Patriotic Brands

Conversations with TheCustomer: Robert Passikoff on Measuring Patriotic Brands

Earlier this month we published the findings from the 18th annual “Most Patriotic Brands” survey as compiled by Brand Keys. 

Earlier this month we published the findings from the 18th annual “Most Patriotic Brands” survey as compiled by Brand Keys.  This week we sat down with Brand Keys founder and CEO, Robert Passikoff to talk about how one goes about measuring brand patriotism and why it matters.  As always, our conversations with Dr. Passikoff are interesting, enlightening and fun.

Conversations with TheCustomer – Robert Passikoff, CEO of Brand Keys from TheCustomer on Vimeo.


This transcript has been edited for grammar and space.

“Jeep, why Jeep – what are you kidding me?”

The Customer
Hi, I’m Mike Giambattista. I’m the publisher of the customer. Today. We get to talk with a good friend colleague and contributor to the customer. Robert Passikoff, who is founder and CEO of Brand Keys. Among other things, Brand Keys puts out series of surveys, and in this case, once a year, they put out something called the brand patriotism survey.

And I probably have the name of that wrong. Robert, you can correct me, but essentially it’s an index of how patriotic brands are being perceived. First, thanks for joining me, Robert. Really appreciate it.

Robert Passikoff
Oh, it’s my pleasure.

So now that I stepped all over the name of your, your work, can you correct me?

Robert Passikoff
It’s actually called the loyalty leader. Now it’s called the most patriotic brands survey.

Just like it says. It’s something that you and your group have been doing for, I want to say over two decades now. No, I’m sorry. Exactly 18 years. Maybe you’ll want to talk to us a little bit about the history there and why this came to be in the first place.

Robert Passikoff
This is kind of that thing, you know, it’s kind of nice to know thing, and maybe there are certain brands that want to drill down and understand patriotism for themselves with the value but this was mostly something that, because we saw after 911, many brands wrap themselves in the flag and presented themselves as patriotic parents. And it was, you know, nice that people supported all the good things that were happening after bad things had happened and supporting people in the country, but we couldn’t help but notice that there were lots of brands who showed up dressed in red, white, and blue, and it didn’t exactly work for them.

I mean, it seemed that they were being more expedient than being helpful. And it just kind of got me pissed off. I mean, I just didn’t think it was right to do. But that was just my own personal feeling. And so a year afterwards, we said, let’s introduce this, let’s measure the value of patriotism in all these brands and see if they resonate.

The difference between looking at the value and corporate social responsibility are miles and miles apart. It’s not the same thing. So you know, so we don’t turn around and beat up foreign brands. I mean, it just happens to be a foreign brand, but that’s the operative word foreign. It’s not American – doesn’t matter whether it’s made here in factories and there in Alabama – doesn’t matter.

So the issue was, could you look at that one value as we are able to parse these things out and see how resonant was that one value of patriotism for all these brands.

Do you recall from your first survey, what the top brand was?

Robert Passikoff
Yes, I do. And it was Jeep. And that I actually know that is because Jeep has been number one every year for 18 years.

Including this year?

Robert Passikoff
Including this year.

That’s a phenomenal thing. But one of the things that we were talking about a little earlier is that the components of patriotism and patriotic values have changed a little bit. They’re a little bit more complex, I think. Can you talk about what measuring patriotic brand values looks like now?

Robert Passikoff
Absolutely. So things like the tribalism that have sprung up or grown between red States and blue States, for example. I mean, where you live, how you think, and what your political affiliation is, all of those are going to affect you. The coronavirus is a big, big deal.

I mean, and I say this dead serious. I said this to someone the other day and they laughed, but you know what? I don’t want to die. I want someone to come up and I want someone to fix this. And part of it is our historical expectation that we have regarding our country. I mean, younger people have probably heard it in the media more, but most people have grown up with it, which is – when did America ever fail at something, right? There was never a problem where America didn’t show up and take care of things, fix the thing.

So, measuring this new complexity seems like it’s got its own challenges. Because as you said, you can’t just come right out and ask the question, you kind of have to, you know, do an end-run around anything that looks direct and triangulate an answer based on what people are and are not saying right.

Robert Passikoff
Well, we are able to measure the brand and we are able to measure the brand values that make up the category and the brand expectations. And of course, we’ve, we injected patriotism into that. So it’s in there and through some really, really effective psychological research that we use and some higher orders, statistical analysis, what we’re able to do is essentially parse it out. We are able to open up the brand, sort through all the values that are there and go, “Oh, okay, here’s patriotism.” And then would put it aside and go. “What present contribution is it making to engagement and loyalty for the brand?”

And I want to just be very clear – it doesn’t have to be an articulated thing. Most often what it is, it’s something that people feel and feelings are just extraordinarily difficult to measure.

I mean, you know, Jeep has been around and won every war we’ve ever fought. It was there for world war one. It was there for world war two, was there during Korea, during Vietnam.

When I look at what resonates for patriotic perspective, they (Jeep) ended up being very, very, very, very high.

Robert, this was a lot of fun. I really appreciate it.

Robert Passikoff
It is always my pleasure.


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