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Such flare-ups have fueled speculation that U.S. firms are already being squeezed. Yet companies that appear to be at risk insist anti-Americanism isn't a factor (at least not yet). Spending on American Express cards, for instance, grew 16.3% in the U.S. and 23.6% overseas last year. While the company doesn't break out regions, officials say Europe is strong--and that the firm hasn't made any defensive changes. Sales of Marlboro cigarettes fell in France and Germany last year, and both the GMI and Edelman polls suggest that Marlboro is vulnerable to anti-American sentiment. But Philip Morris International senior vice president David Davies blames higher cigarette taxes in both countries and points out that Marlboro's market share actually increased in France. "Clearly the data are not a reflection of what Marlboro smokers are thinking," says Davies. "We've thought about it. But anti-Americanism has had very, very little impact on us."
Harvard Business School professor John Quelch has found that a small minority of overseas customers, between 10% and 15%, won't buy global brands. But he attributes that behavior to the antiglobal movement that arose in the late 1990s, not to more recent anti-American sentiment. "I'm skeptical that the average consumer in the world is going to let their views of American foreign policy affect their brand-choice behavior," he says.
Indeed, for every brand that has run into trouble, there are others that are flourishing. Starbucks opened its first coffee shop in Paris two years ago, for instance, and now has 10 in the city and its outskirts. It will certainly take more than the current political mood to faze Jean-Noel Castanet. A Frenchman who says he loves the U.S., Castanet runs a small grocery store near the Eiffel Tower called the Real McCoy that stocks U.S. products hard to find in France, such as Aunt Jemima Waffle Mix, French's mustard, Oreo O's and Ocean Spray cranberry juice. Last year he opened a small café nearby that sells American favorites such as buffalo burgers and bagels with cream cheese. It has been a great success so far, he says--and about half the customers are French. Beaming at a crowd of French schoolkids who have dropped by for a sandwich, he notes, "Young people still love America. That hasn't changed." Big multinational brands are fervently hoping that he's right. --With reporting by Sean Gregory/New York