most patriotic brands

Passikoff: Patriotic Brands Matter (and Win)

Brand Keys released their annual Most Patriotic Brands survey. It identifies which brands best embody the value of “patriotism”.

Fourth of July is coming up. As celebrations go, it’s a big one. This is either our 247th or 153rd depending if you count from the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1777, or when it was declared a federal holiday in 1870. Any way you count, it’s a big holiday, and 90% of Americans have big plans for it. There are picnics and parades to be planned, fireworks to be fulminated, and BBQ grills to be cleaned. 

Seventy-five million Americans will grill something – 200 million pounds of burgers, steak, and pork, 150 million hotdogs and 750 million pounds of chicken. So, a lot of grilling and a lot of shopping for things to be grilled. This year the average consumer-spend on food (factoring in buns, condiments, and side dishes) is $118. So damn the inflation, full speed ahead, because all that works out to about $8 billion in sales!

Since it’s July, and hot, it’s a thirsty holiday too. More than 5% of national beer consumption takes place over that weekend alone! That’s $2.5 billion for beer, cider, and malt beverages. And $700 million for wine. I don’t have dollar-spend for iced tea, soda, or lemonade, but it’s reasonable to guess it’s up there, given it’s hot, and all.

Then there’s stuff. Forty percent of Americans will purchase patriotically-themed merchandise. Flags, foam Statue of Liberty torches, flags, Uncle Sam masks, hats and tee-shirts, flags, and disposable products, like plates, cups, and napkins. You know, stuff. Oh, and fireworks – $2 billion’s worth. If that sounds like a lot, Macy’s spends $6.5 million on their NYC-based-but-aired-nationally fireworks extravaganza alone. To be fair, that’s part of their brand marketing! So, yeah, taking everything into account, it’s fair to say a lot’s being spent and a lot’s at stake for a lot of brands.

There’s the independence thing, and the holiday-weekend thing, and the buying-stuff-for-the-celebration-on-the-holiday-weekend thing. But from a brand POV there’s the marketing thing. Holidays are a tried-and-true tactic for kickstarting brand sales – particularly the 4th of July. Because it’s a patriotic thing. But also, it’s a marketing thing. Let’s call it a “patriotic marketing” thing. And one marketers look forward to it.

We, at Brand Keys,  look forward to it too. Around the 4th we release our annual Most Patriotic Brands survey. It identifies which brands best embody the value of “patriotism” – pretty much the reason for everything else that day. This is our 22nd year conducting this particular survey, but our 39th year measuring customer and brand loyalty. I mention that because I want to tell you – absolutely, positively – that brands able to differentiate themselves and engage consumers via an emotional value as powerful as “patriotism” – the one’s able to meet the expectations consumers hold for a holiday like the 4thalways see higher brand engagement, better consumer behavior, and better profits.

Why? Well, despite increases in political tribalism, brand-patriotism turns out to be important: 71% of consumers felt it’s “extremely” or “very” important. Add in the consumers who thought it’s “somewhat” important, and that’s another 20%. So, mostly everybody. Only 6% said it was “not very” and 3% “not at all” important. I’m not so sure about that last 3%, but it seems pretty safe to say, “patriotism” is pretty important as brand values go.

To see how important, we applied our predictive psychological measures again this year, did a statistical “drill-down” and identified which brands were more aligned with “patriotism.” When I say, “we,” I actually mean, “American consumers” – 6,150 of them, 18 to 65 years of age, balanced for gender and political affiliation. They’re the ones who assessed 1,260 brands in 140 B2C, B2B and D2C categories regarding that most-valuable of values, “patriotism.”

What 2+ decades of meticulous research tells us is the ability to successfully leverage an individual brand value has more to do with believability via emotional engagement than brand awareness via ad budget. It’s about meeting the patriotism-expectations Americans hold for various commercial and industry sectors, and, by the way, heavy-handed patriotic themes really don’t help. If you’re saying to yourself, “Well, it couldn’t hurt!” you’d be wrong! Consumers are on to that ploy, and 22 years of our lists prove it. 

As to lists, this year’s top-10 Most Patriotic brands from the 2023 list, accounting for ties, were as follows (#s in parentheses indicate movement from last year’s ranks):

  1. Jeep (–)
  2. Disney (–)
  3. Ford (+2)
  4. Coca-Cola (–)
  5. Levi Strauss (+2)
  6. Amazon, Coors, Walmart (-1, –, -3)
  7. American Express, Hershey’s (-2, +1)

If you’d like to see where the other 40 Most Patriotic Brands ranked, look here.

While our annual survey focuses on for-profit brands, we also collect consumer assessments for all branches of the armed services. Seems only fair. Consumers rated them #1, as they have since the very first survey. We recognize that and, again, thank them for their service. 

I don’t want to leave you with the impression other brands are not patriotic or don’t possess patriotic resonance or intent. We only publish the top 50. Interested in where your brand ranked? Drop me a note. Keep in mind the brandscape is more challenging and partisan today. Viewing brands through a patriotism lens is more complicated and more exacting. And brands require much more than a flag or a Sousa soundtrack.

Ultimately, brands consumers feel are patriotic, always have a strategic edge when it comes to winning consumers’ hearts, minds, and loyalty. And after 22 years studying brand-patriotism, what we know for sure is when you do that, consumers don’t just stand up and salute, they stand up and buy! 

Have a safe and happy July 4th.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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