
The United Auto Workers aim to promote car manufacturing jobs in the US by encouraging people to buy American made cars. In their online campaign "Build Buy USA", the UAW promotes American made cars specifically on the basis of community obligations and patriotism. Their website states that the campaign is, "about the big picture of bringing back the well-paying and sustainable manufacturing jobs that supported all of us for generations." The UAW is using terms like "us" to put themselves in a group with the reader or viewer, and suggest that they have an obligation to support their community by buying American made products.
In the "Buy USA" section of their website, the campaign lists six reasons to buy American made products:
1. "To Bring Jobs Back"
2. "For Food Safety"
6. "For Our Planet"
The first and third of these reasons emphasize bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US and promoting union jobs, both on the basis that they promote the well being of people in the US. Under the first reason, the UAW writes, "We shouldn't reward companies with our dollars when they send our jobs overseas." The use of "our" emphasizes community ties. Beneath this is the statistic that for every full-time manufacturing job created in the US, 3.4 full-time jobs are created in non-manufacturing industries. This emphasizes how other parts of the American economy are reliant on manufacturing, a common theme among "Building America" related ad campaigns. Moreover, standing against sweatshops, maintaining national independence, and protecting the environment also, in different ways, appeal to people's desire to support their communities and do the right thing. This, again, underscores another common theme of "Building America" related ad campaigns: a focus on the community rather than on the product being sold.
Four companies which use some variation of the theme "Building America" in their advertising are Greenlee Textron, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., HCSS, and the UAW. Other examples of companies or organizations using this theme include the Department of Energy's "Building America" program and 84 Lumber's 2013 "We Build American" campaign. In the four campaigns examined closely, several common themes can be discerned. Firstly, they focus on community and societal ties. Secondly, they focus on people involved in the company in some way, rather than on the products being sold. Finally, they focus on the importance of construction or manufacturing industries for the rest of the American economy and society.