"Capitalism" Doesn't Fly in Focus Groups

Jillian Bandes
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Posted: Aug 11, 2009 6:41 PM
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a media campaign to promote capitalism. $100 million is being dedicated to convincing the American people and their government that free markets do, in fact, rock.

One would think this effort would be relatively smooth. After all, the Chamber is one of the biggest advocates for free markets in the world, and who in America could really be opposed to some nudging towards the good 'ole American principle of hard work and free will? But apparently, the Chamber has had to be a little more tactical in it's outreach efforts. See, "capitalism" simply doesn't sell. The better word, apparently, is "free enterprise." From BusinessWeek:
" 'Capitalism' was universally problematic," says Chamber spokeswoman Tita Freeman. Adds Rich Thau, president of New York-based Presentation Testing, which ran the focus groups: "There were those who associated 'capitalism' with greed and with the powerful dominating the vulnerable." But those negatives, he says, didn't apply at all to "free enterprise."
While it's a little disappointing that the average American is against the word "capitalism" -- to me, that's like being against apple pie -- I'm not above playing the game to make sure the main point is heard by the people who need to hear it. So now, the Chamber's outreach efforts will be called the"Campaign for Free Enterprise." Let's hope their message gets across no matter how they need to phrase it.