There has been a sharp rise in US consumers across all ages becoming more patriotic, with millennials seeing the sharpest rise as brands make an emotional connection in divisive times, according to new research.
The 17th annual Brand Keys survey of iconic American brands in 115 categories has identified the brands American consumers feel best embody the value of “patriotism.”
Jeep, Disney, Ford and Coca Cola lead the list of patriotic brands, and were joined this year by Dunkin’, Chick-fil-A, Patagonia, and 7th Generation.
The Challenge of Brand Patriotism
“There is no shortage of challenges facing brands today.” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy (brandkeys.com) that conducts the annual survey. “But increasingly one of the more fundamental challenges is what it means to be considered ‘patriotic’ and how best to express patriotism via brand values and marketing.”
“Brands always have to compete within category frameworks. They still do but now they must also compete in socio-political contexts,” noted Passikoff. “The challenge is to recognize that ‘patriotism’ isn’t just about ad campaigns and marketing surrounded by flags and fireworks. The new challenge is to build a brand where customers recognize a steady dedication of a brand’s state and stature among its competitors.”
The Most Patriotic Brands
A national sample of 5,862 consumers, 18 to 68 years of age, balanced for gender and political party affiliation, drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions, evaluated brand resonance for “patriotism.”
The following top-50 brands (54 accounting for ties) were identified as best meeting the challenge patriotism plays in our politically complex marketplace. Numbers in parentheses indicate movement up, down, or new to the ranks from 2018.
1 Jeep (—)
2 Disney (—)
3 Ford (+1)
4 Coca-Cola (- 1)
5 Levi Strauss (+3)
6 American Express / MSNBC (-1, +8)
7 Hershey’s (—)
8 AT&T / The New York Times (—, new)
9 Walmart (—)
10 FOX News (+4)
11 Ralph Lauren / Jack Daniels (—, -3)
12 Amazon / Twitter (—, -6)
13 Dunkin’ / Coach (new, -2)
14 KFC / Coors / Pepsi (+2, +3, +2)
15 McDonald’s / Chick-fil-A (—, new)
16 The Washington Post (new)
17 Apple (- 4)
18 Sam Adams / Coors (—, -1)
19 Instagram / L.L. Bean (—, +4)
20 Kellogg’s (—)
21 Old Navy / John Deere (—, +1)
22 Craftsmen Tools / Colgate (—, +6)
23 J. Crew / Nike / Patagonia (—, +5, new)
24 Gibson / USAA (- 4, new)
25 Starbucks / Harley Davidson (—, +3)
26 Gatorade / Google (—, -2)
27 7th Generation / Patriots /Wrangler (new, +2, +1)
28 Converse / Cowboys / New Balance / Yankees (all +1)
29 49ers /Louisville Slugger / MLB / Wilson Sporting Goods (all —)
“We live in an era of political polarization, consumer tribalism, and increasingly fervent social movements that challenge brands with constantly shifting sector landscapes that require ongoing adaptation and reinvention. Not only are the basic tenets of consumer loyalty and brand engagement being upended, but also the need for brands to define themselves as to what it means to be patriotic,” said Passikoff.
Consumer Cohorts Get More Patriotic
Respondents were asked to rate themselves on a one-to-five scale (#1 = Not at all patriotic, #5 = Extremely patriotic). Consumers’ patriotic self-perceptions increased across all age groups Y-O-Y. Percentages for top two-box ratings (“Extremely” or “Very” Patriotic) appear below and were
consistent across genders and political affiliations within the individual age cohorts.
“Interestingly, there’s a high correlation between consumers’ increased self-perceptions of being patriotic and the appearance of more media brands in the top-50,” noted Passikoff. “Perhaps more people are paying more attention this year.”
U.S. Armed Services – Always #1
The Brand Keys annual survey focused on for-profit brands, but assessments for the armed services – Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy – are included. “This year, again, consumers of all ages and political persuasions gave the armed services a patriotic ranking of #1,” said Passikoff. “We recognize that again this year and thank them for their service.”
The Challengers and the Challenged
Brands new to the patriotism list’s top-50 (accounting for ties) include Dunkin’, Chick-fil-A, The New York Times, Patagonia, 7th Generation, USAA, and The Washington Post.
Brands making the largest movement in the 2019 patriotic challenge rankings include MSNBC, (+8), Colgate (+6), Nike (+5), FOX News, and L.L. Bean ( all +4), and Levi Strauss, Coors, and Harley Davidson (all +3).
Absent from this year’s list are: Airbnb, Facebook, GE, and the NFL, which had appeared in 2017. Marlboro, Under Armour, GAP, and Tesla, which had been listed in the top-50 brands last year, did not appear in 2019.
Patriotism Pays Off Emotionally
“Where a brand can establish emotional connections with a value as powerful as ‘patriotism,’ consumers will engage more strongly, believe more about the brand, and behave more positively toward the brand,” said Passikoff. “In most cases six times more.”
“These brand rankings do not mean that other brands are not patriotic or don’t possess patriotic resonance. Rational values, like being an American company, being ‘Made in the USA,’ or having nationally directed CSR, all play a part in the perception of any brand,” said Passikoff. “But politics is now making itself felt more in the brandscape than ever. Particularly as to how consumers view themselves and their brands-of-choice through a political and patriotic lens.”
Brands that can make meaningful emotional connections with consumers always have a strategic advantage when it comes to winning the hearts, minds, wallets, and loyalty of consumers. “Do that,” observed Passikoff, “And consumers don’t only stand up and salute, they queue up and buy!”