Business experts say America's tarnished image could hurt U.S. firms

Advertising executive Keith Reinhard has a message for U.S. companies: America's tarnished image may soon hurt your bottom lines. Reinhard says growing anti-American sentiments and their impact on international sales aren't subjects corporations like to discuss publicly. But he says more executives are paying attention to warnings about shifting attitudes abroad.

"Sooner or later, anti-Americanism has got to be bad for business," said Reinhard, president of Business for Diplomatic Action and chairman of the New York ad agency DDB Worldwide. "In marketing, we know that changes in behavior inevitably follow changes in attitude."

Speaking Thursday at the Virginia Conference on World Trade, Reinhard encouraged businesses to practice diplomacy overseas and to take other actions, such as recruiting more foreign interns, to help change the way people view Americans.

Reinhard says the rising resentment has its roots in U.S. foreign policy, globalization's effects, pervasiveness of American popular culture and the "collective personality" of Americans.

"Americans are widely viewed as arrogant, loud, ignorant of other cultures and totally self-absorbed," he said in an interview earlier this week. "We think that's an attitude and behavior that can be changed."

Reinhard's camp points to several surveys that suggest a cooling toward America and its brands in many parts of the world.

In a recent poll of college-educated internationals ages 35 to 64, for instance, the public relations firm Edelman found that 32 percent of Europeans surveyed were less likely to buy U.S. products because of American culture. More than 40 percent of those polled in Canada, Europe and Brazil were less likely to purchase American products because of U.S. policies, Edelman said.

Not everyone is convinced there's a pressing issue. First, it's hard to quantify anti-Americanism's financial effect when few companies are talking about it. (Tourism is one exception.) And while well-known consumer brands like Marlboro and McDonald's might see boycotts, other U.S. companies say their lesser-known names simply aren't targets, reports the AP. I.L.