i think your friend is right, you only have to look at the BOTM competition here, mostly american brands winning (not anything wrong with that at all).
Fat, IndyFab, Merlin, they all seem to have the 'I want' factor and thats because they are cool.
i think it helps when those brands have their image so well sorted aswel, look at Roberts, he's seen as an old school builder but of mainly road/touring frames and hasn't really ever changed in years, as such he is seen as boring by mountain bikers.
brand image i think is what sells it. it has to be cool. Chas Roberts, Dave Yates, Dave lloyd, they aren't cool 'names', Yeti, Fat Chance on the other hand are cool names.
when you spend a lot on a handmade custom frame and a friend asks about it try convincing him it's cool when the brand is 'Arthur Caygill'
i am not suggesting we all need stuff to be cool but if it's built for you, does it's job perfectly, is very good quality and is cool aswell then that hits the spot,
mostly the americans get that right, us? not so much.
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something in your life.