“Why do Americans hate the French?”
If you check Google (concerning Franco-American relations) for search results, the quote above is a suggestion that you get. Kind of surprising, isn’t it?
Because first of all, it is absolutely not true that Americans hate the French. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, for instance, 78% of American respondents said that they had a positive opinion about the French. And vice versa: according to the same poll, in France, there are more people who approve of U.S. leadership than people who disapprove of it.
On the other hand, there is a problem called “French bashing”
I’ve been discussing a phenomenon called French bashing for a few weeks now (check those articles out here, here, and here). This phenomenon and the fact that we have to talk about it tell us that whatever polls say, there is a tension between the Anglo-Saxons and the French. These two ads, for instance, represent very well the stereotypes that go round and round in the debate:
1. The Anglo-Saxon point of view…
2. … and the counterattack
How should the French address the problem?
So the question is this: does France want to please the target market of Anglo-Saxon libertarians, economists, journalists and opinion leaders?
Are Anglo-Saxon opinion leaders needed in order to succeed, expand, etc. in the world of international competition? Because if that is the case, if France really cares about their opinion, it is time for France to rethink strategy. Because the real problem is not the recipient. It never is.
No, it is not true that Americans hate the French. They do not. There are Anglo-Saxon opinion leaders though, who express frank and harsh criticism concerning the French economic and social model. And for now, France is not competing for the approval of these people.
France has a good, solid foundation. According to public surveys that I could find around, the country does not fare badly in general country branding polls. If the French want their country to have a better reputation among the group of Anglo-Saxon libertarians and opinion leaders, the foundation and the tools might be there. There are competitive advantages that France can market in order to change the perception. But to do that, France will have to get in the much-hated competition business. French leaders will need to change the perception of their country among opinion leaders. That is, if it is important for France. But the French should remember: if they do not shape the opinion, someone else will.