holiday brand wieners

Passikoff: Holiday Brand “Wieners”

July 4th is coming up. It’s a big deal. Independence Day. Official birthday of the United States. Federal holiday. So, a really big deal. The 4th is pretty much July’s brand. Nearly everybody celebrates. And yes, I figured you already knew all that.

What you might not know is there’s a holiday to celebrate every day in July. Sometimes more than one each day and, no, I’m not joking. Turns out, there’s a day for that. July 24th.

Currently there are 214 daily national celebrations held in July. On average, 7 each day. In fact, Independence Day shares the 4th with National Country Music Day, National Caesar Salad Day, National BBQ Spareribs Day, Alice In Wonderland Day, and Sidewalk Egg Frying Day! 

Having a national day in our extraordinarily socially networked brand ecosystem is something brands and categories and causes do to amplify who they are and what they stand for. It calls attention to a brand or a category or a cause. It gives consumers something to engage with. It provides for-profit brands with a chance to promote and sell and not-for-profits to promote and fundraise.

There’s National Bikini Day (July 5th), National Macaroni Day (July 7th), World Population Day (July 11th), National French Fry Day (July 12th, always the second “Fry-day” of the month), Bastille Day (July 14th), and, as I said, National Tell An Old Joke Day on July 24th.  You can register a national day for any brand or category or cause (Fashion Day is the 9th, National Nude Day is on the 14th, July 29th is National Lipstick Day and July 31st is National Mutt Day), but you can’t declare a national day for famous individuals. That requires an actual Act of Congress. 

Of the 214 individually celebrated days in July, the 4th is the most celebrated. Last year 92% of people celebrated. It’s how Americans express pride and patriotism. With four big rituals that have become July 4thtraditions:

  1. Iconography. The red, white, and blue of flags and bunting, eagles, Uncle Sam, The Statue of Liberty, and the Liberty Bell. Turns out, about 60% of Americans own a flag.
  2. Parades. Marching bands playing Sousa and there are floats and balloons (red, white, and blue, of course). The first 4th of July parade was held in 1785 in Bristol, RI.
  3. Fireworks. The largest is the Macy’s fireworks show. Over 56,000 pyrotechnic effects. Not only high entertainment value but high brand value too. Macy’s was #41 in our list of the top 50 Most Patriotic Brands survey this year.
  4. BBQs. An authentic American experience. Hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken. About 70% of Americans attend one.

It’s #4 that I want to focus on. Hot dogs, in particular. Hot dogs have become as American as apple pie and baseball. Well, the baseball part, anyway. 

“Frankfurters” and “Wieners” are of, of course, of German origin. German immigrants brought the hot dog culinary tradition to America. But in 1893, Chris Von de Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns, started selling tubed meat on buns at baseball games. The origin-story of the “hot dog” nomenclature (and current branding term) is apocryphal, and yet plausible. With baseball underpinnings too. The story goes that in 1901, New York Journal cartoonist, Tad Dorgan, attending a Giants game, drew a cartoon of a dachshund in a bun with the caption “hot dog.” He wrote “hot dog” because he didn’t know how to correctly spell “dachshund.” Legend has become reality. And eating a hot dog at a baseball game turned from tall tale to American tradition. 

Hot dog consumption is global. But here’s how U.S. cities rank when it comes to hot dog consumption:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. New York
  3. Dallas
  4. Chicago
  5. Boston

And we consume a lot. About a 9 billion hot dogs annually, 150 million on July 4th alone. It’s probably more than that, but there’s no way to realistically calculate how many get consumed from carts, carnivals, cafeterias, and concessions at sporting events. Factor in those, and consumption estimates skyrocket to around 20 billion. So, yeah. A lot.

And while precise consumption numbers can’t be calculated, precise brand loyalty rankings for hot dog brands can. They’re based on our independently-validated brand engagement and customer loyalty metrics, and correlate very, very highly (r = 0.80+) with in-market consumer preference, purchase, and consumption. This year, loyalty to hot dog brands ranked like this:

  1. Hebrew National
  2. Oscar Mayer
  3. Ball Park
  4. Nathan’s
  5. Hillshire Farms

And while there are loyalty differences when it comes to hot dog brands, there are bigger regional differences when it comes to how they’re prepared. So much so, that the preparation turns mere hot dogs into brands unto themselves.

New York hot dogs come with sauerkraut or sweet relish and deli-style yellow mustard in a soft bun. Chicago hot dogs are steamed and layered with yellow mustard, dark green relish, chopped raw onion, pickle spears, sweet peppers, tomato slices and topped with a dash of celery salt in a poppy seed bun. 

In Atlanta they top them with coleslaw and Vidalia onions. Kansas City with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese on sesame seed buns. Boston hot dogs are boiled and grilled and served on a New England bun with mustard and relish. Cincinnati is home to the chili dog, served with a mound of grated cheddar cheese. 

Texas hot dogs also come with chili and cheese, but they add jalapenos. Los Angeles’ are bacon wrapped with onions and peppers. In the South it’s mustard and coleslaw. Southwestern hot dogs are the most intricate. They’re served on a bolillo Mexican-style hot dog bun, grilled and bacon-wrapped served with pinto beans, onions and green peppers, chopped fresh tomatoes, relish, tomatillo jalapeno salsa, mayonnaise, mustard and shredded cheese. 

But as July 4th is a both a symbol and celebration of our freedom, feel free to prepare your hot dog however it pleases you most. And if you’d like to honor your own culinary efforts, you can do that too. 

But you’ll have to wait till July 17th.

That’s National Hot Dog Day. 

Photo by Ball Park Brand on Unsplash

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