With July 4th soon upon us, many marketers are readying to wrap their brands in the American flag and cue the marching bands. As part of a brand values survey, we did a statistical “drill-down” to identify which of 197 brands were most associated with the value of “patriotism.” For 21st century, socially networked hotwired-to-mobile-device consumers, saying it and being it are two different things, the operative phrase being, well, “being it.”
Many emotional engagement values drive overall brand engagement, so consumers evaluated 35 of them. But since marketers – domestic and foreign – traditionally operate on the “Week Before Independence Day Marketing Theory,” i.e., a patriotic, flag-waving, call-to-emotion backed by majorettes and fife and drum corps will motivate consumers, we wanted to see which brands actually led when it came patriotism.
If tracking brand growth and profitability has taught us anything over the past couple of decades, it’s successful leveraging any individual brand value has always had more to do with believability via emotional brand engagement than brand awareness via ad budget. Certainly not company size or the use patriotic themes. (Don’t you wish you had 1$ every time Uncle Sam shows up in an ad this coming week? Or 50¢ for every Red, White, and Blue leitmotif?)
No, consumers are expecting all this and whether patriotism can be credibly and profitably leveraged to the brand’s benefit is always more a question of whether that value is part of the brand’s equity, and whether consumers truly acknowledge it on a deeply emotional and engaging basis. Slapping an American flag on something and actually having an authentic foundation for being able to slap an American flag on something are different and the consumer knows it. More importantly, they act upon that knowledge.
So it seems manifest and reasonable that the brands that showed up in the top-25, could each be called an ‘American Icon’ in the category where they compete. Percentages indicate emotional engagement strength for the single, individual value of “patriotism” the brand gets credit for.
- Jeep (98%)
- Hershey’s/Coca-Cola (97%)
- Levi Strauss/Disney (95%)
- Colgate (94%)
- Zippo (93%)
- Wrigley’s (92%)
- Ralph Lauren (91%)
- Kodak/Gillette (90%)
- New Balance/Harley-Davidson (89%)
- Budweiser/Marlboro (88%)
- Ford (86%)
- Louisville Slugger/Smith & Wesson (85%)
- GE (84%)
- John Deere/L.L. Bean (82%)
- Walmart (81%)
- Craftsman Tools/ Wilson Sporting Goods/Wrangler (80%)
We were curious about to see how the most patriotic of patriotic brands, the United States armed services rated. The Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy were all included in the study and, as you probably guessed, each showed up rated very highly on the list. As this was primarily a study of for-profit brands, we’re calling them out separately here and thanking all of them for their service. Advertising and marketing notwithstanding, this is Independence Day we’re talking about after all.
Sports teams showed up too: the Yankees, the Patriots, the 49ers, the Cowboys. If you’ve observed a genuine and consonant thematic when it comes to patriotism and brands, you wouldn’t be wrong. Other brands that appeared in the top-50 included Campbell’s, Gibson, GM, Jack Daniels, Kellogg’s, McDonalds, the NFL, Playboy, Sears, and Whirlpool.
All this is not to say that other brands are not patriotic, or that they don’t possess any patriotic resonance. They do. Rational aspects like being an American company, or really being “Made in the USA,” or having Nationally-directed CSR activities and sponsorships – all play a part in the total make-up of any brand, generally, and as it regards its patriotic nature and public face specifically.
But if you want to meaningfully differentiate via a brand value, if there’s believability via strong emotional engagement, good marketing just gets better. Another thing the past couple of decades has taught us is brands that make that kind of connection always have a strategic advantage over competitors when it come to the marketplace battle for the hearts, minds, and loyalty of consumers.
Happy July 4th.